On March 1, 2024, the federal district court in the Northern District of Alabama declared in the case of National Small Business United v. Yellen that the Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”) exceeds the Constitution’s limits on Congress’s power. The court enjoined the Department of the Treasury and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) – the agency responsible for implementing the CTA – from enforcing the CTA against the plaintiffs in this case. While the ruling enjoins enforcement only against the plaintiffs in the specific case, the rationale used by the court is a broad rejection of the constitutionality of the statute, rather than a more tailored “as applied” rationale. Following the ruling, FinCEN issued a statement clarifying it will only cease enforcement with respect to the specific plaintiffs in the case, rather than with respect to all reporting companies. Those plaintiffs include Isaac Winkles, reporting companies for which Isaac Winkles is the beneficial owner or applicant, the National Small Business Association (“NSBA”), and members of the NSBA as of March 1, 2024 (collectively, the “Plaintiffs”). As of now, the CTA and its beneficial ownership information (“BOI”) reporting requirements remain in effect for all other entities that are required to report BOI to FinCEN under the CTA.Continue Reading Federal Court Finds Corporate Transparency Act Unconstitutional: Navigating Implications for Reporting Companies

On February 8, 2024, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) published a notice of proposed rulemaking (2024 NPRM) about Anti-Money Laundering and Countering the Financing of Terrorism (AML/CFT) regulations concerning persons involved in residential real estate closings and settlements. To promote U.S. AML/CFT objectives, the NPRM proposes a system of streamlined Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) for certain U.S. real estate transactions. The NPRM does yet not have the force and effect of law, and FinCEN has requested public comments to be submitted until on or about April 16, 2024. A brief summary of the background and substantive provisions for the NPRM follows.Continue Reading Potential new SAR-like Reporting Requirements for Certain U.S. Real Estate Transactions

As of January 1, 2024, the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) is effective, impacting millions of entities. On September 30, 2022, the US Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) published a final rule to implement the beneficial ownership information (BOI) reporting provisions of the CTA, which was enacted as part of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 within the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021.  Note that since the final rule was published, which was the subject of a prior blog post, FinCEN has made several modifications.

The CTA is intended to protect US national security and the US financial system by preventing and combatting fraud, corruption, money laundering, and terrorist financing, among other illicit activities, by parties seeking to hide money and other assets in the United States via shell companies and other opaque legal structures. The law aims to provide essential information to national security, intelligence, and law enforcement agencies by requiring certain business organizations and entities to report information to FinCEN about the beneficial owners and controllers of such organizations and the individuals who have filed an application with specified government authorities to form the entity or register it to do business. The FinCEN rule implementing the CTA’s BOI reporting provisions describes who must file a beneficial ownership information report, what information must be reported, and when a report is due.

The CTA has widespread application, and it is expected that an estimated 33 million entities are now subject to the new BOI disclosure rule.Continue Reading Beneficial Ownership Reporting Requirements Under the Corporate Transparency Act Are Now In Effect

On July 26, 2023, the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and the US Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a joint compliance note (the Note) focusing on the voluntary self-disclosure (VSD) policies that apply to US sanctions, export controls, and other national security laws. The Note is the second collective effort by the three agencies to inform the private sector about civil and criminal enforcement trends, as well as to provide guidance to the business community and all persons regarding compliance with US sanctions and export laws. The first joint note, which focused on combatting third-party intermediaries used to evade Russia-related US sanctions and divert export-controlled items that are contributing to Russia’s foreign harmful activities, was issued on March 2, 2023.

The Note does not change the existing VSD policies of the three agencies, but highlights the benefits of their existing VSD policies to incentivize companies to promptly disclose and remediate.  Likewise, the Note highlights the risks companies face, in at least some instances, should they choose not to disclose.

The Note also encourages whistleblowers to report suspected violations of sanctions and anti-money laundering laws to the US Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), for which persons that submit whistleblower tips may be awarded up to 10% to 30% of the monetary penalty collected for successful US government enforcement actions.Continue Reading Commerce, Treasury, and Justice Issue Joint Compliance Note on Voluntary Self-Disclosure

On January 18, 2023, the US Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an order identifying the virtual currency exchange Bitzlato Limited (Bitzlato) as a “primary money laundering concern” in connection with Russian illicit finance.  The order, which is the first of its kind, was issued pursuant to Section 9714(a) of the Combating Russian Money Laundering Act. Continue Reading In Unprecedented Action FinCEN Identifies Virtual Currency Exchange as Primary Money Laundering Concern

On December 16, FinCEN issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) entitled “Beneficial Ownership Information Access and Safeguards, and Use of FinCEN Identifiers for Entities.”  The NPRM is intended to implement the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA) and, in particular, to govern which entities may access corporate beneficial ownership information (BOI) that certain entities will soon be required to report to FinCEN under the CTA.  Steptoe previously summarized FinCEN’s final rule on BOI reporting here.Continue Reading Proposed Rule Lays Out Who Will Have Access to New Corporate Beneficial Ownership Information

On October 11, 2022, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) announced enforcement actions against Bittrex, Inc. (Bittrex), a privately-owned digital asset trading platform based in Bellevue, Washington, for apparent violations of anti-money laundering (AML) laws and of multiple sanctions programs. A settlement of over $24 million was announced by OFAC and a $29 million fine was announced by FinCEN. FinCEN will credit payment of the OFAC settlement amount toward Bittrex’s potential liability with FinCEN, meaning Bittrex will pay just over $29 million in total. Joint enforcement action between OFAC and FinCEN is uncommon—the settlements mark the first instance of parallel enforcement actions by OFAC and FinCEN in the digital asset sector.
Continue Reading OFAC and FinCEN Announce Enforcement Actions Against Bittrex