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  • FinCEN issues Spanish language version of its advisory on politically exposed persons and their financial facilitators

    Financial Crimes

    On September 11, FinCEN released a Spanish version of its advisory for U.S. financial institutions to increase awareness of the connection between high-level political corruption and human rights abuses. As previously covered in InfoBytes, FinCEN issued regulatory guidance in June to remind financial institutions of their risk-based, due diligence obligations, which include (i) identifying legal entities owned or controlled by “politically exposed persons” (as required by FinCEN’s Customer Due Diligence Rule); (ii) complying with anti-money laundering program obligations; and (iii) filing Suspicious Activity Reports related to illegal activity undertaken by senior foreign political figures.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN CDD Rule Anti-Money Laundering SARs

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  • FinCEN grants permanent relief from Beneficial Ownership Rule for CDs and certain automatic renewal products

    Financial Crimes

    On September 7, FinCEN issued a notice granting permanent relief for financial institutions from the Beneficial Ownership Rule’s requirements to obtain and verify the identity of beneficial owners of legal entity customers, with respect to certificate of deposit rollovers (CDs) and loans that renew automatically. The exception applies only to the rollover, renewal, modification, or extension of the following types of accounts occurring on or after May 11, 2018: CDs; existing loans, commercial lines of credit, and credit card accounts that do not require underwriting reviews; and safe deposit box rental renewals. The exception does not apply to the initial opening of these types of new accounts. FinCEN noted that it will not provide any other exception from a financial institution's anti-money laundering compliance obligations under the Bank Secrecy Act.

    Visit here for continuing InfoBytes coverage on beneficial ownership and customer due diligence requirements here.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN CDD Rule Beneficial Ownership

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  • State banking supervisors ask congressional leaders for marijuana banking services clarity

    State Issues

    On August 24, 13 state banking supervisors sent a letter asking congressional leaders “to consider legislation that creates a safe harbor for financial institutions to serve state-compliant [marijuana] business, or entrusts sovereign states with the full oversight and jurisdiction of marijuana-related activity.” According to the letter, while 31 states, the District of Columbia, and two territories have legalized medical and/or recreational marijuana use as of August 1, many financial institutions choose not serve marijuana businesses due to a perceived threat of asset forfeitures or criminal penalties. The letter notes that this results in inadequate regulation, cash transactions that are difficult to track, “a diminished ability to identify operators acting to circumvent federal and state licensing and regulatory frameworks,” and concerns for public safety. In addition, according to the state regulators, the rescission of the 2013 “Cole Memo”—which outlined the DOJ’s marijuana enforcement priorities and was relied upon by a limited number of financial institutions—has led to greater uncertainty for banks that serve marijuana businesses. The letter also discusses the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s 2014 guidance—which clarifies expectations under the Bank Secrecy Act for financial institutions providing services to marijuana businesses—and further stresses that “the Rohrabacher amendment prohibiting federal funds being used to inhibit state medicinal marijuana programs [is] an impermanent approach that requires a permanent resolution.”

    In July, and as previously covered in InfoBytes, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) issued guidance which encouraged New York state chartered banks and credit unions to consider establishing relationships with regulated and compliant medical marijuana and industrial hemp-related businesses operating in New York. NYDFS stated it will not impose any regulatory action on a New York financial institution that establishes a relationship with a regulated marijuana business as long as the institution also complies with other applicable guidance and regulations.

    State Issues Compliance Medical Marijuana DOJ FinCEN Bank Secrecy Act NYDFS State Regulators

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  • FinCEN director discusses approach to virtual currency and emerging technology

    Financial Crimes

    On August 9, FinCEN Director Kenneth A. Blanco delivered remarks at the 2018 Chicago-Kent Block (Legal) Tech Conference to discuss, among other things, the agency’s approach to virtual currency and its efforts to protect financial institutions from being exploited for illicit financing purposes as new financial technologies evolve and are adopted. Blanco commented that while innovation provides customers with greater access to financial services, it can also create opportunities for criminals or serve as a vehicle for fraud. Blanco discussed several areas of focus, such as (i) the regulation of virtual currency and initial coin offerings (ICOs), along with coordinated policy development and regulatory approaches done in conjunction with the SEC and CFTC; (ii) examination and supervision efforts designed to “proactively mitigate potential illicit finance risks associated with virtual currency”; (iii) anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) regulatory compliance expectations for companies involved in ICOs or virtual currency transmissions; (iv) enforcement actions taken against companies that fail to implement effective programs; (v) the rise and importance of virtual currency suspicious activity report filings which help the agency identify and investigate illicit activity; and (vi) the development of an information sharing virtual currency-focused FinCEN Exchange program. Blanco emphasized that “individuals and entities engaged in the business of accepting and transmitting physical currency or convertible virtual currency from one person to another or to another location are money transmitters subject to the requirements” of the Bank Secrecy Act.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Bank Secrecy Act Virtual Currency Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism SARs SEC CFTC Fintech Initial Coin Offerings

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  • FinCEN issues extension to continue suspension of beneficial ownership requirements for automatic renewal products

    Financial Crimes

    On August 8, FinCEN issued a notice to provide an additional 30 days of limited exceptive relief for covered financial institutions that are required to obtain and verify the identity of beneficial owners of legal entity customers with respect to certificate of deposit rollovers and loans that renew automatically. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the extension—which was set to expire August 9 and applies to qualified products and services that were established before the Beneficial Ownership Rule’s May 11 compliance date—will now continue until September 8. FinCEN noted it will continue to evaluate the requirement to determine whether additional relief is needed.

    Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on beneficial ownership and customer due diligence requirements here.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Beneficial Ownership Customer Due Diligence CDD Rule

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  • FinCEN director comments on cooperative efforts to freeze assets belonging to transnational criminal organization

    Financial Crimes

    On July 14, FinCEN Director Kenneth A. Blanco issued a statement regarding recent actions taken by Argentina’s Unidad de Informaciὀn Financiera de la República Argentina (UIF-AR) to freeze assets belonging to Clan Bakarat, a transnational criminal organization with ties to Hezbollah leadership. According to Director Blanco, FinCEN’s cooperative efforts with UIF-AR led to the action against Clan Barakat, which is currently listed with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for its suspected involvement with money laundering and terrorist financing among other things.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN International OFAC Department of Treasury Anti-Money Laundering

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  • NYDFS encourages New York state chartered financial institutions to establish relationships with medical marijuana businesses

    State Issues

    On July 3, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), at the direction of Governor Andrew Cuomo, released guidance encouraging New York state chartered banks and credit unions to consider establishing relationships with regulated and compliant medical marijuana and industrial hemp-related businesses operating in New York. According to the guidance, these businesses often rely solely on cash to conduct transactions, because of a lack of access to traditional financial services. The press release announcing the guidance cites to the New York Compassionate Care Act, enacted in 2014, which provides medical patients suffering from “debilitating symptoms and diseases” access to, under strict requirements, medical marijuana. NYDFS is encouraging New York financial institutions to form appropriate banking relationships with these business, because “[p]roviding access to regulated banking services is an essential part of taking the legal cannabis industry out of the shadows and establishing it as a transparent, regulated, tax-paying part of our economy, and a necessary part of fulfilling the goal of relieving the suffering of seriously ill patients.”

    NYDFS will not impose any regulatory action on a New York financial institution that establishes a business relationship with legal medical marijuana and industrial hemp-related businesses, as long as the institution also complies with other applicable guidance and regulations, such as the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s 2014 guidance—which clarifies expectations under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) for financial institutions providing services to these businesses. 

    State Issues NYDFS Compliance Bank Secrecy Act FinCEN Medical Marijuana

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  • FinCEN issues advisory on connection between politically exposed persons and financial facilitators

    Financial Crimes

    On June 12, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory to U.S. financial institutions to increase awareness of the connection between high-level political corruption and human rights abuses. The advisory highlights the use of financial facilitators as a means to gain access to global financial systems for the purpose of moving or hiding illicit proceeds and evading U.S. and global sanctions. Among other things, the advisory, which is designed to assist financial institutions in identifying and reporting suspicious activity, provides typologies used by “politically exposed persons” (PEPs) to access the U.S. financial system and obscure illicit activity. FinCEN also provides several red flags outlining various types of suspected schemes that may be indicators of suspicious activity. The advisory’s regulatory guidance further reminds financial institutions of their risk-based, due diligence obligations, which include (i) identifying legal entities owned or controlled by PEPs (as required by FinCEN’s Customer Due Diligence Rule); (ii) complying with anti-money laundering program obligations; and (iii) filing Suspicious Activity Reports related to illegal activity undertaken by senior foreign political figures.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Sanctions International Anti-Money Laundering SARs

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  • FinCEN issues ruling temporarily suspending beneficial ownership requirements for automatic renewal products for 90 days

    Financial Crimes

    On May 16, FinCEN issued a ruling to provide a 90-day limited exceptive relief from the requirements for covered financial institutions to obtain and verify the identity of beneficial owners of legal entity customers with respect to certificate of deposit rollovers and loans that renew automatically. As previously covered in InfoBytes, FinCEN clarified that covered financial institutions seeking to renew a loan or roll over a certificate of deposit must treat these as new accounts and require their legal entities customers to certify or confirm beneficial owners, “even if the legal entity is an existing customer.” FinCEN acknowledged, however, that certain covered financial institutions with automatic processes that do not treat these types of rollovers or renewals as new accounts, have expressed concerns regarding their ability to comply with the rule’s requirements. As a result, FinCEN’s ruling will apply to qualified products and services that were established before the May 11 compliance date and will continue until August 9, during which time FinCEN will re-evaluate the requirement to determine whether more permanent relief is needed.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Beneficial Ownership

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  • FinCEN issues ruling to clarify beneficial ownership requirements for premium finance cash refunds

    Financial Crimes

    On May 11, FinCEN issued a ruling to provide exceptive relief to covered financial institutions from the requirements to obtain and verify the identity of beneficial owners of legal entity customers at account opening to insurance premium finance lending products that allow for cash refunds. Although FinCEN’s regulations already exempted covered financial institutions from the requirements to identify and verify the identity of the beneficial owner of legal entity customers at account opening to the extent that the legal entity customer opens the account for the purpose of financing insurance premiums, the exemption does not apply if there is a possibility of cash refunds. However, because premium finance lenders typically process a significant number of cash refunds, and premium finance loans present a low risk for money laundering, FinCEN issued the ruling to provide for additional relief for premium finance loans offering cash refunds. A condition of the relief is that the cash “refunds are only remitted directly to the borrower or the borrower’s agent or broker.”

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Beneficial Ownership Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering

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