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Amending the Amendments!

Background

Back on July 10, 2019, the highly anticipated final version of the amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) and its enacted regulations were published. However, on February 15, 2020, further proposed amendments to those amended regulations was published in the Canada Gazette. To make reading these changes a little easier, we have created a redlined version of the regulations, with new content showing as tracked changes, which can be found here.

The Regulatory Impact Statement for this round of proposed changes states the following: “The proposed amendments to the regulations would strengthen Canada’s AML/ATF Regime, align measures with international standards and level the playing field across reporting entities by applying stronger customer due diligence requirements and beneficial ownership requirements to designated non-financial businesses and professions (DNFBPs); modifying the definition of business relationship for the real estate sector; aligning customer due diligence measures for casinos with international standards; aligning virtual currency record-keeping obligations with international standards; clarifying the cross-border currency reporting program; clarifying a number of existing requirements; and making minor technical amendments”. The proposed amendments are expected to come into force on June 1, 2021.

As with all proposed changes, there is a comment period. This comment period is much shorter than the last one, at only 30 days. For anyone interested in commenting on the proposed changes, comments are to be addressed to Lynn Hemmings, Director General, Financial Crimes and Security Division, Financial Sector Policy Branch, Department of Finance, 90 Elgin Street, Ottawa, Ontario K1A 0G5 or email: fin.fc-cf.fin@canada.ca.

While these are proposed changes, guidance from FINTRAC related to the amendments to regulation would hopefully be seen ahead of the coming into force dates of the final version.

We have summarized what this could mean for your business below.

Money Services Businesses

PEP

The most significant proposed change for Money Services Businesses (MSB)s is related to Politically exposed persons (PEP) determinations. Currently, a PEP determination must be made for international EFTs of CAD 100,000 or more. The proposed regulations will require MSBs to make a PEP determination when the MSB enters into a business relationship with a person.

If you currently conduct list screening, PEP screening could easily be added to that process.

Dealers in Virtual Currency

Travel Rule

For dealers in virtual currency, there is an additional proposed requirement on top of the requirements that were published in the last round of AML changes.  The proposed amendments add the requirement for records to be kept for virtual currency transfers of CAD 1,000 or more.

The record must contain the following:

  1. include with the transfer, the name, address and, if any, the account number or other reference number of both the person or entity that requested the transfer and the beneficiary; and
  2. take reasonable measures to ensure that any transfer received includes the information referred to in paragraph (a) above.

If the information required is not obtained, a determination of whether the transaction should be suspended or rejected will need to be made.

Given the nature of virtual currency transfers, it will be interesting to see how this requirement plays out, as currently, there are no technology solutions (that we are aware of) that would solve for this.

A reminder that dealers in virtual currency will be considered MSBs as of June 1, 2020. Check out our blog post for a full list of regulatory requirements related to dealers in virtual currency.

Real Estate

Business Relationship

One of the most significant proposed changes for real estate developers, brokers and sale representatives is related to the definition of a business relationship. Currently, a business relationship is defined as:

If a person or entity does not have an account with you, a business relationship is formed once you have conducted two transactions or activities for which you have to:

  • verify the identity of the individual; or
  • confirm the existence of the entity.

The proposed amendments will change that definition for real estate developers, brokers and sale representatives to only one transaction.

For business relationships, a reporting entity must:

  • keep a record of the purpose and intended nature of the business relationship;
  • conduct ongoing monitoring of your business relationship with your client to:
    • detect any transactions that need to be reported as suspicious;
    • keep client identification and beneficial ownership information, as well as the purpose and intended nature records, up-to-date;
    • reassess your clients risk level based on their transactions and activities; and
    • determine if the transactions and activities are consistent with what you know about your client;
  • keep a record of the measures you take to monitor your business relationships and the information you obtain as a result.

We will have to wait for guidance to see how ongoing monitoring obligations applies to the real estate sector if this change takes effect.

PEP

The proposed amendments will require real estate developers, brokers and sale representatives to make a Politically exposed persons (PEP) determination when they enter into a business relationship (as defined above) with a client. In addition, they will also be required to take reasonable measures to determine whether a client from whom they receive an amount of CAD 100,000 or more is a PEP.

Beneficial Ownership

The proposed amendments will require real estate developers, brokers and sale representatives to comply with existing beneficial ownership requirements that apply to other reporting entities.

This means when identifying an entity, a reporting entity needs to collect the following for all Directors and individuals who own or control, directly or indirectly, 25% or more of the organization:

  • Their full legal name;
  • Their full home address; and
  • Their role and/or ownership stake in the organization.

Given the obligation is to obtain, rather than verify, such information, we do not expect this requirement to be overly burdensome for the real estate sector.

Dealers in Precious Metals and Stones

PEP

Dealers in Precious Metals and Stones (DPMS)s will be required to make a PEP determination when they enter into a business relationship with a client. In addition, a DPMS will be required to take reasonable measures to determine whether a person from whom they receive an amount of CAD 100,000 or more is a PEP.

