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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

DFPI reminds financial institutions of their sanctions compliance obligations

State Issues Digital Assets Financial Crimes State Regulators DFPI California NYDFS OFAC Department of Treasury OFAC Sanctions OFAC Designations Ukraine Ukraine Invasion Russia Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

State Issues

On March 4, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) issued guidance, in light of the evolving situation in Ukraine, to remind financial institutions of their sanctions compliance obligations under state and federal law. Licensees are reminded that they are prohibited from participating in financial transactions with individuals and entities listed on the SDN List, and encouraged to review specific, more limited sanctions that have been placed on several Russian entities. This information can be found on OFAC's website.

Additionally, licensees are strongly encouraged to immediately ensure their systems, programs, and processes comply with OFAC regulations, and review and monitor all transactions (particularly trade finance transactions and funds transfers) to identify and block transactions subject to sanctions. Licensees should also follow OFAC directions related to blocked funds.

DFPI further warned that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine increases the risk that listed individuals and entities will attempt to evade sanctions by using virtual currency transfers, and encouraged licensees to review OFAC Guidance to protect against these risks. Licensees engaged in transactions involving virtual currencies are instructed to implement policies, procedures, and processes to protect against the unique risks posed by virtual currencies and should “consider virtual currency-specific control measures including sanctions lists, geographic screening, and any other measures appropriate to the licensee’s specific risk profile.”

Additionally, DFPI cautioned that the “Russian invasion significantly elevates the cyber risk for the U.S. financial sector,” and licensees are instructed to take measures to mitigate cybersecurity threats, including adopting core cybersecurity hygiene measures, eliminating any non-essential networking protocols, ensuring procedures are able to address a ransomware attack, and reevaluating “plans to maintain essential services, protect critical data, and preserve customer confidence considering the realistic threat of extended outages.” Licensees are encouraged to track alerts from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency.

Licensees conducting business in Ukraine and/or Russia should also “take increased measures to monitor, inspect, and isolate traffic from Ukrainian or Russian offices and service providers,” and “segregate networks for Ukrainian or Russian offices from the global network.”

NYDFS also recently issued similar guidance for New York state regulated entities on its cybersecurity and virtual currency regulations in response to the Russian invasion and recently imposed sanctions. (Covered by a Buckley Special Alert.)