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On January 11, the Colorado governor extended previous executive orders permitting numerous state regulatory agencies to issue emergency rules for extending the expiration of certificates and licenses (previous coverage here). Among other things, the extension permits the Division of Banking to extend the expiration date of licenses issued to money transmitters, and the Division of Real Estate to extend licenses issued to real estate brokers, for an addition 30 days.
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.
On October 2, the Hawaii Division of Financial Institutions extended interim guidance allowing Hawaii-located financial institutions to reduce hours or close offices during Hawaii’s Covid-19 state of emergency (see here and here for previous coverage). Similar to previously issued guidance, financial institutions and escrow depositories are required to provide notice of closures or reductions in hours. While mortgage loan originators, mortgage servicers and money transmitters are not required to provide notice, the regulator requests a courtesy notification of any closure or reduction in hours. The guidance is extended “in accordance with the county emergency orders found on each county website.”
On September 28, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) announced that the Ohio Division of Financial Institutions received its first Money Service Business (MSB) Accreditation. According to the announcement, the MSB Accreditation—which is offered by CSBS together with the Money Transmitter Regulators Association—certifies that the “state has the resources and necessary processes in place to ensure MSBs in that state operate safely and soundly, follow BSA/AML standards and abide by state and federal consumer protection laws.”
The Accreditation is part of the CSBS Vision 2020 program. Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on CSBS Vision 2020 here.
On September 15, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) announced the launch of a single, streamlined examination for money transmitters operating nationwide (i.e., in 40 or more states), known as “MSB Networked Supervision.” The single exam—which will apply to “78 of the nation’s largest payments and cryptocurrency companies”—will be led by one state overseeing a group of examiners sourced from around the country. MSB Networked Supervision is a result of recommendations from the CSBS Fintech Industry Advisory Panel and CSBS Vision 2020 (covered by InfoBytes here).
Last month the California Department of Business Oversight (CDBO) released two new opinion letters covering aspects of the California Money Transmission Act (MTA) related to the sale of foreign currency and the agent of the payee exemption.
- Sale of Foreign Currency. The redacted opinion letter concludes that the company’s banknote replenishment service does not trigger the licensing requirements of the MTA because the company does not engage in “selling or receiving payment instruments, selling or receiving stored value, or receiving money for transmission.” Moreover, the CDBO determined that the company “does not issue anything to the business except for the foreign currency that was ordered, and does not receive money from the business for purpose of transmission.”
- Agent of Payee Exemption - Payment Processing Service. The redacted opinion letter concludes that neither the company’s pay-in services nor pay-out services are exempt from the MTA. According to the letter, the company provides payment processing services to online gaming operators (merchants), which allow the merchants’ customers to submit payments to engage in online gaming, such as sports betting and daily fantasy sports betting. The CDBO determined that the pay-in and pay-out services provided by the company “constitute ‘receiving money for transmission,’” as required for the MTA to apply, because the company “receives money from the [c]ustomers for transfer to the [m]erchants” for the pay-in service and “receives money from the [m]erchants for transfer to the [c]ustomers” for the pay-out service. However, the agent of the payee exemption does not apply to the pay-in services, despite an agreement that establishes the company as the merchant’s agent, because the funds received by the company are not owed to the merchant when they are received by the company. Instead, such funds are retained in an account for the benefit of the merchant until a gambling debt is owed to the merchant. For the pay-out services, the exemption does not apply because the merchant’s customer does not provide any goods or services to the merchant for which the merchant’s payment to the customer is owed. The CDBO also advised that some of the proposed payments described in the company’s request may involve sports betting, which is an illegal activity in the state, and cautioned that the opinion “applies only to activities that are currently legal in California and does not relieve [the company] from its obligation to comply with other applicable state and federal laws.” Furthermore, the CDBO stated that MTA licenses cannot be issued to companies engaged in the transmission of money to facilitate unlawful activities.
On August 27, the Kansas Office of the State Bank Commissioner extended its remote work guidance, previously covered here and here, for mortgage companies, mortgage loan originators, supervised loan licensees, credit services organizations, money transmitters, and credit notification registrants. Licensed or registered individuals and entities are permitted to work from their residences or a company designated location, provided certain requirements are met, through December 31, 2020.
On August 13, the Hawaii Division of Financial Institutions extended, until September 30, 2020, interim guidance permitting licensees with locations in Hawaii to reduce hours or close offices during Hawaii’s Covid-19 emergency period. Consistent with the previous guidance, covered here, financial institutions and escrow depositories are required to provide notice of closures or reductions in hours. While mortgage loan originators, mortgage servicers, and money transmitters are not required to provide notice, the regulator requests a courtesy notification of any closure or reduction in hours.
