A new report claims to quote an anonymous law enforcement official who takes credit for the leak of Michael Cohen’s financial records — allegedly because “two important reports” on President Donald Trump’s personal attorney could not be found in federal databases.
“The payments to Cohen that have emerged in the past week come primarily from a single document, a ‘suspicious-activity report’ filed by First Republic Bank, where Cohen’s shell company, Essential Consultants, L.L.C., maintained an account. The document detailed sums in the hundreds of thousands of dollars paid to Cohen by the pharmaceutical company Novartis, the telecommunications giant A.T. & T., and an investment firm with ties to the Russian oligarch Viktor Vekselberg,” Ronan Farrow reports in The New Yorker.
Farrow’s source claims that more than three million dollars in additional transactions were sent to Cohen’s bank account, but even though First Republic filed two legally mandated suspicious-activity reports (SARs) for these transactions, the law enforcement official could not find them in the database kept by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN).
“I have never seen something pulled off the system,” Farrow’s source says. “This is a permanent record. They should be there. And there is nothing there… That’s why I came forward.”
Several other anonymous sources speculate that access to these particular reports may have been restricted, though they admit such cases are “nearly unprecedented”:
Seven former government officials and other experts familiar with the Treasury Department’s fincen database expressed varying levels of concern about the missing reports. Some speculated that fincen may have restricted access to the reports due to the sensitivity of their content, which they said would be nearly unprecedented. One called the possibility “explosive.” A record-retention policy on fincen’s Web site notes that false documents or those “deemed highly sensitive” and “requiring strict limitations on access” may be transferred out of its master file. Nevertheless, a former prosecutor who spent years working with the fincen database said that she knew of no mechanism for restricting access to sars. She speculated that fincen may have taken the extraordinary step of restricting access “because of the highly sensitive nature of a potential investigation. It may be that someone reached out to fincen to ask to limit disclosure of certain sars related to an investigation, whether it was the special counsel or the Southern District of New York.”
When asked to comment on the status Cohen’s financial reports, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) said, “FinCEN neither confirms nor denies the existence of purported SARs.”
According to the previously leaked SAR, Cohen used the First Republic bank account for Essential Consultants, set up in October, 2016, to pay porn star actress Stephanie “Stormy Daniels” Clifford.