The settled order is the first SEC action charging a seller of digital tokens as an unregistered broker-dealer.
On September 11, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced a settled order instituting cease-and-desist proceedings and imposing remedial sanctions against TokenLot LLC (TokenLot), a self-described “ICO Superstore,” and its owners in connection with their sales of digital tokens to the general public through a website. The SEC found that TokenLot and its owners acted as unregistered broker-dealers in violation of Section 15(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (Exchange Act) and engaged in unregistered securities offerings in violation of Section 5 of the Securities Act of 1933 (Securities Act). Continue reading →
Last week the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued much-anticipated Frequently Asked Questions (PDF: 387 KB) (FAQs) that provide additional guidance to financial institutions relating to the implementation of the new Customer Due Diligence Rule (CDD Rule), set to go into effect on May 11, 2018. In general, the FAQs clarify certain issues that have caused implementation challenges for financial institutions. While FinCEN’s earlier guidance provided a general overview of the CDD Rule—including the purpose of the rule, the institutions to which it is applicable, and some relevant definitions—the new FAQs provide greater detail for financial institutions seeking to comply with the CDD Rule. The FAQs are meant to assist covered financial institutions in understanding the scope of their customer due diligence (CDD) obligations, as well as the rule’s impact on their broader anti-money laundering (AML) compliance. While the guidance is helpful in clarifying some of FinCEN’s expectations, the implementation challenge lies in applying the CDD Rule to a financial institution’s specific products and services.
As financial institutions work to meet the CDD Rule’s fast-approaching May 11 compliance deadline, they should pay special attention to the following key areas summarized below. Continue reading →
Prominent law enforcement and regulatory officials have referred to financial sector compliance officers, as “essential partners” in ensuring compliance with relevant laws and regulations, whose “difficult job[s]” merit “appreciat[ion] and respect.” Officials have noted the critical role these professionals play in shaping the culture of financial institutions, as well as the industry more generally. However, a series of recent enforcement actions in which financial sector compliance officers have been personally sanctioned has strained this partnership, fueling concerns among financial sector compliance officers that they are being unfairly targeted.
Law enforcement and regulatory officials have responded to these concerns with assurances that both the ethos of a partnership and their even-handed enforcement approach remain intact. Officials have stressed that in the rare instances in which financial sector compliance officers have been held personally accountable, the majority had engaged in affirmative misconduct. Rarer still, they contend, are cases where compliance officers were found to have exhibited “wholesale” or “broad-based” failures in carrying out responsibilities assigned to them. In these particular cases, officials have stressed that the enforcement actions proceed only when, after carefully weighing the evidence, the facts indicate that the compliance officers “crossed a clear line.”Continue reading →
On December 20, 2017, President Trump issued a new Executive Order (PDF: 235 KB) (EO) targeting corruption and human rights abuses around the world.
The EO implements last year’s Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (the Global Magnitsky Act), which authorized the president to impose sanctions against human rights abusers and those who facilitate government corruption. The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which will administer the EO, also added 15 individuals and 37 entities to its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List). Continue reading →
Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) recently announced the creation of the FinCEN Exchange, a new voluntary platform to facilitate information sharing between the government and industry on topics related to anti–money laundering (“AML”) and other financial crime issues. The program represents a significant step forward on two related priority areas for FinCEN: information sharing and public-private partnerships. Continue reading →
On May 4, 2017, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (“SDNY”) and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) announced the settlement of civil claims brought under the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) against the former Chief Compliance Officer of MoneyGram International, Inc. (“MoneyGram”), Thomas Haider, stemming from MoneyGram’s failure to implement and maintain an effective anti-money laundering (“AML”) program or to timely file suspicious activity reports (“SARs”). The settlement represented the resolution of the first-ever suit filed by the federal government against an individual compliance officer in the finance industry, and is likely to add fuel to increasing anxiety regarding the Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) willingness to hold corporate executives liable for compliance failings. Continue reading →
When in 1848 the Swiss cantons agreed to form a federal state modeled after the U.S. Constitution of 1787, they called Switzerland the New America. More recently, the roles have been reversed: America is called the New Switzerland. The claim is not that America is making better chocolate than the Swiss. It is that America has become the world’s leading bank secrecy jurisdiction. Yet America’s “Swissness” is about to be scaled down. Following the Panama Papers scandal, the Treasury has activated long-standing proposals to improve U.S. financial transparency. Among other things, new rules on Customer Due Diligence were published on May 11, 2016. In Europe, the general view is that the changes – even if approved by Congress – are not sufficient. Nevertheless, they are an important step forward. Continue reading →