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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

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  • FDIC releases May enforcement actions

    On June 24, the FDIC released a list of 14 public enforcement actions taken against banks and individuals in May. These orders consist of “two consent orders, one modification of an 8(e) prohibition order, three orders to pay civil money penalty, three orders of prohibition, two section 19 orders, and one order of prohibition from further participation and order to pay, one order terminating amended supervisory prompt corrective action directive, and one order of termination of insurance.” Included is an order to pay a civil money penalty imposed against a Texas-based bank related to alleged violations of the Flood Disaster Protection Act. Among other things, the FDIC claimed that the bank failed “to obtain flood insurance or obtain an adequate amount of insurance coverage, at or before loan origination, for all structures in a flood zone, including multiple structures,” and failed “to force-place flood insurance, after loan origination, when the insurance on buildings securing the loan” was insufficient or nonexistent. The order assessed a $2,000 civil money penalty.

    The FDIC also issued a consent order against a Utah-based bank based on alleged unsafe or unsound banking practices relating to the Bank Secrecy Act. The bank neither admitted nor denied the alleged violations but agreed to, among other things, “increase its oversight of the Bank's compliance with the BSA” and “conduct a comprehensive assessment of BSA/AML staffing needs.”

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues FDIC Flood Insurance Flood Disaster Protection Act Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Enforcement

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  • FinCEN issues statements on its lists of jurisdictions with AML/CFT/CPF deficiencies

    Financial Crimes

    On June 23, FinCEN announced that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) issued public statements updating its lists of jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies in anti-money laundering (AML), countering the financing of terrorism (CFT), and countering the financing of proliferation of weapons of mass destructions (CPF). FATF’s statements include (i) Jurisdictions under Increased Monitoring, “which publicly identifies jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies in their AML/CFT/CPF regimes that have committed to, or are actively working with, the FATF to address those deficiencies in accordance with an agreed upon timeline,” and (ii) High-Risk Jurisdictions Subject to a Call for Action, “which publicly identifies jurisdictions with significant strategic deficiencies in their AML/CFT/CPF regimes and calls on all FATF members to apply enhanced due diligence, and, in the most serious cases, apply counter-measures to protect the international financial system from the money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing risks emanating from the identified countries.” FinCEN’s announcement also informs members that FATF removed Malta from its list of Jurisdictions under Increased Monitoring and added Gibraltar, and that its list of High-Risk Jurisdictions Subject to a Call for Action continues to subject Iran and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to the FATF’s countermeasures.

    Financial Crimes Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism Combating Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferation Financing FATF FinCEN

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  • FAFT restricts Russia’s membership privileges, takes action against corruption and virtual asset misuse

    Financial Crimes

    On June 17, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) concluded another plenary meeting, in which it, among other things, took steps to restrict Russia’s FATF membership privileges. During the meeting, FATF again criticized Russia’s war against Ukraine and issued a statement, stressing that “Russian actions run counter to the FATF core principles aiming to promote security, safety, and the integrity of the global financial system. They also represent a gross violation of the commitment to international cooperation and mutual respect upon which FATF Members have agreed to implement and support the FATF standards.” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen also stated that she “welcome[s] the serious steps the FATF took to restrict Russia’s presence in its community.” FATF members agreed that Russia can no longer hold any leadership or advisory roles, nor take part in decision making on any standard-setting, peer-review processes, governance, or membership matters. Russia is also prohibited from providing assessors, reviewers, or other experts for FATF peer-review processes. FATF stated it “will monitor the situation and consider at each of its Plenary meetings whether grounds exist for modifying these restrictions.”

    FATF also produced policy recommendations for combatting corruption and countering corrupt actors or illicit funds. FATF stated it will continue to fight the abuse of shell companies, trusts, or other legal arrangements employed by bad actors, and intends to seek input on guidance to implement recommendations related to the collection and verification of beneficial ownership information for companies or other legal entities. FATF members will release a white paper for public consultation on important issues concerning “the misuse of trusts and other legal arrangements to facilitate illicit finance,” and will published guidance on ways governments and firms can mitigate money laundering risks within the real estate sector.

    Additionally, FATF adopted a report on virtual assets during the meeting, calling “for accelerated compliance by the public and private sectors with the FATF standards, particularly the ‘travel rule,’ for virtual assets and virtual asset service providers.” The travel rule requires virtual asset service providers to collect or send information on the identities of the originator and beneficiary of virtual asset transfers. However, FATF noted that, despite some progress, not all countries have introduced the travel rule, creating significant vulnerabilities for criminal misuse and underscoring the need for universal implementation and enforcement of the travel rule. FATF also approved a new project related to ransomware finance and related money laundering, with an objective of raising global awareness and understanding of how payments for ransomware are made and how these proceeds are often laundered.