A reminder that a business relationship is defined as:

If a person or entity does not have an account with you, a business relationship is formed once you have conducted two transactions or activities for which you have to:

  • verify the identity of the individual; or
  • confirm the existence of the entity.

Given the definition of a business relationship, we do not expect this requirement to be overly burdensome. If you currently conduct list screening, PEP screening could easily be added to that process.

Beneficial Ownership

The proposed amendments will required DPMSs to comply with existing beneficial ownership requirements that apply to other reporting entities.

This means when identifying an entity, a reporting entity needs to collect the following for all Directors and individuals who own or control, directly or indirectly, 25% or more of the organization:

  • Their full legal name;
  • Their full home address; and
  • Their role and/or ownership stake in the organization.

Given the obligation is to obtain, rather than verify, such information, we do not expect this requirement to be overly burdensome for the DPMS sector.

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!

Regulations Amending the Regulations February 15, 2020- Redlined Versions

The following red-lined versions have been created to reflect the amendments to Canadian anti-money laundering (AML) regulations published in the Canada Gazette on February 15, 2020. You can also read our article “Amending the Amendments!” for a summary of the proposed changes by industry.

Redlined versions of all the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations are listed below for download.

These documents are not official versions of the regulations. Official versions can be found on the Government of Canada’s Justice Laws Website.

Regulations Amending the Regulations Amending Certain Regulations Made Under the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act

Please click the link below for downloadable PDF file.
Amending_the_Regulations_Amending_Certain_Regulations_Made_Under_the_Proceeds_of_Crime_July_2019 – Redlined_Feb_2020

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations

Please click the links below for downloadable pdf files.
PCMLTF_July_2019_Redlined_Full_July_2019 – Redlined_Feb_2020

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Suspicious Transaction Reporting Regulations

Please click the links below for downloadable pdf files.
PCMLTF_Suspicious_Transaction_Reporting_Regulations_July_2019 – Redlined_Feb_2020

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Registration Regulations

Please click the link below for a downloadable PDF file.
PCMLTF_Registration_Regulations_July_2019 – Redlined_Feb_2020

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Administrative Monetary Penalties Regulations

Please click the link below for a downloadable pdf file.
PCMLTF_Administrative_Monetary_Penalties_Regulations_July_2019 – Redlined_Feb_2020

Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Cross-Border Currency and Monetary Instruments Reporting Regulations

Please click the link below for a downloadable pdf file.
PCMLTF_Cross-Border_Currency_and_Monetary_Instruments_Reporting_Regulations_July_2019 – Redlined_Feb_2020

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.

Are Your Business Relationship Records Ready for FINTRAC?

This article is focused on business relationships that are not account-based (which means that if you are a financial institution or a securities dealer that only conducts transactions with your customers in the context of the accounts that they hold with you, you can skip this one).

Over the past few months, I have assisted some of my clients with their Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) examinations.  While I cannot generally answer questions on my clients’ behalf during these meetings, I can help them prepare for the examination, understand what the examiner is asking for, and redirect them if they stray off track (provided that they have signed an Authorizing_or_Cancelling_a_Representative form). While the businesses examined were quite different in size and complexity, their examinations have been similar, particularly when it came to questions about business relationships.  

For certain types of reporting entities, including money services businesses (MSBs), real estate businesses, and dealers in precious metals and stones (DPMSs) (which are the focus of this article), during each on-site review, the FINTRAC examiner requested a list of all the “Business Relationships” for the review period. Certain information was requested, which was the same in each instance, and included the following:

  • The purpose and intended nature of the business relationship (sometimes called PINBR for short);
  • The risk rating;
  • The date the reporting entity entered into a business relationship with the customer; 
  • The records of any ongoing monitoring (or enhanced measures for high risk business relationships) that has been conducted; and 
  • The last time the customer information was reviewed/updated.

In most cases, this information was not requested in advance.  This meant that it needed to be provided to the examiner while the examiner was on-site (typically a single business day).  For some reporting entities, obtaining this information was not something that their recordkeeping systems were set up to do easily.

Quick Review – What is a Business Relationship?

The Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations (PCMLTFR) defines a Business Relationship as:

Any relationship with a client, established by a person or entity, to conduct financial transactions or provide services related to those transactions and, as the case may be,

(a) If the client holds one or more accounts with that person or entity, all transactions and activities relating to those accounts; or

(b) If the client does not hold an account, only those transactions and activities in respect of which that person or entity is required to ascertain the identity of a person or confirm the existence of an entity under these Regulations.

