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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Wall Street Reform, Remittance Providers, and Protecting Consumers

FPC Briefing
Dan Restrepo
Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs, NSC
Elizabeth Warren, Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Foreign Press
Washington, DC
October 22, 2010

Date: 10/22/2010 Location: Washington D.C. Description: Elizabeth Warren, Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (left) and Dan Restrepo, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the NSC brief on ''Wall Street Reform, Remittance Providers, and Protecting Consumers.''  - State Dept Image


2:00 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. With us today are Dan Restrepo, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Western Hemisphere Affairs at the National Security Council; and Elizabeth Warren, Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Our topic today is Wall Street Reform, Remittance Providers, and Protecting Consumers. And before I begin, I would like to remind you that it’s important for us to stay on topic today. And our speakers will take questions at the end of the briefing about Wall Street reform, remittance providers, and protecting consumers. We’ll begin with Mr. Restrepo.

MR. RESTREPO: Thank you very much. It’s good to see some familiar faces with us today and thank you all for being here. I’m going to provide a little bit of the context in which remittances occur, and particularly in the Americas, which is the area of my responsibility at the National Security staff.

The President has made very clear in our relationship with countries throughout the world, and particularly here in the Americas, that we want to work as a partner, as a good partner to address the most important issues that are facing countries throughout the region and around the world. And obviously, increasing sustainable and equitable economic growth is one of the pillars that has guided our policy.

And our policy in the Americas – and again, in an increasingly globalized world – is predicated on the interconnections that exist between the United States and countries throughout the Americas and throughout the world. And one of the obvious points of interconnection are remittances, the money, the hard-earned money that family and friends send back to their countries of origin to support their families.

And one of the ways that the Administration has been working – and this was laid out by Secretary Clinton on September 22nd when she signed two memorandums of understanding with El Salvador and with Honduras – to utilize these remittance flows to leverage them into greater support for development, not to interfere in any way with remittances getting from family and friends in the United States to, in this instance, family and friends in countries of El Salvador and Honduras, but rather to partner with strong financial institutions in those two governments – in those two countries, excuse me, through something – an initiative called Building Remittance Investment for Development, Growth, and Entrepreneurship, for BRIDGE by its initials, to use remittance flows to lower financing costs for long-term financing for infrastructure projects, for public works, for microfinance, for entrepreneurs, to build a kind of bottom-up economic growth that is so important in those countries, countries throughout the Americas, and around the world.

And that – encouraging that kind of economic growth is important for the United States as well because it builds more secure communities, more resilient communities, internal markets in those countries, and markets for United States goods and services, which obviously generates jobs here in the United States.

The BRIDGE project – important to understand it will not affect the flow of money from remitter to remittee but will allow in a partnership with the Inter-American Development Bank, the OPIC here in the United States, USAID, and State to use mechanisms to, again, lower the cost of financing for the kinds of medium-term and long-term finance that is necessary to create the conditions for greater economic and equitable growth in those countries.

One of the things that the President has made clear throughout our relationship with countries in the Americas and elsewhere is that our policies, to be effective, to be the good partner that we are seeking to be with countries in the Americas, needs – these policies need to start at home. We need to live what we are encouraging others to live.

And that, I think, ties us into what my colleague is going to talk about, which is the protection of remitters here in the United States to ensure far greater consumer protections than ever before for the folks who are in – are the interconnection that things like BRIDGE and other projects that – and other partnerships that we are working on with countries in the Americas and around the world to create greater economic and equitable – sustainable economic growth – excuse me, sustainable economic growth. It all begins with the remitter here in the United States.

And with that, I will turn it over to Elizabeth Warren to discuss that and other aspects of Wall Street reform. Thank you.

MS. WARREN: Thank you, Dan. I am here to talk about the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. It is a new agency in Washington designed to help fix broken consumer credit markets. It’s going to be a cop on the beat for families in this country in their dealings with consumer finance.

The companies – let me just see if I can spin out what the problem is right now. The companies that provide remittances in the United States are not required to price them in advance. Now, I just want you to think for a minute about what that means. This would be as if you bought a television set, you walked in, you pick out the television set you liked, you took it home, you plugged it in, you used it for three weeks, and then later someone, when it was too late to return it, told you how much it was going to cost. It’s pretty tough under those circumstances both to evaluate whether or not you want to do this and whether or not you want to spend that kind of money, and also to make comparisons in the marketplace among products so that you go perhaps to the one that’s less expensive and start driving that market in a way that works for families.

