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  • Connecticut amends its Money Transmission Act

    State Issues

    On June 6, Connecticut enacted HB 5211 (the “Act”), amending laws regulating virtual currency and money transmission. The Act updated "permissible investment" to include additional forms of assets and clarified that “cash” will include demand deposits and cash equivalents, such as international wires in transit to the payee, transmission receivables funded by debit cards or credit cards, and AAA-rated mutual funds. The Act also stated that after October 1, 2024, the owning, operating, solicitation, marketing, advertising, or facilitation of virtual currency kiosks will be considered to “money transmission” business and thus will require persons to be state licensed as a money transmitter.

    Additionally, the Act will require money transmission licensees to maintain a detailed accounting plan on winding down operations, as well as meet certain conditions to terminate a licensee’s businesses. Furthermore, the Act will require licensees to communicate third party disclosure information to consumers, as well as provide a physical receipt for transactions to senders. The Act also expanded the banking commissioner’s authority to adopt forms and orders governing digital assets to expressly include nonfungible tokens.

    State Issues Money Service / Money Transmitters Connecticut State Legislation Consumer Protection Cryptocurrency

  • Connecticut amends its Money Transmission Act

    State Issues

    On June 6, Connecticut enacted HB 5211 (the “Act”), amending laws regulating virtual currency and money transmission. The Act updated "permissible investment" to include additional forms of assets and clarified that “cash” will include demand deposits and cash equivalents, such as international wires in transit to the payee, transmission receivables funded by debit cards or credit cards, and AAA-rated mutual funds. The Act also stated that after October 1, the owning, operating, solicitation, marketing, advertising, or facilitation of virtual currency kiosks will be considered to “money transmission” business and thus will require persons to be state licensed as a money transmitter.

    Additionally, the Act will require money transmission licensees to maintain a detailed accounting plan on winding down operations, as well as meet certain conditions to terminate a licensee’s businesses. Furthermore, the Act will require licensees to communicate third party disclosure information to consumers, as well as provide a physical receipt for transactions to senders. The Act also expanded the banking commissioner’s authority to adopt forms and orders governing digital assets to expressly include nonfungible tokens. 

    State Issues State Legislation Money Service / Money Transmitters Cryptocurrency Consumer Protection

  • California’s DFPI orders two crypto-asset companies to stop operations

    Financial Crimes

    On June 5, the California DFPI issued two desist and refrain orders against securities firms for allegedly offering unqualified securities under California’s Corporate Securities Law (CSL). The first order was against a company incorporated in the U.K., whereby the DFPI alleged the firm offered and sold unpermitted securities to Californians through its website. Since 2023, these alleged securities were interest-bearing accounts where the firm promised to pay interest on deposited assets that would be deployed into decentralized finance liquidity pools. According to the order, these securities were packaged as investment contracts “that were neither qualified nor exempt from the qualification requirement” of the state’s CSL. The second order was against another crypto-asset firm whereby the firm offered crypto asset interest-bearing accounts beginning in 2023 that were neither qualified nor exempt from the qualification requirement under the CSL, and the DFPI had not permitted the firm to sell securities in California. Both orders required the firms to desist and refrain from selling securities in California until the CSL’s requirements have been met.

    Financial Crimes California DFPI Cease and Desist Cryptocurrency U.K.

  • New York Attorney General sues crypto companies, alleging billion-dollar pyramid scheme targeting immigrant communities

    State Issues

    On June 6, New York Attorney General Letitia James announced legal actions against two companies (with the same founders) for allegedly participating in illegal pyramid schemes. The complaint alleged these schemes defrauded hundreds of thousands of investors, including more than 11,000 New Yorkers, out of more than a billion dollars in crypto-assets. The AG alleged that the companies’ activities specifically preyed upon immigrant communities, notably New Yorkers of Haitian descent, using prayer groups and digital communication channels like social media to make false promises of high returns.