    Financial Crimes Digital Assets Of Interest to Non-US Persons Department of Treasury Russia FATF Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism Beneficial Ownership Ransomware Virtual Currency Fintech

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  • OCC seeks comments on BSA/AML risk assessment

    On June 8, the OCC issued a notice in the Federal Register seeking comments concerning its information collection titled, ‘‘Bank Secrecy Act/Money Laundering Risk Assessment,’’ also known as the Money Laundering Risk (MLR) System. According to the notice, the MLR System “enhances the ability of examiners and bank management to identify and evaluate Bank Secrecy Act/Money Laundering and Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) sanctions risks associated with banks’ products, services, customers, and locations.” The notice stated that the agency will collect MLR information for OCC supervised community and trust banks, and explained that the annual Risk Summary Form (RSF), which collects data about different products, services, customers, and geographies (PSCs), will include three significant changes in 2022. The changes in the 2022 RSF are: (i) the addition of six new PSCs; (ii) the addition of three new customer types under the money transmitters category; and (iii) the deletion of four existing PSCs. Comments close on August 8.

    Bank Regulatory Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Federal Issues OCC Federal Register Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering OFAC Risk Management Financial Crimes

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  • U.S., UK collaborate on privacy-enhancing tech prize challenges

    Privacy, Cyber Risk & Data Security

    On June 13, the White House announced that the U.S. and UK governments are developing privacy-enhancing technology prize challenges to help address cross-border money laundering. The White House highlighted that the estimated $2 trillion of cross-border money laundering which happens annually could be better detected if improvements were made to information sharing and collaborative analytic efforts. However, research shows that this process “is hindered by the legal, technical and ethical challenges involved in jointly analyzing sensitive information,” the White House said. Privacy-enhancing technologies (PETs) could play a transformative role in addressing the global challenges of financial crime, the White House explained, noting that PETs can allow “machine learning models to be trained on high quality datasets collaboratively among organizations, without the data leaving safe environments.” Moreover, “[s]uch technologies have the potential to help facilitate privacy-preserving financial information sharing and analytics,” thus “allowing suspicious types of behavior to be identified without compromising the privacy of individuals, or requiring the transfer of data between institutions or across borders.” 

    Opening this summer, the challenges (developed between the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, the U.S. National Institute of Standards and Technology, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the UK’s Center for Data Ethics and Innovation, and Innovate UK) will allow innovators to develop state-of-the-art privacy-preserving federated learning solutions to help combat barriers to the wider use of these technologies without the uncertainty of potential regulatory implications. Innovators will engage with the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority and Information Commissioner’s Office and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network. Acting FinCEN Director Himamauli Das announced that the agency “is pleased to support this important initiative to advance the development of a building block for protecting the U.S. financial system from illicit finance.” 

    Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security Financial Crimes Biden UK Of Interest to Non-US Persons FinCEN Anti-Money Laundering

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  • FinCEN issues ANPRM on no-action letter process

    Financial Crimes

    On June 3, FinCEN issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) soliciting comments on questions related to implementing a no-action letter process at the agency. The ANPRM is part of FinCEN’s implementation of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020, which directed the agency to conduct an assessment of a no-action letter process concerning how anti-money laundering or countering the financing of terrorism laws may apply to specific conduct. The ANPRM follows FinCEN’s June 2021 report to Congress (covered by InfoBytes here), which concluded that the agency should undertake rulemaking to establish a process for issuing no-action letters that will supplement its current forms of regulatory guidance and relief. FinCEN noted in its announcement that the addition of a no-action letter process (“generally understood to be a form of enforcement discretion where an agency states by letter that it will not take an enforcement action against the submitting party for the specific conduct presented to the agency”) could overlap with and “affect other forms of regulatory guidance and relief that FinCEN already offers, including administrative rulings and exceptive or exemptive relief.” The agency is seeking public input on whether the process should be implemented and, if so, how the process should work. Included in the ANPRM are questions concerning, among other things, FinCEN jurisdiction (specifically “[w]hat is the value of establishing a FinCEN no-action letter process if other regulators with jurisdiction over the same entity do not issue a similar no-action letter”), whether there should be limitations on which factual circumstances could be considered, and whether the scope of a no-action letter should be limited so that requests may not be submitted during a Bank Secrecy Act examination. The ANPRM also asked questions related to changes in circumstances, revocations, denials and withdrawals, confidentiality and consultation concerns, and criteria for distinguishing no-action letters from administrative rulings or exceptive/exemptive relief.

    Comments on the ANPRM are due August 5.

