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Top Story Compliance Related

07/06/2021

OFAC rescinds Int'l Criminal Court-related sanctions regs

The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control published a final rule at 86 FR 35399 in today's Federal Register removing, effective today, the International Criminal Court-Related Sanctions Regulations at 31 CFR 520, because President Biden, on April 1, 2020, terminated the national emergency with respect to the International Criminal Court.

07/02/2021

FinCEN notes FATF updates on deficient AML/CFT/CPF programs

FinCEN yesterday issued a notice to U.S. financial institutons to inform them that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an intergovernmental body that establishes international standards to combat money laundering, counter the financing of terrorism, and combat weapons of mass destruction proliferation financing (AML/CFT/CPF), has updated its statements concerning jurisdictions with strategic AML/CFT/CPF deficiencies.

FinCEN previously provided this information through the issuance of advisories, and the purpose of this and future releases regarding updates to the FATF’s statements is the same. U.S. financial institutions should consider the FATF’s statements when reviewing their obligations and risk-based policies, procedures, and practices with respect to the jurisdictions identified by the FATF.

As part of the FATF’s listing and monitoring process to ensure compliance with its international standards, the FATF issued two statements: (1) High-Risk Jurisdictions Subject to a Call for Action, which identifies jurisdictions with significant strategic deficiencies in their AML/CFT/CPF regimes and calls on all FATF members to apply enhanced due diligence, and, in the most serious cases, apply counter-measures to protect the international financial system from the money laundering, terrorist financing, and proliferation financing risks emanating from the identified countries; and (2) Jurisdictions under Increased Monitoring, which publicly identifies jurisdictions with strategic deficiencies in their AML/CFT/CPF regimes that have committed to, or are actively working with, the FATF to address those deficiencies in accordance with an agreed upon timeline.

On June 25, 2021, the FATF updated both of these statements. In particular, the FATF added Haiti, Malta, the Philippines, and South Sudan to, and removed Ghana from, the list of Jurisdictions under Increased Monitoring.

07/02/2021

CFPB bulletin on reporting rental and eviction information

The CFPB has released an Enforcement Compliance Bulletin reminding landlords, consumer reporting agencies (CRAs), and others of their critical obligations to accurately report rental and eviction information. Inaccurate rental and eviction information on a tenant screening report or a credit report can unfairly block a family from safe and affordable housing. As the federal eviction moratorium and other pandemic rental protections come to an end, the CFPB wants to protect families from being denied housing on the basis of inaccurate information.

07/02/2021

New FATF reports available

07/02/2021

FTC identifies enforcement priorities for investigations

The Federal Trade Commission has voted to approve a series of resolutions authorizing investigations into key law enforcement priorities for the next decade. Specifically, the resolutions direct agency staff to use “compulsory process,” such as subpoenas, to investigate seven specific enforcement priorities. Priority targets include repeat offenders; technology companies and digital platforms; and healthcare businesses such as pharmaceutical companies, pharmacy benefits managers, and hospitals. The agency is also prioritizing investigations into harms against workers and small businesses, along with harms related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, at a time when merger filings are surging, the agency is ramping up enforcement against illegal mergers, both proposed and consummated.

07/02/2021

Tennessee bank pays for Flood Act violations

The Federal Reserve Board, on June 30, 2021, ordered a Tullahoma, Tennessee, bank to pay an $8,000 civil money penalty for its pattern or practice of unspecified violations of section 208.25 of Federal Reserve Board Regulation H, which implements the requirements of the National Flood Insurance Act.

07/01/2021

FinCEN likely to issue No-Action Letters

FinCEN yesterday announced it has completed a report on its assessment of whether to establish a process for the issuance of no-action letters in response to inquiries concerning the application of the Bank Secrecy Act and other anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism laws to specific conduct. As required by section 6305 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (AML Act), the report was delivered on June 28 to the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs and the House Committee on Financial Services. FinCEN’s assessment included consultation with the Attorney General, the federal functional regulators, state bank supervisors, state credit union supervisors, and other federal agencies, as required by the AML Act.

Acting FinCEN Director Michael Mosier said "FinCEN concludes that a no-action letter process would be a useful complement to its current forms of regulatory guidance and relief. FinCEN looks forward to continuing to engage with our government partners and the public during a future rulemaking process to ensure all constructive feedback is considered on this important issue.”

As set forth in the report, FinCEN concluded that it should plan towards a rulemaking to create a process for issuing no-action letters in addition to its current forms of regulatory guidance and relief, with the timing subject to resource limitations and competing priorities.

