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Now We Wait… Canada’s Proposed AML Updates

As of last Friday (September 7, 2018) the comment period for Canada’s draft AML amendments has closed (if you have something to say, they’ll likely still accept submissions for a few more days).

TLDR?

Check out our summary here, or this panel digging into the details.

Want to read our submissions? Here they are!

2018Sep07_OutlierCanada Submission to Finance

2018Sep07_Apendix_SurveyResults

What Now?

The Department of Finance is going to head back to the Bat Cave to revise the policy. We expect that a final version will be published at some point in 2019, and that the content will include “dealing in virtual currency” (including businesses like bitcoin exchanges).

Once the final version is published, there will be a transition period (we expect a year or more) before everything is in force. In the meantime, if you’re expecting to be considered a money services business (MSB) when the final version is published, we recommend checking out some of the community events for MSBs, like the Canadian MSB Association (CMSBA)’s Fall Conference in Toronto.

We’re Here To Help

If you have questions about virtual currency and regulation in Canada, or regulation in Canada in general, please contact us.

Why rich people don’t just open a bank…

 

It can be tough to open and maintain a bank account as a crypto-business. A policy of “derisking” (when banks avoid conducting business with customers perceived as being higher risk) leaves many crypto-businesses (and other MSBs) ill-served by the existing banking system.

A not-uncommon response to this reality (i.e. we’ve had this conversation enough times to deem it worthy of a blog post) is some variation of: “I’m a rich person! Why don’t I just open a bank?”

No doubt, this impulse comes from the admirably entrepreneurial spirit of our community. There’s a problem (lack of access to banking services), so let’s solve it.

But if you don’t have a background in compliance or banking and think that you’re “just” going to magically open your dream-crypto-paradise-bank… We’re here to advise you to slow your roll. We’re not saying you can’t do it… but here are some things you should consider. Knowledge is power.

Sidenote: We’re Canadian and these notes refer to Canadian processes. There are likely to be some differences in other countries, but we won’t know what they are. If you want to know, do the research. Let us know what you find if it’s interesting.

Opening a bank is expensive.

While you may think you have the cash to spare, opening a bank is expensive, and probably more expensive than you expect, both in terms of what you need to have in reserve, and what you’ll spend initially. We’ve heard the figure of $50m buy-in—which, by the way, does not guarantee you a charter.

You will spend money for years before you serve customers.

If you’re curious about where all those millions could possibly go, you’re going to get friendly* with an army of consultants, lawyers, and accountants over the next few years. (*And by friendly, we mean pay a lot of money to).

The process of getting issued a charter is lengthy (if you don’t believe us, you may enjoy perusing the 27-page long PDF guide from OFSI on the subject) and getting this process right means your investment will be whittled away by hiring people who can help navigate you through this labyrinth. You’ll also be spending money on employees, by the way, for years before you’ll ever have the privilege of serving a customer. Years. Plural.

Your team will spend a long time pleasing regulators before you’re operational.

Yes, even though you won’t be permitted to have customers for a long time, you will still need to assemble a team that can put together all of the elements of a bank into place. Your team will spend all of their time implementing processes, demonstrating to the regulator(s) that they’ve done so, and then tweaking these processes as the regulators require or request (in these instances, a request is really a politely stated requirement). If it’s any comfort, your employees will certainly be kept busy, even without customers.

You’re probably not going to be the CEO…

Despite making the decision to open a bank, you will likely not become the bank’s CEO, or even its COO. Senior management positions at banks require regulatory approval. Regulators are looking for you to have had a long history, at a senior level, in a bank or other federally regulated financial institution

… or even on the Board of Directors.

As with senior management positions, seats on the Board of Directors require regulatory approval. Even if you successfully jump through all the hoops required to start your bank, you will likely end up with little to no say in how it is ultimately run.

Well That’s Awkward!

There’s a noble sentiment behind the desire to “just open a bank” and solve the problems you see in the current banking system. But, the risks, effort, and returns are seldom well understood. In essence, opening a bank means making a substantial investment (in both time and money) in something that may one day become an asset (but may not). You can own the bank, but will likely not run it, despite the multi-year multi-million commitment you make. Even if you’re a wealthy investor with patient money, we’d suggest that you ought to be really passionate about setting up a bank if you want to embark upon this kind of endeavour.

What can you do instead?

So, if you’re not going to start a bank but are still frustrated by the banking system as it currently stands—what can you do instead?

Frankly, we need grassroots pressure to change the system we have. It’s important for us to have discussions with the gatekeepers (regulators, traditional banking institutions) for crypto business to get access to banking services. Part of the burden of being in this space is taking the time to educate those who control access to the resources we need. We’ve found that often even people with responsibility for developing policy related to bitcoin and other virtual currencies or tokens don’t fully understand it (and therefore its risk implications). While it may be frustrating to explain that it is possible to buy a fraction of a bitcoin to someone who we really think ought to understand this already, the more we can normalize crypto within the system, the more access we can hope to gain.

And while it can be difficult to speak out if you are a business who has been refused a bank account (or had your account shut down), we’d encourage you to share your experiences of trying to find banking services. Make a complaint to the institution. Share your story with the media (even if you don’t name the FI) or contact your political representatives. You can also, at the moment, contribute your feedback on the draft legislation on AML Regulations for “Virtual Currencies.” (See this blog post for more on how to do that). Exert pressure on the existing players.

