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10/27/2020

Cuban Assets Control Regs amended

OFAC has amended the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) to further implement parts of the president's foreign policy toward Cuba. The changes are meant to deny the Cuban government access to funds in connection with remittances to Cuba. The rule was published in the October 27, 2020, Federal Register, and will be effective 30 days later, on November 26, 2020.

OFAC's announcement also includes links to 10 FAQ updates and one new FAQ related to the CCAR.

10/26/2020

Agencies propose lower recordkeeping and travel rule threshold

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and the Federal Reserve Board have invited comment on a proposed rule that would amend the recordkeeping and travel rule regulations under the Bank Secrecy Act.

FinCEN and the Board, under their shared authority, are proposing amendments to the recordkeeping rule jointly, while FinCEN is proposing amendments to the travel rule. Under the current recordkeeping and travel rule regulations, financial institutions must collect, retain, and transmit certain information related to funds transfers and transmittals of funds over $3,000. The proposed rule lowers the applicable threshold from $3,000 to $250 for international transactions. The threshold for domestic transactions remains unchanged at $3,000.

The proposed rule further clarifies that those regulations apply to transactions above the applicable threshold involving convertible virtual currencies, as well as transactions involving digital assets with legal tender status, by clarifying the meaning of "money" as used in certain defined terms.

Comments on the proposal will be accepted for 30 days following publication in the Federal Register.

10/26/2020

FATF strengthens standards against proliferation financing

Treasury reports that the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) concluded its 32nd plenary meeting on Friday, October 23, by agreeing to revise its standards to further strengthen the global response to the financing of proliferation related to weapons of mass destruction. The endorsement of the new standard is a result of an initiative that began under the U.S. FATF presidency and was adopted by finance ministers of FATF members in 2019.

The FATF also continued its focus on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on detecting and countering fraud including attempts to defraud government-backed stimulus programs. The task force also adopted an updated report on trade-based money laundering and recognized progress by a number of jurisdictions in rectifying their AML/CFT deficiencies.

10/26/2020

Russian government research institute sanctioned

On Friday, the Department of the Treasury announced that OFAC had designated, in accordance with Section 224 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), a Russian government research institution—State Research Center of the Russian Federation FGUP Central Scientific Research Institute of Chemistry and Mechanics (TsNIIKhM)—that is connected to the destructive Triton malware. The Triton malware—known also as TRISIS and HatMan in open source reporting—was designed specifically to target and manipulate industrial safety systems, which provide for the safe emergency shutdown of industrial processes at critical infrastructure facilities in order to protect lives.

For detailed identification information on TsNIIKhM, see this BankersOnline OFAC Update.

10/23/2020

CFPB ANPR on consumer access to financial records

The CFPB announced yesterday an advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPR) requesting information related to consumer access to financial records.

The CFPB is asking the public how it might most efficiently and effectively develop regulations to implement Section 1033 of the Dodd-Frank Act, which provides for consumer rights to access financial records. When consumers use financial products and services, the providers of those products and services generally accumulate data about those consumers and their use of those products and services. Consumer access to these data allow consumers to manage their financial accounts and can enhance consumers’ control of their financial matters.

Consumers may realize these benefits by authorizing third parties to access these data on their behalf and allowing those third parties to deliver new or improved financial products and services. Use cases for consumer-authorized data include personal financial management, making and receiving payments, assisting consumers with improving savings outcomes, underwriting credit, and many other services.

While consumer access to financial records can enable the development of innovative and beneficial consumer financial products, it can also present consumer risks. The Bureau’s ANPR seeks comments and information on costs and benefits of consumer data access; competitive incentives; standard-setting; access scope; consumer control and privacy; and data security and accuracy.

Comments on the ANPR will be accepted for 90 days following its publication in the Federal Register.

10/23/2020

High ranking Hizballah officials and entities designated

OFAC has announced counter terrorism designations, Iran-related designations and updates, foreign interference in U.S. election designations, and a Syria designation update.

  • Two members of Hizballah’s Central Council—Nabil Qaouk and Hassan al-Baghdadi. The Central Council is responsible for identifying and electing the group’s highest decision-making body, the Shura Council, which formulates policy and asserts control over all aspects of Hizballah’s activities, including its military activities.
  • Iraj Masjedi, a general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF) and Iran’s Ambassador to Iraq.
  • Five Iranian entities for attempting to influence elections in the United States

The full SDN listings of each of the individuals and entities designated can be found in this BankersOnline OFAC Update.

10/21/2020

Florida bank closed and purchased

The FDIC has reported that First City Bank of Florida, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, was closed Friday by the Florida Office of Financial Regulation, which appointed the FDIC as receiver. The failed bank experienced longstanding capital and asset quality issues, operating with financial difficulties dating back to 2009, which are not related to the current economic conditions resulting from the pandemic.

