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On September 9, OFAC released an enforcement action against a CFTC-registered Introducing Broker and Commodity Trading Advisor that operates an electronic trading platform that allows customers to automatically place currency foreign exchange (FX) trades with broker-dealers. The company agreed to pay $200,000 to settle potential civil liability for apparent violations of Iran, Syria, and Sudan sanctions rules. According to OFAC, over “a number of years” the company maintained accounts for over 400 persons in Iran, Sudan, and Syria, and exported services to these customers by placing FX trades via its platform. The company also (i) originated eight funds transfers totaling $10,264.36 destined for two individuals located in Iran; and (ii) failed to screen or otherwise monitor its customer base for OFAC compliance purposes at the time of the apparent violations. OFAC determined that the company did not voluntarily self-disclose the apparent violations, and that the apparent violations constitute a non-egregious case. The base penalty for the apparent violations was $844,090,000. The lower settlement amount reflects OFAC’s consideration of the matter’s facts and circumstances, including the following mitigating factors: (i) the company is small with limited business operations; (ii) the company has taken remedial action in response to the apparent violations; (iii) the company has not received a penalty notice or Finding of Violation in the five years preceding the earliest date of the transactions giving rise to the apparent violations; and (iv) the company substantially cooperated with OFAC’s investigation.
Federal District Court Holds Financial Institution's Fraud On Itself Triggers Potential FIRREA Liability
On April 24, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York held that a federally insured financial institution may be prosecuted under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 (FIRREA) for allegedly engaging in fraud that “affects” the same institution. U.S. v. Bank of N.Y. Mellon, No. 11-6969, 2013 WL 1749418 (S.D.N.Y. Apr. 24, 2013). In this case, the government alleges that the bank and one of its employees provided clients with false, incomplete and/or misleading information about the way it determined currency exchange rates for its “standing instruction” foreign exchange transactions, from which the bank profited, and which ultimately exposed it to “billions of dollars in potential liability.” Based on a lengthy analysis of textual meaning and congressional intent, the court concluded that the “text and purpose of FIRREA amply encompass the alleged conduct,” and that the government’s complaint sufficiently alleged that the bank was negatively affected by the fraud. The decision represents the first time a court has interpreted the meaning of the phrase “affecting a federally insured financial institution” under FIRREA to allow the government to prosecute a financial institution for its own alleged misconduct.
On April 9, the Federal Reserve Board published a final rule that allows supervised entities to engage in off-exchange foreign currency transactions with retail customers. Covered transactions include foreign exchange transactions that are futures or options on futures, options on foreign currency not traded on a registered national securities exchange, and “rolling spot” transactions. The rule, which is substantially similar to the proposed version, establishes requirements for (i) risk disclosure statements to customers, (ii) recordkeeping, (iii) business conduct, (iv) customer confirmations, monthly statements, and notices of transfer, and (v) implementing internal rules and procedures to maintain trading and operational standards. The rule requires regulated institutions engaging in such transactions to (i) provide notice to the Federal Reserve Board, (ii) maintain capital requirements, and (iii) collect a certain margin amount for retail foreign exchange transactions. The rule takes effect on May 13, 2013.