If you’re not entirely certain what that means, FINTRAC’s guidance on Business Relationship Requirements provides additional clarification:

You enter into a Business Relationship when you conduct two or more transactions where you have to:

    1. ID an individual; or
    2. Confirm the existence of an organization.

Specifically, conducting the following transactions or activities that require you to identify an individual or confirm the existence of an entity:

  • Remittances or transmissions of $1,000 or more (for MSBs);
  • Foreign currency exchange of $3,000 or more (for MSBs);
  • Issuing or redeeming negotiable instruments of $3,000 or more (for MSBs);
  • Large cash transactions (for all reporting entity types);
  • Suspicious transactions and attempted suspicious transactions (for all reporting entity types);
  • Activities which trigger a receipt of funds record (for Real Estate);
  • Virtual currency exchange transactions of $1,000 or more (for MSBs as of June 1, 2020);
  • Large Virtual Currency Transactions Reports (for all reporting entities as of June 1, 2020); and
  • Activities which trigger the creation of a client information record (it’s probably worth mentioning here that these will also trigger a third party determination):
    • Entering into an ongoing service agreement with a customer that is an entity (for MSBs); and/or
    • Entering into a purchase or sale agreement (for Real Estate).

In its simplest form, a business relationship means that a client or customer has done two things that cause identification requirements to be triggered.

Business Relationship Recordkeeping & Monitoring

When you establish a Business Relationship with a customer, you have three things to do.  

First, determine and record the “purpose and intended nature” of the Business Relationship. Some examples provided in the FINTRAC guidance are: 

For MSBs:

  • Foreign exchange for travel or purchase of goods; 
  • Funds transfers for family support or purchase of goods; 
  • Buying/cashing money orders or traveller’s cheques; 

For Real Estate businesses:

  • Purchasing or selling residential property;
  • Purchasing or selling commercial property;
  • Purchase or selling land for commercial use;

For DPMSs:

  • Purchasing or selling jewellery;
  • Purchasing or selling precious metals (for example, gold, silver, platinum, or palladium); and
  • Purchasing or selling precious stones (for example, diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, tanzanite, rubies, or alexandrite).

Next, you need to conduct ongoing monitoring of all Business Relationships, based on the level of risk.  This seems to be where the biggest stumbling blocks are for reporting entities. The purpose of ongoing monitoring is to ensure the following:

  • Detect any transactions that need to be reported as suspicious;
  • Keep identification and beneficial ownership information, as well as the purpose and intended nature records, up-to-date;
  • Reassess the risk level based on their transactions and activities; and 
  • Determine if the transactions make sense given the nature and purpose recorded.

It is not enough just to conduct the monitoring, you must be able to produce some type of record that proves that you’ve done the monitoring. The record should be specific about what was done, and what conclusions were drawn.

If there is something out of the ordinary, expect that the FINTRAC examiner will ask questions. For example, if a customer has indicated that the purpose and intended nature of the business relationship is “fund transfer for family support” but it is clear that payments are being made that are related to the purchase of goods, questions will be raised. It is expected that information about the purpose and intended nature of the business relationship is updated if it has changed – and that you will ask questions when the actual transaction patterns are different than what you expected.

It is this final step, keeping a record of the measures taken to monitor your business relationships and the information you obtain as a result, that is most crucial to successful examination results. 

The additional information collected about the customer is used to compare your expectations for that relationship, with the transactions that customer is conducting.  

Here are a few examples, broken down by industry:

MSBs

If the nature and purpose provided was foreign exchange for travel, does it make sense that the customer returns every other day with $2,700 in cash?   

DPMSs

If the nature and purpose provided was purchasing jewellery as a wedding gift, does it make sense that the customer returns every month on the same day to make a new purchase?

Real Estate

If the nature and purpose provided was the purchase of a first-time owner-occupied home, does it make sense that the customer purchases another owner-occupied home shortly after?  

In each of the scenarios above, it is quite clear that the activities don’t align with the nature and purpose of the business relationship collected. This doesn’t automatically make it suspicious, but certainly leaves some questions that need answering. When you question the customer about the discrepancy, be sure you’re taking notes.  This does not have to be a complete reiteration (though it can be), but simply a brief synopsis of the conversation, any additional information collected and/or adjustments made to the customer’s risk rating. It should be written in a way that would be clear to someone from outside of your business that is reading the notes two years later.

Recording these types of discussions is paramount to evidence that you’re meeting your ongoing monitoring obligations because, in the compliance world, if you can’t prove it… it never happened.

FINTRAC Exam Readiness Tool for Business Relationships

We’ve made a quick checklist to help you prepare for your FINTRAC examinations.

Question Response & Action Plan
Can I generate a list of my business relationships for the examination period?
Is there a risk rating recorded for each business relationship?
Do I have evidence of ongoing monitoring being conducted?
Do I have evidence of enhanced due diligence and enhanced transaction monitoring for high risk business relationships?
Do I have the date of when I entered in the business relationship with each customer?
Is there a record of the last time the customer information was reviewed and/or updated?

 

Need a Hand?

Outlier has created a FINTRAC Examination Preparation Package, and it can be downloaded for free here.  FINTRAC has also provided information on their assessment manual, which details the approach and methods it uses to conduct compliance examinations

For additional information, assistance, or a review of your FINTRAC Examination submission package (the information requested by FINTRAC for an examination), 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.  At Outlier, we firmly believe that good compliance is good business.