    Financial Crimes Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Of Interest to Non-US Persons FinCEN No Action Letter Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism Bank Secrecy Act

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  • Terrorist Financing Targeting Center members designate financial facilitators of terrorism

    Financial Crimes

    On June 6, the U.S. Treasury Department announced that member nations of the Terrorist Financing Targeting Center (TFTC) have jointly designated 16 individuals, entities, and groups affiliated with a variety of regional terrorist organizations. This marks the fifth year of coordinated TFTC sanctions actions targeting terrorist financing, Treasury stated. The sanctioned persons, who were all previously designated by the U.S., include three individuals associated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, four ISIS-associated individuals and one company, six Boko Haram financiers, and two terrorist groups. The TFTC was created to counter regional money laundering and terrorist financing networks by “identifying, tracking, and sharing information about terrorist financing networks; coordinating joint disruptive actions; and offering capacity-building training and assistance in countering the financing of terrorism,” and serves to enhance multilateral efforts among the U.S. and the Gulf countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

    Financial Crimes Of Interest to Non-US Persons Department of Treasury OFAC OFAC Sanctions OFAC Designations Combating the Financing of Terrorism Anti-Money Laundering Terrorist Financing Targeting Center

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  • SEC charges broker-dealer with SAR violations

    Securities

    On May 20, the SEC announced charges against the broker-dealer affiliate of a national bank for allegedly failing to file Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) in a timely manner in violation of the Securities Exchange Act and Rule 17a-8. According to the SEC’s order, the broker-dealer’s internal anti-money laundering (AML) transaction monitoring and alert system allegedly failed to reconcile the different country codes used to monitor foreign wire transfers due to an alleged failure to test a new version of the system. The broker-dealer also allegedly did not timely file SARs related to suspicious transactions in its customers’ brokerage accounts involving the wire transfers to or from foreign countries that it determined to be at a high or moderate risk for money laundering, terrorist financing, or other illegal money movements. Additionally, in April 2017, the broker-dealer allegedly failed to timely file additional SARs due to a failure to appropriately process wire transfer data into its AML transaction monitoring system in certain other situations. In addition to the $7 million penalty, the institution, without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, agreed to a censure and a cease-and-desist order.

    Securities SEC Enforcement Securities Exchange Act Anti-Money Laundering SARs Financial Crimes Broker-Dealer

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  • OCC releases enforcement actions

    On May 19, the OCC released a list of recent enforcement actions taken against national banks, federal savings associations, and individuals currently and formerly affiliated with such entities. Included is a cease and desist order against an Alaska-based bank for allegedly engaging in Bank Secrecy Act/anti-money laundering (BSA/AML) program violations. The bank allegedly “failed to adopt and implement a compliance program that adequately covers the required BSA/AML program elements, including, in particular, internal controls for customer due diligence and procedures for monitoring suspicious activity, BSA officer and staff, and training.” The order requires the bank to, among other things, establish a compliance committee, submit a BSA/AML action plan, and develop a written suspicious activity monitoring and reporting program.

    Bank Regulatory Federal Issues Financial Crimes Anti-Money Laundering OCC Enforcement Bank Secrecy Act SARs

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  • Treasury issues 2022 national illicit finance strategy

    Financial Crimes

    On May 13, the U.S. Treasury Department issued the 2022 National Strategy for Combatting Terrorist and Other Illicit Financing (2022 Strategy). As required by federal law, the 2022 Strategy describes current U.S. government efforts to combat domestic and international illicit finance threats from terrorist financing, proliferation financing, and money laundering, and discusses potential risks, priorities and objectives, as well as areas for improvement. Among other things, the 2022 Strategy reflects challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the increasing digitization of financial services, and rising levels of corruption and fraud. Specifically, Treasury noted that 2022 risk assessments highlights threats “posed by the abuse of legal entities, the complicity of professionals that misuse their positions or businesses, small-sum funding of domestic violent extremism networks, the effective use of front and shell companies in proliferation finance, and the exploitation of the digital economy.”

    According to Treasury, the 2022 Strategy, along with the agency’s 2022 National Money Laundering Risk Assessment (covered by InfoBytes here), “will assist financial institutions in assessing the illicit finance risk exposure of their businesses and support the construction and maintenance of a risk-based approach to countering illicit finance for government agencies and policymakers.”

    Specifically, to protect the U.S. financial system from corruption and other illicit finance threats, the 2022 Strategy outlined four priorities and 14 supporting actions to address these threats. These include:

    • closing legal and regulatory gaps in the U.S. anti-money laundering/counter the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) framework that are used to anonymously access the U.S. financial system through shell companies and all-cash real estate purchases;
    • increasing the efficiency of the U.S. AML/CFT regulatory framework “by providing clear compliance guidance, sharing information appropriately, and fully funding supervision and enforcement”;
    • enhancing the operational effectiveness of law enforcement, other U.S. government agencies, and international partnerships to prevent illicit actors from accessing safe havens; and
    • enabling technological innovation while mitigating risk to stay ahead of new avenues for abuse through virtual assets and other new financial products, services, and activities.

    The same day the U.S. and Mexico announced their commitment to establish a working group on anti-corruption, which will primarily focus on high-level strategic responses to public corruption. The announcement follows a recent agreement between delegates from the two countries to continue expanding information-sharing efforts to improve bilateral efforts for countering illicit finance.

    Financial Crimes Of Interest to Non-US Persons Department of Treasury Illicit Finance Risk Management Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism Covid-19

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