But, of course… if you’ve decided you are passionate enough (and deep-pocketed enough) to start a truly crypto-friendly bank: more power to you and definitely let us know how you get on.

We’re Here To Help

If you have questions about virtual currency and regulation in Canada, or regulation in Canada in general, please contact us.

AML Changes For The Real Estate Sector

Here We Go Again! Canada’s Proposed AML Changes for Real Estate Developers, Brokers and Sales Representatives

 

On June 9th, 2018, draft amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) and its enacted regulations (there are five separate regulations that we’re going to collectively call regulations here for simplicity’s sake). This article is intended to give a high-level summary of the proposed amendments as they relate to the real estate industry.

This article should not be considered advice (legal, tax or otherwise). That said, any of the content shared here may be used and shared freely – you don’t need our permission. While we’d love for content that we’ve written to be attributed to us, we believe that it’s more important to get reliable information into the hands of community members (meaning that if you punk content that we wrote, we may think you’re a jerk but we’re not sending an army of lawyers).

Finally, we want to encourage the community to discuss the proposed changes and submit meaningful feedback for policy makers. The comment period for this draft is 90 days. After this, the Department of Finance takes the feedback to the bat cave and drafts a final version of the amendments. From the time that the final version is published, the draft indicates that there will be 12 months of transition to comply with the new requirements.

What does this mean for my business?

While there are quite a number of proposed changes (the draft is about 200 pages in length), some are likely to have more of an impact on for real estate developers, brokers and sales representatives than others. We’ve summarized the changes that we expect to have the most impact below. Remember these are just proposed changes so there is no need to update your compliance material just yet.

What’s New?

Virtual Currency:

While there are not many proposed amendments that will introduce new requirements for real estate developers, brokers and sales representatives the draft regulations introduce reporting requirements for the receipt of CAD 10,000 or more of virtual currency. These basically are the same as large cash reporting obligations and will require reporting entities to maintain a large virtual currency transaction record.

The requirements for reporting and recordkeeping for virtual currency will be very similar to cash reporting requirements.

What existing requirements are changing?

24-hour rule:

The draft regulations clarify that multiple transactions performed by or on behalf of the same customer or entity within a 24-hour period are considered a single transaction for reporting purposes when they total CAD 10,000 or more. Only one report would need to be submitted to capture all transactions that aggregate to CAD 10,000 or more. For real estate developers, brokers and sales representatives this would apply to recipient of cash deposits. Specifically, this will apply to large cash transactions or CAD 10,000 or more. 

Identification:

The draft regulations replace the word “original” with “authentic” and states that a document used for verification of identity must be “authentic, valid and current. This would allow for scanned copies of documentation and/or for software that can authenticate identification documents to be used for the dual process method for real estate developers, brokers and sales representatives that identify clients in a non-face-to-face manner. Another change, related to measures for verifying identity, is that the word “verify” has been replaced with “confirm” and “ascertain” has been replaced with confirm. What this will mean exactly is still unclear (FINTRAC will need to provide more guidance once the final amendments are released). We are hopeful that it will allow for easier customer identification – especially for customers outside of Canada.

Records:

There have been some changes to the details that must be recorded in records that real estate broker or sales representative must maintain. In particular, the draft regulations add the requirement that information records must contain details of every person or entity for which they act as an agent or mandatary in respect of the purchase or sale of real property. Under the existing regulations information related to the person or entity purchasing real estate only.

Risk Assessment:

Under current regulations, reporting entities are required to assess the risks associated with its business and develop a risk assessment specific to your situation. For real estate developers, brokers and sales representatives a risk assessment must address the following four areas:

  • Products, services, and delivery channels (to better reflect the reality of the real estate sector, this workbook will now only refer to services and delivery channels);
  • Geography;
  • Clients and business relationships; and
  • Other relevant factors

A proposed amendment would require all reporting entities to assess the risk related the use of new technologies, before they are implemented.  This has been a best practice since the requirement to conduct a risk assessment came into force, but this change would make this a formal requirement.

Suspicious Transaction Reporting:

Under current regulations if a reporting entity has reasonable grounds to suspect that a transaction or attempted transaction is related to money laundering or terrorist financing, a report must be submitted to FINTRAC within 30 days of the date that a fact was discovered that caused the suspicion. The revised regulations add to this requirement by stating:

The person or entity shall send the report to the Centre within three days after the day on which measures taken by them enable them to establish that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the transaction or attempted transaction is related to the commission of a money laundering offence or a terrorist activity financing offence.

This would require reports to be submitted to FINTRAC within three days after the reporting entity conducts an analysis that established reasonable grounds for suspicion.

Schedules:

The draft regulations introduce changes to reporting schedules, requiring more detailed information to be filed with FINTRAC then previously was required. This is in addition to including information that is marked as optional, if a reporting entity has the information. As it relates real estate developers, brokers and sales representatives these changes will impact attempted suspicious and suspicious transaction reporting, terrorist property reporting and large cash reporting. Some of the additional proposed data fields are:

  • every reference number that is connected to the transaction,
  • every other known detail that identifies the receipt (of cash for large cash transactions),
  • type of device used by person who makes request online,
  • number that identifies device,
  • internet protocol address (IP address) used by device,
  • person’s user name, and
  • date and time of person’s online session in which request is made.

Such changes may be onerous for reporting entities, especially for transactions that are conducted online.

Training:

Under current regulation, if real estate developers, brokers and sales representatives use agents, mandataries or other persons to act on their behalf, they must develop and maintain a written, ongoing compliance training program for those agents, mandataries or other persons. The draft regulations introduces an additional requirement in which there must be a documented plan for the ongoing compliance training program and delivering of that the training.