    According to the complaint, one of the companies offered fraudulent returns from mining cryptocurrency, but never delivered on the promised profits and bonuses, eventually collapsing in 2019. The complaint then alleged the promoters of the collapsed company founded a new company that also promised high returns and bonuses.  According to the complaint, from 2019 to 2023, investors deposited more than $1 billion worth of cryptocurrency into the new company, yet a minuscule fraction (less than $26 million) was actually used for trading on the company’s platform before its collapse in May 2023.

    The Attorney General’s legal action will seek a permanent ban on the company and the associated individuals from conducting any securities or commodities business within New York and disgorgement and damages for the victims.

    State Issues State Attorney General Cryptocurrency Fraud Martin Act New York

  • President Biden vetoes SEC crypto-asset rule nullification resolution

    Federal Issues

    On May 31, President Biden vetoed H.J.Res. 109 subsequently returning the bill to Congress. This resolution, as previously covered by InfoBytes, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives on May 8 to nullify an SEC Staff Accounting Bulletin 121 (SAB 121). The guidance, which has been in effect since April 11, 2022, described how the SEC staff expected entities to account for and disclose their custodial obligations to “safeguard crypto-assets held for their platform users.” In his veto message to the House, President Biden stated that the resolution would “inappropriately constrain” the SEC’s ability to “set forth appropriate guardrails and address future issues.” The resolution will now be sent back to the House of Representatives and would require an override vote of two-thirds of the House.

    Federal Issues Securities Securities Exchange Commission Cryptocurrency Rulemaking Agenda Congressional Review Act Veto

  • Maine enacts new money transmission law in line with the Money Transmission Modernization Act

    On April 22, the Governor of Maine signed into law LD 2112 (the “Act”) which will codify a new law titled the “Maine Money Transmission Modernization Act.” The Act will amend and repeal many parts of the state’s money transmission laws and brought the law more in alignment with the Money Transmission Modernization Act, the model law drafted with a goal of creating a single set of nationwide standards and requirements. The stated purpose of the Act will be to coordinate with states to reduce the regulatory burden, protect the public from financial crimes, and standardize licensing activities allowed and exempted by Maine.

    Among many other new provisions, the Act will require any person which engages in the business of money transmission or advertises, solicits, or holds itself out as providing money transmission to obtain a license. The Act will define “money transmission” as “(i) [s]elling or issuing payment instruments to a person located in [Maine]; (ii) [s]elling or issuing stored value to a person located in [Maine]; or (iii) [r]eceiving money for transmission from a person located in [Maine].” However, the Act will exempt, an agent of the payee to collect and process a payment from a payor to the payee for goods or services, other than money transmission services, provided certain criteria are met. Additionally, the Act will exempt certain persons acting as intermediaries, persons expressly appointed as third-party service providers to an exempt entity, payroll processors, registered futures commission merchants and securities broker-dealers, among others. Anyone claiming to be exempt from licensing may be required to provide information and documentation demonstrating their qualification for the claimed exemption.

    The Act also will include a section on virtual currency, which will be defined as “a digital representation of value that: (i) [i]s used as a medium of exchange, unit of account or store of value, and (ii) [i]s not money, whether or not denominated in money.” The Act will specify that “virtual currency business activity” will include, among other activities, exchanging, transferring, storing, or engaging in virtual currency administration, whereas “virtual currency administration” will be defined as issuing virtual currency with the authority to redeem the currency for money, bank credit or other virtual currency.

    The Act will require certain reporting, including about the licensee’s condition, financial information, and money transmission transactions from every jurisdiction, among other types of information. The amendments will also outline numerous licensing application and renewal procedures including net worth, surety bond, and permissible investment requirements. Maine will now join several other states that adopted the model law. The Act takes effect on July 16 of this year.

    Licensing Money Service / Money Transmitters Maine State Legislation NMLS State Issues Cryptocurrency Digital Currency

  • Tennessee updates its UCC to amend “money” definition and include CBDCs

    Securities

    On April 11, the Governor of Tennessee signed into law SB 2219 (the “Act”) that amended Section 47-1-201(b) of the Tennessee Code by redefining “money” and codifying “central bank digital currency.” The term “money” was updated to include a new provision that will state that money does not include a central bank digital currency. “Central bank digital currency” will instead be defined as a digital currency issued by a federal reserve, foreign government or foreign reserve system, and will include a digital currency, digital medium of exchange, or digital monetary unit of account processed by the entity. The Act will go into effect on July 1.

