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2019 AML Changes for MSBs

Background

On July 10th, 2019, the highly anticipated final amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) and its enacted regulations were published. This article is intended to give a high-level summary of the amendments as specific to MSBs. If you’re the type that likes to read original legislative text, you can find it here. We also created a redlined version of the regulations, with new content showing as tracked changes, which can be found here.

It is expected that all regulated entities will have to significantly revamp their AML compliance program due to the amount of changes. There are three different “coming into force” dates that should be noted.

  • June 25, 2019: a wording change from “original” to “authentic” related to identification. This is welcomed news for digital identification.
  • June 1, 2020: changes related dealers in virtual currency (which do not apply to MSBs).
  • June 1, 2021: all other regulatory amendments.

While this does give regulated entities some time to get their AML compliance programs updated and in order, we recommend that you start budgeting and planning now.

Guidance from FINTRAC, related to the changes in regulation, is expected to be seen ahead of coming into force dates. Given the legislative changes, there will be changes to FINTRAC policy interpretations as well so be sure to monitor closely and save any interpretations that you may have used for due diligence purposes.

Hefty Disclaimer

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).

Foreign MSBs

In the past, foreign MSBs only had to comply with Canadian AML requirements if they had a “real and substantial connection” to Canada. A “real and substantial connection” was defined in FINTRAC policy interpretations as having one or more of the following statements be true:

  • Is the business incorporated in Canada;
  • Does the business have agents in Canada;
  • Does the business have physical locations in Canada; and/ or
  • Does the business maintain a bank account or a server in Canada.

The final amendments create obligations for foreign businesses that direct and provide certain services to people located in Canada, via the Internet. If you are a foreign MSB, check out our blog on full requirements as they relate to a foreign MSB with dealings in Canada.

What Does This Mean For My Business?

Changes to Canada’s AML regulations will have a direct impact on MSB AML obligations, including the following:

  • Customer identification;
  • Reporting; and
  • Compliance Program requirements.

While there are quite a number of changes, only some will have more of an impact on MSBs. We’ve summarized the changes that will impact MSBs below.

Customer Identification

Currently, there is a requirement that when customers are identified, the document and/or data that you collect must be 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 final regulations replace the word “original” with “authentic”, and state 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 a person’s identification documents.

Other changes to the identity verification requirements are as follows:

  • A customer’s identity must be verified if they are the beneficiary of an international EFT of CAD 1,000 or more;
  • For credit file verification (single source) the credit file information must now be derived from more than one source; and
  • For the dual source method, when relying on a credit report as part of a dual source, the credit file must have been in existence for at least six months. Additionally, the person or entity that is verifying the information cannot be a source.

In addition, there are provisions that 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 as soon as feasible.

FINTRAC Reporting

Reporting EFTs of CAD 10,000 or More

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

The final amendments removes the language commonly known as the “first in, last out” rule. This means that the first person/entity to ‘touch’ the funds for a transaction 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.

Virtual Currency Reporting

If you conduct transactions involving virtual currencies such as bitcoin, you will be required to report the receipt, or the sending, of amounts of CAD 10,000 or more in a virtual currency transaction to FINTRAC. These are basically the same as Large Cash Transaction reporting obligations, including making a determination of whether the person is acting on behalf of a third-party. There will also be the requirement for reporting entities to maintain a Large Virtual Currency Transaction record.

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

The 24-Hour Rule

The final regulations clarify that multiple transactions performed by, or on behalf of, the same customer or entity, or are for the same beneficiary, within a 24-hour period, are to be considered as a single transaction for reporting purposes when they total CAD 10,000 or more. This would mean that only one report would need to be submitted to capture all transactions that aggregate to CAD 10,000 or more. If you use software to automatically detect these types of transactions, you should begin discussions with your IT department or software provider to determine the time and resources that will be required to update the detection process.

For example, currently, a Large Cash Transaction Report must be submitted either for single transactions of CAD 10,000 (or more), or for multiple transactions of less than CAD 10,000 each that add up to CAD 10,000 or more in a 24-hour period. This can result in situations where two reports are filed for transactions taking place in a 24-hour period.

