Is This How Avenatti Found Out?

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 16: Stormy Daniels'  lawyer Michael Avenatti arrives to the Federal Court hearing related to the FBI raid on Michael Cohen's hotel room and office on April 16, 2018 in New York City. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 16: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti arrives at Federal Court for the hearing at the United States District Court Southern District of New York related to Michael Cohen,... NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 16: Adult film actress Stormy Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti arrives at Federal Court for the hearing at the United States District Court Southern District of New York related to Michael Cohen, President Trump's longtime personal attorney and confidante, April 16, 2018 in New York City. Cohen and lawyers representing President Trump are asking the court to block Justice Department officials from reading documents and materials related to his Cohen's relationship with President Trump that they believe should be protected by attorney-client privilege. Officials with the FBI, armed with a search warrant, raided Cohen's office and two private residences last week. (Photo by Yana Paskova/Getty Images) MORE LESS
May 8, 2018 9:23 p.m.

TPM Reader TH thinks he knows where Michael Avenatti got his amazingly specific details. And it sounds right to me …

I want to shed some light on tonight’s post re: Cohen/Avenatti, specifically this line:

“They’ve also confirmed the dollar amounts. So while we still don’t know where or how Avenatti got this information he must have had access to one of Cohen’s ledgers, a bank statement or perhaps an investigative document. The details are simply too specific.”

I work as an Anti-Money Laundering and Bank Secrecy Act Specialist at a financial institution. Every bank/credit union/etc will have someone who’s responsibility it is to examine transactions and file Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) with FinCEN, a department of the Treasury. This is what I do.

Upon reading Avenatti’s document, it’s obvious that he has his hands on (multiple, I think) SARs that have been filed on Cohen. They are structured almost exactly as we write them. The KYC information at the beginning is a huge tipoff. This is something every bank is required to compile when a business account is opened, and it’s what AML staff would refer back to it when examining transactions to see if the account is “behaving” differently than expected. This KYC information would never be included in a bank statement or a ledger. It would only come from a financial institution, and is what is included in SARs narratives to justify their filing. Furthermore, there’s info in the document from multiple banks. Unless Avenatti has people at multiple different banks leaking him info on Cohen (he doesn’t) it comes from a SARs.

We know from the WSJ that at least one bank has filed a SARs on Cohen:

I’m pretty gobsmacked that someone would leak SARs to Michael Avenatti, but we live in crazy times. I’ve been trying to think who all would have access, and it’s basically: FinCEN staff, law enforcement who request them, regulators, the bank staff who filed them originally, and possibly independent auditors who come in to make sure banks are filing BSA paperwork properly. My guess would be it’s someone at FinCEN doing it, but I wouldn’t bet a massive amount of money on it.

I would, however, bet massive amounts of money that Avenatti somehow has his hands on SARs filed on Cohen.

I have no idea who leaked this or whether it was a leak per se. But this is extraordinarily detailed information. It all seems accurate. I think TH is likely on the right track here.

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