Q: The CIP rule requires a bank to verify the identity of each “customer.” Under the CIP rule, a “customer” generally is defined as “a person that opens a new account.” If a pension plan administrator chooses to remove a former employee from the plan pursuant to section 657(c) of the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2001 (EGTRRA), it is required by law to transfer these funds to a financial institution. In addition, an administrator of a terminated plan may remove former employees that it is unable to locate, by transferring their benefits to a financial institution. Would a plan administrator or the former employee be a bank “customer” where funds are transferred to a bank and an account established in the name of the former employee, in either of these situations?
A: In either situation, the administrator has no ownership interest in or other right to the funds, and therefore, is not the bank’s “customer.” Nor would we view the administrator as acting as the customer’s agent when the administrator transfers the funds of former employees in these situations. A customer relationship arises and the requirements of the rule are implicated when
the former employee “opens” an account. While the former employee has a legally enforceable right to the funds that are transferred to the bank, the employee has not exercised that right until he or she contacts the bank to assert an ownership interest. Thus, in light of the requirements imposed on the plan administrator under EGTRRA, as well as the requirements in connection with plan terminations, the former employee will not be deemed to have “opened a new account” for purposes of the CIP rule until he or she contacts the bank to assert an ownership interest over the funds, at which time a bank will be required to implement its CIP with respect to the former employee.
This interpretation applies only to (1) transfers of funds as required under section 657(c) of EGTRRA, and (2) transfers to banks by administrators of terminated plans in the name of participants that they have been unable to locate, or who have been notified of termination but have not responded, and should not be construed to apply to any other transfer of funds that may constitute opening an account. (January 2004)