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  • Arizona’s fintech sandbox program accepts first participant

    Fintech

    On October 11, the Arizona Attorney General announced the state’s first fintech sandbox participant. The mobile payment platform company will test its product—a centralized wallet infrastructure designed to create “cheaper and faster payment transfers”—for two years by processing guest payments at a Tucson resort. Arizona resident-guests will receive a disclosure agreement outlining the company’s participation in the sandbox, an explanation of the test product, a privacy notice, and the ability to opt out of any information sharing with the resort. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Arizona governor signed legislation in March creating the first state sandbox program for companies to test innovative financial products or services without certain regulatory requirements. 

    The Attorney General also announced the finalization of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Taiwan’s financial regulator, the Financial Supervisory Commission, to increase the reach of the state’s sandbox program. The MOU will establish an information sharing agreement “that may result in the opportunity for businesses to develop/test eligible [fintech] products in both markets,” the release stated.

    Fintech State Issues State Attorney General Regulatory Sandbox

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  • Financial Stability Board report: Crypto-assets not yet posing material risk to financial stability

    Fintech

    On October 10, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) published a report, which asserts that although “crypto-assets do not pose a material risk to global financial stability at this time,” there may be implications for financial stability in the future as market developments evolve. The newest report, “Crypto-asset markets: Potential channels for future financial stability implications,” follows a July report discussing the FSB’s framework for monitoring and assessing vulnerabilities in the financial system resulting from developments in the crypto-asset markets. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) According to the October report, the FSB conducted an assessment which considered the primary risks present in crypto-assets and their markets, such as “low liquidity, the use of leverage, market risks from volatility, and operational risks,” and determined that, “[b]ased on these features, crypto-assets lack the key attributes of sovereign currencies and do not serve as a common means of payment, a stable store of value, or a mainstream unit of account.” However, the October report discussed challenges to assessing and monitoring potential risks and commented on the following implications that may arise from the evolving use of crypto-assets: (i) reputational risks to financial institutions and their regulators; (ii) risks from direct or indirect exposures of financial institutions; (iii) risks resulting from the use of crypto-assets in payments and settlements; and (iv) risks from market capitalization and wealth effects.

    Fintech Financial Stability Board Cryptocurrency

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  • New York Attorney General issues Virtual Markets Integrity Report, following cryptocurrency integrity initiative

    Fintech

    On September 18, the New York Attorney General’s office announced the results of its Virtual Markets Integrity Initiative, a fact-finding inquiry into the policies and practices of platforms used by consumers to trade virtual or “crypto” currencies. As previously covered in InfoBytes, last April questionnaires were sent to 13 virtual asset trading platforms to solicit information on their operations, policies, internal controls, and safeguards to protect consumer assets. The resulting Virtual Markets Integrity Report finds that virtual asset trading platforms vary significantly in the comprehensiveness of their response to the risks facing the virtual markets, and presents three broad areas of concern: (i) the potential for conflicts of interest due to platforms engaging in various overlapping business lines that are not restricted or monitored in the same way as traditional trading environments; (ii) a lack of protection from abusive trading platforms and practices; and (iii) limited protections for customer funds, such as the insufficient availability of insurance for virtual asset losses and platforms that do not conduct any type of independent auditing of virtual assets. According to the report, the Attorney General’s office also referred three platforms to the New York Department of Financial Services for potential violations of the state’s virtual currency regulations.

