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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

DOJ Cyber-Digital Task Force releases cryptocurrency enforcement framework

Federal Issues DOJ Cryptocurrency Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Enforcement

Federal Issues

On October 8, U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr released his Cyber-Digital Task Force’s comprehensive overview of emerging threats and enforcement challenges associated with the increased use of cryptocurrencies. The report, titled Cryptocurrency: An Enforcement Framework, is divided into three parts and details the relationships that the DOJ has built with U.S. and foreign regulatory and enforcement partners, and summarizes the Department’s response strategies.

  • Part I: Threat Overview. This section illustrates how malicious actors misuse cryptocurrency technology to harm users and commit crimes. The task force catalogs most illicit uses of cryptocurrency into the following three broad categories: (i) “financial transactions associated with the commission of crimes,” including soliciting funds to support terrorist activities; (ii) money laundering and the shielding of otherwise legitimate activity from tax, reporting, or other legal requirements; or (iii) crimes that directly implicate the cryptocurrency marketplace itself, such as stealing cryptocurrency or promising cryptocurrency to defraud investors.
  • Part II: Law and Regulations. This section explores the various legal and regulatory authorities that the DOJ has used to bring cryptocurrency enforcement actions, and highlights its partnerships with other U.S. federal and state authorities and foreign enforcement agencies to prevent crime and provide investigatory assistance.
  • Part III: Ongoing Challenges and Future Strategies. This section discusses the ongoing challenges presented by the misuse of cryptocurrency, as well as ongoing strategies to combat emerging threats. This includes an examination of certain business models and activities employed by cryptocurrency exchanges, including money service businesses, virtual asset and peer-to-peer exchanges and platforms, kiosk operators, and casinos.

This is the task force’s second report. The first report, published in 2018, provides a more general overview of cyber threats.

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