Anti-Money Laundering (AML)

The crimes charged against SBF are simple — old-fashioned fraud through a Ponzi scheme.  His conviction seems inevitable. For the government, the challenging part of this case will be the forfeiture proceedings.  Under the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act (MVRA), federal prosecutors have an affirmative obligation to use their “best efforts”

Sanctions continue to be a dynamic area of regulation and enforcement. In its first year, the Biden Administration has already undertaken a number of different sanctions initiatives. The three examples below highlight the range of strategies employed and their potential ramifications for private investment funds.

Over the past week, the U.S., UK, and EU imposed sweeping sanctions rolled out by the US, in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, outlined here. Also last week, the Department of Justice announced the launch of Task Force KleptoCapture to enforce these sanctions and seize assets belonging to sanctioned individuals and other criminal actors. Attorney General Merrick B. Garland made clear that the U.S. “will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those whose criminal acts enable the Russian government to continue this unjust war.”

A threshold question in many cryptocurrency inquiries is whether the digital assets qualify as securities under the federal securities laws. If so, then they are subject to a full suite of federal securities regulations. If not, they still may be subject to AML and other DOJ regulations regarding currencies, as well as the Commodity Futures Trading Commission’s (CFTC) authority to prosecute manipulation in the spot market for commodities. Without uniform legislation providing guidance on this question, regulators and courts have generally applied the Howey test to determine whether the digital assets at issue are investment contracts and therefore securities. Rulings in litigated matters this year may serve as catalysts to drive legislative action providing further guidance to the industry.

As the financial services industry prepares for expanded criminal and civil enforcement under the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) with the passage of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020, FinCEN’s recent case against Capital One shows how FinCEN’s approach to AML enforcement is evolving.

On March 3, 2021, the SEC’s Division of Examinations announced its examination priorities for 2021. Compared to last year, this year’s edition contains an expanded section specifically addressed to private funds. For private fund managers, the exam staff states that it will target a list of issues, including:

  • Preferential treatment