With remittances, you put your money in and take your chances. Money comes out at the other end, but how much money comes out at the other end depends on what kinds of fees and what kinds of exchanges have been added in – things that are not necessarily exposed to the consumer up front.

Now, over the last year and a half, this Administration has made real progress in the areas of consumer finance. And I actually want to start with the CARD Act for just a minute, just so everyone is aware of the comparison. The credit card industry – and credit cards are ubiquitous. We’ve got about eight out of ten American families have a credit card. About 50 million American families can’t pay off their credit card debt and end up rolling it from month to month.

But one of the things that was very worrisome about the credit card market were a number of practices that took place, in effect, behind closed doors that people couldn’t see that profoundly affected the price, and that some information was revealed in the credit card area but not – in our view, not enough. So with the CARD Act, which is one of the first bills that President Obama signed into law, certain practices were simply prohibited, things that were costing money for consumers are just gone.

But one of the features – and I think a really important part of understanding the direction of good regulation was to make the monthly statement on a credit card bill much clearer. And so now, for the first time, any of you who have seen your credit card statement recently – took a little while for this to roll in to law. But if you’ve seen a credit card statement here in the United States, it now says here’s the minimum monthly payment and if you pay it, here’s how much you will pay in interest and how long it will take you to pay off your credit card making minimum monthly payments.

And that’s had a couple of profound effects already. There are a number of families who have looked at that cost and said it’s time for me to shop around. There are also a number of credit providers who have decided to rethink some of their credit charges, so that when one has to tell what the price is up front, it can change the market.

So what we’re hoping for is to build on the success out of something like the CARD Act and the fact that this new consumer agency will work with many different credit products and payment products that families use, and to push in that same direction and to say with remittances people should be able to know up front what it costs, know where all the charges in, the all-in fees for using it. And that way, customers are better informed and we get a market that starts to work for consumers. It’s not a market based on hidden fees, on tricking people on the costs associated with products, but a market based, open and fair, there it is, that’s the price, and let’s see what we can do with it.

Now, I want to point out on this, this is a lot of money. For any of you who have ever sent remittances, you may think, well, it’s a modest market, and it’s true. The average remittance sent from a family here in the United States to a family outside the United States is under $300. But collectively, that’s a hundred billion dollar market annually. There’s a lot of money moving in remittances and we believe if we can make that a more competitive market, a more transparent market, a fairer market for families, some of that money is going to stay with the families instead of draining off to other institutions.

So that’s what this one is about. It’s about making markets work. Families that can understand pricing up front and make comparisons among products and institutions who want to provide products at lower prices now being in a competitive environment that advantages them. So that’s where we’re hitting.

We hope that when families think they’ve been cheated or tricked by a remittance provider that this new consumer agency will be a cop on the beat, someone to listen to the complaint, someone to investigate the complaint, but most of all someone to help make this market work for families.

So that’s mostly what I wanted to talk about, and I think Dan and I are here to answer some questions for you. Actually, I do want to say one more thing while I still get the chance. I’m really pleased you’re here to talk about this issue. I think remittances are one of the credit products, those ways of moving money, that don’t receive a lot of attention and that’s part of the reason that a market has grown up in which the consumers are not getting full and fair information to be able to compete. So I am delighted that this is one of the areas that we’re going to move front and center with this new consumer agency, build on what we’re learning in the credit card area, take it over to the remittance area. So I just want to thank you all for being here too.


MODERATOR: Before we get started, just to remind you, give your news organization, state your name, and then we’ll go to questions. We have Luis.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Luis Alonso with the AP. For this $100 billion that make that market, how much money do you project to remain with the families instead of going, and by when? Thank you.

MS. WARREN: I wish I could answer the question, Luis. Part of the problem we have is that we know something about the money put in and much less about the money that comes out on the other side, which means the calculation of how much is being drained off in fees and charges is not well known. The advantage to having a new consumer agency is that we will be able to collect systematic data from the providers of financial services, so I’m going to have a lot better answer to that – well, anything would be a better answer, but I will have a better answer to that one.

QUESTION: You don’t even have (inaudible)?

MS. WARREN: I think it would be unwise to speculate here. We just – we don’t have good numbers on this.

QUESTION: By when?

MS. WARREN: So the agency is in the process. It’s a baby agency. We’re in the process of standing this agency up. We will receive what are called our transfer functions – I know that’s – starting on July 21st of 2011, which provides us with an opportunity to engage in certain kinds of rulemaking. We’re not waiting until then to start our work, so we are going to begin the process of collecting data, of talking with the industry, of talking about product design and product disclosure. I am hopeful that that may start to make a difference even sooner.