To protect depositors, the FDIC entered into a purchase and assumption agreement with United Fidelity Bank, fsb in Evansville, Indiana, to assume all of the deposits of First City Bank of Florida. As of June 30, 2020, First City Bank of Florida had approximately $134.7 million in total assets and $131.4 million in total deposits. In addition to assuming all of the deposits, United Fidelity Bank, fsb agreed to purchase essentially all of the failed bank’s assets.

The FDIC estimates that the cost to the Deposit Insurance Fund will be $10 million

10/21/2020

FDIC approves temporary Part 363 amendment

The FDIC has issued an interim final rule to provide relief for insured depository institutions that have experienced large cash inflows resulting from participation in the Paycheck Protection Program, the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility, and the Paycheck Protection Program Liquidity Facility, or due to other factors such as the effects of other government stimulus efforts, and, absent regulatory action, would be required to incur substantial costs on a temporary basis.

The rule will allow IDIs that have experienced growth to determine whether they are subject to the requirements of Part 363 of the FDIC’s regulations for fiscal years ending in 2021 based on the consolidated total assets as of December 31, 2019. Such IDIs, whose asset growth may be temporary but significant, would be otherwise required to develop processes and systems to comply with the annual independent audits and reporting requirements of Part 363 on a potentially short-term basis.

The rule is effective immediately and remains effective through December 31, 2021, unless extended by the FDIC. Comments on the rule will be accepted for 30 days after it is published in the Federal Register.

PUBLICATION UPDATE: This rule was published at 85 FR 67427 on October 23, 2020. The comment period will end on Monday, November 23, 2020.

10/21/2020

OFAC settlement with Berkshire Hathaway

OFAC has announced a $4,144,651 settlement with Berkshire Hathaway, Inc. (“Berkshire”), a multinational conglomerate holding company based in Omaha Nebraska, and its foreign subsidiary, Iscar Kesici Takim Ticareti ve Imalati Limited Sirket (“Iscar Turkey”).

Berkshire, on behalf of itself and its subsidiary located in Turkey, has agreed to settle its potential civil liability for 144 apparent violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560 (ITSR). Specifically, between December 2012 and January 2016, Iscar Turkey exported 144 shipments of cutting tools and related inserts, with a total value of $383,443, to two third-party Turkish distributors knowing that such goods would be shipped to a distributor in Iran for resale to Iranian end-users, including several entities later identified as meeting the definition of the Government of Iran, which would have been prohibited if engaged in by a U.S. person. These transactions appear to have violated § 560.215 of the ITSR. OFAC determined that Berkshire voluntarily self-disclosed the apparent violations on behalf of Iscar Turkey, and that the apparent violations constitute an egregious case.

According to OFAC's Enforcement Release, Iscar Turkey's action violated Berkshire's compliance policies, and Iscar Turkey took steps to obfuscate its dealings with Iran, including concealing these activities from Berkshire. The Apparent Violations occurred under the direction of certain Iscar Turkey senior managers despite Berkshire and other Berkshire subsidiaries’ repeated communications and policies sent to Iscar Turkey regarding U.S. sanctions against Iran and the application of the ITSR to Iscar Turkey’s operations. The General Manager and his employees took certain steps to conceal Iscar Turkey’s activities and plans with Iran such as: (1) utilizing private email addresses that bypassed the controls and visibility of the corporate email system to communicate about orders from Iranian customers; (2) utilizing false names in internal records of Iscar Turkey to conceal transactions; (3) providing false assurances in response to compliance inquiries; (4) providing fraudulent evidence of a compliance training session; and, (5) when the internal investigation was initiated, lying to interviewers and counseling others to lie.

Berkshire voluntarily self-disclosed the apparent violations to OFAC in May 2016 after receiving an anonymous tip in January 2016. Berkshire followed with multiple mitigating actions in cooperation with the OFAC investigation. Those mitigating actions helped reduce the base civil monetary penalty for the violations from $18.4 million to the settlement amount of $4,144,651.

10/20/2020

ACCESS initiative launched by NCUA

NCUA Chairman Hood has announced the launch of the agency’s new Advancing Communities through Credit, Education, Stability, and Support (ACCESS) initiative, which will bring together leaders across the NCUA to refresh and modernize regulations, policies, and programs in support of greater financial inclusion within the agency and the credit union system. Efforts under this program include increasing access to credit and loan products, dedicating resources to help people make smart financial decisions, enhancing existing programs that encourage credit union membership and access to financial services, and fostering inclusive policies and outreach efforts in the community.

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