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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.

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.

 

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/

Sanctions This Week: July 25th – 29th, 2016

 

OSFISanctions Pic

There were no updates released from OSFI this week.

Go to the OSFI lists page.

OFAC

The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Branch, The Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), released four updates last week.  One update was related to the publication of Cuba-related Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), covering some of the recent changes made to the sanctions that had previously been placed on Cuba.  Other updates included the removal of 12 individuals from the Counter Terrorism Designations List, the issuance of a Finding of Violation and the publication of Iran General License J.

OFAC administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals.  The sanctions target countries, regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the U.S.

The update to the Cuba-related FAQs was for the issuance of a new FAQ (#38) and a revision of an existing FAQ (#39), relating to certain information collection and recordkeeping requirements for persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction who provide authorized carrier or travel services to or from Cuba for specifically licensed travelers.

The update to the Counter Terrorism Designations List included the removal of 12 individuals of Libyan origin who are currently residing in the UK.

The Finding of Violation was issued to Compass Bank, which uses the trade name BBVA Compass, for violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations. From June 12, 2013 to June 3, 2014, Compass maintained accounts on behalf of two individuals on OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (the “SDN List”).

The final update of the week was related to OFAC issuing “General License J”, authorizing the re-exportation of certain civil aircraft to Iran on temporary sojourn and related transactions.

See the Cuba-related FAQ update on OFAC’s website.

See the Counter Terrorism Designations List update on OFAC’s website.

See the issuance of a Finding of Violation to Compass Bank on OFAC’s website.

See the Iran General License J details on OFAC’s website.

See OFAC’s recent actions page.

Need A Hand?

We would love to hear from you.  If there are subjects in this post that you would like to know more about, or if you need assistance with your compliance program, please contact us.

Sanctions This Week: July 18th – 22nd, 2016

OSFIOutlier3_032

On July 18th and 22nd, 2016, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) released the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC’s) Al’Qaida and Taliban regulations updates to the sanctions list, deleting one individual and amending another.

The individuals are subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo set out in paragraph 2 of Security Council resolution 2253 (2015) adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations.

The review of the individual who was deleted from the list was triggered by regularly scheduled updates.  However, no additional information was available regarding the justification.

The amendment of one individual’s information included the following:

  • A physical description;
  • The confirmation of the most recent position held within the Taliban, as of April 2015; and
  • That they are currently involved in drug trafficking and operate a heroin laboratory in Afghanistan.

See the July 18th update on the United Nations (UN) website.

See the July 22nd update on the United Nations (UN) website.

Go to the OSFI lists page.

OFAC

The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Branch, The Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), released three updates last week.  One update was related to the addition of three individuals to the Counter Terrorism Designations list.  The second update was related to the addition of multiple individuals and entities to the Syria and Non-proliferation Designations lists.  The final update last week was to the Kingpin Act and Panama-related Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) regarding General Licenses.

OFAC administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals.  The sanctions target countries, regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the U.S.

The changes to the Counter Terrorism Designations list included three individuals of different nationalities, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Algeria, though all have been linked to Al Qa’ida.

The update to the Syria Sanctions list included eight individuals, all of whom are Syrian.  The seven entities, which range from construction, to finance to manufacturing industries and vary in location, which include:

  • Syria;
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis;
  • Cyprus;
  • UAE; and

The update to the Kingpin Act and Panama-related FAQs are specific General License 5B and 6B

See the Counter Terrorism Designations list update on OFAC’s website.

See the Syrian and Non-proliferation Designations lists update on OFAC’s website.

See the Kingpin Act and Panama-related General License FAQs update on OFAC’s website.

See OFAC’s recent actions page.

Need A Hand?

We would love to hear from you.  If there are subjects in this post that you would like to know more about, or if you need assistance with your compliance program, please contact us.

Sanctions This Week: July 4th – 8th, 2016

OSFISanctions Pic

On July 5th, 2016, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) released the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC’s) Al’Qaida and Taliban regulations update to the sanctions list, removing one individual.

Individuals who are included in the list are subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo set out in paragraph 2 of Security Council resolution 2253 (2015) adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations. The individual delisted was decided following a review, initiated by a request that was submitted to the Ombudsperson.  The individual is a German national and has been imprisoned in Germany since 2007.

See the update on the United Nations (UN) website.

Go to the OSFI lists page.

OFAC

The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Branch, The Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), released three updates last week.  The first update, released on July 5th, 2016 was related to the settlement of a potential civil liability for apparent violations of the Iranian and Sudanese transactions and sanctions regulations.  The second update was related to the addition of multiple North Korean individuals and entities to the North Korean Designations List.  The final update was further clarification to the new Cuba-related Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).

OFAC administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals.  The sanctions target countries, regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the U.S.

The settlement on July 5th for apparent violations of the Iranian and Sudanese sanctions was levied against Alcon Laboratories, Inc., Alcon Pharmaceuticals Ltd., and Alcon Management SA.  In the course of the investigations, Alcon produced documents and information where it appeared that from August 2008 to December 2011, Alcon violated Iranian sanctions on 452 occasions and Sudanese sanctions on 61 occasions.  Alcon engaged in the sale and exportation of medical end-use surgical and pharmaceutical products from the United States to distributors located in Iran and Sudan without OFAC authorization. OFAC determined that Alcon did not make a voluntary self-disclosure and that the apparent violations were not egregious. The statutory maximum civil monetary penalty amount for the Apparent Violations was $138,982,584 USD and the base penalty amount was $16,927,000 USD.  Ultimately, Alcon paid $1,317,150 USD.