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. This means 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;
  • Certain information about the directors of the company and every person who owns or controls 20% or more.
  • 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 Changes For DPMSs

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 DPMSs. If you’re the type that likes to read original legislative text, you can find it here. We also created a red-lined 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 DPMSs).
  • June 1, 2021: all other regulatory amendments.

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

Updated guidance from FINTRAC is expected to be seen ahead of the 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).

What Does This Mean For My Business?

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

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

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

Defining a DPMS

The recent amendments has changed the definition of a DPMS slightly to read:

(1) A dealer in precious metals and precious stones, other than a department or an agent of Her Majesty in right of Canada or an agent or mandatary of Her Majesty in right of a province, that buys or sells precious metals, precious stones or jewellery, for an amount of $10,000 or more is engaged in an activity for the purposes of paragraph 5(i) of the Act. A department or an agent of Her Majesty in right of Canada or an agent or mandatary of Her Majesty in right of a province carries out an activity for the purposes of paragraph 5(l) of the Act when they sell precious metals to the public for an amount of $10,000 or more.

(2) The activities referred to in subsection (1) do not include a purchase or sale that is carried out in the course of or in connection with manufacturing a product that contains precious metals or precious stones, extracting precious metals or precious stones from a mine or polishing or cutting precious stones.

(3) For greater certainty, the activities referred to in subsection (1) include the sale of precious metals, precious stones or jewellery that are left on consignment with a dealer in precious metals and precious stones. Goods left with an auctioneer for sale at auction are not considered to be left on consignment.

Neither the PCMLTFA, nor the Regulations, define consignment. As understanding of the term can vary, we hope to see this defined in upcoming FINTRAC guidance.

Certain activities that were already exempt from the DPMS designation, including manufacturing jewellery, extracting precious metals or precious stones from a mine, and cutting or polishing precious stones, has been expanded to capture other types of manufacturing processes that may also involve the use or consumption of precious metals and stones (e.g. diamonds used to manufacture drill bits). This is described as being consistent with the original policy intent.

FINTRAC Reporting

Large Virtual Currency Transaction Reporting

If you accept, or plan on accepting, payments using virtual currencies like bitcoin, these will be treated similar to cash payments. For any payments valued at CAD 10,000 or more, made by or on behalf of the same person or entity within a 24-hour period, you will need to identify the customer, and submit a report to the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC).

24-hour Rule

The final regulations clarify that multiple transactions performed by, or on behalf of, the same customer or entity within a 24-hour period are to be considered as a single transaction for reporting purposes when they total CAD 10,000 or more. Only one report would need to be submitted to capture all transactions that aggregate to CAD 10,000 or more. For DPMSs, this would apply to recipients of CAD 10,000 or more in cash or virtual currency.

Suspicious Transaction Reporting

Currently, if a reporting entity has reasonable grounds to suspect that a transaction, or requested 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 means that a report will be due 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 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 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 necessary 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.

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. 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 identification documents, so long as authentication of the identification documents takes place.

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.

Reasonable Measures

In cases where DPMSs were required to keep records related to reasonable measures to obtain certain information (such as third-party determinations for large cash transactions), the requirement has been removed with this round of changes. It is important to note that you must still take reasonable measures where necessary, and it is only the requirement to keep a record of the measures used that has been repealed.

New Products & Technology Channels

One of the deficiencies identified in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) review of Canada was not having a requirement to assess new technologies before their launch. With this round of changes, all reporting entities will be required to assess the risk related to their products and delivery channels, as well as the risk associated with the use of new technologies, prior to release.

This has been a best practice since the requirement to conduct a risk assessment came into force but this change makes this a formal requirement.

Training Program

While training is a current obligation, the current revisions introduce an additional requirement, for all regulated entities, in which there must be a documented plan for the ongoing compliance training program, and delivery of that training. In practice, this means that in addition to documenting the training that has been completed, you will need to clearly document future training plans.

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.

2019 AML Changes For The Real Estate Sector

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 published. This article is intended to give a high-level summary of changes as they relate to the real estate industry. If you’re the type that likes to read original legislative text, you can find it here. We also created a red-lined 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 to dealers in virtual currency (which do not apply to the Real Estate sector).
  • June 1, 2021: all other regulatory amendments.

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

Updated guidance from FINTRAC 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).

What Does This Mean For My Business?

As stated above, there are quite a number of changes, but only some have an impact on real estate developers, brokers, and sales representatives. We’ve summarized the changes that will impact the real estate sector below.

Identification

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 means you can confirm identification, using acceptable documents presented by way of electronic means, so long as it can be authenticated. This will be helpful to real estate developers, brokers, and sales representatives that identify clients in a non-face-to-face manner. This change came into force on June 25, 2019.

