Bank filings described as rare by Rep. James Comer occur 3.7 million times a year.
Rep. James Comer (R-KY) has repeatedly insisted that "suspicious activity" claims filed against Hunter Biden and other members of President Joe Biden's family are rare and indicate possible illegal behavior. But the Treasury Department says it expects millions of such claims to be filed in the next year.
Suspicious activity reports, known as SARs, are filed by financial institutions with the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and can be used as the basis for investigations into possible illegal activity, but they are not an indication of guilt or innocence.
SARs can be initiated when bank accounts are involved in any activity out of the ordinary course of business. This includes unusually large or complex deposits that could indicate the account holder is attempting to store funds for an illegal purpose.
Comer's allegations come as the incoming House Republican majority said it will initiate multiple investigations of Biden ahead of the 2024 election.
Comer is currently the highest-ranking minority party member of the House Oversight Committee and is likely to become chair of the committee when Congress reconvenes in 2023. He recently won reelection to represent Kentucky's 1st Congressional District.
House Republicans on Thursday held a press conference announcing their intention to target the Biden family with investigations after the GOP secured a small majority in the midterm election, including allegations that Hunter Biden used his father's position to enrich himself. Many of these accusations have centered on conspiracy theories that a laptop owned by Hunter Biden contains emails connecting the Biden family to corrupt business deals.
"According to media reports, the Biden family accumulated over 150 SARs," Comer said during the event. It is a data point he has frequently referenced to paint the Bidens in a negative light.
During an interview in October on the conservative One America News Network, Comer claimed, "I came from a banking background, and I can tell you, nobody ever gets a suspicious activity report."
Appearing on Newsmax in July, Comer said: "I don't think the American people who don't have banking background understand how few suspicious activity reports are ever filed. The fact that they have had over 150 is mind-boggling. That's got to be a Guinness record."
And in April, Comer told Fox News, "I was the director of the eighth-largest Kentucky-domiciled bank for about a decade, and we mighta had 12 SARs filed among all the banks in our holding company a year."
But the Treasury Department says millions of SARS are filed each year, undercutting Comer's claims of their rarity. A report the department submitted to Congress said that in 2021, 2.8 million reports were filed, and 3.5 million reports are expected in 2022. The department also anticipates over 3.6 million reports for the 2023 fiscal year. According to the Bank Policy Institute, only about 4% of SARS lead to a follow-up by law enforcement, and "a tiny subset" of those investigations result in arrests or convictions.
In Comer's district alone, over 62,000 reports were filed between 2014 and 2022, averaging one filing for every 12 people in the district.
On Oct. 19, the Washington Post fact-checked Comer's claim that the SARs reports indicated that Hunter Biden had "committed serious crimes." The paper awarded Comer "three Pinocchios" for what it calls "significant factual error and/or obvious contradictions."
"Even if as many as 150 SARs were filed concerning Hunter Biden's business dealings — a number that remains unconfirmed — that does not mean that he committed 'serious crimes' or that banks were 'pretty confident' that a serious crime was committed," the Post concluded. "Instead, these reports are merely tips that something may be suspicious — raw intelligence that still needs to be vetted, confirmed and possibly investigated."
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.