OFAC Amends Burmese Sanctions Regulations

On May 17, OFAC amended the Burmese Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 537 by adding a general license to authorize most transactions related to U.S. persons residing in Burma that are otherwise prohibited by the Regulations, including paying rent and purchasing goods and services for personal use. In addition, the amendments add general licenses to (i) extend indefinitely General License 20, which authorizes transactions “ordinarily incident to exports to or from Burma that are otherwise prohibited involving an individual or company that is designated or otherwise blocked by OFAC’s sanctions”; and (ii) support trade-related transactions by permitting certain transactions incident to the movement of goods within Burma. OFAC also updated an existing general license to authorize most banking services involving Innwa Bank and Myawaddy Bank (two currently designated financial institutions in Burma) and terminated sanctions on Myanma Economic Bank, Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank,  and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank, which, taken together,  authorizes “most transactions involving all Burmese financial institutions.”

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Treasury Announces Beneficial Ownership Legislation; Proposes Foreign-Owned Single-Member LLC Regulations

Recently, the Treasury Department announced that it is sending Congress legislation that would require companies formed within the United States, or “that [use] the mail, wire, or any facility in interstate or foreign commerce in its formation, transfer of ownership, or business activity,” to file beneficial ownership information with the Department, and would impose a $5,000 penalty for failure to comply. The proposed legislation defers to the Department of the Treasury to define beneficial ownership. The new draft legislation also proposes technical amendments to FinCEN’s Geographic Targeting Order (GTO) authority to provide FinCEN the authority to collect information on funds transfers in general, including regarding bank wire transfers, instead of transactions using “monetary instruments.”

Treasury simultaneously announced proposed regulations to require foreign-owned “disregarded entities” to obtain an employer identification number with the IRS. The proposed regulations are intended to address “a narrow class of foreign-owned U.S. entities – typically single member LLCs – that have no obligation to report information to the IRS or to get a tax identification number.” These “disregarded entities” (which include foreign-owned-single-member LLCs) can, according to Treasury, be used to shield non-U.S. assets’ or non-U.S. bank accounts’ foreign owners. If finalized, the regulations would assist the IRS in determining whether a tax liability exists, and if so, how much. Finally, the regulations would allow the IRS to share information with other tax authorities.

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FinCEN Deputy Director: Industry Collaboration Key to Finalizing Customer Due Diligence Rule

On May 16, FinCEN Deputy Director Jamal El-Hindi delivered remarks at the Institute of International Bankers (IIB) Annual Anti-Money Laundering Seminar in New York. The focal point of El-Hindi’s remarks was recent Treasury initiatives , including, (i) the final Customer Due Diligence (CDD) rule; (ii) draft beneficial ownership legislation; and (iii) FinCEN’s use of Geographical Targeting Orders, as addressed in the beneficial ownership draft legislation. The remarks provide an overarching summary of Treasury’s recent regulatory efforts and address the process by which Treasury developed the final CDD rule and the draft beneficial ownership legislation, specifically commenting on and emphasizing FinCEN’s collaborative rulemaking efforts with industry: “I encourage you to keep our conversation going—particularly with respect to support for the beneficial ownership legislation. . . .Please know that FinCEN depends on you, the institutions you represent, and the key feedback and financial intelligence they provide.”

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CSBS Publishes Annual Report

Recently, the Conference of State Bank Supervisors (CSBS) published its 2015 Annual Report to provide an overview of its activities and initiatives in 2015. The report highlights that, throughout 2015, state regulators (i) increased coordination and collaboration between state regulators and other stakeholders, including federal regulators and Congress; (ii) developed research and analytical tools, such as risk profiling tools to assist with the examination selection process, as well as tools to address emerging non-depository regulatory issues; (iii) developed “right-sized” policy solutions for an ever-changing financial services industry, acknowledging that “community banks play a vital and necessary role in [the] diverse financial services ecosystem”; and (iv) provided education and training for examiners and supervisors, noting that “more than 1,000 examiners from 43 agencies representing 41 states had been certified through the CSBS Certification Program.” Importantly, the report notes that cybersecurity remains a “major issue facing the financial services industry.” In an effort to encourage executive leadership and raise awareness, CSBS launched the Executive Leadership of Cybersecurity (ELOC) initiative, which emphasizes that cybersecurity is “more than a ‘back office’ issue, but an executive issue that requires CEO and Board level attention.”

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Supreme Court Holds “Arising Under” Standard Satisfies Jurisdictional Questions

In an 8-0 opinion delivered by Justice Kagan on May 16, the Supreme Court affirmed the Third Circuit’s ruling that the “jurisdictional test established by §27 [of the Exchange Act] is the same as [28 U.S.C.] §1331’s test for deciding if a case ‘arises under’ a federal law.” Merrill Lynch v. Manning, No. 14-1132 (U.S. May 16, 2016). In this case, the defendant, an investment bank, removed plaintiff’s case against the bank for its short sale practices to Federal District Court. The bank asserted that plaintiff’s claims, which referred explicitly to the SEC’s Regulation SHO in “describing the purposes of that rule and cataloguing past accusations against [the bank] for flouting its requirements,” were within federal jurisdiction on the following two grounds: (i) 28 U.S.C. §1331 grants district courts jurisdiction of “all civil actions arising under federal law”; and (ii) §27 of the Exchange Act “grants federal courts exclusive jurisdiction of ‘all suits in equity and actions at law brought to enforce liability or duty created by [the Exchange Act] or the rules or regulations thereunder.’” The plaintiff, in seeking remand of the case back to state court, argued that neither 28 U.S.C. §1331 nor §27 of the Exchange Act granted federal court the authority to adjudicate his claims which were brought under state law – specifically, the New Jersey Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), New Jersey Criminal Code, and New Jersey Uniform Securities Law, as well as New Jersey common law of negligence, unjust enrichment, and interference with contractual relations. The Supreme Court’s opinion relies heavily on the natural reading of §27: “Like the Third Circuit, we read §27 as conferring exclusive federal jurisdiction of the same suits as ‘aris[e] under’ the Exchange Act pursuant to the general federal question statute.” The Court concluded that because the plaintiff’s claims were brought under state law and merely referenced Regulation SHO, the Federal District Court did not have jurisdiction and the case was remanded to state court.

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