The California Department of Business Oversight (CDBO) released several opinion letters issued throughout the summer covering virtual currency and agent of payee rules under the California Money Transmission Act (MTA). Highlights from the redacted letters include:
- Cryptocurrency - Escrow Accounts and Exchanges. The redacted opinion letter states that the CDBO has not yet determined whether cryptocurrencies are a form of money that triggers the application of the MTA and therefore, a business model that operates brokerage accounts using cryptocurrency exchanges would not need to be licensed and supervised under the MTA. As for a business model that the letter describes as a third-party repurchase transaction related to borrowing and lending cryptocurrency, the CDBO reminds the company that the activity may still be subject to California Escrow Law.
- Agent of Payee Exemption - Payment Processing Service. The redacted opinion letter concludes that the company’s payment processing services—which use mobile applications or card readers to capture customer information through merchants, and the payment funds flow first from the customer to the company, and then from the company to the merchant—“fall within the definition of ‘money transmission’ but are exempt from the MTA to the extent [the company], acting as the [m]erchant’s agent, receives money from [c]ustomers, via the relevant card company, as payment for goods or services.”
- Online Foreign Currency Exchange Service. The redacted opinion letter concludes the company’s online foreign currency exchange service is not subject to licensure under the MTA, because the service does not “involve ‘payment instruments’ or ‘stored value’” and there is no indication that the company would “receive money for transmission,” as customers would use the service to purchase foreign currency “like other online retail purchases.”
- Exemption for Operator of Payment System. The redacted opinion letter notes that California governmental entities are exempt from the MTA, and a company that provides payment processing services to facilitate the transfer from a California Department of Correction detainee’s cash at a detention facility to that detention facility’s bank account, is exempt from the MTA because it is processing payments between or among persons exempt from the MTA.
- MTA - Agent of Payee. The redacted opinion letter states that the company’s transactions by an agent of a merchant to collect funds from the merchant’s customer for payment of goods and services are exempt from the requirements of the MTA. The company is acting as an agent of the payee when a company is receiving money as an agent of a merchant pursuant to a preexisting written contract, and delivery of the money to the company satisfies the customer’s obligation to the merchant for a good or service provided by the merchant.
- Sending Instructions Not Money Transmission. The redacted opinion letter states that the company’s actions do not constitute money transmission under the MTA because “[the company] never ‘receives money for transmission.’” The company only “receives instructions from consumers and merchants to transmit money to each other and forwards these instructions for processing by their respective banks on the ACH network.” Because the banks are “solely responsible for payment and settlement in accordance with these instructions” the company’s payment system does not require an MTA license.
On July 19, the Colorado governor issued Executive Order 2020 141, which extends Executive Order D 2020 015, as amended by several earlier orders, until August 18, 2020. Executive Order D 2020 015 authorizes the Department of Regulatory Agencies to promulgate and issue emergency rules extending the expiration date of licenses issued by the Division of Banking for money transmitters and licenses issued by the Division of Real Estate for real estate brokers.
- Daniel R. Alonso to moderate an interactive roundtable at the Latin Lawyer and GIR Connect: Anti-Corruption & Investigations Conference
- APPROVED Checkpoint Webcast: You have license renewal questions, we have answers
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Fintech trends” at the BIHC Network Elevating Black Excellence Regional Summit
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Truth in lending” at the American Bar Association National Institute on Consumer Financial Services Basics
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss anti-money-laundering at FELABAN Spanish-language webinar “Perspective for banks: LAFT, FINCEN, OFAC, Cryptocurrency”
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss "What’s new in BSA/AML compliance?" at the Institute of International Bankers Regulatory Compliance Seminar
- Marshall T. Bell and John R. Coleman to speak at 2021 AFSA Annual Meeting
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss "Regulatory update: What you need to know under the new boss; It won’t be the same as the old boss" at the IMN Residential Mortgage Service Rights Forum (East)
- Daniel R. Alonso to discuss internal investigations at the Institute of Internal Auditors of Argentina Spanish-language webinar
- Benjamin B. Klubes to discuss “Creating a Fantastic Workplace Culture”
- John R. Coleman and Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss “Consumer financial services government enforcement actions – The CFPB and beyond” at the Government Investigations & Civil Litigation Institute Annual Meeting
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Consumer financial services" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Regulators always ring twice: Responding to a government request” at ALM Legalweek