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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

FinCEN issues first ever penalty against peer-to-peer virtual currency exchanger

Financial Crimes FinCEN Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Money Service / Money Transmitters Virtual Currency Of Interest to Non-US Persons

Financial Crimes

On April 18, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced a civil money penalty against a California-based individual operating as peer-to-peer exchanger for willful violations of Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) money service business (MSB) requirements. According to FinCEN, the exchanger engaged in activities such as (i) advertising his intentions to purchase and sell bitcoin; and (ii) completing transactions using in-person cash payments, currency sent or received in the mail, or wire transfers through the use of a depository institution. These activities, FinCEN claimed, qualified him as a virtual currency exchanger, MSB, and a financial institution under the BSA. As such, the exchanger was required to register as a MSB with FinCEN, establish and implement an effective written anti-money laundering program, detect and file suspicious activity reports, and report currency transactions, which he failed to do. The order requires the exchanger to pay a $35,350 civil money penalty and permanently prohibits him from engaging in any activity that would qualify him as a MSB.

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