On January 31, state attorneys general from 49 states and the District of Columbia announced a $5 million settlement with a global money services business that resolves investigations into allegations that scammers used the company’s wire transfer services to defraud consumers over a period of 9 years. The company agreed to implement an anti-fraud program as part of the settlement, with the settlement funds paying for the states’ costs and fees. As discussed previously on InfoBytes, the company recently entered a $586 million settlement with the DOJ in connection with similar AML-related claims, which will be used for refunds to the victims of fraud-induced wire transfers.
OFAC Sanctions More than Two Dozen Firms and Individuals in Connection with Iran’s Ballistic Missile Program
On February 3, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it was imposing new sanctions against several entities and individuals involved in procuring technology and/or materials to support Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well as for acting for or on behalf of, or providing support to, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force. The sanctions block “all property and interests in property of those designated today subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with” the identified firms and individuals.
On January 30, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) announced that it had assessed a $425 million fine against a German bank as part of a consent order addressing allegations that the bank allowed $10 billion in “mirror trades” involving Russian investors by failing to properly enforce protections against money laundering. According to the press release, the bank and several of its senior managers allegedly “missed key opportunities to detect, intercept and investigate a long-running mirror-trading scheme facilitated by its Moscow branch and involving New York and London branches.” Specifically, the consent order claims the bank (i) conducted its business in an unsafe and unsound matter; (ii) implemented weak “Know Your Customer” processes; (iii) failed to accurately rate its country and client risks for money laundering throughout the relevant time period and lacked a global policy benchmarking its risk appetite; (iv) maintained ineffective, understaffed anti-financial crime, AML, and compliance units; and (v) had a flawed corporate structure and organization.
In addition to the $425 million monetary penalty, the bank must, within 60 days of the consent order, engage an independent monitor to “conduct a comprehensive review of the [b]ank’s existing BSA/AML compliance programs, policies and procedures.” Furthermore, the bank must submit in writing for NYDFS review an action plan outlining enhancements to its current BSA/AML compliance programs.
On January 27, the Federal Reserve publically released a cease-and-desist order against a regional bank concerning its anti-money laundering (AML) program. The order, which is dated January 25, requires the bank to address certain deficiencies identified in a review of the bank’s AML compliance program by the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond and develop a firm-wide compliance risk management program addressing the AML requirements. The order follows a recent Stipulated Order with the FDIC against the same bank concerning similar allegations and calling for, among other things, corrective actions and enhancements to address certain internal control deficiencies.
On January 18, the New York State Department of Financial Services (NYDFS) announced that it had approved the application of Coinbase, Inc., for a virtual currency and a money transmitter license. According to NYDFS, the license was issued to Coinbase—a digital currency wallet that facilitates transactions with Bitcoin and other virtual currencies—only after “a comprehensive review of Coinbase’s applications, including the company’s anti-money laundering, capitalization, consumer protection, and cyber security policies.” Having met the New York regulator’s standards for operations in the state, Coinbase may now operate, under supervision by NYDFS, as a service for buying, selling, sending, receiving and storing Bitcoin.
As previously covered in InfoBytes, NYDFS’s BitLicense framework—which was finalized back in June 2015—requires virtual currency companies to submit a 31-page application providing information covering, among other things: (i) written policies and procedures including, but not limited to BSA/AML, cybersecurity, privacy and information security, (ii) company information, (iii) biographical information on company directors and stockholders, and (iv) an explanation of the methodology used to calculate the value of virtual currency in fiat currency. In addition, the NYDFS released a set of FAQs to help clarify the BitLicense requirements. To date, NYDFS has approved five firms for virtual currency charters or licenses, while denying those applications that did not meet its standards.