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During a speech at Consenus 2019, Sigal Mandelker, the U.S. Treasury’s Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, reiterated the projection that the Financial Action Task Force (“FATF”) will adopt international standards for cryptocurrency-based services in June 2019.  FATF (also known by its French name, Groupe d’action financière) is an independent inter-governmental body that develops global standards for anti-money laundering and counter-terrorist financing. In 2014 and 2015 FATF began expressing concerns that the potential benefits…

On April 8, 2019, Jacob Burrell Campos of Rosarito, Mexico, was sentenced to two years in prison and to forfeit USD 823,357 in illicit profits for operating an unlicensed money transmitting business in connection with his sale of hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bitcoin to over 1,000 customers throughout the United States.  Burrell, a U.S. citizen, pleaded guilty, admitting that he operated a Bitcoin exchange without registering with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN)…

We have previously written about New York’s BitLicense regulations, which prohibit companies from engaging in “virtual currency business activity” in New York, or with New York residents, without a license.  Bittrex, based in the State of Washington, is one of the more established cryptocurrency exchanges.  On April 10, 2019, the New York State Department of Financial Services (“DFS”) published a letter denying Bittrex’s BitLicense application. According to the DFS press release, the application was denied primarily…

On March 11, 2019, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced that it had entered into a Consent Order resolving a CFTC action against 1pool Ltd., located in the Marshall Islands, and its chief executive officer and owner, Patrick Brunner, for illegally offering retail commodity transactions that were margined in bitcoin, failing to register as a futures commission merchant (FCM), and failing to meet its supervisory duties by not having the required anti-money laundering…

On October 24, 2018, the Japanese Financial Services Agency (JFSA) accredited the Japan Virtual Currency Exchange Association (JVCEA, established in March 2018) as a self-regulatory organization under the Payment Services Act (PSA). On the same day, an initial set of self-regulations and related guidelines came to effect, as prepared by the JVCEA. Going forward, it is anticipated that the JVCEA will cooperate with continued inspection and monitoring by the JFSA and will act to enhance…

On October 10, CipherTrace – a developer of cryptocurrency AML, bitcoin forensics, and blockchain threat solutions – released its Cryptocurrency Anti-Money Laundering Report – Q3 2018 (the “Report”).  The Report analyzed 45 million bitcoin transactions involving the top 20 global cryptocurrency exchanges to produce some sobering findings regarding the level of criminal activity at crypto exchanges and the effectiveness of AML regulation. Some key findings are summarized below. 97% of bitcoin payments made directly from…

During 2017, the issue that probably got the most attention for companies raising capital through initial coin offerings (ICOs) was whether tokens constitute securities.  However, governmental agencies and regulators, particularly the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority (“FINMA”), focused on other legal issues as well. It was reiterated that companies issuing cryptocurrencies or tokens have to consider not only securities registration but also anti-money laundering and licensing compliance. It has also become clear that blockchain-related businesses…

Switzerland often ranks among the most friendly and accommodating countries for blockchain-based companies to conduct their initial coin or token offering (“ICO”). Indeed, recent estimates are that more than 530 blockchain companies established in the Swiss cantons of Zurich and Zug have raised more than US$540 million through ICOs. Despite these facts, these companies often face significant difficulties in opening a bank account in Switzerland to hold the fiat currency proceeds of their ICOs. Swiss…

In February 2018, the UK Treasury Committee launched an inquiry into digital currencies.  In the course of its inquiry the Committee received oral and written evidence from a number of key players in the crypto space, including representatives from Ripple, CryptoUK and Blockchain, together with evidence from the FCA (the UK financial services regulator), the Bank of England and HM Treasury. Earlier than expected, the Treasury Committee published its crypto-assets report and conclusions and recommendations…

On 3 July 2018, the European Banking Authority (EBA) published a report outlining the prudential risks and opportunities arising from FinTech as part of its 2018 FinTech Roadmap. The report includes useful guidance on the use of distributed ledger technology (DLT) for trade finance and CDD (although the EBA is keen to note that the report should not be considered to provide an exhaustive list of possible prudential risks and opportunities that may arise.) Trade…