    Fintech State Issues State Attorney General Virtual Currency Cryptocurrency NYDFS

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  • NYDFS files lawsuit over OCC’s fintech charter decision

    Fintech

    On September 14, New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) Superintendent, Maria T. Vullo, filed a lawsuit against the OCC arguing that the agency’s decision to allow fintech companies to apply for a Special Purpose National Bank Charter (SPNB) is a “lawless” and “ill-conceived” move that will destabilize financial markets more effectively regulated by the state. As previously covered in InfoBytes, last December the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed NYDFS’ previous challenge because the court lacked subject matter jurisdiction over NYDFS’ claims since the OCC had yet to finalize its plans to actually issue SPNBs. However, in light of the OCC’s July announcement welcoming nondepository fintech companies engaged in one or more core banking functions to apply for a SPNB (previously covered by Buckley Sandler Special Alert here), Superintendent Vullo once again issued a challenge to the OCC’s decision, arguing that it is unlawful and grants federal preemptive powers over state law. Among other things, NYDFS requests the court to (i) declare that the OCC’s decision to grant SPNBs exceeds its statutory authority under the National Bank Act, and specifically that the decision improperly defines the “‘business of banking’ to include non-depository institutions,” and (ii) enjoin the OCC “from taking further actions to implement its provisions.”

    Fintech Courts NYDFS OCC State Issues Fintech Charter

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  • Congressman releases report on small business fintech lending

    Fintech

    On August 17, Congressman Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO) released a report detailing his findings from an investigation into the small business lending practices of fintech companies, concluding that the algorithms used in the application process may not reduce the risk of discrimination. The report notes that one company disclosed utilized a third-party fair lending consulting firm to assist in preventing discrimination, but that some survey responses “lacked key information or were willfully vague” about how the algorithms help avoid income-based and racial bias. The report cites to other criticisms of small business lending in the fintech industry, including (i) the use of forced arbitration clauses; and (ii) utilizing personal credit scores to establish a business’ credit worthiness. In contrast, the report emphasizes that fintech lending “can be potentially advantageous for small businesses looking to get a leg up in a competitive market” and that fintech companies often serve markets traditionally ignored by banks. The report concludes with a list of best practices and principles for fintech companies that will lend to small businesses, such as (i) registering with the CFPB’s complaint database; (ii) replicating TILA disclosures required for consumers; and (iii) securing third party fair-lending audits.

    Fintech U.S. House Fair Lending Small Business

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  • Regulators create Global Financial Innovation Network

    Fintech

    On August 7, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced the creation of the Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN) in collaboration with 11 global financial regulators, including the CFPB. As set forth in the GFIN Consultation Document, the three major functions of the initiative are: (i) information sharing among regulators on topics including emerging technologies and business models; (ii) providing a forum for joint policy work; and (iii) instituting “cross-border trials” to create a testing environment for companies as they deal with global regulatory challenges. GFIN’s intention is to serve as an efficient way for innovative fintech firms to interact with regulators and promote transparency, and plans to explore the concept of a “global sandbox” to create opportunities for these firms to test new financial services and products such as artificial intelligence, distributed ledger technology, and initial coin offerings in multiple jurisdictions.

    In a press release issued the same day, the Bureau noted that the decision to join the group is a demonstration of its “commitment to promoting innovation by coordinating with state, federal and international regulators.” Acting Director Mick Mulvaney further commented, “We look forward to working closely with other regulatory authorities—whether in the United States or abroad—to facilitate innovation and promote regulatory best practices in consumer financial services.”

    The working group seeks multi-jurisdictional comments on the Consultation Document to assess feedback on its proposed mission, function, and priorities. U.S. persons can submit comments through the Bureau’s Office of Innovation or through the FCA and other regulators. Comments must be received by October 14.

    Fintech Financial Conduct Authority CFPB Regulatory Sandbox International

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  • FINRA seeks comments on fintech innovation in broker-dealer industry

    Fintech

    On July 30, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) issued a Special Notice seeking comment on how it can support fintech innovation consistent with its mission of investor protection and market integrity. According to FINRA, the comment request builds on its Innovation Outreach Initiative, which launched last year to assist FINRA in understanding fintech innovations and how those innovations affect the securities industry (previously covered by InfoBytes here). The Special Notice seeks general comments on FINRA’s rules or processes that could be “modified to better support fintech innovation without adversely affecting investor protection or market integrity,” and comments pointing to specific areas of fintech innovation that may need a greater focus by the organization. In addition to those comments, the notice also raises three specific topics for comment that have previously been flagged as potential areas of engagement through the Innovation Outreach Initiative: (i) data aggregation services; (ii) supervision as it relates to artificial intelligence; and (iii) the development of a taxonomy-based machine-readable rulebook. Comments are due by October 12.

