A proposed rule would increase Treasury’s insight into non-US crypto mixing transactions to combat illicit activities by malicious actors.

By Parag Patel, Eric S. Volkman, Douglas K. Yatter, and Deric Behar

On October 19, 2023, the US Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced a Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) that would designate as a “primary money laundering concern” all non-US convertible virtual currency[1] mixing (CVC mixing). The NPRM would impose enhanced reporting and recordkeeping requirements for any financial transactions involving international mixers, intended to mitigate the risks of money laundering and terrorist financing.

The proposed designation is pursuant to Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, which empowers the Secretary of the Treasury to require domestic financial institutions and domestic financial agencies to take certain “special measures” against foreign jurisdictions, foreign financial institutions, classes of international transactions, or types of accounts designated as a primary money laundering concern. Section 311 has heretofore been employed only against non-US financial institutions and jurisdictions rather than an individual class of transactions.

The bipartisan bill would provide a federal safe harbor for non-custodial blockchain service providers from state money transmission and digital asset licensing laws.

By Arthur S. Long, Parag Patel, Yvette D. ValdezStephen P. Wink, Pia Naib, and Deric Behar

On March 23, 2023, US House of Representatives Majority Whip Tom Emmer (R) and Representative Darren Soto (D) introduced the Blockchain Regulatory Certainty Act (the Bill).

The short Bill is singular in purpose: it would

A new proposal would subject financial institutions and exchanges to onerous recordkeeping and reporting requirements for certain digital currency transactions.

By Miles P. Jennings, Benjamin A. Naftalis, Eric S. Volkman, Margaret Allison Upshaw, and Deric Behar

In a surprise release in the waning days of the Trump administration, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) division of the Department of the Treasury issued a proposed rule (the Proposal) that would impose significant new obligations on market participants in the cryptocurrency and digital asset market (Requirements for Certain Transactions Involving Convertible Virtual Currency or Digital Assets). The Proposal “would require banks and money service businesses (MSBs) to submit reports, keep records, and verify the identity of customers in relation to transactions involving convertible virtual currency (CVC) or digital assets with legal tender status (LTDA) held in unhosted wallets, or held in wallets hosted in a jurisdiction identified by FinCEN.”

Under the Proposal, CVC and LTDA, such as Bitcoin and Ether, would be deemed ‘‘monetary instruments’’ under the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). This classification would bring them under the BSA’s existing anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism recordkeeping and reporting requirements for currency transactions. The Proposal would also establish a new recordkeeping requirement for certain CVC and LTDA transactions, similar to the recordkeeping and travel rule regulations applicable to funds transfers.

FinCEN’s guidance clarifies the applicability of the BSA to a variety of virtual currency businesses.

By Todd Beauchamp, Charles Weinstein, Loyal T. Horsley, Cameron R. Kates, and Shaun Musuka

On May 9, the US Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued interpretive guidance expanding on previously issued guidance and rulings regarding the application of the Bank Secrecy Act and FinCEN’s implementing regulations (collectively, the BSA) to a variety of business models involving “convertible virtual currency” (CVC).[i]

Background

The BSA is the US’ principal anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing (AML) regulatory regime, and is applicable to “financial institutions,” which includes a variety of entities, such as banks and “money services businesses” (MSBs). One type of MSB is a “Money Transmitter,” which includes any person that accepts “currency, funds or other value that substitutes for currency from one person” and transmits such “currency, funds or other value to another location or person by any means.”

The enforcement action serves as a reminder that virtual currency exchangers, regardless of size, must comply with the BSA.

By Todd Beauchamp and Charles Weinstein

The US Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) does not care if you are a multinational corporation or an individual operating out of your garage; regardless of size, if you violate the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), you are fair game for enforcement. The financial services industry was reminded of this recently when FinCEN announced that it had assessed a civil money penalty against an individual for “willfully violating the [BSA’s] registration, program, and reporting requirements.”

The matter involved a single individual, Eric Powers, who solicited purchases and sales of bitcoin on the internet, and completed those transactions with other individuals in person, through the mail, and by wire. FinCEN claimed that Powers’ activity included executing around 160 purchases of bitcoin for approximately US$5 million through in-person cash transactions with individuals he met through a bitcoin forum. In connection with Powers’ virtual currency-related activity, FinCEN asserted that Powers operated as a peer-to-peer (P2P) exchanger of convertible virtual currency, and thus, as a “money transmitter” under the BSA.