Tuesday, April 20, 2010

“Get used to it”

On Monday, the first day of OAW, we received some advice from a Congressional staffer that is noteworthy for its pure straightforwardness. We are always glad to get direct feedback, even when the person we are speaking with is delivering bad news.

The context: One of our main issues this year is banking services. Overseas Americans are facing increasing difficulty obtaining banking services, both in the US and abroad. Both problems are linked to US law and regulations. Many US banks are closing existing accounts and refusing to open new ones, often claiming that the Patriot Act prevents them from having overseas customers. Meanwhile, some foreign banks are closing accounts and refusing to open new ones, claiming that increasingly burdensome US banking and securities regulations make compliance too difficult.

The feedback: We are speaking to members of Congress and staffers dealing with banking issues to educate them on the problem and attempt to find solutions. And the frank feedback that we received on Monday was simply this: “Get used to it because it’s only going to get worse.” The staffer in question appeared to understand the issue, be interested in finding solutions for us, but bluntly warned us that things are likely to get worse before they get better. In his view, US regulations will continue to increase the burden on overseas Americans and other governments will begin to adopt similar approaches, creating additional difficulties for us and for their own citizens around the world. Hopefully in the meantime, this staffer and others like him will take up our cause and try to find ways to fight that trend so that overseas Americans are able to open and maintain the bank accounts they need.

For details on banking services or any of our issues, refer to our position papers at www.overseasamericansweek.com.

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