What’s Next?

If you’ve read this far, congratulations and thank you!

We hope that you will contribute your thoughts and comments. You can do this by contacting the Department of Finance directly. Their representative on this file is:

Lynn Hemmings
Acting Director General
Financial Systems Division
Financial Sector Policy Branch
Department of Finance
90 Elgin Street
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0G5
Email: fin.fc-cf.fin@canada.ca

If you would like assistance drafting a submission, or have questions that you would like Outlier to answer, please get in touch!

Canada’s Proposed AML Changes for MSBs

What’s Old is New Again, Well Updated

On June 9th, 2018, draft amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) and its enacted regulations (there are five separate regulations that we’re going to collectively call regulations here for simplicity’s sake). This article is intended to give a high-level summary of the proposed amendments as they relate to Money Services Businesses (MSBs).

This article should not be considered advice (legal, tax or otherwise). That said, any of the content shared here may be used and shared freely – you don’t need our permission. While we’d love for content that we’ve written to be attributed to us, we believe that it’s more important to get reliable information into the hands of community members (meaning that if you punk content that we wrote, we may think you’re a jerk but we’re not sending an army of lawyers).

Finally, we want to encourage the community to discuss the proposed changes and submit meaningful feedback for policy makers. The comment period for this draft is 90 days. After this, the Department of Finance takes the feedback to the bat cave and drafts a final version of the amendments. From the time that the final version is published, the draft indicates that there will be 12 months of transition to comply with the new requirements.

♬The Times Regulations Are Changing♬

Foreign MSBs

Currently, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) has issued a policy interpretation (PI-5594) in August of 2013, which states that a “real and substantial connection” to Canada must be present for an entity to be required to register as an MSB with FINTRAC.  A “real and substantial connection” was defined in the interpretation as having one or more of the following:

  • Whether the business is incorporated in Canada;
  • Whether the business has agents in Canada;
  • Whether the business has physical locations in Canada; and/ or
  • Whether the business maintains a bank account or a server in Canada.

The draft amendments introduce a new definition, which is “Foreign Money Services Business” that means anyone serving Canadian customers or entities in Canada is now subject to all Canadian requirements no matter where they are located.  Throughout the proposed changes, where there is a reference to money services businesses, there is also a reference to foreign money services businesses.  This will be significant to MSBs who operate non-face-to-face in the online marketplace and do not reside in Canada.

Non-Face-To-Face Customer Identification

Currently, there is a requirement that when customers are identified using the dual process method, the document and/or data that you collect is in its “original” format. This has been interpreted to mean that if the customer receives a utility bill in the mail, they must send you the original paper (not scanned or copied) document. The word “original” will be replaced with “authentic” (meaning that so long as you believe that the utility bill is a real utility bill for that person, it doesn’t need to be the same piece of paper that they received in the mail).

In addition, there are provisions that would allow reporting entities to rely on the identification conducted previously by other reporting entities. If this method is used to identify a customer, the reporting entity must immediately obtain the identification information from the other reporting entity and have a written agreement in place requiring the entity doing the identification to provide the identification verification within 3 days of the request.

Reporting EFTs of $10,000 or More

If you conduct international remittance transactions at the request of your customers, the requirement to report transactions of $10,000 or more will now be your responsibility, not your financial services provider.

The proposed change removes the language commonly known as the “first in, last out” rule.  This means that the first person/entity to ‘touch’ the funds for transactions incoming to Canada or the last person/entity to ‘touch’ the funds for a transaction outgoing from Canada had the reporting obligation (as long as the prescribed information was provided to them).

The update will change the reporting obligation to whoever maintains the customer relationship. So if you initiate a transaction at your customer’s request (outgoing transaction) or provide final receipt of payment to your customer (incoming transaction), it will be your obligation to report that transaction to FINTRAC.

For example, if the flow of the instructions for payment were as follows:

Currently, the reporting obligation of the outgoing EFT would fall to the bank in Canada.  With the draft updates, the reporting obligation would now fall to the MSB in Canada, because they have the relationship with the customer initiating the transaction.

 

Third Party Determination

Currently, the obligation to determine whether a third party is involved in a transaction relates to Large Cash Transactions.  The proposed changes would include the obligation to make a third party determination for all EFTs of $10,000 or more.  This would also require similar record keeping obligations as a third party determination under the current Large Cash Transaction records.

Suspicious Transaction Reporting

Currently, if a reporting entity has reasonable grounds to suspect that a transaction or attempted transaction is related to money laundering or terrorist financing, a report must be submitted to FINTRAC within 30 days of the date that a fact was discovered that caused the suspicion. This change appeared in the last round of amendments that came into force last year, and the proposed new wording would be another significant change:

The person or entity shall send the report to the Centre within three days after the day on which measures taken by them enable them to establish that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the transaction or attempted transaction is related to the commission of a money laundering offence or a terrorist activity financing offence.

This means that a report would be due three days after the reporting entity conducts an investigation or does something that allows them to reach the conclusion that there are reasonable grounds to suspect.

Information Included In Reports to FINTRAC

Certain information is required in reports to FINTRAC. Even where information is marked as being optional, if a reporting entity has the information, it becomes mandatory to include it. Some of the additional proposed data fields are:

  • every reference number that is connected to the transaction,
  • type of device used by person who makes request online,
  • number that identifies device,
  • internet protocol address (IP address) used by device,
  • person’s user name, and
  • date and time of person’s online session in which request is made.