Cash deposit of CAD 12,000 – LCTR #1 for CAD 12,000

Cash deposits of CAD 5,000 and CAD 6,000 – LCTR #2 for CAD 11,000

Using the same example, under the new rules we would have:

Cash deposits of CAD 12,000, CAD 5,000 and CAD 6,000 – Single LCTR for CAD 23,000

We can expect to see guidance from FINTRAC ahead of the enforce date. If you have questions prior to this,  it is possible to write to FINTRAC to request a policy interpretation.

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. The revised regulations amended this to “’as soon as reasonably practicable’ after measures have been completed to establish that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a transaction or attempted transaction is related to money laundering or terrorist financing”.

This would require reports to be submitted to FINTRAC shortly after a reporting entity conducts an analysis that established reasonable grounds for suspicion. It will be important to have detailed processes for unusual transaction investigations. It will be interesting to see how FINTRAC looks at this obligation during examinations.

Terrorist Property Reporting

A very small change (or clarification), related to Terrorist Property Reports, has been made in the final regulations. The timing requirement for filing has changed from “without delay” to “immediately”. This means regulated entities need to report that they are in possession of terrorist property as soon as they become aware.

Information Included in Reports to FINTRAC

Certain information is required in reports to FINTRAC. The final regulations introduce changes to reporting schedules, requiring more detailed information to be filed with FINTRAC then previously was required. 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 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 or entity’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. Such changes may mean working with your IT folks to ensure you are retaining the needed data in a format that will be easy to extract.

For full details on what has changed for FINTRAC report fields, we have created unofficial redline which can be found here.

Ongoing Compliance Training

The amended regulations have introduced a requirement to document a plan for ongoing compliance training. This differs from the current requirement to develop and maintain a written training program.

In practice, this means that in addition to documenting all of the training that has already been completed, you will need to clearly document future training plans.

Risk Assessment Obligations

With the last round of AML changes, we saw the addition of “New Technologies and Developments” as a newly added category to the Risk-Based Approach requirements. This round of changes makes the next logical progression, which is the obligation to assess the money laundering and terrorist financing risk of any product, delivery channel or new technology before implementation. Meaning, if you are looking to take your business online and are going to use this fancy, new ID software, you had better take careful inventory and document where your risks are, and be sure the appropriate controls have been put in place, before going live but many MSBs have already implemented this best practice.

We’re Here To Help

If you would like assistance in updating your compliance program and processes, or have any questions related to the changes, please get in touch using our online form on our website, by emailing info@outliercanada.com or by calling us toll-free at 1-844-919-1623.

Foreign Money Services Business in Canada

Background

On July 10, 2019 the highly anticipated final amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) and its enacted regulations were released in the Canada Gazette. With this round of changes, Foreign Money Services Businesses (MSBs) will be subject to Canadian AML obligations.  This article is intended to give a high-level summary of the requirements as they relate to Foreign MSBs.

While foreign MSBs will have until June 1, 2020 to become compliant with Canadian requirements, it is highly recommended that you start budgeting and planning from now. It is expected that our regulator, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC), will allow foreign MSBs to register ahead of this date.

Note 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).

What Is A Money Services Business?

MSBs are considered reporting entities under the law in Canada.  This means that they must comply with certain requirements and answer to their regulator.  You are a money services business (MSB) in Canada if your business offers any of the following services to the public:

  • Foreign exchange dealing;
  • Remitting or transmitting funds;
  • Issuing or redeeming money orders, traveller’s cheques and other negotiable instruments;
  • Dealing in virtual currencies.

In the past, foreign MSBs only had to comply with Canadian AML requirements if they had a “real and substantial connection” to Canada. A “real and substantial connection” was defined in FINTRAC policy interpretations as having one or more of the following statements be true:

  • Is the business incorporated in Canada;
  • Does the business have agents in Canada;
  • Does the business have physical locations in Canada; and/ or
  • Does the business maintain a bank account or a server in Canada.

As part of the recent AML amendments, foreign businesses that conduct any of the above transactions, and your services are directed to persons in Canada, Canadian AML obligations will apply.  You will need to be aware of the requirements under Canadian law as they apply to their Canadian customers.

