OFAC Issues Sanctions Compliance Guidance for Virtual Currencies

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In October, the United States Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) published new guidance for the virtual currency industry focusing on compliance with the financial industry’s obligations related to U.S. economic sanctions.

OFAC administers and enforces economic sanctions against targeted and/or sanctioned foreign countries, geographic regions, entities, and individuals to further U.S. foreign policy and national security goals.

As noted in the new guidance, virtual currencies now playing an increasingly prominent role in the global economy. The growing relevance of virtual currency, both as an investment and as a payment method, brings greater exposure to sanctions risks. Specifically, there is an increased risk that a sanctioned entity or an entity in a jurisdiction subject to sanctions might use virtual currency as an alternative to fiat currency in an effort to avoid U.S. sanctions. As such, the OFAC guidance specifically targets technology companies, virtual currency exchanges, virtual currency administrators, virtual miners, digital currency wallet providers, and users.

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How We Spent Our Summer Vacation or Summary of CCPA Amendments

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The long anticipated amendments to the CCPA were passed by the California Legislature in early September and now await Governor Newsom’s signature.  Some of the changes were “clean up” amendments to update cross references, standardize language, and generally address issues of drafting.  What follows is a summary of the most significant and substantive amendments:

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Recent FinCEN Advisory Details Dramatic Increase in Frequency and Severity of Business Email Compromise Fraud Schemes

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On July 16, 2019, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued an “Updated Advisory on Email Compromise Fraud Schemes Targeting Vulnerable Business Processes” (the “Advisory”). The Advisory provides a detailed and helpful overview of trends in Business Email Compromise (“BEC”) schemes affecting U.S. financial institutions and other businesses.

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House Committee Staff Report Finds Equifax Data Breach Entirely Preventable, Provides Recommendations for Consumer Reporting Agencies

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After a 14-month investigation into the 2017 Equifax data breach, which was one the largest in U.S. history, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee released a report in December.

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NFA Proposes Enhanced Disclosure Requirements for Members Engaging in Virtual Currency Activities

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The virtual currency market continues to grow, and this growth has fueled increased attention from retail investors and financial regulators. Financial institutions active in the virtual currency market have seen a trend towards increased regulatory oversight and the latest development imposes new client disclosure requirements upon certain companies.

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SEC Freezes $27 Million Related to a Blockchain/Cryptocurrency Acquisition

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The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) obtained a court order freezing more than $27 million in proceeds from alleged illegal distributions and sales of restricted shares of a public company , and charged the company, its CEO, and three other affiliated individuals on April 6, 2018. That same day, the Nasdaq Stock Market  halted trading in the company’s stock.

The SEC’s complaint alleges that shortly after the company began trading on the Nasdaq Stock Market and announced the acquisition of a purported blockchain-empowered cryptocurrency business,  its stock price rose dramatically until its market capitalization exceeded $3 billion. The SEC further alleges that the CEO and the three other individual defendants then illegally sold large blocks of their restricted shares to the public while the stock price was excessively elevated and that they collectively reaped more than $27 million in profits.

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