Other changes to the identity verification requirements are as follows:

  • For credit file verification (single source), the credit file information must now be derived from more than one source.
  • 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.

FINTRAC Reporting

Virtual Currency

For real estate brokers, sales representatives and developers that conduct transactions that involve virtual currency, the final regulations introduce new reporting requirements for the receipt of CAD 10,000 or more of virtual currency. These basically are the same as large cash reporting obligations, including making a determination if the person from whom the virtual currency is received is acting on behalf of a third party, and will require reporting entities to maintain a large virtual currency transaction record.

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

24-hour rule

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

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 fairly soon 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.

Schedules

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. As it relates to real estate developers, brokers, and sales representatives, these changes will impact attempted suspicious and suspicious transaction reporting, terrorist property reporting, large cash reporting, and large virtual currency reporting. Examples of the new data fields are as follows:

  • every reference number that is connected to the transaction (including the sending and receiving addresses for virtual currency transactions);
  • type of device used by person who makes request online;
  • number that identifies device;
  • internet protocol address (IP address) used by device;
  • person’s user name; and
  • date and time of person’s online session in which request is made.

Such changes may mean working with your IT folks to ensure you are retaining the needed data in a format that will be easy to extract.

For more details on what has changed for reporting fields, a comparison of current and proposed FINTRAC report fields can be found here.

Compliance Program

Risk Assessment

One of the deficiencies identified in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) review of Canada was not having a requirement to assess new technologies before their launch. The final amendments require all reporting entities to assess the risk related to products and their delivery channels, as well as the risk associated with the use of new technologies, prior to release.

This has been a best practice since the requirement to conduct a risk assessment came into force, but this change makes this a formal requirement. This will require strong communication and closer cooperation between compliance officers and teams involved in the development of new services or technology changes.

Training

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

Records

There are some changes to the details that must be recorded in records that real estate brokers or sales representatives must maintain. In addition to new information that is required for reporting purposes (see the schedules section below), the final regulations add the requirement that information records must contain details of every person or entity for which they act as an agent or mandatary in respect of the purchase or sale of real property or immovables. Under the previous regulations, only information related to the person or entity purchasing real estate was required.

In cases where real estate brokers, sales representatives and developers were required to keep records related to reasonable measures to obtain certain information, the requirement has been removed with this round of changes. It is important to note that you must still take reasonable measures where necessary, and it is only the requirement to keep a record of the measures used that has been repealed.

We’re Here To Help

If you would like assistance in updating your compliance program and/or processes, or have any questions related to the changes, you can 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.

2019 AML Updates for Credit Unions

Background

On July 10th, 2019 the final amendments to Canada’s anti-money laundering (AML) regulations, were published in the Canada Gazette.  Many of the changes are based on requirements set out by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), an inter-governmental body that sets out international standards for combating money laundering and terrorist financing, as well as from certain amendments made to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA) made through the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1 and the Budget Implementation Act, 2017, No. 1.

For those that prefer to see the updates in context, we have created unofficial red-lined versions of the regulations, which can be found here.

It is expected that all regulated entities will have to significantly revamp their AML compliance program due to the 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 directly apply to Credit Unions).
  • June 1, 2021: all other regulatory amendments.

Updated guidance from FINTRAC is expected to be seen ahead of the coming into force dates. Given the legislative changes, there will be adjustments to various FINTRAC policy interpretations 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 borrow content that we wrote and published publicly, we may think you’re a jerk but we’re not sending an army of lawyers).

What Does This Mean For Your Credit Union?

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

  • Reporting;
  • Record keeping; and
  • Member identification.

Many changes will require adjustments in your IT systems to ensure that all necessary information is available to be included in FINTRAC reports, particularly those involving online transactions. If you’re not sure where to start please feel free to contact us. From a practical standpoint, while you do have some time to update your AML program, it is best to start budgeting and planning now.  It may also be prudent to discuss changes with your board of directors as well.

FINTRAC Reporting

This round of changes to AML regulations has a much greater focus on reporting including changes to the information that will need to be included in various reports. We have summarized the applicable changes below.

Certain reports will require information that was not originally included. These changes include information such as:

  • Purpose of transaction;
  • Source of cash or source of funds;
  • For online transactions:
    • Type of device used by person who makes request;
    • Number that identifies device;
    • Internet Protocol address used by device;
    • Person’s or entity’s user name; and
    • Date and time of when a person makes a request.

While most of these fields are mandatory, where fields are marked as optional, if an entity has the information (this may mean in the background of your IT systems), it is expected that it be included in the report. For full details on what has changed for FINTRAC report fields, we have created an unofficial redline which can be found here.

All changes related to reporting come into force on June 1, 2021.

STR 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. The timeframe for submission was within 30 days of the date that a fact was discovered that caused the suspicion. The revised regulations amend 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 means that a report will be due shortly after a reporting entity has conducted their analysis that established reasonable grounds for suspicion. It will be important to have detailed processes for unusual transaction investigations and this should include a step in the process that clearly identifies when a determination is made that establishes reasonable grounds to suspect the transaction is related to money laundering or terrorist financing. A defined time for what “as soon as reasonably practicable” means should be documented as well to ensure reports are completed and submitted on time. 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.