These fields may require significantly more data to be included in reports, especially for transactions that are conducted online.

Ongoing Compliance Training

Currently, there are five required elements of a Canadian AML compliance program, but there is soon to be a sixth.  Before you get too worried, it’s not that major.  The change is specific to your ongoing compliance training obligations, which says you must institute and document a plan for your ongoing compliance training program and the delivery of the training.  Basically, in your AML compliance program documentation, you need to provide a description of your training program for at least the next year and how the training will be delivered. Many MSBs have already implemented this best practice.

Risk Assessment Obligations

With the recent addition of the “New Technologies and Developments” category to the Risk-Based Approach requirements, the next logical progression has be added.  The updates include the obligation to assess the money laundering and terrorist financing risk of any new technology before implementation.  Meaning, if you are looking to take your business online and are going to use this fancy, new non-face-to-face ID system, you had better take careful inventory of where your risks are and be sure the appropriate controls have been put in place before going live. Much like the training plan, many MSBs have already implemented this best practice.

Virtual Currency

The draft updates also include major changes related to virtual currency. “Dealers in virtual currencies’ would be regulated as MSBs. New record keeping and reporting obligations would apply to all reporting entities that accept payment in virtual currency, or send virtual currency on behalf of their customers.

For more information on updates specific to virtual currency, please check out our full article.

What Next

If you’ve read this far, congratulations and thank you!

We hope that you will contribute your thoughts and comments. You can do this by contacting the Department of Finance directly. Their representative on this file is:

Lynn Hemmings

Acting Director General

Financial Systems Division

Financial Sector Policy Branch

Department of Finance

90 Elgin Street

Ottawa, Ontario

K1A 0G5

Email: fin.fc-cf.fin@canada.ca

If you would like assistance drafting a submission, or have questions that you would like Outlier to answer, please get in touch!

If you are interested in sharing your comments with the Canadian MSB Association (and we highly encourage you to do so) please email luisa@global-currency.com. She will have more information on the industry group’s submission and consultation process.

The Dos & Donts of Breaking into Blockchain

This article was created by Amber D. Scott & Emma Todd (of MMH Blockchain Group) with writing assistance from Ailsa Bristow.

We go to a lot of events, and the number one thing people keep asking us is how to get into Blockchain. Developers, students, accountants, lawyers… anyone with something to sell.

Our knee-jerk response is if you want to get into blockchain, just get into blockchain. Yes, it’s that simple.

However, that doesn’t seem to be the conversation-stopper we intend it to be, so a more fulsome response is called for. Here are our collected thoughts on how to get involved, along with some tips on how (and how not to) conduct yourself along the way.

Get Involved

First things first: blockchain is, at its heart, a community. The best place to start is to do your research, find a meetup in your city, and start talking to people. Don’t just sit at home reading about blockchain and bitcoin on the internet.

The blockchain community is one of the more welcoming places on the planet. Here are people who are passionate about what they do, committed to the open-source philosophy, and willing to help newbies learn. Sure, it can get technical at times, and that can be intimidating when you don’t have a strong opinion about proof of stake, the latest token, or whether it was ok for Microsoft to buy GitHub… but as long as you don’t pretend to know more than you do, you’ll be fine. These folks will know when you’re bluffing, and they will call you out on it.

If you really want a crash course in blockchain, volunteer either through a meetup or at one of the big blockchain conferences. This is a great way to start meeting people: you could be brushing shoulders with the big names in blockchain before you even know who they are.

Learn The Ropes

As you start your journey into blockchain, spend some time listening. Seriously. Listen more than you talk. It’s hard to learn anything when you’re the one speaking. Be interested, and be genuine: these are the attributes that will earn you credibility in the blockchain space. But don’t just rely on people to be your tour guides: people will get frustrated with you when you ask questions without doing your basic research first (if you want a great list of bitcoin resources go here). And seriously: please don’t email/ DM/ whatever at leaders in the blockchain community asking them questions that you can easily google for yourselves. That’s not how to win friends and influence people, folks.

If you want to be a coder, there are a lot of free learning resources out there. You don’t need to spend $100,000s getting a computer science degree (unless that’s something you want to do otherwise) given the wealth of learning you can do online. Two communities that we love are freeCodeCamp and BlockGeeks. There are also scholarships out there if you are planning on following this route.

Finally, if you’ve been in the blockchain for all of a minute, please, don’t start advertising yourself as an expert before you’ve even had a chance to learn the basics. Two months attending Meetups and some internet reading does not an expert make. Showing up on panels or guesting on blogs before you’ve really had a chance to learn is going to hurt your reputation.

Get Some Skin In the Game

If you’re interested in working with or selling to blockchain companies, get some skin in the game. We’re always shocked whenever a vendor asks us about selling to blockchain companies, and when I ask them if they’ve ever used a blockchain based service, or a cryptocurrency they say no. If you haven’t taken the time to understand the ecosystem, how can you possibly hope to understand your customers? Why should anyone in the blockchain world trust anything you have to say?

It’s fine to start small. Set up a wallet. Buy some Dogecoin (it has much of the same “backbone” as bitcoin) or even a small fraction of a bitcoin (yes, they are divisible). You don’t need to break the bank. You should participate only according to your passion, your risk tolerance, and your knowledge. But you do need to get a feel for how things work, and demonstrate a personal investment.

