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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • CSBS and MTRA Issue Report on State Supervision of Money Services Businesses


    On May 24, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) and the Money Transmitter Regulators Association (MTRA) published a report titled “The State of State Money Services Businesses Regulation and Supervision.” According to the report, money services businesses (MSBs) are losing access to traditional banking services, with many banks “indiscriminately terminating the accounts of MSBs, or refusing to open accounts for any MSBs, thereby eliminating them as a category of customers.” Evidence suggests that banks are terminating or refusing to open MSB accounts partially because of the regulatory scrutiny surrounding the industry and the concern of BSA/AML risks. However, the report recognizes that MSBs are an important part of the financial system at large: “[MSBs], and specifically money transmitters, play a vital role in providing financial services to consumers and small businesses across the country. Countless Americans use MSBs every day to pay bills, purchase items online or send funds to family members and friends domestically and abroad.” Acknowledging the significant role MSBs play in providing financial services to U.S. households, the CSBS’ and MTRA’s report is intended to provide an outline of the states’ system of supervision of MSBs, highlighting that “state regulatory requirements are focused on consumer protection, safety and soundness and adherence to BSA/AML requirements and enforcement through state supervisory programs.”

    CSBS Money Service / Money Transmitters

  • Georgia Department of Banking and Finance Authorized to Enact Money Transmission Regulations


    On April 26, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal signed into law HB 811, an Act to amend Title 7 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, which includes banking and finance provisions. Notably, the Act authorizes the Georgia Department of Banking and Finance to enact rules and regulations to apply to persons engaged in money transmission or the sale of payment instruments involving virtual currency, as it finds necessary to, among other things, ensure the continued solvency, safety, soundness, and prudent conduct of persons engaged in those businesses, protect customers, encourage high standards of honesty, transparency, fair business practices and public responsibility, and  provide customers with timely and understandable information about virtual currency products and services. The Act is effective July 1, 2016.

    Money Service / Money Transmitters Virtual Currency

  • Massachusetts Division of Banks Issues Letter to Raise Awareness of Money Transfer Services Fraud


    On April 8, the Massachusetts Division of Banks issued a letter to CEOs of licensed money transmitters regarding an increase in consumer scams related to the use of money transfer systems. The Division noted that “it is important that your employees and agents, as well as your customers, become familiar with warning signs of a scam and take appropriate action to avoid them.” To this end, the Division encouraged money transmitters to review existing programs regarding agent monitoring and anti-fraud to ensure, among other things, that (i) staff and agents are appropriately trained to monitor transactions and identify red flags; (ii) staff is authorized to terminate or place a hold on transfers which raise red flags for suspected fraud; and (iii) comprehensive policies, procedures, and training requirements for compliance with the BSA are in place.

    Money Service / Money Transmitters

  • FinCEN Supplements 2011 FAQs Regarding Prepaid Access


    On March 24, FinCEN issued FIN-2016-G002 to supplement guidance issued in 2011 regarding aspects of its Prepaid Access Final Rule. FIN-2016-G002 provides answers to a list of frequently asked questions related to the following areas: (i) the relationship between de minimis cash refund requirements under state law and the exemption in FinCEN’s regulations for closed loop prepaid access products; (ii) conditions under which the use of quick response codes and other technology would fall within the definition of closed loop prepaid access; (iii) whether the term “defined merchant” in the context of closed loop prepaid access is limited to a single merchant; (iv) policies and procedures reasonably adapted to avoid the threshold for being designated as a “seller” of prepaid access; and (v) listing sellers of prepaid access on the provider’s money services business (MSB) agent list.

    FinCEN Bank Secrecy Act Money Service / Money Transmitters

  • Washington Department of Financial Institutions Denies ETA's Petition for Declaratory Order on Technical Grounds


    On March 15, the Washington Department of Financial Institutions responded to the Electronic Transactions Association’s (ETA) December 2015 Petition for Declaratory Order, which sought clarification on the statutory definition of “money transmitter” under the Washington Uniform Money Services Act (WUMSA), RCW 19.230.020(9). Specifically, the ETA requested clarification that “money transmitter” excludes payment processors that do not have consumer-facing relationships or receive consumer payments for transmission to a third-party payee or other transferee. The ETA’s petition further requested that the Department issue a declaratory order that the payment processor exclusion in WUMSA “applies to payment processors that act on behalf of merchants, rather than consumers, to facilitate the merchant’s acceptance of credit and debit cards and that such payment processors are not subject to the Act.” The Department declined to issue such an order because the ETA’s petition failed to specifically identify any of its purported 500+ members “by name or as doing business in or having sufficient minimum contacts with Washington State to a degree that would presumptively make them subject to the Division’s authority under WUMSA.” The Department allowed that ETA could resubmit the petition, but also encouraged it to contact the Department’s staff and “have discussions about how best to resolve the alleged ‘uncertainty’ you have addressed.”

