On June 29, 2020, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) published updated guidance intended to “enhance the availability of financial services” for the hemp industry (the Guidance).  Even though the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018 legalized hemp[1] at the federal level, some banks have hesitated to provide financing to the hemp industry because they are uncertain of their obligations under the Bank Secrecy Act or Anti-Money Laundering regulations (BSA/AML).  The Guidance was published to clarify those obligations, and follows closely on the new National Credit Union Administration guidance for federally-chartered credit unions issued on June 20, 2020. 
Continue Reading Clearing the Air: FinCEN Guidance May Help Banks Find Their Way in the Field of Hemp Financing

Europe has come up with a nifty plan to help Iran buy and sell stuff outside the reach of U.S. sanctions. The problem is that the plan is a fraud magnet. How do we know? It’s been tried before, and the fraud was epic.

The plan is known as the “Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges,” or “INSTEX.” Lots of smart people have been involved in creating the program. Let’s hope they’re not too young to remember 1995, when fraudsters first heard that the UN was setting up a program known as “Oil-for-Food.” Similar to INSTEX, Oil-for-Food was designed to allow a sanctioned country (in that case, Iraq) to sell oil on the world market in exchange for food, medicine, and other humanitarian goods. A 2005 independent audit of the program found a staggering variety of fraudulent schemes netting billions of dollars in income for illicit merchants, intermediaries, and the Saddam Hussein regime itself. If INSTEX is not careful, it could be the victim of similar scams.
Continue Reading How to Steal $10 Billion from Europe

The summer of 2017 saw the U.S. Department of Justice’s docket still teeming with Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) cases. In this post, we draw a few lessons from three of them, which bring together three threads that seem often to weave together: bribery, kleptocracy, and money laundering.
Continue Reading News Flash: Kleptocrats Still Taking Bribe Money With One Hand and Laundering it With the Other

On June 5, new EU’s anti-money laundering (AML) rules, namely the Fourth EU Anti-Money Laundering Directive (“4AMLD”) and a new Regulation on the information accompanying transfer of funds were published in the Official Journal of the European Union.  Together, this legislation represents the revised EU framework on anti-money laundering and terrorist financing. Member States have until June 26, 2017 to transpose the requirements of the 4AMLD into national law. 
Continue Reading New EU Rules on Disclosure of Ultimate Beneficial Owners

On March 12, 2015, Commerzbank AG, Germany’s second largest bank and a global financial institution, agreed to pay $1.45 Billion (yes, with a “B”) in forfeitures and fines to the U.S. Government for violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and Sudan. The amount paid by Commerzbank under the settlement will not be shocking to those who read our reporting on the BNP Paribas penalty of $8.9 Billion (again, that is a “B”) for similar sanctions violations.
Continue Reading The Broader Problem: European Bank Creates an Easy Catch for the Long Arm of U.S. Jurisdiction