Compliance Program

Under regulation, you will be required to have an anti-money laundering (AML) and counter terrorist financing (CTF) program that consists of these five elements:

  • Written policies and procedures: these list your responsibilities under Canadian law, and what you are doing to meet them.
  • A documented Risk Assessment: a document that describes and assesses the risk that your business could be used to launder money or finance terrorism.
  • The appointment of a Compliance Officer: the person who is ultimately responsible to develop and maintain your Canadian AML and CTF compliance program. Note the person appointed does not have to be located in Canada.
  • AML Compliance Effectiveness Reviews: testing and reporting completed at least every two years that assesses how well your compliance program is working.
  • Training: A documented training plan, and conducting, at least annually, testing to ensure that staff understands their roles and responsibilities as it relates to Canadian law.

Operational Compliance

In addition to a documented program, you will need to ensure you operate in a compliant manner with various requirements as it relates to your Canadian customers. This includes:

  • Collecting and recording client identification information;
  • Know your customer (KYC) information;
  • Reporting certain types of transactions to regulators and government agencies;
  • Maintaining appropriate registration and licensing; and
  • Keeping records.

Client Identification

As an MSB, you will be required to identify Canadian customers in accordance with Canadian law. You must verify the identity of a person who requests the following:

  • requests that they issue or redeem money orders, traveller’s cheques or similar negotiable instruments in an amount of CAD 3,000 or more;
  • requests that they initiate an electronic funds transfer of CAD 1,000 or more;
  • requests that they exchange an amount of CAD 3,000 or more in a foreign currency exchange transaction;
  • requests that they transfer an amount of CAD 1,000 or more in virtual currency;
  • requests that they exchange an amount of CAD 1,000 or more in a virtual currency exchange transaction; or
  • is a beneficiary of an international electronic funds transfer of CAD 1,000 or more, or of a transfer of an amount of CAD 1,000 or more in virtual currency, to whom they make the remittance.

As part of the recent AML changes, the identification methods that can be used to verify identification have been updated and modernized. Previously, a document used to verify identity was required to be “original, valid and current”. You can now confirm the identity of a customer by relying on an identity document where it is “authentic, valid, and current”, meaning you can confirm identification using acceptable documents, presented in an electronic means, so long as it can be authenticated.

There are other methods to verify a customer’s identity, which include referring to their Canadian credit file (Equifax or TransUnion), provided it has been in existence for at least three years, or a dual process method which involves referring to information from two reliable and independent sources.

If the customer is an entity (a company, partnership, trust, etc.), then measures must be taken to confirm the entity’s existence and beneficial ownership. Certain details must be collected for directors, trustees, beneficiaries of trusts, and anyone that owns or controls 25% or more of an entity.

Registration

You must register as a Foreign MSB with FINTRAC before June 1, 2020. The process itself is relatively straightforward and begins with a pre-registration form. As part of this process, you must provide FINTRAC with complete information about your business, including:

  • Bank account information;
  • Information about your compliance officer;
  • Number of employees;
  • Incorporation information (if your business type is a corporation);
  • Information about your MSB’s owners and senior management, such as their name and date of birth;
  • An estimate of the expected total dollar amount of transactions per year for each MSB service you provide;
  • Detailed information about every branch; and
  • Detailed information about every Canadian MSB agent.

Once registered, the registration must be maintained, and you must:

  • Keep information up to date;
  • Respond to requests for, or to clarify, information in the prescribed form and manner, within 30 days;
  • Renew your registration before it expires; and
  • Let FINTRAC know if you stop offering MSB services to Canadians.

SCAM ALERT: There is no cost to register an MSB with FINTRAC – although we’ve heard of several scams claiming that there is a fee. Please ensure that you are only registering through valid FINTRAC sites, which will contain “fintrac-canafe.gc.ca” in the URL. If you have received a phishing email or other request to pay FINTRAC registration fees, we recommend reporting this to both the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and to FINTRAC directly.

