NFA Sends U.S Treasury OFAC Virtual Currency Compliance Notice to Members
Last week the National Futures Association (NFA) sent a notice to it’s members regarding the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) as it applies to Virtual Currency such as Bitcoin. The NFA urges its Futures Commission Merchants (FCM) and Introducing Brokers (IB’s) to review the OFAC FAQ for cryptocurrency transactions compliance with their Anti-Money Laundering program. Specifically, the Treasury Department is concerned with money laundering requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act regulations as it applies to cryptocurrency transactions. OFAQ offers a Specifically Designated Nationals (SDN) List of blocked persons and countries who’s assess are blocked by the U.S and transactions with these parties is prohibited, as explained by OFAC,
As part of its enforcement efforts, OFAC publishes a list of individuals and companies owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, targeted countries. It also lists individuals, groups, and entities, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers designated under programs that are not country-specific. Collectively, such individuals and companies are called “Specially Designated Nationals” or “SDNs.” Their assets are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them. Click here for more information on Treasury’s Sanctions Programs.
The Department of Treasury provides a list of these in a variety of formats here.
The NFA Notice I-18-09 reads as follows,
FCMs and IBs should review OFAC FAQs addressing virtual currency transactions
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published five digital currency-related frequently asked questions (FAQs) addressing OFAC compliance obligations for virtual currency transactions. These FAQs define terms commonly associated with virtual currency (e.g., digital currency wallet, digital currency address, etc.) and set forth the OFAC compliance obligations for digital currency transactions as well as OFAC sanctions for those who use digital currency for illicit transactions. The FAQs also explain that OFAC may add digital currency addresses associated with blocked persons to its List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN List), and that firms will be expected to consult the SDN List to identify digital currency identifiers or wallets that they believe are owned by an SDN.
NFA Member futures commission merchants (FCM) and introducing brokers (IB) should review the OFAC FAQs (Topics 559-563) to ensure that their AML programs address OFAC regulatory obligations as they relate to virtual currency transactions and the use of digital currency wallets.
As for the OFAC FAQs 559 to 563 address the following Cryptocurrency questions, and the full document can be found here.
Questions on Virtual Currency
559. For purposes of OFAC sanctions programs, what do the terms “virtual currency,” “digital currency,” “digital currency wallet,” and “digital currency address” mean?
Virtual currency is a digital representation of value that functions as (i) a medium of exchange; (ii) a unit of account; and/or (iii) a store of value; is neither issued nor guaranteed by any jurisdiction; and does not have legal tender status in any jurisdiction.
Digital currency includes sovereign cryptocurrency, virtual currency (non-fiat), and a digital representation of fiat currency.
A digital currency wallet is a software application (or other mechanism) that provides a means for holding, storing, and transferring digital currency. A wallet holds the user’s digital currency addresses, which allow the user to receive digital currency, and private keys, which allow the user to transfer digital currency. The wallet also maintains the user’s digital currency balance. A wallet provider is a person (individual or entity) that provides the software to create and manage wallets, which users can download. A hosted wallet provider is a business that creates and stores a digital currency wallet on behalf of a customer. Most hosted wallets also offer exchange and payments services to facilitate participation in a digital currency system by users.
A digital currency address is an alphanumeric identifier that represents a potential destination for a digital currency transfer. A digital currency address is associated with a digital currency wallet. [03-19-2018]
560. Are my OFAC compliance obligations the same, regardless of whether a transaction is denominated in digital currency or traditional fiat currency?
Yes, the obligations are the same. U.S. persons (and persons otherwise subject to OFAC jurisdiction) must ensure that they block the property and interests in property of persons named on OFAC’s SDN List or any entity owned in the aggregate, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by one or more blocked persons, and that they do not engage in trade or other transactions with such persons.
As a general matter, U.S. persons and persons otherwise subject to OFAC jurisdiction, including firms that facilitate or engage in online commerce or process transactions using digital currency, are responsible for ensuring that they do not engage in unauthorized transactions prohibited by OFAC sanctions, such as dealings with blocked persons or property, or engaging in prohibited trade or investment-related transactions. Prohibited transactions include transactions that evade or avoid, have the purpose of evading or avoiding, cause a violation of, or attempt to violate prohibitions imposed by OFAC under various sanctions authorities. Additionally, persons that provide financial, material, or technological support for or to a designated person may be designated by OFAC under the relevant sanctions authority.
Persons including technology companies; administrators, exchangers, and users of digital currencies; and other payment processors should develop a tailored, risk-based compliance program, which generally should include sanctions list screening and other appropriate measures. An adequate compliance solution will depend on a variety of factors, including the type of business involved. There is no single compliance program or solution suitable for every circumstance. [03-19-2018]
561. How will OFAC use its existing authorities to sanction those who use digital currencies for illicit purposes?
The United States’ whole-of-government strategies to combat global threats such as terrorism, transnational organized crime, malicious cyber activity, narcotics trafficking, weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation, and human rights abuses include targeting an array of activities, including the use of digital currencies or other emerging payment systems to conduct proscribed financial transactions and evade U.S. sanctions. The strategies draw from a broad range of tools and authorities to respond to the growing and evolving threat posed by malicious actors using new payment mechanisms. OFAC will use sanctions in the fight against criminal and other malicious actors abusing digital currencies and emerging payment systems as a complement to existing tools, including diplomatic outreach and law enforcement authorities. To strengthen our efforts to combat the illicit use of digital currency transactions under our existing authorities, OFAC may include as identifiers on the SDN List specific digital currency addresses associated with blocked persons. [03-19-2018]
562. How will OFAC identify digital currency-related information on the SDN List?
OFAC may add digital currency addresses to the SDN List to alert the public of specific digital currency identifiers associated with a blocked person. OFAC’s digital currency address listings are not likely to be exhaustive. Parties who identify digital currency identifiers or wallets that they believe are owned by, or otherwise associated with, an SDN and hold such property should take the necessary steps to block the relevant digital currency and file a report with OFAC that includes information about the wallet’s or address’s ownership, and any other relevant details. [03-19-2018]
563. What is the structure of a digital currency address on OFAC’s SDN List?
The digital currency address field on the SDN List provides the unique alphanumeric identifiers (up to 256 characters) for digital currency addresses and identifies the digital currency to which the address corresponds (e.g., Bitcoin (BTC), Ether (ETH), Litecoin (LTC), Neo (NEO), Dash (DASH), Ripple (XRP), Iota (MIOTA), Monero (XMR), and Petro (PTR)). [03-19-2018]