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Call it the list problem. In the world of crime-stopping, there is no single place where financial institutions can go to find the names of people they should be keeping an eye on. In the days after Sept. 11 this problem became acute, as different police agencies at home and abroad flooded banks with Middle Eastern names to be checked against customer databases. In-house counsel and compliance officers around the world struggled to scrutinize their records, but the government lists were often incomplete or contradictory. In the midst of this chaos, David Lawrence’s star began to rise. For nearly two years, Lawrence, an associate general counsel of The Goldman Sachs Group Inc. in New York, has been quietly hawking a new model for catching people who commit financial crimes. The new company, independent of Goldman, is now informally dubbed Regulatory Datacorp International. And, according to people familiar with the fledgling project, it would provide soup-to-nuts services to help financial services businesses comply with global laws as they relate to terrorists as well as the mob, corrupt foreign leaders, drug traffickers and other scofflaws. The company’s crown jewel would be a vast database of worldwide anti-money-laundering rules and regulations. There would also be updated information on “suspicious” individuals and groups, including foreign leaders and their family members, that government authorities want monitored, as well as the names of anyone convicted of credit card fraud, embezzlement and other financial crimes. The database would be based on public records, says one person familiar with the plan. “This is not,” she insists, “some fascist scheme to get people’s personal information.” Lawrence isn’t publicly discussing his project. Nor is Goldman Sachs. But Alan Sorcher, associate general counsel of the Securities Industry Association, praises Lawrence’s effort: “David is … trying to look ahead [and] do the right thing.” At this stage, it’s unclear when, or if, the company will see the light of day. In addition to all the necessary cooperation from business, the project won’t come cheap. One senior in-house lawyer, whose bank is considering becoming an investor, says Lawrence is looking for seed money of $500,000 or more from each of roughly 15 financial services companies. According to this source, Lawrence also is trying to put together a board of advisers that includes industry insiders, former regulators and law enforcers. One main database filled with names of convicts and criminal suspects? Four senior in-house lawyers at New York banks welcome the idea, saying that it would help them comply with all the new customer monitoring required by the Patriot Act. And it just may happen. In light of Sept. 11 and the confusion that erupted as government officials scrambled to follow the money trail, Lawrence’s plan stands a good chance of finally coming to fruition, says one Wall Street insider, adding: “Very little good came out of Sept. 11 — except if you’re trying to sell that kind of a product.”

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