Reporting

Foreign MSBs are required to report certain transactions to FINTRAC where Canadians are involved, regardless if the funds or the instructions to transfer funds involve Canada. Foreign MSBs will be required to report to FINTRAC the following transactions:

  • The receipt, from a person or entity in Canada, of CAD 10,000 or more in cash;
  • The initiation, at the request of a person or entity in Canada, of an EFT of CAD 10,000 or more, if the EFT is sent or is to be sent from one country to another;
  • The final receipt of an EFT of CAD 10,000 or more, if the EFT was sent from one country to another and the beneficiary is in Canada;
  • The receipt from a person or entity in Canada of CAD 10,000 or more in virtual currency;
  • Any suspicious or attempted suspicious transactions; and
  • Any terrorist property.

We’re Here To Help

If you are a foreign MSB that deals in virtual currency, please check out our blog. If you have any questions related to your compliance obligations in Canada, or need assistance in developing your Canadian AML compliance program, please get in touch!

2019 AML Regulation Highlights for Dealers in Virtual Currency

Back in June 2018, we published an article on proposed AML rules for dealers in Virtual Currency. On July 10th, 2019, updates to Canada’s anti-money laundering (AML) regulations were published in the Canada Gazette. There are three different “coming into force” dates (the dates on which the content of various updates become requirements for regulated entities). 

  • July 10, 2019: a small change in wording (from “original” to “authentic”) is good news for digital identification.
  • June 1, 2020: dealers in virtual currency must be registered as money services businesses (MSBs) and have AML compliance programs in place.
  • June 1, 2021: additional provisions, including reporting large virtual currency transactions.

This is a significant regulatory package with a lot of changes (the document is over 200 pages long). This article will cover the major points for dealers in virtual currency, but it’s important to remember that there is a lot of nuances and differences between business models. We recommend speaking to your local neighbourhood compliance geek about how to adapt to these changes (if you need a compliance geek, please get in touch).

It is also worth noting that tokens that are considered securities would not be considered virtual currencies. Securities and securities dealers were already regulated. If you’re not sure whether or not a token is a security, we recommend reaching out to a securities lawyer (if you need recommendations, please feel free to contact us). It is possible to be both a securities dealer and a dealer in virtual currencies, but if you are only looking for the changes pertinent to securities dealers, you will find those in another article.

Hefty Disclaimers & Sharing

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).

Dealers In Virtual Currency

It’s important to start by understanding what’s being regulated. This is best done by considering some of the definitions that have been added to the regulation.

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

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) a private key of a cryptographic system 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)

virtual currency means

(a) a digital representation of value that can be used for payment or investment purposes 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) a private key of a cryptographic system that enables a person or entity to have access to a digital representation of value referred to in paragraph (a). (monnaie virtuelle)

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. (opération de change en monnaie virtuelle)

In terms of who will be regulated, businesses (whether or not the business is incorporated) that conduct transactions on behalf of their customers, including:

  • Exchanging digital currencies for fiat currencies; and 
  • Exchanging between virtual currencies.

This would include custodial wallet services that hold customers’ private keys on their behalf, as well as exchanges, brokerages, and automated teller machines (ATMs). The requirements apply to foreign and domestically based businesses. The inclusion of foreign MSBs means that it won’t matter where your business is incorporated. If you are targeting your services to Canadians, you are expected to comply with Canadian rules and you will need to be aware of requirements as they apply to your Canadian customers.

One of the most important notes in our view is “These amendments serve to mitigate the money laundering and terrorist activity financing vulnerabilities of virtual currency in a way that is consistent with the existing legal framework, while not unduly hindering innovation. For this reason, the amendments are targeted at persons or entities engaged in the business of dealing in virtual currencies, and not virtual currencies themselves.” It is expected that there will be additional updates to the regulations, and community consultations. During these processes, this distinction should remain an important one.

Digital Identification and “Authentic” Documents

Canadian businesses, such as MSBs, that are regulated for AML purposes must identify certain customers either because there is an ongoing service agreement, an account, or because the customer performs specific types of transactions. In these instances, the methods used to identify customers are prescribed in the regulations. Previously, there was a requirement that any document that was used in identification processes be “original”. A narrow view was taken of the definition of the word original: the document itself, in whatever form it was issued. No scans, copies or other digital representations were permitted. This was a significant challenge in non-face-to-face environments.