Prove Your Value

Blockchain is about proving your value. If you come from a background where people are impressed by your education, your resume, who your parents are, or how much money you made, get ready for a reality-check. In the blockchain world, people are interested in learning about what you’re doing that’s cool.

There’s room for all skillsets in blockchain, from traditional accounting to marketing. But don’t come in trying to make the hard sell. Do talk about things you’re doing that’s cool, and be interested in what other people are working on in return.

Be Respectful

Respect people’s time. Do not use people’s names or photos or logos to promote your event without checking with them first. Do not call someone an advisor to your project if you’ve only  spoken to them once. Get explicit agreement from people before plastering their name all over your website.

Also, if you’re chatting to someone and you hear they got into bitcoin X number of years ago, do not ask them a) how much coin they have, b) if they are a millionaire. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable asking for somebody’s bank statement, or the state of their investment portfolio, don’t ask them for the ins and outs of how much money they’ve made from bitcoin. Your curiosity is not a reason to override basic good manners.

Twitter is King

If you want to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in Blockchain, Twitter is the place to be. It’s where news breaks, connections get made, and discussions are had. Follow one or two of the biggest names in Blockchain, follower their followers, and start jumping in.

Fit Matters

Finally, know that not everyone should be in Blockchain. Sure, you’ve heard the buzz and that there’s money to be made, but that doesn’t mean you need to be in this world. If you’re simply chasing money, you’re probably going to end up getting burned.  If you don’t like change and uncertainty, this probably isn’t the place for you. If you don’t have the ability to pivot, this probably isn’t the place for you. If the thought of listening to engineers argue technical points fills you with dread, this probably isn’t the place for you. And if you aren’t at least open to the idea of being converted into a flaming libertarian, we’d suggest this probably isn’t the place for you. And if that’s true, that’s ok.

On the other hand, if nothing we’ve said here has put you off and you’re ready to dive in, welcome. You’re joining one of the most passionate, genuine, smart, and exciting communities on the planet.

Welcome – we’re glad you’re here!

Canada’s AML Rules for “Virtual Currency”

On June 9th, 2018, draft amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) and its enacted regulations (there are five separate regulations, that we’re going to collectively call regulations here for simplicity’s sake). While not all of the proposed amendments are related to virtual currency, many are (the term virtual currency comes up 304 times in about 200 pages). This article is intended to give a high-level summary of the proposed amendments as they relate to virtual currency for businesses in that industry (exchanges, brokerages, etc.).

This article should not be considered advice (legal, tax or otherwise). That said, any of the content shared here may be used and shared freely – you don’t need our permission. While we’d love for content that we’ve written to be attributed to us, we believe that it’s more important to get reliable information into the hands of community members (meaning that if you punk content that we wrote, we may think you’re a jerk but we’re not sending an army of lawyers).

Finally, we want to encourage the community to discuss the draft and submit meaningful feedback for policymakers. To this end, we’re going to be posting, hosting and attending community events. We’ve also set up a survey that can be completed without submitting any personal information (though you may choose to do so). If you would like one of our compliance nerds at your event, please get in touch. If you’re already having a related event that benefits the community, let us know or post it in the comments.

The comment period for this draft is 90 days. After this, the Department of Finance takes the feedback to the bat cave and drafts a final version of the amendments. From the time that the final version is published, the draft indicates that there will be 12 months of transition to comply with the new requirements.

What to expect when you’re expecting (to be regulated)?

While we acknowledge that our sample is biased (people that talk to compliance geeks), we know that many businesses such as brokerages and exchanges have expected to be regulated as money services businesses (MSBs) since Bill C-31 was passed in 2014. Many of these businesses already have in place the required elements of an anti-money laundering (AML) compliance regime, including:

  1. The appointment of a Compliance Officer;
  2. Written policies and procedures;
  3. A documented risk assessment;
  4. Training; and
  5. Effectiveness testing (like an audit, but for compliance).

In addition, many have been voluntarily reporting suspicious activity to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), the body under which they expect to be regulated for AML.

The proposed amendments would formalize compliance program requirements, as well as create new requirements specific to businesses “dealing in virtual currency” (which would now be considered MSBs). While “dealing in virtual currency” itself is not defined, the text of the regulations implies that it will include exchanging, sending, and receiving virtual currency on behalf of other people or entities. Such entities would be required to register as MSBs if they are serving Canadian customers (whether or not they are located in Canada).

There are a number of thresholds that are proposed, including identification (at CAD 1,000) and reporting (at CAD 10,000). In each case, specific information must be collected and recorded. The identification methods that are available in these circumstances are relatively prescriptive, although the proposed amendments do make some headway towards supporting a broader array of identification methods by requiring that documents be considered “authentic” rather than requiring documents in their original format. Of course, as with any complex issue, guidance from FINTRAC will be required before we’re certain how this will be interpreted by the regulator (It’s good news; we’re just not sure how good, yet).

As always in compliance, the devil is in the details. What follows is a few of those key details, as well as some of the issues that we anticipate. We encourage you to conduct your own analysis and to join the conversation.

What’s In A Definition?