But we start with the bully pulpit and we move to the period when we will start to have the capacity to force. So we’re in that growth period right now. We’re still hiring up and staffing. I just came to you from an office that we have only been in for four days. So you really have caught us on the front end, but you’ve caught us with the wind at our backs, starting to move.

MR. RESTREPO: Let me add the – one of the things that partnerships like BRIDGE and other financial inclusion and transparency work that’s being done by agencies like USAID, by OPIC, by others in the U.S. Government with partner countries in the Americas and elsewhere is to increase greater transparency, to be able to add to the data that will help answer the question that you just posed to Elizabeth, so we can compare at both input and output these flows to better understand where the money is going.

MODERATOR: Okay, we’re going to go to New York for the next question. Diego.

QUESTION: Yes, this is a question for Dan Restrepo. My name is Diego Senior from Caracol Radio in Colombia. It’s two questions, actually. One of them is if you can tell us about the amount or any number that you have on remittances sent the foreign countries in the Americas, now in the U.S., compared to post-recession.

And the other question is: There’s a group of members of the Obama Administration that are heading to Colombia this very same weekend; they’re going to meet up with members of our government. Can you tell us about what is in their minds and what is in the Obama Administration’s plans to providing our country from now on?

MR. RESTREPO: All right –

QUESTION: Answer in Spanish, please. (Laughter.)

MR. RESTREPO: Well, let me – I’ll do both. Consistent with the ground rules, I’ll answer the first question, which is – approximately, last year, there were almost $60 billion remitted from the United States to countries in the Americas; I believe it’s 59 billion according to World Bank figures. Their – the recession obviously had affected remittance quotes. As the recovery takes place here, we are seeing remittance quotes increase or recover two countries in the Americas and beyond.

And do we want me to do the answer in Spanish as well?

MODERATOR: You can go ahead and respond in Spanish. That’s fine.

MR. RESTREPO: Okay. (In Spanish.)

MODERATOR: Okay, but for the sake of time, for the rest of the questions and the transcript, and so you’ll have more time to ask questions, we’ll do English. So you’ve got one Spanish soundbite.

Jordi, you had a question?

QUESTION: Yeah, thank you, both of you for doing this. But I wonder, you mentioned those initiatives regarding the bank – the bank revelations on – and the credit card statements. I wonder if you have something similar, or are you thinking of something similar regarding remittances? I’d like to know whether there’s any concrete or particular measure that you are already thinking that you could tell us of.

MS. WARREN: What I can tell you is the direction this agency wants to drive in general. And that is, for all credit products, that the cost is clear upfront, that the risks are clear upfront, and that it is easy for a customer to make comparisons among products. If those three features have been met, then markets start to work for consumers, people can make good decisions on their own behalf, and that market will tend to be a better functioning market. And that’s true for remittances, for credit cards, for mortgages, for many products. So that’s at least the direction. I hope that’s helpful.

MODERATOR: Okay. We’re going to go ahead and take another question from New York and we’ll come back to D.C.

QUESTION: Oh, hi. Thanks, Elizabeth and Daniel. I have two questions for you both, respectively. The first question is for Elizabeth. You mentioned this new agency will be very much contributing to protecting the consumer rights. I mean, definitely, this is very welcomed, but as you look into the – at a reflection, where actually, the reaction from the financial institutions given – is there any voice from them saying that this will add up to the cost of their products, of their services? I mean, are they welcoming this or – yeah, and what is your preference, your – I mean, assumption of the ongoing future prognosis of your work being conducted in the next, say, two or three years?

And the question for the Dan is: It’s interesting that the Inter-America scheme to promote business as well as entrepreneurship only – I mean, reinforced by this remittance program. And what exactly is the Inter-American Bank is doing in this? Is this a special tunnel, or channel program, if you will, through – put the remittance together at the – it’s different lump sum of money so that you can use for investment? Or how do you organize that?

Thank you.

MS. WARREN: Well, I’ll just start by saying the financial services industry did not support the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Indeed, their chief lobbyist from the American Bankers Association announced on the front page of the New York Times in August of 2009 that they would kill this agency. And so there was a healthy difference of opinion about whether this agency should go forward.