EFT Reporting

The definition of an EFT has changed with the amended regulations and reads as such:

An electronic funds transfer means the transmission by any electronic, magnetic or optical means of instructions for the transfer of funds, including a transmission of instructions that is initiated and finally received by the same person or entity. In the case of SWIFT messages, only SWIFT MT-103 messages and their equivalent are included. It does not include a transmission of instructions for the transfer of funds:

    1. that is carried out by means of a credit or debit card or a prepaid payment product if the beneficiary has an agreement with the payment service provider that permits payment by that means for the provision of goods and services;
    2. that involves the beneficiary withdrawing cash from their account;
    3. that is carried out by means of a direct deposit or a pre-authorized debit;
    4. that is carried out by cheque imaging and presentment;
    5. that is both initiated and finally received by persons or entities that are acting to clear or settle payment obligations between themselves; or
    6. that is initiated or finally received by a person or entity referred to in paragraphs 5(a) to (h.1) of the Act for the purpose of internal treasury management, including the management of their financial assets and liabilities, if one of the parties to the transaction is a subsidiary of the other or if they are subsidiaries of the same corporation.

The definition now includes instructions initiated and received by the same person or entity, which means certain internal transfer transactions may be caught.

Also related to EFT reporting, 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.

Large Virtual Currency Transaction Reporting

If you plan to 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 to FINTRAC. These basically are the same as Large Cash Transaction reporting obligations, including making a determination if the person from whom the virtual currency is received is acting on behalf of a third party, and will require reporting entities to maintain a Large Virtual Currency Transaction Record.

Most of the recordkeeping requirements for virtual currency are very similar to Large Cash Transaction requirements.

The 24-Hour Rule

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.

Compliance Program

In addition to the process changes, including reporting changes discussed above, there are some other changes that you will need to make to your compliance program.

Training

The amended regulations have introduced a new requirement to institute and 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. Be sure staff is receiving training on process changes that are applicable to their roles.

Risk Assessment

One of the deficiencies identified in the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) review of Canada was not having a requirement to assess new technologies before their launch. The final amendments require all reporting entities to assess the risk related to products and their delivery channels, as well as the risk associated with the use of new technologies, prior to public release.

This has been a best practice since the requirement to conduct a risk assessment came into force, but this change makes this a formal requirement. This will require strong communication and closer cooperation between compliance officers and teams involved in the development of new products or services.

Records of Reasonable Measures

The requirement to keep records related to reasonable measures to obtain certain information, has been removed with this round of changes. It is important to note that credit unions must still take reasonable measures and it is only the requirement to keep a record of the measures used that has been repealed. 

Identification

The range of identification methods that can be used will be broadened. This is good news, especially for credit unions that are using identification methods for members who are not physically present.

Prior to this round of changes, there was a requirement that when members are identified, the document and/or data that you collect must be in its “original” format. 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 document. This change came into force on June 26, 2019.

Other changes to the identity verification requirements are as follows:

  • For credit file verification (single source), the credit file information must now be derived from more than one source (i.e. cannot contain only one trade line on the credit file);
  • 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 (i.e. you cannot be a tradeline of the credit file).

In addition, there are provisions that allow a credit union to rely on the identification conducted previously by other reporting entities. If this method is used to identify a member, the credit union 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.

If you have members that are publicly traded trusts, credit unions will be required to obtain names and addresses of all persons who own or control, directly or indirectly, 25% or more of the units of the trust.

Politically Exposed Persons (PEPs)

The amended regulations add some new requirements related to PEPs, which are as follows:

  • You must obtain the “source of wealth” of a PEP; and
  • If a PEP is a head of an international organization, the person will continue to be treated as a PEP for five years after they have held the position.

This change comes into force on June 1, 2021, and will likely result in IT system changes related to record keeping and monitoring.

Prepaid Products

If you offer Prepaid Payment Products, the amended regulations now include new obligations for prepaid cards that are issued by financial entities. The obligations are similar to those that apply to regular member accounts, and comes into force on June 1, 2021.

The regulations apply to any prepaid payment product that is tied to an account, that permits funds or virtual currency that total CAD 1,000 or more to be added to the account within a 24-hour period, or where a balance of CAD 1,000 or more will be maintained.

Records that will have to be maintained are as follows:

  • a record of the name and address of each holder of a prepaid payment product account and each authorized user, the nature of their principal business or their occupation and, in the case of a person, their date of birth;
  • if an account holder is a corporation, a copy of the part of its official corporate records that contains any provision relating to the power to bind the corporation in respect of the prepaid payment product account or the transaction;
  • a record of every application in respect of the prepaid payment product account;
  • a prepaid payment product slip in respect of every payment that is made to the prepaid payment product account;
  • every debit and credit memo that it creates or receives in respect of the prepaid payment product account;
  •  a copy of every account statement that it sends to a holder of the prepaid payment product account; and
  • a foreign currency exchange transaction ticket in respect of every foreign currency exchange transaction that is connected to the prepaid payment product account.