Definitions are generally not very interesting. When was the last time that you read the dictionary? (Sidenote: if you are a serious scrabble geek and do this on the regular, you will enjoy this section more than most)… In this case though, definitions matter. Definitions will make a difference in terms of the businesses and activities that are regulated, and how they are regulated. Fortunately, our community includes a number of engineers, debaters, and other individuals with a penchant for the precise – and your skills are needed here. We encourage you to carefully consider the following and to submit feedback on how they can be improved.

authorized user means a person who is authorized by a holder of a prepaid payment product account to have electronic access to funds or virtual currency available in the account by means of a prepaid payment product that is connected to it.

funds means

(a) cash and other fiat currencies, and securities, negotiable instruments or other financial instruments that indicate a title or right to or interest in them; or

(b) information that enables a person or entity to have access to a fiat currency other than cash.

For greater certainty, it does not include virtual currency. (fonds)

fiat currency means a currency that is issued by a country and is designated as legal tender in that country.

large virtual currency transaction record means a record that indicates the receipt of an amount of $10,000 or more in virtual currency in a single transaction and that contains the following information:

(a) the date of the receipt;

(b) if the amount is received for deposit into an account, the name of each account holder;

(c) the name, address and telephone number of every other person or entity that is involved in the transaction, the nature of their principal business or their occupation and, in the case of a person, their date of birth;

(d) the type and amount of each virtual currency involved in the receipt;

(e) the exchange rate used and the source of the exchange rate;

(f) the number of every other account that is affected by the transaction, the type of account and the name of each account holder;

(g) every reference number that is connected to the transaction;

(h) every other known detail that identifies the receipt; and

(i) if the amount is received by a dealer in precious metals and precious stones for the sale of precious metals, precious stones or jewellery,

(i) the type of precious metals, precious stones or jewellery,

(ii) the value of the precious metals, precious stones or jewellery, if different from the amount of virtual currency received, and

(iii) the wholesale value of the precious metals, precious stones or jewellery.

prepaid payment product means a product that is issued by a financial entity and that enables a person or entity to engage in a transaction by giving them electronic access to funds or virtual currency paid to a prepaid payment product account held with the financial entity in advance of the transaction. It excludes a product that enables a person or entity to access a credit or debit account or one that is issued for use only with particular merchants.

prepaid payment product account means an account that is connected to a prepaid payment product and that permits

(a) one or more transactions that total $1,000 or more to be conducted within a 24-hour period; or

(b) a balance of funds or virtual currency available of $1,000 or more to be maintained.

virtual currency means

(a) a digital currency that is not a fiat currency and that can be readily exchanged for funds or for another virtual currency that can be readily exchanged for funds; or

(b) information that enables a person or entity to have access to a digital currency referred to in paragraph (a).

virtual currency exchange transaction means an exchange, at the request of another person or entity, of virtual currency for funds, funds for virtual currency or one virtual currency for another.

virtual currency exchange transaction ticket means a record respecting a virtual currency exchange transaction — including an entry in a transaction register — that sets out

(a) the date of the transaction;

(b) in the case of a transaction of $1,000 or more, the name, address and telephone number of the person or entity that requests the exchange, the nature of their principal business or their occupation and, in the case of a person, their date of birth;

(c) the type and amount of each of the funds and virtual currencies involved in the payment made and received by the person or entity that requests the exchange;

(d) the method by which the payment is made and received;

(e) the exchange rate used and the source of the exchange rate;

(f) the number of every account that is affected by the transaction, the type of account and the name of each account holder;

(g) every reference number that is connected to the transaction; and

(h) every other known detail that identifies the transaction.

Diving Deeper – Obligations and Potential Issues

1 – Do the definitions capture unintended parties?

We were surprised to see that there were not specific carve-outs for certain types of tokens, including securities, and tokens intended specifically for gaming. The definition, as it’s currently written seems capable of encompassing both tokenized security offerings and gaming tokens.

In addition, the second part of the definition that includes “information that enables a person or entity to have access to a digital currency referred to in paragraph (a).” has the potential to open the definition even more broadly. For instance, if I have stored a copy of a seed phrase or a hardware device with a vault service – have they received virtual currency? Are they sending virtual currency to me if the contents of my vault are couriered to me?

 2 – What about peer-to-peer, decentralized applications, and smart contracts?

The amendments as they are presented appear to take the view that transactions have intermediaries. There are no specific carve-outs for peer-to-peer transactions (though we expect that previous guidance could be applied here), decentralized applications, and smart contracts. This may be a particularly contentious issue in the case of an exchange from one “virtual currency” to another – especially where such an exchange is initiated or completed without any human intervention. Similarly, questions arise for wallet service providers. For instance, what if a wallet provider does not have access to private keys, but connects to applications that permit users to initiate transactions that would be considered to be exchange transactions under the current definition?

That said, there are some astute exclusions, including the following activities which are explicitly not covered:

(a) a transfer or receipt of virtual currency as compensation for the validation of a transaction that is recorded in a distributed ledger; or

(b) an exchange, transfer or receipt of a nominal amount of virtual currency for the sole purpose of validating another transaction or a transfer of information.

Nonetheless, it is difficult to determine where the policymakers intended to draw the line, and where the regulator will later enforce it…

3 – Jurisdiction doesn’t matter; foreign money services businesses (MSBs) are covered.

While not specific to virtual currency, it is noteworthy that the proposed amendments expand the definition of an MSB to include any business that is providing prescribed services in Canada. As we’ve seen in the case of the NY BitLicense, badly drafted legislation can drive away business and lead to a lack of service providers willing to do business in a region.

While we’re not suggesting that the proposed amendments are nearly as ill-conceived as the NY BitLicense, it is important to consider whether or not these will affect Canadians’ ability to access services, and the attractiveness of the Canadian market generally for innovative international businesses. While we do not expect this particular amendment to be altered, we would encourage businesses located outside of Canada that serve Canadians to comment.