It, however, became very much, I think, the heart of the financial reform bill, a part that affects the lives of all American families in very direct and tangible ways, and a part that connects to our financial crisis. Had it not been for the terrible mortgages that were fed into the financial system, and that ultimately ended up in mortgage-backed securities and the – that ended up echoing not just around this country, but throughout the worldwide financial system, the entire world would have been in a more stable economic place.

So, the agency is here. We’re starting to put it together. It has good, strong tools on the table. But I should say this, having started with that history, because that is the history that most people think about when they think about this agency – I’ve been reaching out and talking to the CEOs of some of the largest financial services providers, as well as the heads of the smallest community banks around the country. And many of them acknowledge that the consumer credit market is broken, and that we need to find, together, a way to make this market work better, work better for families and work better for those in the industry who want to provide good products in a transparent way at a clear price.

So at this moment, I am actually quite optimistic that there are significant differences that we can make, and I hope that we will be able to make soon.

MR. RESTREPO: To answer your second question, with respect – consistent with how President Obama and this Administration has operated throughout to work as an equal partner in the Americas, we’re working with the Inter-American Development Bank on BRIDGE, as we did with the microfinance growth fund that the President announced at the Summit of the Americas in April of 2009, so that different institutions can bring their expertise, their knowledge, and their resources to bear.

Here, the Inter-American Development Bank is likely to serve as a guarantor of the mechanisms that’ll be used to expand the reach and to leverage the reach of remittance flows. So the bank, as well as the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, OPIC, are looking at different mechanisms appropriate to the countries, appropriate to the financial institutions that they are working with in, in this instance, in Honduras, in El Salvador, to ensure the safety of the remittance flows, to ensure that the money gets from the remitter to the remittee, but also helps drive down the costs of medium-term and long-term finance necessary for infrastructure, necessary for public works, and necessary for greater microfinance available in those countries to promote economic development from the bottom up.

MODERATOR: All right. We’re going to go over here to Zoltan. You have a question? And then we’ll go to Francisco.

QUESTION: My question is about the political influence of the (inaudible) of this agency. Is there some hope that there will be – not hoper – or (inaudible) who are against the agency, they will support more the Republican Party than the Democratic Party? Do you not fear that this will all influence also maybe the midterm elections?

MS. WARREN: I don’t know, and I am not the politician in the room. All I can say is that the agency does not have a secure place. It has enemies, both political and economic. There are those who are running for office who have said that they would like to restrict the power of this agency to undercut what it can do on behalf of the American people. And so I think it’s going to be an issue in the sense that there are those who proudly say, “I supported this agency, and helped this agency become law,” and those who are saying, “I didn’t support it, I don’t like it, and I’d like to get rid of it.” So it’s certainly part of the political mix.

MODERATOR: Okay. Francisco?

QUESTION: (Inaudible.) It’s a market – the remittances market has diversified a lot in the last, I don’t know, five years, ten years from Western Union. Many banks have gotten into it. We talked to customers this morning of a bank that specializes in remittances – at least most of their business is in that, it’s a foreign bank. And they seemed satisfied with the level of what they call clarity, or of the fees, that they were well explained, that they didn’t see – that they had a clear idea of the money that they were putting in, how much was coming out on their end.

So, the – my question is: Is there any sense of the degree or variation of how different banks are doing this at this moment?

MS. WARREN: I think this really goes back to the information question. In an area in which disclosures are not required, the variability is – among the costs and kinds of services is high. Part of the function of this agency is to bring that to light and, in part, to let customers know the key pieces of information so that they can make better decisions, and in part to get markets working better.

So, we – this is part of the problem. We can’t document how much variety we have, because we don’t really have a good sense of all of the practices in this area. And it would serve no one well for me to stand here and tell anecdotes about difficulties that families have faced. And – but nonetheless, we can’t ignore those anecdotes. And that’s really the point. We can’t live in a world in which people put their money in and hope that they will be charged only fair fees, and that most of the money will make it to their loved ones in another country. We can do better than that, and we should do better than that.

MODERATOR: Thanks for your question, Fernando. Carlos?

QUESTION: Hi, Carlos Chirinos from BBC Spanish. This is a question for Dan. What connection do you make between remittances, the way the industry works, and the national security, which I understand is your business, no? Do you see any area of concern there?

MR. RESTREPO: Well, I think the connection, if you will, is one of the points that I made at the top, that the President has been guided by the premise that – in the Americas, that what’s good for the people in the Americas is good for the United States. And one area where that is particularly true is where there is greater sustainable, equitable economic growth that creates greater security in communities.