Effective on publication of the updates, the word “original” has been replaced with “authentic”. It’s important to keep in mind that while this does allow for documents to be submitted in a myriad of digital formats, there will be an expectation that reporting entities do something in order to determine whether or not the document is authentic. The regulations are not prescriptive in terms of how this will be done. We expect that a number of different solutions, ranging from having a human review documents, to using AI to make risk-based determinations, will be valid. If there are processes that you aren’t sure about, it is possible to write to FINTRAC to request a policy interpretation. We expect that FINTRAC will release updated guidance on identification, and issue many subsequent policy interpretations as the landscape evolves.

For customers that were previously identified, there is an expectation that the customer is identified in accordance with the rules that were in place at the time. Unfortunately, this means that if a customer was identified before the updated regulations were published, and an electronic version of a document was used, the identification may not be considered complete. It will be important for businesses to assess the processes that were in place at this point in time in order to make an accurate determination of whether or not the standards were being met.

Registering as a Money Services Business (MSB)

Although the legislation has been published, Dealers in Virtual Currency are not yet able to register as money services businesses (MSBs) with FINTRAC, Canada’s federal AML regulator and financial intelligence unit (FIU). The process is relatively straightforward, beginning with a pre-registration form. 

The FINTRAC registration process is generally very efficient (taking two to four weeks in total). As part of this process, you must provide FINTRAC with complete information about your business, including:

  • Bank account information;
  • Information about your compliance officer;
  • Number of employees;
  • Incorporation information (if your business type is a corporation);
  • Information about your MSB’s owners and senior management, such as their name and date of birth;
  • An estimate of the expected total dollar amount of transactions per year for each MSB service you provide;
  • Detailed information about every branch; and
  • Detailed information about every Canadian MSB agent.

You are not required to have locations or offices in Canada in order to register as an MSB with FINTRAC. Once registered, the registration must be maintained and you must:

  • Keep registration information up to date;
  • Respond to requests for, or to clarify information, in the prescribed form and manner, within 30 days;
  • Renew our registration before it expires; and
  •  Let FINTRAC know if we stop offering MSB services to Canadians

SCAM ALERT: There is no cost to register an MSB with FINTRAC – although we’ve heard of several scams claiming that there is a fee. Please ensure that you are only registering through valid FINTRAC sites, which will contain “fintrac-canafe.gc.ca” in the url. If you have received a phishing email or other request to pay FINTRAC registration fees, we recommend reporting this to both the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre and to FINTRAC directly.

All dealers in virtual currency are expected to register with FINTRAC by June 1, 2020.

Building or Updating Your Compliance Program

MSBs in Canada are required to have a documented AML compliance program in place. In all instances, when something is a requirement it’s not enough to have done something to meet that requirement. Both your process and what you’ve actually done in order to meet the requirement must be documented. An AML compliance program has these elements:

  1. Compliance Officer: this is the person who will be responsible for your AML compliance program. They should understand Canadian AML requirements, be relatively senior in your company (access to your Board and Management team is necessary), and sign up to receive updates from FINTRAC.
  2. Policies and Procedures: these are documents that describe what you are required to do, and how you will do it. The processes should be an accurate description of what you are actually doing and detailed enough that a new hire could follow them.
  3. Risk Assessment: this is a document that considers the risk that your business could be used to launder money and/or finance terrorism. FINTRAC has released detailed guidance for MSBs to help create this type of document.
  4. Ongoing Training: any staff (including part-time and temporary staff) that deal with customers, transactions, and systems must receive training on a regular basis (this is generally interpreted to mean at least annually). It’s fine to rely on an external vendor, but your training should also include training on your processes.
  5. AML Compliance Effectiveness Reviews/Audits: every two years, you must complete a formal review of the effectiveness of your AML compliance program and operations. This can be conducted internally or by an external vendor.

In addition, to your documented program, you will need to ensure you operate in a compliant manner which includes, registering with FINTRAC, identifying customers under certain circumstances (more on this under customer identification), collect know your customer (KYC) information, keep records, and report certain transactions to FINTRAC.

All dealers in virtual currency are expected to have compliance programs in place and operational by June 1, 2020.