There are also record keeping obligations where an international electronic funds transfer of CAD 1,000 or more has been conducted through the prepaid product. Additionally, a prepaid payment product slip, similar to a deposit slip, must be maintained.

Similar to member accounts, you will also have to keep account applications and any foreign currency transaction information related to the prepaid product. A PEP determination is to be made when the prepaid product account is opened, and when a payment of CAD 100,000 or more is made to a prepaid product account.

We’re Here To Help

If you would like assistance in updating your compliance program and/or processes, or have any questions related to the changes, you can 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.

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.

FATF, VASP – What Does It All Mean?

On June 21, 2019 the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) released “Guidance for a Risk-Based Approach to Virtual Assets and Virtual Asset Service Providers”. In the ensuing days, while we read through and considered the implications of this dense 57 page document, we watched social media go overboard with all sorts of wild speculation and inaccurate representations. When that happens, and it’s within our power to get good information out there, we do our best to get solid information out fast to fight the fear, uncertainty and doubt (affectionately referred to as FUD online). Let’s take a closer look at the latest FATF guidance, and what it means for businesses that deal in crypto/digital/virtual currencies like bitcoin, and other virtual assets.

What is the FATF Anyway?

If you’re an AML geek, you can probably skip this section. For the other 99.99% of the world, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF for short) is an inter-governmental body formed in 1989 by its member jurisdictions. If you live in the developed world, odds are good that your country is a FATF member. The role of this organization is to issue guidance to countries on anti-money laundering (AML) and combatting terrorist financing. Countries that are members of the FATF are also evaluated in terms of how well they’re doing at following the FATF’s recommendations (these are called mutual evaluations). Generally speaking, member countries face a good deal of pressure to achieve positive results in mutual evaluations. Countries that are deemed to be non-compliant, or to have strategic deficiencies, are publicly listed and can face significant trade barriers.

To sum it up, the FATF is an international group made up of member countries that issues guidance to countries. That guidance is not law, but it certainly shapes the laws that are written by member countries. It may seem pedantic, but if you hear/read someone saying that the FATF has issued a law or a regulation, it’s likely that the speaker/writer doesn’t really understand how the FATF works – and this is the first piece of FUD that we’re going to dispel today: the FATF does not write laws or regulations.

Once the FATF has issued guidance, its member countries adapt their existing laws and regulations, and in some instances, impose new ones. Generally speaking, the more common approach is to adapt existing laws and regulations.  Regardless of the approach taken, a statement released with the guidance stating that the FATF will monitor implementation of the new requirements by countries and service providers and conduct a 12-month review in June 2020. The guidance is also expected to be the subject of further discussion at other international forums, including the G20.

Virtual Assets and Virtual Asset Service Providers

The FATF’s Guidance introduces new terms (and corresponding acronyms): virtual assets (VAs) and virtual asset service providers (VASPs). These are defined in the glossary at the end of the document, but it’s useful to start off by understanding what the terms mean.

A virtual asset is a digital representation of value that can be digitally traded, or transferred, and can be used for payment or investment purposes. Virtual assets do not include digital representations of fiat currencies, securities and other financial assets that are already covered elsewhere in the FATF Recommendations.

The broader text makes it clear that VAs are being broadly defined, and may include cryptocurrencies like bitcoin as well as other types of assets, like initial coin offering (ICO) tokens, which may also be considered securities.

There are also clear statements about the intent of the guidance, and that it is not an attempt to regulate technology. This is another important distinction, in particular where there is a discussion of regulation applicable to Bitcoin (with the capital B indicating that this is a reference to the Bitcoin protocol). That is simply not the case. In fact, the guidance notes that the intent is to remain technology agnostic, and that no specific technological adaptations to protocols are being proposed (we’ll dive a bit more deeply into this in the section that covers customer information).

What the guidance is, however, suggesting should be regulated are certain business activities that involve virtual assets.

Virtual asset service provider means any natural or legal person who is not covered elsewhere under the Recommendations, and as a business conducts one or more of the following activities or operations for or on behalf of another natural or legal person:

i) exchange between virtual assets and fiat currencies;

ii) exchange between one or more forms of virtual assets;

iii) transfer of virtual assets;

iv) safekeeping and/or administration of virtual assets or instruments enabling control over virtual assets; and

v) participation in and provision of financial services related to an issuer’s offer and/or sale of a virtual asset.

The first, and probably most important, piece of FUD to fight here is the idea that peer-to-peer activity that is not being conducted for business purposes should be covered. This simply is not the FATF’s recommendation. This doesn’t preclude a country from writing laws or regulation that impose requirements on non-business peer-to-peer activity, but it does make that less likely in our estimation.

