James Freis was dismissed from his position as director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network last week after refusing to step down, a person familiar with the situation confirmed Monday.
In a memo to Treasury employees Thursday, undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence David Cohen said Freis would leave the position as soon as a replacement is found.
The person familiar with the firing said Treasury officials asked Freis to step down Thursday morning without explanation. He refused, and Cohen emailed employees that afternoon notifying them of Freis’ departure.
The unusual and abrupt dismissal was first reported by Moneylaundering.com.
Although the reasons for the dismissal are unclear, the person said Treasury leadership thought the agency was moving too slowly in implementing regulations, and should have been more focused on international financial crimes enforcement.
A spokesman for FinCen declined to comment on Monday and referred inquiries to the Treasury Department. A Treasury spokeswoman said the agency does not comment on personnel-related matters.
In the email to employees, Cohen praised Freis and thanked him for his five years of service as director, the longest tenure of any previous FinCen director.
Freis oversees the administration of the Bank Secrecy Act, supervises a number of key initiatives, including anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing regulations. He is also the bureau’s principal liaison with law enforcement and bank regulators on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing.
Late last year FinCen floated a proposal that would require Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to develop their own anti-money laundering programs as part of an ongoing effort to combat mortgage fraud.