Customer Identification and Collecting KYC Information

For dealers in virtual currency, customer identification and the collection of KYC information will be required where virtual currency exchange transactions valued at CAD 1,000 or more are conducted. This will include exchanging fiat for virtual currency, as well as exchanges between virtual currencies.

Customers must also be identified, where possible if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a transaction is related to money laundering or terrorist financing. When a transaction is suspicious, there is no minimum value threshold for identification.

Identification in this context must be completed in specific ways, each of which require particular records to be maintained. The chart below is from FINTRAC’s current customer identification guidance (which must be updated to reflect the change in wording from original to authentic, though other elements remain unchanged).

If the customer is an entity (a company, partnership, trust, etc.), then measures must be taken to confirm the entity’s existence and beneficial ownership. Certain details must be collected for directors, trustees, beneficiaries of trusts, and anyone that owns or controls 25% or more of an entity. This includes “indirect ownership” (such as ownership through another company).

There is also information about the customer that must be collected. For individuals, this includes name, date of birth, address, and occupation or principal business. For entities, this includes name, address, place of incorporation (if applicable), and incorporation number (if applicable). 

All dealers in virtual currency are expected to have processes in place to identify customers and collect KYC information by June 1, 2020.

FINTRAC Reporting

For reporting, there are two important dates. By June 1, 2020, dealers in virtual currency will need to report the same types of transactions that MSBs are currently required to report. These are:

  • Large Cash Transactions: if you receive cash (this means fiat in the form of bills and/or coins) valued at CAD 10,000 or more in the same 24-hour period, by or on behalf of the same customer, it must be reported to FINTRAC within 15 calendar days. 
  • Suspicious Transactions: if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that a transaction is related to money laundering or terrorist financing, it must be reported to FINTRAC within 30 calendar days of the discovery of a fact that led you to determine that the transaction was suspicious.
  • Attempted Suspicious Transactions: if a customer or prospective customer requests a transaction, but does not complete it (including transactions that you reject), and there are reasonable grounds to suspect money laundering or terrorist financing, then it must be reported. The timeframe is the same as it would be for completed transactions.
  • Terrorist Property: if you’re in possession of property (which includes funds and virtual currency) that belong to a terrorist or terrorist group, it must be reported without delay, and the property must be frozen. In addition to reporting to FINTRAC, these reports are also sent to the CSIS and RCMP – by fax. In order to know if customers fall into this category, it is important to screen against lists published by OSFI. We’ve worked with some friends on a tool to make this easier, which you can try here (use the code Free100 for a free trial).
  • Electronic Funds Transfers: if you send or receive international electronic funds transfers (EFTs), including wires, valued at CAD 10,000 or more, by or on behalf of the same customer, it must be reported to FINTRAC within 5 working days.

If you are required to report transactions valued at CAD 10,000 or more in a 24-hour period, you must have a mechanism in place to detect reportable transactions.

It’s noteworthy that if you are conducting international EFTs on your customers’ behalf, you may already be an MSB. The best way to know for certain, in our opinion, is to request a policy position from FINTRAC. This can be done free of charge by emailing guidelines-lignesdirectrices@fintrac-canafe.gc.ca. This can also be done on your behalf by a lawyer or consultant.

By June 1, 2021, a new report will be introduced.

  • Large Virtual Currency Transactions: if you receive virtual currency valued at CAD 10,000 or more in the same 24-hour period, by or on behalf of the same customer, it must be reported to FINTRAC within 5 working days.

There will be some additional changes to reporting and reporting timelines, including the requirement to report suspicious and attempted suspicious transactions “as soon as practicable” after you have determined that there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the transaction is related to money laundering or terrorist financing.

For Extreme Compliance Nerds

We clearly mean nerd as the highest term of admiration and endearment, and for you, we have created red-lined versions of the regulations, with new content showing as tracked changes. This is not an official version of the regulations, and we do, of course, recommend that you check it against the official version.

Need a Hand?

Whether you need to figure out if you’re a dealer in virtual currency, to put a compliance program in place, or to evaluate your existing compliance program, we can help. You can get in touch using our online form, by emailing info@outliercanada.com, or by calling us toll-free at 1-844-919-1623.

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.

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.

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.

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 (MSB) 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.