    Fintech FINRA Federal Issues SEC Securities

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  • CFTC advisory warns customers to research digital coins and tokens before purchasing

    Fintech

    On July 16, the CFTC issued an advisory to alert customers to exercise caution and conduct thorough research prior to purchasing virtual/digital coins or tokens. Specifically, customers are reminded (i) to conduct extensive due diligence on all “individuals and entities listed as affiliates of a digital coin or token offering”; (ii) to confirm whether the digital coins or tokens are securities and, if so, verify that the offering is registered with the SEC before investing in an Initial Coin Offering (ICO); (iii) to verify how the money will be utilized, if they can get it back, and what rights the digital coin or token provides; and (iv) that many ICOs are frauds.

    Fintech CFTC Cryptocurrency Virtual Currency Initial Coin Offerings

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  • Financial Stability Board publishes report discussing methods for monitoring crypto-asset risk

    Fintech

    On July 16, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) published a report, which asserts that, while “crypto-assets do not pose a material risk to global financial stability at this time,” there exists a need for “vigilant monitoring in light of the speed of developments and data gaps.” According to “Crypto-assets: Report to the G20 on work by the FSB and standard-setting bodies” (the Report), the FSB and the Committee on Payments and Market Infrastructures (CPMI) have developed a framework to monitor and assess vulnerabilities in the financial system resulting from developments in the crypto-asset markets. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the FSB earlier released a letter to G20 Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors in March noting that “[c]rypto-assets raise a host of issues around consumer and investor protection, as well as their use to shield illicit activity and for money laundering and terrorist financing.” The Report specifically discusses actions being undertaken by international regulatory bodies, including (i) the CPMI’s investigation into distributed ledger technologies and monitoring of payment innovations; (ii) the International Organization of Securities Commissions creation of an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) Consultative Network, development of a framework for members to use when dealing with investor-protection issues stemming from ICOs, and exploration into regulatory issues regarding crypto-assets platforms; and (iii) the Basel Committee on Banking Supervision’s assessment of the materiality of banks’ crypto-asset exposures, exploration of appropriate prudential treatment of those exposures, and monitoring of crypto-asset and other financial technology developments. The Financial Action Task Force is also working separately on a report to the G20 on crypto-asset concerns regarding money laundering and terrorist financing risks.

    Fintech Financial Stability Board Cryptocurrency Virtual Currency Initial Coin Offerings

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  • Federal Reserve Governor discusses potential impact of digital innovations on the financial system

    Fintech

    On May 15, Federal Reserve Board Governor Lael Brainard spoke at a digital currency conference sponsored by the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco to discuss how digital innovations may impact the financial system, specifically in the areas of payments, clearing, and settlement. Brainard discussed, among other things, the importance of understanding the impact these innovations may have on (i) investor and consumer protection issues, and (ii) cryptocurrency and distributed ledger technology governance, particularly with respect to Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering concerns. In addition, Brainard commented on the inherent risks and challenges surrounding the concept of a central bank digital currency, and noted that at this time, “there is no compelling demonstrated need for a Fed-issued digital currency [because] [m]ost consumers and businesses in the U.S. already make retail payments electronically using debit and credit cards, payment applications, and the automated clearinghouse network. Moreover, people are finding easy ways to make digital payments directly to other people through a variety of mobile apps.” Brainard noted, however, that the Federal Reserve is monitoring these technological developments as “digital tokens for wholesale payments and some aspects of distributed ledger technology—the key technologies underlying cryptocurrencies—may hold promise for strengthening traditional financial instruments and markets” in the coming years.

    Fintech Federal Reserve Cryptocurrency Distributed Ledger Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering

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