The North Korean sanctions list update included numerous individuals and entities, some of whom are high-ranking officials with titles such as:

  • Director of the Fifth Bureau of the Reconnaissance;
  • Director of the Workers’ Party of Korea Propaganda and Agitation Department; and
  • Minister of People’s Security.

The update to the Cuba-related FAQs were specific to the issuance of two new questions added, #43 and #50, regarding the use of the U.S. dollar in certain transactions.

See the Enforcement Action update on OFAC’s website.

See the North Korea Designations List update on OFAC’s website.

See the Cuba-related FAQ update on OFAC’s website.

See OFAC’s Recent Actions page.

Need A Hand?

We would love to hear from you.  If there are subjects in this post that you would like to know more about, or if you need assistance with your compliance program, please contact us.

Sanctions This Week: June 27th – July 1st, 2016

Sanctions Pic

OSFI

On June 27th, 2016, the Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions (OSFI) released two updates to the United Nations Security Council’s (UNSC’s) Al-Qaida and Taliban regulations sanctions list, amending 8 individuals and 1 entity.

The individuals are subject to the assets freeze, travel ban and arms embargo set out in paragraph 2 of Security Council resolution 2253 (2015) adopted under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations.

All of the individuals are of different nationalities, but all have connections to Al-Qaida and French terrorist groups.  Some of the individuals have been detained and are currently serving out sentences.  Where others have arrest warrants issued by France, which are currently outstanding.

Go to the OSFI UNAQTR update on the OSFI page.

Go to the OSFI lists page.

OFAC

The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Branch, The Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), released three updates last week.  One update was related to the Counter Terrorist Designations list.  The second update was the publication of new Panama-related and Kingpin Act General Licenses and related Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ). The FAQ update is related to recent adjustments made to the sanctions placed on Panama.

OFAC also released the details about the implementation of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act, where penalties related to AML failings have increased 150%, the allowable maximum.  The adjustment to the base fine of USD 11,000, has now increased to USD 27,500.  This is based off the Consumer Price Index, and if you are curious about the actual math, see the image below:

OFAC CMP Calculation

OFAC administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals.  The sanctions target countries, regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the U.S.  The changes to the Counter Terrorism Designations list included the removal of 11 Somali and Djibouti nationals.  The update also included the addition of one individual of Indian nationality with ties to the entity added, which is a section of Al-Qaida operating within India.

See the Counter Terrorism Designations List update on OFAC’s website.

See the Kingpin Act/Panama-related General Licenses and FAQs update on OFAC’s website.

See the Implementation of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act update on OFAC’s website.

See OFAC’s Recent Actions page.

Need A Hand?

We would love to hear from you.  If there are subjects in this post that you would like to know more about, or if you need assistance with your compliance program, please contact us.

Sanctions This Week: June 6th – 12th, 2016

OSFISanctions Pic

There were no updates released from OSFI this week.

Go to the OSFI lists page.

OFAC

The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Branch, The Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC), released two updates to five sanction lists last week.  The updates, include the following:

  • Release of the 2015 Terrorist Assets Report;
  • Iran-related FAQ;
  • Counter Terrorism Designation;
  • Termination of the OFAC Fax-on-Demand Service; and
  • Kingpin Act/Honduras and Kingpin Act/Panama-related General Licenses and FAQ.

OFAC administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S. foreign policy and national security goals.  The sanctions target countries, regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the U.S.

The 2015 Terrorist Assets Report is theTwenty-fourth Annual Report to the Congress on Assets in the United States Relating to Terrorist Countries and International Terrorism Program Designees.  This report cites a number of sanctions-related authorities including executive orders.  All of the legal materials cited in this report may be found in the legal section of OFAC’s website.

The Iran-related FAQ was adding two FAQs related to Financial and Banking Measures  and nine FAQs related to Foreign Entities Owned or Controlled by U.S. Persons.  OFAC added these FAQs to provide further clarity on the scope of the sanctions lifting that occurred on Implementation Day of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).

The Counter Terrorism Designation list update was related to a single entity, Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, who are known to be operating in Syria.

The termination of the OFAC Fax-on-Demand services was due to a lack of user demand for the service which is effective Friday, June 10, 2016.  General information pertaining to sanctions programs will remain publicly available on OFAC’s website.

The recently published update and FAQ to the Kingpin Act General Licenses, included four new General Licenses related to:

  • General License 1B – Authorizing certain transactions and activities to liquidate and wind down Banco Continental, S.A.;
  • General License 4B – Authorizing certain transactions involving individuals or entities located in the Panamanian Mall and associated complex, Soho Panama, S.A. (a.k.a. Soho Mall Panama);
  • General License 5A – Authorizing certain transactions and activities related to the Panamanian seizure of Balboa Bank & Trust; and
  • General License 6A – Authorizing certain transactions and activities related to the Panamanian intervention in Balboa Securities, Corp.

These General Licenses authorize certain transactions and activities that would otherwise be prohibited pursuant to the Kingpin Act.  OFAC also amended four FAQs related to the above licenses.

See the 2015 Terrorist Assets Report on OFAC’s website.

See the Iran-related FAQ updates on OFAC’s website.

See the Counter Terrorism Designations list update on OFAC’s website.

See the termination of OFAC’s Fax-on-Demand service information on OFAC’s website.

See the Kingpin Act/Honduras and Kingpin Act/Panama-related General Licenses and FAQs update on OFAC’s website.

See OFAC’s recent actions page.

Need A Hand?

We would love to hear from you.  If there are subjects in this post that you would like to know more about, or if you need assistance with your compliance program, please contact us.

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