Wealth & Risk Management Blog

William Byrnes (Texas A&M) tax & compliance articles

Why are regulators so alarmed about Stored Value Cards? and Virtual Currency?

Posted by William Byrnes on July 11, 2014


Why are regulators so alarmed about Stored Value Cards?  Citron Research published a report about the impact on a financial institution’s share value when the financial institution ignores its anti money laundering compliance (and receives a regulatory warning consent order, and worst, a cease & desist order).

Citron Research’s report indicates that stored value cards pose a substantial risk for funding of terrorist activities.  The Report states:

“The Government crackdown on the stored value card business is real and not going anywhere.  In a banking industry article published TODAY, we read “I would think this action sends a message to every other prepaid issuer that they better be buttoned up on AML processes and work very closely with their clients,” Colgan said.

On another topic of money laundering concerns, the LexisNexis chapter on Virtual Currency (e.g. Bitcoin) is being updated by its authors: Emmanuel Rayes (TJSL alumni) and Dr. David Utzke (MAFF, CFE, CFI is a Sr. Agent and lead agent for Virtual Currency and Digital Transactions for the IRS).

Virtual currencies have caught mainstream popularity and use the past 24 months. It was only a matter of time before an internet currency would catch mass adoption because of the convenience, speed, and ease of use that the internet provides. Governments all over the world have had a difficult time regulating virtual currencies due to their unconventional structure that is not typical of paper or fiat currencies and due to the rapid evolution of technology. Bitcoin is one such virtual currency that has caught the attention of government regulators all over the world.

Bitcoin is not a typical currency, but rather it is a crypto-currency. In addition, Bitcoin is based on a decentralized peer-to-peer network that’s not only responsible for the issuing of the currency but also for the transfers of the currency. The general currency model followed by almost every government in the world designates a central authority or bank for the issuing of the currency along with intermediary banking institutions responsible for the transfers and record keeping of user transactions. In the Bitcoin model, the middleman, or bank, is completely removed and the user controls the issuance of the currency in addition to facilitating, verifying and recording every transaction.

book coverA greater concern is that criminals use the anonymity features of Bitcoin to launder money obtained from criminal activities or to fund criminal activities. The transactions made with Bitcoin are disclosed on a public ledger but the identity of the parties conducting the transactions are pseudo-anonymous which makes it laborious to identify the parties making the transfers. This creates increasing difficulty in charging and convicting criminals for crimes committed using Bitcoin.  Read the full crypto-currency chapter, which forms part of the 5,000 page treatise and compendium of LexisNexis’ Money Laundering, Asset Forfeiture and Recovery and Compliance: A Global Guide

 

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