    Money Service / Money Transmitters Payment Processors

  • New Mexico Passes Law Creating Framework for Licensure of Money Transmitters


    Recently, the New Mexico Senate Chamber unanimously passed House Bill 250. The legislation creates a licensing framework for persons or businesses engaging in money transmissions, check cashing, and currency exchange, and delegates certain powers and duties to the Director of the Financial Institution’s Division of the Regulation and Licensing Department. The legislation is currently awaiting Governor Susana Martinez’s signature.

    Money Service / Money Transmitters

  • Washington Proposes Amendments to Money Transmitters Rules

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    Recently, the Washington Department of Financial Institutions (DFI) announced that on March 29, 2016 it will hold a hearing regarding proposed amendments to the 2015 Uniform Money Services Act. New sections to the proposal include requiring that money services licensees establish and maintain (i) an effective cybersecurity program; (ii) a written customer information security program; and (iii) a written privacy policy that complies with Regulation P of the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act.

    Gramm-Leach-Bliley Money Service / Money Transmitters

  • Texas Department of Banking Issues Supervisory Memorandum to Money Services Business License Holders


    On October 29, the Texas Department of Banking (the Department) issued a supervisory memorandum to Money Services Business (MSB) license holders. The purpose of the memorandum “is to provide license holders with industry best practices regarding the documentation of [authorized delegate] and agent compliance monitoring efforts.” According to the Department, agents and Authorized Delegates (AD) pose substantial compliance risks to MSBs, with agent and AD file review comprising “a significant component of the examination process for assessing compliance with AML Program requirements and Texas law.” The memorandum provides MSBs with industry guidance on how to meet regulators’ expectations for maintaining documentation in compliance with agent and AD oversight. The Department identifies various documents that support effective agent and AD on-boarding due diligence, including: (i) agent and AD BSA policies and procedures; (ii) approval by foreign regulators to conduct money transmission; (iii) evidence of initial AML/BSA training; and (iv) credit review and approval documents, such as financials and credit reports. Moreover, the memorandum indicates that on-going due diligence requires MSBs to maintain, among other things, evidence to support (i) periodic BSA training; (ii) agent compliance with independent AML review requirements; and (iii) the license holder’s review of updated BSA/AML Program policies and procedures.

    Anti-Money Laundering Bank Secrecy Act Money Service / Money Transmitters

  • Georgia Resident Pleads Guilty to Charges of Operating Unlicensed Money Transmitting Business

    Financial Crimes

    On October 13, the DOJ announced that a Columbus, Georgia resident pleaded guilty to one count of operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. According to the DOJ, between February 2013 and March 2014, the individual unlawfully owned, operated, and managed multiple money transmitting companies throughout the Columbus area, offering check-cashing services. The individual allegedly knew that he was required to register his company with FinCEN and with the state of Georgia, but failed to do so. Scheduled to face sentencing in January 2016, the individual faces a statutory maximum sentencing of five years and has agreed to a forfeiture order of more than $1,300,000.

    FinCEN DOJ Enforcement Money Service / Money Transmitters

  • California Department of Business Oversight Issues Opinion Letter Declaring Foreign Check Clearing Services Not Subject to State's Money Transmission Act

    State Issues

    On August 24, the California Department of Business Oversight issued a redacted opinion letter clarifying that foreign check clearing services are not considered money transmission subject to the Money Transmission Act. In order to fall under the state’s Financial Code’s definition of money transmission, a financial institution must receive money or monetary value for transmission within the United States. Emphasizing the domestic prerequisite outlined in the code, the DBO’s opinion indicates that if a bank establishes an exchange rate for an American financial institution that has received a check for deposit written against a foreign bank, the exchange rate service provided by the bank is considered a foreign check clearing service and not “receiving money or monetary value in the United States.” Accordingly, such check clearing activity does not fall under the California Financial Code’s definition of money transmission.

    Check Cashing Money Service / Money Transmitters Agency Rule-Making & Guidance