And, obviously, there is a security challenge in many countries in the Americas today. It creates greater economic opportunity and, therefore, economic activity in internal markets, but also markets for U.S. products, which helps in terms of the U.S. national security, because the strength of our economy is an important part of our national security. So this is – and because remittances are such a part of the connection between the United States and countries – particularly Mexico, Central America, but well into South America and the Caribbean, $59 billion of connectivity between people in the United States and people outside the United States necessarily implicates the well-being of the United States and the interests of the United States throughout the region.

So, the more we can both make this transparent here at home – because our policies and our attitude of partnership begins at home, that we can conduct ourselves in a positive and transparent manner here – that also has a very important signaling mechanism to our partners throughout the region to create better conditions in societies throughout the Americas, which ultimately speaks to our national security.

MODERATOR: Okay. Sonia, you had a question?

QUESTION: Thank you. Sonia Schott with Globovision, Venezuela. I am sorry if you already explained that, because I came so late. So I understand that this is a domestic initiative, but will have an impact internationally with other countries. I would like to know who is setting the rules, and if you have been in touch with other countries trying to reach an agreement or anything like that to work better to moving into the future. Thank you.

MS. WARREN: So, we have – as I was explaining earlier, we are only in our offices – this is our fourth day in our offices. So we are just getting started with this new agency. But this is about when people in the United States hand their money to those who issue remittances. And we have, with this new agency, full jurisdiction to supervise that transaction, and to insist on a level of disclosure and transparency that has not been present before.

So, that’s where we’re headed. We want –

QUESTION: Here? I mean --

MS. WARREN: That’s right, “Here.” We want – if someone is taking $250 from someone in the United States and planning to send it to Mexico, we, here in the United States, through the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, want the fees and charges associated with that to be made clear, upfront to the person who is giving the $250. That’s what this is about.

MR. RESTREPO: And to add to that, to – I think, having missed the top, we’re talking about two aspects of the equation – the equation Elizabeth just described, in terms of what her agency and the consumer protections here in the United States for remitters, but the United States Government, also understanding that there is a real opportunity to partner with countries elsewhere to ensure that these flows both get to the recipient, but also that they can be utilized by banks in – for the examples that I have been using today, because of the BRIDGE memorandum of understandings are with El Salvador and with Honduras, to utilize in those systems to lower long-term lending costs so that those governments and private sectors are in a position to finance infrastructure – so the roads built for products to get to market – for public works, for greater electrification, for example, or clean water, and for creating microfinance opportunities for entrepreneurs in those countries.

This is the BRIDGE that was – these two memoranda of understanding that were announced by Secretary Clinton – or were signed by Secretary Clinton on September 22nd on the margins of the UN General Assembly are what we hope to be the beginning of a process, both with those partners, and potentially with other partners in the Americas and beyond, to leverage or to better utilize these remittance flows without affecting what reaches people, but better utilize them for helping build and sustain bottom-up economic growth.

MODERATOR: Follow-up, real quick follow-up, and then we will go to Antonieta.

QUESTION: Do you expect this initiative will have any impact in immigration or illegal immigration in the United States?

MR. RESTREPO: I believe, in the case of – I will speak directly to the BRIDGE, Honduras and El Salvador, to – where in both countries, President Funes and President Lobo have spoken of the importance of building vibrant and sustainable communities in those countries to give the opportunity to Salvadorians and Hondurans to live out their dreams in El Salvador and Honduras. Greater economic growth, bottom-up in these societies, will help achieve the goal that those presidents have set for themselves in their countries.

MODERATOR: Antonieta.

QUESTION: Hi. Antonieta Cadiz, with La Opinion. Elizabeth, besides the changes that we have already seen that Fernando mentioned, are there any more changes that the agency is thinking to put in place in the future for remittance senders? I mean more disclosure, changes, or, you know, analyze how the system works and then incorporate different kind of aspects to the system?

And then on BRIDGE, I was wondering – my sense is that this is just a starting, that everybody is discussing, and see what everybody can do on this. So I was wondering if you have any timeline in terms of future sets on the BRIDGE.

MS. WARREN: So we will start with better information about what’s happening throughout the remittance world. One of the things I like best about this new consumer agency is that it is authorized by statute to collect information from the various service providers.

So we’re going to get a much better handle on how that market works. And when we are sure that we understand this market fully, then we will start to design what are ways to make it work better for families. And part of that will mean doing it, I hope, cooperatively, both with the communities that are affected and with the financial services providers, but always remembering, thanks to the new Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the financial reform bill, there are tools to compel, if that’s necessary.