What Next?

If you’ve read this far, congratulations and thank you!

We hope that you will contribute your thoughts and comments. You can do this by contacting the Department of Finance directly. Their representative on this file is:

Lynn Hemmings

Acting Director General

Financial Systems Division

Financial Sector Policy Branch

Department of Finance

90 Elgin Street

Ottawa, Ontario

K1A 0G5

Email: fin.fc-cf.fin@canada.ca

If you would like assistance drafting a submission, or have questions that you would like Outlier to answer, please get in touch!

You can also answer specific questions in our survey, or join us at a community event.

Adding Value

An Open Letter to the Blockchain Association of Canada & The Canadian Blockchain Community

My obsession (let’s call it what it is) with Bitcoin and blockchain was born in 2013 when I updated a risk assessment to include bitcoin (and accepted my first bitcoin payment). Soon after, I spoke at the Bitcoin Expo in Toronto and became a member of the Bitcoin Alliance of Canada (BAC). At the time, it seemed to me that so many wonderful things were happening in Canada. This organization had a real opportunity to transcend political leanings and model new methodologies for consensus and transparency. For what it’s worth, I still believe that this is possible if we have the will and dedication to do the work.

In 2016, I was elected to a director position with BAC. In December of that same year, a decision was made to change the name of the association to the Blockchain Association of Canada (still BAC). At that time, it did not occur to me (or to my fellow directors, as far as I know) that there could be confusion with another existing group, Blockchain Canada (BC). This was first brought to my attention by one of BC’s directors and has come up several times since then. At one point there was even talk of merging the two associations, which seems to have since died on the vine. While I believe that there may be many voices that represent our community in Canada, I hope that these voices will at the very least learn to harmonize (read: collaborate).

As a BAC director, I have seen (and experienced) a degree of bullying, a lack of transparency, and mismanagement that has left me unwilling to continue in this role. While it is not my wish to air dirty laundry, I want to make it clear to the directors and volunteers who will replace me that you have a lot of work to do.   I want to provide a public and transparent roadmap that is visible to my fellow BAC members. Unfortunately, this was not something that I was able to do as a director.

In my opinion, the most important immediate tasks are:

  • Sorting out the membership, while respecting paid lifetime members’ (from 2014) privacy and security;
  • Hiring an accountant; having proper financial statements completed and presented at an AGM;
  • Holding an AGM, which includes transparent updates and opportunities for involvement for the membership, and continuing to hold regular AGMs;
  • Taking steps to understand the will of the Bitcoin and blockchain community in Canada;
  • Ensuring that there are clear and transparent processes and functions;
    • Where possible, all contracts and positions should be open competitions; Where this is not possible, or pragmatic, a rationale should be clearly documented and made available;
    • Any conflicts should be clearly disclosed, and directors with personal connections should recuse themselves from the conversation related to the conflict early on;
    • The nature of all contracts should be posted in a manner that is at minimum visible to all members; and
  • Updating the BAC website in a way that supports these functions, and removing all other websites that have not been appropriately reviewed by BAC.

While I love and want to continue to support the Bitcoin and blockchain community in Canada, I do not believe that continuing in my role with the BAC is the best use of my time, nor the best way that I can support the community. If you think that you’re the right person to step up and help with cleanup, I highly encourage you to do so. If you’re not sure, and you want to have an AMA, please reach out to me privately.

Lessons Learned & Things That I Wish I Had Known

My involvement with BAC’s board was my first experience as a director for a not-for-profit organization, though I have been involved as a volunteer, organizer, and leader in other organizations. I’ve learned a great deal from this experience, and I believe that it will help me to set solid parameters for my involvement moving forward.

From here on out, where myself / Outlier is called upon to be part of industry associations or not-for-profit organizations, I am of the opinion that we should be focused on where we can add the most value. These might include:

  • Participating in or managing compliance and/or regulatory committees;
  • Providing training and/or feedback related to compliance and/or regulation; and
  • Speaking at events where we are able to add value (this is our #1 criteria for participation).

The standards that associations must meet to ensure my participation will include:

  • Having administration and coordination functions under control (or having a plan in place to get them under control);
  • Having an accountant appointed;
  • Having appropriate insurance in place;
  • Being committed to both transparency and acting in the service of the membership; and
  • Having well-functioning leadership in place.

I understand that no person or organization is perfect – and that’s ok. There will always be problems to solve, and problem solvers hard at work – this is what keeps life interesting. In looking for specific functions and problem solvers already in place, I am not looking for perfection – only the opportunity to spend my time focusing on the problems that I’m best at solving.

Wishing BAC All The Best

To my fellow BAC directors, I will miss working with the vast majority of you. I encourage you to carry on, fight the good fight and do what you think is right. I believe that BAC has tremendous potential and I hope that the organization finds both its feet and great success.

To the bitcoin and blockchain community at large, and you’ve read this and thought “I could absolutely help solve that problem”, I applaud you and encourage you to get involved. Who knows, we may even sit on a compliance and regulatory committee together one day.

 

Amber D. Scott

Founder & Chief AML Ninja, Outlier Solutions Inc.

Former Director, Blockchain Association of Canada

Skype & Twitter: @OutlierCanada

Email: amber@outliercanada.com

The Secret Project: 2017

Thank you to the Canadian MSB Association for allowing us to present our research findings at the 2017 Fall Conference.