    Securities State Issues Cryptocurrency CBDC

  • Department of Energy discontinues crypto mining survey following a settlement agreement

    Fintech

    On March 1, a cryptocurrency company (plaintiff) and the U.S. Department of Energy submitted a settlement agreement to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas to discontinue an emergency crypto mining survey once approved by the Office of Management and Budget.

    According to the settlement agreement, the Department of Energy initiated an emergency three-year collection of a Cryptocurrency Mining Facilities Survey in January, which the plaintiff claimed did not comply with various statutory and regulatory requirements for the emergency collection of information. Following the court’s approval of the plaintiff’s temporary restraining order, which protected plaintiffs from completing the survey issued by the Department of Energy and protected any information they may have already submitted, the Department of Energy discontinued its emergency collection, and said it will proceed through notice-and-comment procedures for approval of any collection of information covering such data. As a result of the discontinuation of the emergency collection request, no entity or person is required to respond to the survey.

    As part of the settlement agreement, the Department of Energy will destroy any information it had already received from survey responses. In addition to a $2,199.45 payment for the plaintiffs’ litigation expenses, the Department of Energy also agreed to publish a new Federal Register notice of a proposed collection of information and withdraw its original notice. 

    Fintech Department of Energy Cryptocurrency Digital Assets Settlement Courts Bitcoin

  • Fed finds CEO engaged in crypto “pig butchering” scam which led to bank failure

    On February 7, the Federal Reserve issued an evaluation report, as required by the Federal Deposit Insurance Act (where a loss to the deposit insurance fund is considered material), on a recently failed bank; the Fed concluded the bank failed due to alleged fraudulent activity by the bank’s CEO. In particular, the Fed found that the CEO initiated a series of wire transfers over the course of three months totaling about $47.1 million of the bank’s money as part of a cryptocurrency scam known as “pig butchering.” According to a FinCEN alert, “pig butchering” occurs when a scammer convinces its victims to invest in purportedly legitimate cryptocurrency investments but then steals the victim’s money.

    The Fed found that the bank’s employees neglected to follow proper internal controls and policies that could have “prevented or detected” the alleged fraudulent activity, attributing the failure to a reluctance to challenge the CEO given the CEO’s “dominant role in the bank and prominent role in the community.” Specifically, the employees did not comply with the bank’s BSA/AML policy or file suspicious activity reports as outlined under the policy. As a result, the Fed recommended (i) increasing the awareness among state member banks of cryptocurrency scams; and (ii) providing training to examiners on cryptocurrency scams.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Cryptocurrency FinCEN Federal Reserve Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering

  • SEC charges alleged hedge fund with defrauding $1.2 million from investors

    Financial Crimes

    On February 2, the SEC issued a complaint which charged a company for allegedly raising $1.2 million from 15 investors through an offer and sale of fraudulent securities for a hedge fund. The company raised this money from 2017-2018 and offered securities that would be used to form a hedge fund and invest in crypto-assets using “specific” investment strategies. (The company ostensibly managed the hedge fund, but the hedge fund never appeared to be created.) 

    The company made several misrepresentations which the SEC claimed violated Section 17(a) of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 10(b) and Rule 10b-5 of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. These alleged misrepresentations included the founder’s background and education, the demand for and size of the proposed hedge fund, and the investment scheme to grow a return for investors. The investors were given an investor pitch deck that put forth the hedge fund’s terms, investment strategy, and management team. Then, the investors gave a minimum investment of $1 million; however, the hedge fund investors were offered the opportunity to invest for less than $1 million through a separate entity.  

    Through this, the SEC alleged that the company violated the federal securities law and put forth two claims for relief. The SEC permanently enjoins the company from issuing, buying, offering, or selling any security, including crypto-assets. No civil monetary judgment has been offered. 

    Financial Crimes SEC Securities Cryptocurrency Enforcement

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