This is a voice on behalf of consumers who use financial products, a way to level the playing field. That’s our job. And so we will start with data. We’ll see what we can work out. And, if necessary, we move to rules. But we are going to protect American families.

MR. RESTREPO: You are correct that we are at the beginning, or in the early stages of the BRIDGE project. A great deal of work went into – at the front end of analyzing the financial institutions and the structures, both in El Salvador and Honduras, to understand that they – to make good partners, and to understand how we were entering into this process.

Signing the memorandum of understanding was a very important step in that process. Work continues. One of the nice things about BRIDGE is that it’s built upon a proven concept. You’ve seen successful use of remittance flows to lower lending costs in Brazil for development projects, in El Salvador itself, through some work of the Inter-American Development Bank, in Peru, other places in the Americas, in India, and beyond.

So, it is a proven concept. So we are confident that we will be able to move out fairly quickly, now that the memoranda of understandings have been signed, and the governments – the three governments and the two bilaterals – are working, as we speak, to continue to bring this into fruition, and to reach out. Again, this is a public-private partnership. This is working with financial institutions in these countries. And we will go as fast as we can, because we see a real opportunity here to utilize, in a positive fashion, the interconnection that exists between the United States and El Salvador and Honduras, and to continue building that out into other partnerships and similar partnerships in the Americas and beyond.

MODERATOR: Okay. We have time for a couple more questions. Macarena, you’ve had your hand up for a while. Wait for the microphone, please.

QUESTION: Yes, Macarena Vidal, from EFE news services. This is a question for Dan, and actually a follow-up on the question from Antonieta. You’ve mentioned that you would like to expand bridge. I was thinking – I was wondering whether you have any particular countries you would like to expand it with, and what would be the conditions to expand it.

MR. RESTREPO: Yes, I think the – to not get ahead of ourselves, we do want to move forward with the countries that have been identified, and the memoranda of understanding are in place, so – with El Salvador, with Honduras – to get that up and running as fast as possible, and as responsibly as possible. As I said, this is built upon a proven concept. But each situation has its own intricacies, and we want to make sure we get that right.

At the same time, we’re continuing to – and partners throughout the U.S. Government at the State Department, at USAID, at OPIC and elsewhere are looking at other opportunities that – and I don’t want to prejudge those, but – because those processes are underway, but there are other countries that are being looked at, other countries that have expressed interest, having seen the memoranda of understanding that have been signed between the United States and El Salvador, between the United States and Honduras, other countries are also coming to us, expressing an interest and seeing how we can do this or similar activities with them.

And we are going to continue to look at those and move out with them as quickly as we can, ensuring that we are doing it in a way that is protective of these flows, and that maximizes the development growth and entrepreneurial opportunities that can come from this kind of work.

MODERATOR: Okay. Last question. Silvia.

QUESTION: Hi, I’m Silvia Pisani with La Nacion in Argentina. This is a question for Dan.

Dan, I understand that when we talk about remittances, we are mainly speaking about a small amount of money. But by any chance is there any link or any concern about this – that this lack of information, or this lack of transparency by any chance can help the money laundering, or nothing to do with it?

MR. RESTREPO: As Elizabeth noted, the average remittance – average remitter is a very small amount. It obviously adds up to large sums of money – in the case of the Americas in 2009, nearly $60 billion.

We are always vigilant and there are parts of the U.S. Government that are working very hard with our partners throughout the region, not in looking at remittance flows, but looking at the financial system to ensure that the financial system is not being taken advantage of by transnational criminal organizations, and, to the extent that it is, that we are working in partnership with countries throughout the Americas and around the world to shut those flows down. It is an essential part of being – of assuming our responsibility in combating transnational criminal organizations to cut off their money.

And there are lots of folks in the United States Government at the Department of the Treasury and elsewhere who are dedicated to working those issues to ensure that the – our financial system is not being exploited by illegal groups, and that our borders are not being exploited by illegal groups moving money in bulk in cash. That is a responsibility of this government, one that President Obama has taken very seriously, and one that we will continue to increase our efforts on. But we view those as separate tasks from protecting consumers on remittances, and working to leverage remittance flows for economic growth and development in countries in the Americas and beyond.

MODERATOR: Okay, I would like to thank everybody for coming today. We appreciate you being here. And thank you to our briefers for being with us and spending so much time. Thanks.

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