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WASHINGTON, July 30 (Reuters) - The United States unveiled on Wednesday a long-delayed rule that would require banks to identify hidden account owners to curb money laundering and shell companies that are often used to move money and cover identities.
The rule would require financial institutions to report the "beneficial," or true, owners of certain accounts using a standardized format, which could ease the cost of compliance for banks.
It would also force banks to identify anyone who owns at least a quarter of a company or legal entity to help the government pursue money launderers trying to hide their identities behind shell companies.
"The beneficial ownership requirement is intended to provide us with an important new tool to track down the real people behind companies that abuse our financial system to secretly move and launder their illicit gains," David Cohen, Treasury's undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, said in a statement.
Banks have been anxiously awaiting the proposal's language for more than two years, fearing that a strict approach could mean they have to spend huge amounts of time and money investigating the beneficial owners of thousands of legal entities with which they do business.
The White House's Office of Management and Budget had until early July to complete its own review of the rule.
U.S. authorities have stepped up enforcement of anti-money laundering laws to clamp down on conduct ranging from drug trafficking to terrorism. (Reporting by Anna Yukhananov; Editing by Toni Reinhold)