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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

DFPI addresses MTA licensing in new letter

State Issues Money Service / Money Transmitters DFPI Licensing

State Issues

Recently, California’s Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) released a new opinion letter covering aspects of the Money Transmission Act (MTA) related to the registered clearing house and payment processing service exemptions.

The redacted opinion letter concluded that the company, a Delaware Corporation, is required to apply for and receive an MTA license to engage in the proposed activities in California, absent receiving an exemption. According to the letter, the company proposes to offer automated clearing house (ACH) services to merchants through an “integrated payment gateway” in order to “aid merchants with online and offline stores in collecting cross-border payments.” The ACH services would be a five-step process in which (i) a foreign customer purchases goods or services from a U.S.-based merchant; (ii) the merchant scans a quick response code using the company’s payment software; (iii) the company “withdraws a USD equivalent amount of payment in Chinese Renminbi (RMB) from the foreign customer’s” digital wallet; (iv) the company uses foreign exchange services “to convert the RMB amount into the correct corresponding USD amount” and remits the amount into the company’s U.S. bank account; and lastly (v) the company distributes the payment from its account to the merchant’s account. The company sought a clearing agency exemption and/or an excluded persons processing exemption, however, the DFPI concluded that the company did not supply evidence to show it qualified for either exemption. Thus, the company would need an MTA license to engage in the stated processing activity in California. 

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