Right to Financial Privacy Act of 1978 (RFPA), Pub. L. No. 95-630, § 1114, codified at 12 U.S.C. §3401 et seq. (1978) (full-text).
The Act was enacted in response to the 1976 decision of the Supreme Court in United States v. Miller, which ruled that individuals have no Fourth Amendment “reasonable expectation of privacy” in records maintained by their banks. The Act limits the right of the Federal Government to access financial records of individuals and small partnerships, as well as the right of financial institutions to disclose such records to the Government. It applies only to the Federal Government and not to other organizations and institutions that might seek information.
The Act sets forth procedures for the federal government’s access to financial institution customer records. The Act covers the records of individuals who are customers of banks, thrifts, credit unions, credit card issuers, and consumer finance companies.
The Act requires the government to present administrative subpoenas or summons based upon reason to believe the information is relevant to a legitimate law enforcement inquiry. In criminal investigations, judicial search warrants based on probable cause must be obtained. Notice to the customer is required except upon issuance of a court order finding the existence of certain exigent circumstances. However, these restrictions do not apply to foreign intelligence activities and investigations related to international terrorism.