07/01/2021

California bank employee and friend charged with insider trading

The SEC has announced it has settled insider trading charges against Bay Area bank employee Mounir N. Gad and his friend Nathan E. Guido.

According to the SEC’s orders against Gad and Guido, Gad worked for a Northern California-based bank in its group that assisted private equity firms in financing acquisitions of companies. On three occasions in 2015 and 2016, Gad tipped Guido, his friend of several years, using material, nonpublic information about upcoming acquisitions (two of which involved tender offers), which Gad learned about in the course of his employment. Gad used an encrypted messaging platform and code words to provide the tips to Guido. According to the orders, Guido bought stock in the target companies based on those tips and sold the stock after the acquisitions were announced, resulting in illegal gains of $51,700. Guido shared about $11,000 of these gains with Gad by giving him cash.

The SEC’s orders find that Gad and Guido violated the antifraud and tender-offer provisions of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. Both consented to the entry of a cease-and-desist order. Gad agreed to pay a civil penalty of $51,700 and Guido to pay a civil penalty of $40,700. The Commission’s order against Guido notes the cooperation he provided to the Commission’s staff.

07/01/2021

FTC sues online marketer of COVID-19 masks

The Federal Trade Commission has filed a federal court complaint charging an online marketer with falsely promising consumers that he could quickly deliver face masks and other personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic, then failing to deliver on customers’ orders or offer cancellations or refunds.

The complaint alleges that Frank Romero (d/b/a Trend Deploy) took advantage of consumers’ fear of COVID-19 by advertising the availability and quick delivery of PPE, including N95 face masks, even though he had no basis to make those promises. Romero allegedly failed to deliver PPE on time (if at all), failed to notify consumers of delayed shipments, failed to offer the cancellations and refunds required by the Commission’s Mail Order Rule, and failed to honor requests for refunds so consumers could buy these products elsewhere. When Romero eventually did deliver, the complaint states, he often sent products inferior to those consumers ordered. Most notably, he advertised N95 masks, but allegedly delivered cloth masks instead.

The FTC alleges that in addition to violating the COVID-19 Consumer Protection Act and the Mail Order Rule, Romero’s deceptive and unfair conduct also violated the FTC Act's UDAP prohibitions. In its complaint, the agency is seeking monetary relief for consumers and civil penalties.

07/01/2021

FinCEN issues national AML/CFT priorities and statements

Yesterday, FinCEN announced it had issued the first government-wide priorities for anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) policy (the “Priorities”), following consultation with other relevant Department of the Treasury offices, as well as federal and state regulators, law enforcement, and national security agencies. In no particular order, these include: corruption, cybercrime, domestic and international terrorist financing, fraud, transnational criminal organizations, drug trafficking organizations, human trafficking and human smuggling, and proliferation financing.

FinCEN also issued two statements — one from FinCEN and an interagency statement from the federal banking agencies, state bank and credit union regulators, and FinCEN — to provide guidance to covered institutions on how to approach the Priorities.

The Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (the “AML Act”) requires the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Attorney General, federal functional regulators, relevant state financial regulators, and relevant national security agencies, to establish and make public priorities for anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism policy (AML/CFT Priorities).

Yesterday’s publication of the AML/CFT Priorities does not create an immediate change to Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) requirements or supervisory expectations for banks. The AML Act requires that, within 180 days of the establishment of the AML/CFT Priorities, FinCEN (in consultation with federal functional regulators and relevant state financial regulators) shall, as appropriate, promulgate regulations regarding the AML/CFT Priorities. Although not required by the AML Act, the federal banking agencies plan to revise their BSA regulations, as necessary, to address how the AML/CFT Priorities will be incorporated into banks’ BSA requirements.

Banks are not required to incorporate the AML/CFT Priorities into their risk-based BSA compliance programs until the effective date of the final revised regulations. Nevertheless, in preparation for any new requirements when those final rules are published, banks may wish to start considering how they will incorporate the AML/CFT Priorities into their risk-based BSA compliance programs, such as by assessing the potential related risks associated with the products and services they offer, the customers they serve, and the geographic areas in which they operate.

FinCEN also issued a message from Acting Director Michael Mosier listing FinCEN's achievements toward implementation of the AML Act in the 180-days since its enactment.

Additional information on FinCEN’s ongoing efforts related to the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 can be found at a dedicated page on FinCEN’s website.

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