If you’ve looked at previous FATF guidance, you’ll notice that the scope is a bit different. Earlier guidance was focussed on what were termed “on and off ramps”, meaning transactions that involved trading fiat currency for a VA, or vice versa. The current scope includes trading between different VAs. To understand this change, consider that when the earlier guidance was issued there were no popular “stablecoin” VAs pegged to the value of an underlying asset (often a fiat currency) and ICOs had yet to raise millions in value in VA alone.

What Will It Mean for Businesses to be Regulated?

Businesses (including individuals that are conducting VASP activities on behalf of customers that have not incorporated a separate legal entity such as a company or partnership) may be subject to laws and regulations in more than one jurisdiction, and the specific requirements for each jurisdiction may be different (though most will follow the FATF’s guidance in broad strokes). For VASPs, it is important to understand the requirements that apply in each jurisdiction in which they operate (it is not enough to say that your business is following the FATF’s guidance).

The FATF recommends in its guidance that countries enact laws and regulations that apply to VASPs. This should include (not a comprehensive list):

  • The licensing and/or registration of VASPs;
  • A prohibition against criminals and their associates being beneficial owners of VASPs;
  • A requirement for VASPs to have qualified Compliance Officers, written policies and procedures, documented risk assessments, ongoing training, and measures of the effectiveness of the compliance program (audits);
  • Know your client (KYC) information and identification should be collected by VASPs for customers and business relationships (with a de minimis exception for occasional transactions valued at less than 1,000 EUR/USD);
  • Where transactions occur between two VASPs or between a VASP and another regulated entity type (such as banks), sender and receiver information must be transmitted. This has received a lot of attention, and it is not yet clear how this will be accomplished. The options noted in the guidance include:
    • Public and private keys,
    • Transport Layer Security/Secure Sockets Layer (TLS/SSL),
    • 590 Certificates,
    • 509 Attribute Certificates,
    • API Technology, and
    • Other Commercially Available Technology.
  • VASPs’ customers and business relationships should be subject to ongoing monitoring; and
  • Mechanisms in place to freeze assets and stop transfers in the case of listed persons and entities (such as known terrorists or sanctioned persons/entities).

The guidance also states that there should be true regulatory oversight, not self-regulatory organizations. There are additional considerations for other entity types that are already regulated (including securities dealers and banks) that engage in VASP activities.

Thinking about Risk

Some of the most interesting content in the guidance is related to the money laundering and terrorist financing risk posed by VAs and VASPs. Here, it was clear that the FATF had done their homework as the discussion included TOR, tumblers, mixers, and other technologies referred to as being “anonymity enhanced”. The factors that are listed as increasing a VAs/VASPs risk include:

  • Value moving into and out of fiat currency,
  • The use of anonymity-enhanced technologies,
  • Operations that are entirely online (non-face-to-face),
  • Links to high risk jurisdictions, and
  • The value that can be accessed/transferred.

The guidance does note that not all VAs/VASPs should be considered to be high risk.

A Quick Note on Financial Inclusion & De-Risking

The FATF’s page on financial inclusion defines the term as: Ensuring that financially excluded or underserved groups (such as low income, rural sector or undocumented groups) have access to regulated financial services helps to strengthen the implementation of AML/CTF measures.

If you’ve been watching or participating in VAs or VASPs, you’ll understand that many of these have financial inclusion related goals themselves, but VASPs often struggle with access to banking. In their guidance, the FATF makes a strong statement against banks and financial service providers de-risking all VASPs: It is important that FIs apply the risk-based approach properly and do not resort to the wholesale termination or exclusion of customer relationships within the VASP sector without a proper risk assessment.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of prohibition by countries: Some countries may decide to prohibit VA activities or VASPs, based on their assessment of risk and national regulatory context or in order to support other policy goals not addressed in this Guidance (e.g., consumer protection, safety and soundness, or monetary policy). The guidance goes on to note that countries that chose to ban VAs and/or VASPs would still need to ensure that sufficient safeguards are in place. This approach did not seem to be encouraged, but that it is explicitly mentioned is interesting of itself, as this is not the case for other asset or regulated entity types.

Margin Notes

We’ve been asked to post the annotated copy of the first read-through of the FATF’s guidance document. The annotations were not created with the expectation of the audience. They’re likely to be hard to read, idiosyncratic, and to clearly reveal that the author is dyslexic… but if they are of use to you, then these notes are yours to use.

Guidance for a Risk-Based Approach to Virtual Assets and Virtual Asset Service Providers Marked Up Copy

Need a Hand?

If you want to understand the regulations that apply to your VA business/VASP, please contact us.

Compliance with laws and regulations is nuanced; we do not practice in all jurisdictions (and quite frankly, we believe that anyone claiming to understand the nuance of AML in every jurisdiction is greatly exaggerating their skill set). If we don’t practice in the places that matter to you, we’ll do our best to connect you with qualified people that do.

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