Money Services Business (MSBO and bitcoin business banking in Canada is the most significant barrier to entry. We set out to prove that the derisking crisis is real. In a first world country, this is absurd.We hope that this research facilitates an open and honest dialogue, that includes those with the power to improve the situation.

For those that have asked, here are our slides:

The Secret Project- MSB Banking(PDF)

The Secret Project- MSB Banking (PowerPoint)

Raw data: use it as you see fit. Seriously. We believe in open source. Information wants to be free.

Google Drive Access

A video of the presentation will follow.

 

AML & Digital Currency in Canada

Because we’ve been asked a time or two what’s new in AML & digital currency in Canada…

The following are a compilation of FINTRAC’s policy positions in relation to digital currency. This document is current as of July 25, 2017.

We have not charged anyone for access to this information, and if you have downloaded this document, our only condition of its use is that you do not do so either.

Free Download: FINTRAC Bitcoin Policy Interpretations as at 25Jun2017

If you feel inclined to tip, we won’t argue. Tips will be shared among the team members that collaborated to put this memo together.

bitcoin ethereum
1KGxGUos6PCuAzJEmzHAhfLPeiiEZePZE4 0x03CDF23a2Eb070F2c79De5B2E6FB90671D3c70fE
   

 

If you have any questions or concerns about how these may apply to you and your business, please feel free to get in touch.

Amber & The Outlier Canada Team

Email: amber@outliercanada.com

Skype: OutlierCanada

Twitter: @OutlierCanada

Canada’s 2017 Budget & PCMLTFA Updates

Greetings fellow compliance geeks!

As you may know, Canada’s latest budget bill contains a number of amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA). We’ve created a marked up version of the PCMLTFA to help you work through and understand the changes, and you can access it using the link below with this caveat: you are welcome to use and share this markup, but you may not charge money for access to it. Information should be free.

Yes, I get it, give me access!

If you prefer a copy of the markups in Microsoft Word, please contact us.

Analysis Notes

The biggest takeaway from these amendments is related to section 5 (e.1), which adds “trust companies incorporated or formed by or under a provincial Act that are not regulated by a provincial Act” as being federally regulated entities. This has been a loophole in Canadian legislation for a long time, and was called out in Canada’s most recent mutual evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). If you’re company falls into this category, it’s time to start thinking about anti money laundering (AML) compliance. If you have business arrangements (clients, suppliers, etc.) that are unregulated provincial trusts, there are a few early steps that you might want to consider:

  • Re-assess the AML risk that these provincial trust companies pose;
  • Reach out to ask if they have a Compliance Officer and an AML program (in some cases, you will be pleasantly surprised); and
  • Consider whether or not additional controls are required to mitigate the risk posed.

The additional information that’s changing includes a lot of items that most us would consider housekeeping, like changing foreign country to foreign state in a number of places, and adding bullet points to what is considered “prescribed information:”

  • the name, address, electronic mail address and telephone number of every trustee and every known beneficiary and settlor of a trust referred to in paragraph (a);
  • the name, address, electronic mail address and telephone number of each person who owns or controls, directly or indirectly, 25 % or more of an entity referred to in paragraph (a), other than a trust; and
  • information respecting the ownership, control and structure of an entity referred to in paragraph (a).

The only piece there that will be new (at least in terms of requirements) is the “electronic mail address” (email) for beneficial owners. If you’re not already collecting this information, it’s time to think about how to get started. If you’re collecting the email address, but its optional, consider making it a required field.

The modifications also give the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) the ability to share information with the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces where there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is a threat. Presumably, this would include contexts like a terrorist attack on Canada. It’s somewhat surprising that this was not already in place.

There have also been changes to the things about which “the Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, make any regulations that the Governor in Council considers necessary for carrying out the purposes and provisions of this Act, including regulations…” These are interesting in thinking about what may be next in line for additional regulation:

  • respecting dealing in virtual currencies;
  • respecting the keeping of records referred to in section 6;
  • respecting the verification of the identity of persons and entities referred to in section 6.1; (d) respecting the reports to the Centre referred to in section 7 and subsections 7.1(1) and 9(1);
  • respecting the determination of whether a person is a person described in any of paragraphs 9.3(1)(a) to (c);
  • respecting the measures referred to in subsections 9.3(2) and (2.1);
  • respecting the measures referred to in subsection 9.4(1);
  • respecting the program referred to in subsection 9.6(1);
  • respecting the special measures referred to in subsection 9.6(3);
  • respecting the registration referred to in sections 11.1 to 11.2;
  • respecting the reports referred to in subsection 12(1); and
  • prescribing anything that by this Act is to be prescribed.

The only truly interesting point here is dealing in virtual currency, which also came up in Bill C-31 which passed in 2014. This bill, also called the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1, has not been fully implemented. Some of its provisions (including those specifically related to including dealing in virtual currency under the definition of money services businesses) are also being amended. In the markups, these changes are highlighted in blue rather than in yellow to distinguish between the two.

Finally, there is a change to the definition of a head of an international organization. This one seems a bit nitpicky to me, but if you’re in the process of updating your documentation for the changes that are coming into force in June of this year, you might want to consider this as well. Head of an international organization (HIO) means a person who, at a given time, holds — or has held within a prescribed period before that time — the office or position of head of an international organization that is established by the governments of states or the head of an institution of any such organization.

We’re Here To Help

If you have questions about these changes, the changes coming into force in June of this year, or AML compliance in general, please contact us.

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