The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has recently issued an alert cautioning all financial institutions regarding potential investments in the U.S. commercial real estate (CRE) sector, by or on behalf of sanctioned Russian elites, oligarchs, their family members, and entities through which they act. This alert complements sustained efforts of the U.S. government, in response to Russia’s war against Ukraine, to isolate sanctioned Russian persons from the international financial system. It highlights specific vulnerabilities to sanctions evasion in the CRE sector, which may be exploited by Russian elites or their proxies, and is based on a recent review of Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) reporting. It also provides financial institutions with guidance on identifying potential red flags and typologies of sanctions-evasion activities.Continue Reading FinCEN Alert Highlights Potential U.S. Commercial Real Estate Investments by Sanctioned Russian Elites and Their Proxies
On December 15, 2022, the Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued a lengthy Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to implement beneficial ownership information (“BOI”) access and safeguards provision of the Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”) (the “Access NPRM”). The Access NPRM provides a framework by which authorized recipients may access BOI, providing different tiers of access for agencies and financial institutions who may seek this information in connection with anti-money laundering efforts.Continue Reading FinCEN Issues Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Access to Beneficial Owner Information
On October 13, 2022, the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (“Board”) announced multiple enforcement actions against former employees of several financial institutions because the former employees made false statements to obtain economic injury disaster loans and grants from the U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) or paycheck protection loans from SBA-approved lenders. The loans and grants were made available to small businesses who were suffering from the impact of COVID-19 and needed emergency financial assistance authorized by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (P.L. 116-136, the “CARES Act”). Continue Reading Federal Reserve Exercises Broad Disciplinary Authority to Sanction Former Bank Employees Who Committed PPP Loan Fraud
The Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the National Credit Union Administration, and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (collectively the “Agencies”) issued a Joint Statement on July 6, 2022, reminding banks of the “risk-based approach to assessing customer relationships and conducting customer due diligence (CDD).” The Joint Statement reminds banks that the Agencies consider a blanket approach of assessing customer risk, based solely on the type of customer (e.g., casino, auto dealer, etc.), to be inappropriate. Specifically, the Joint Statement urges financial institutions not to simply ascribe the same level of risk to all customers of a particular type. Rather, banks must use a risk-based approach that evaluates the specific customer at issue when creating customer profiles and when establishing and maintaining customer relationships. Further, the Joint Statement expresses a preference for enhanced monitoring rather than exiting customer relationships as part of de-risking.
Continue Reading Bank Regulators Remind Financial Institutions Not to Take a One-Size Fits All Approach to Assessing AML Risks from Customer Relationships
Reflecting its determination to monitor the crypto markets, the Security and Exchange Commission has renamed the Cyber Unit the “Crypto Assets and Cyber Unit” and is nearly doubling its size from 30 to 50 members, according to a May 3 press release from the agency. The additional permanent positions will include investigative staff attorneys, trial…
As tax season approaches, cryptocurrency investors and their advisors are facing heightened scrutiny. The New York State Office of the Attorney General recently announced its commitment to hold “cryptocurrency tax cheats accountable.” Taxpayers who fail to properly declare their crypto income could face treble damages, interest, and penalties under the New York False Claims Act, in addition to criminal prosecution and separate liabilities and penalties under the tax law.
Continue Reading Enforcers Eye Crypto Tax Dodgers, Their Accountants and Lawyers
On March 31, 2022, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) issued the March 2022 edition of its Consumer Compliance Supervisory Highlights. The publication provides a high-level overview of consumer compliance issues identified in 2021 through the FDIC’s supervision of state-chartered banks and thrifts that are not members of the Federal Reserve System. It provides important guidance regarding compliance priorities for these financial institutions.
Continue Reading FDIC Consumer Compliance Supervisory Highlights for State and Community Banks
McGuireWoods is pleased to announce that Jeff Ehrlich, former deputy enforcement director at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, has joined the firm’s financial services litigation practice as a partner in Washington, D.C.
Jeff joined the CFPB in 2011 and was promoted to deputy enforcement director in 2013. In that role, he led the CFPB’s…
On February 14, 2022, the Securities and Exchange Commission announced a settlement with a crypto lending company in a “first-of-its-kind enforcement action” for failing to register as an investment company under the Investment Company Act of 1940, as amended (the “Investment Company Act”). In the novel settlement, BlockFi Lending LLC (“BlockFi”) agreed to pay $100 million in penalties — $50 million of which will be paid to the SEC, and the remaining $50 million allocated to 32 different state regulators for similar charges. As part of the settlement, BlockFi has undertaken to comply with the Investment Company Act either by registering as an investment company or by proving to the SEC Staff that it is not required to do so. BlockFi has 60 days from entry of the order to comply and may obtain an extension of another 30 days. Should BlockFi successfully come into compliance, it could be the first SEC-registered entity to offer a digital asset lending product. Despite BlockFi’s groundbreaking settlement, BlockFi still faces a putative class action by investors.
Continue Reading Despite BlockFi’s $100 Million Settlement with the SEC for Failing to Register as an Investment Company, BlockFi is Under Fire From Investors
On November 1, 2021, the President’s Working Group on Financial Markets (PWG), along with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) (collectively, the Agencies) issued a Report on Stablecoins (the Report). Stablecoins “are digital assets that are designed to maintain a stable value relative to a national currency or other reference assets.” The Report recommends that Congress act promptly to enact legislation addressing stablecoins and signals the Biden Administration’s focus on this issue and looming enforcement from governing agencies such as the Department of Justice (DOJ), Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC).
The Report provides an overview of stablecoins and decentralized finance (DeFi) platforms more generally; risks and regulatory gaps; and the group’s recommendation. In drafting the Report, the Agencies held discussions with key industry stakeholders, including Coinbase, Kraken, and Stripe. While the Report signals that one day we may see clarity on relevant guidelines related to stablecoins, the Report itself offers little clarity or specific guidance to stakeholders today.Continue Reading Biden Administration Signals Focus on Cryptocurrency as President’s Working Group Issues Report on Stablecoin