 

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.

An MSB by Any Other Name

What’s in an MSB?

Under Canadian federal legislation, a money services business (MSB), in Canada, is a person or entity engaged in the business of any of the following activities:

  • Foreign exchange dealing;
  • Remitting or transmitting funds by any means or through any person, entity or electronic funds transfer network; or
  • Issuing or redeeming money orders, traveller’s cheques or other similar negotiable instruments (except for cheques payable to a named person or entity).

More detailed guidance on these specifications can be found in FINTRAC Interpretation Notice no. 1, published by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC). There is also a number of excellent guidance documents for MSBs available on FINTRAC’s website.

Payment Service Providers (PSPs) and Payment Processors

We’ve had a lot of MSBs lately calling to ask if they can simply declare themselves as payment service providers (PSPs) or payment processors rather than MSBs.

The short answer is “no.”

The long answer is “only if you change your business model to include only PSP activities.”

PSP or payment processing services, in FINTRAC’s view are quite restricted. These include providing payment processing services for the purposes of:

  • Payroll and commission payments, or
  • Tuition fee payments, or
  • Utility bill payments, or
  • Mortgage and rent payment.

These services do not, generally, involve any element of foreign exchange. While this is probably not the answer that many MSBs are looking for, especially those that are labouring to maintain banking relationships in the current climate, it is important information. Operating an MSB without registering with FINTRAC or maintaining a compliance program can lead to penalties including administrative monetary penalties (AMPs) and the publication of the MSB’s name on FINTRAC’s website. To date, 36 MSBs have received a total of $814,805 in AMPs.

Corollary Services

There are also cases where MSB type activities are performed as a “corollary” another product or service. In these instances, the business does not offer MSB type products or services to the public as standalone services, but provides these in order to facilitate other services. The most common exemption that we have seen relates to lending services.

For example: A company that is in the business of automotive lending (loans) might make a payment on its customer’s behalf to a car dealership. In this case, the payment that is remitted to the car dealership could be considered “remitting or transmitting funds by any means or through any person, entity or electronic funds transfer network” (which would be an MSB service), however, it is only remitted for the purpose of issuing the loan, and is considered a corollary.

There are, however, a number of cases that might appear to be corollary services on the surface, which are not. Unless your business model is identical to a business model where FINTRAC has already issued a policy interpretation citing the MSB services offered as a corollary, we highly recommend seeking a policy interpretation from FINTRAC in order to ensure that you are not carrying out MSB business in the regulator’s view.

FINTRAC’s Policy Interpretations – Just Ask

Fortunately, FINTRAC publishes its policy interpretations on its website. We’ve pulled together the most relevant of these in this document.

MSB PSP FINTRAC Policy Interpretation at 16Jan2017

FINTRAC’s policy positions are provided as guidance to the industry. If you have specific questions about your business model, you may contact FINTRAC directly via email at: guidelines-lignesdirectrices@fintrac-canafe.gc.ca.

There is no cost to contacting FINTRAC directly, however, it generally takes 4-8 weeks (in our experience) to receive a response in writing. We recommend reading and referring to FINTRAC’s existing guidance (including guidelines and policy interpretations) in order to frame your question effectively.

Need a Hand?

If you have questions about this document, would like to receive a copy in Word, or need assistance with compliance, please feel free to contact us. We aim to answer all queries within 2 business days.

Phone: (844) 919-1623

Email: info@outliercanada.com

Web Form: https://www.outliercanada.com/contact-us/

AMF Examining Non-Quebec MSBs

It has been a requirement for some time that money services businesses (MSBs) operating in Quebec become licensed with the Authorité des Marchés Financiers (AMF). We have recently learned that the AMF has begun to examine MSBs that are licensed, but do not have a physical presence in Quebec. Our colleague Michael Garellek of Gowling WLG (Canada) LLP has issued a useful practice note (below) with useful tips.

Practice_note_of_Michael_Garellek (1)

MSBs should note that the examinations conducted by the AMF are similar (though not identical) to examinations conducted by the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC). We recommend that MSBs select a respondent in Quebec who is familiar with the AMF’s examination processes, and able to handle these types of requests on the MSB’s behalf.

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