Siana Danch danchs@ballardspahr.com | 215.864.8348 | view full bio

Siana focuses on regulatory compliance and enforcement, white collar defense, internal investigations, tax controversy and complex civil litigation. She advises financial institutions and other businesses on BSA/AML compliance, including issues relating to KYC, beneficial ownership reporting, Suspicious Activity Report filings, Travel Rule compliance, Form 8300 filings, and other BSA/AML reporting and record keeping requirements.  Her work in the AML space includes the digital asset industry and related licensing requirements involving federal and state money-transmitter laws. Similarly, Siana represents financial institutions, other businesses and individuals in regards to conducting internal corporate investigations and defending against government criminal and civil investigations and proceedings, including as to allegations of fraud, money laundering, tax violations, and BSA/AML violations.  She also represents clients in tax controversy cases, from audit to IRS appeals to litigation.

First in a Two-Part Series on the Utility of BSA Filings

Today we are very pleased to welcome guest blogger, Don Fort, who is the Director of Investigations at Kostelanetz LLP, and the past Chief of the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation (CI) Division

As Chief of IRS-CI from 2017 to 2020, Don led the sixth largest U.S. law enforcement agency, managing a budget of over $625 million and a worldwide staff of approximately 3,000, including 2,100 special agents in 21 IRS field offices and 11 foreign countries. Don’s time in law enforcement included overseeing investigations of some of the most significant financial crimes involving tax evasion, sanctions evasion, money laundering, bribery, international corruption, bank malfeasance, cyber and cryptocurrency crimes, and terrorist financing.

We reached out to Don because we were interested in his perspective on the 2023 Year-in-Review (YIR) published by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), on which we previously blogged.  According to the YIR, there are about 294,000 financial institutions and other e-filers registered to file Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) reports with FinCEN.  Collectively, they filed during FY 2023 a total of 4.6 million Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) and 20.8 million Currency Transaction Reports (CTRs), as well as 1.6 million Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs), 421,500 Forms 8300 regarding cash payments over $10,000 received in a trade or business, and 143,200 Reports of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments (CMIRs) for certain cross-border transactions exceeding $10,000.  Although the YIR necessarily represents only a snapshot lacking full context, only a very small portion of those filings ever became relevant to actual federal criminal investigations.  But, the YIR makes clear that one of the most, or the most, important consumers of BSA filings is IRS-CI.

In our next related blog, we will discuss the utility of filings in the global anti-money laundering/countering the financing of terrorism compliance regime, from the perspective of industry – specifically, recent publications by the Wolfsberg Group, and the Bank Policy Institute, the Financial Technology Association, the Independent Community Bankers of America, the American Gaming Association, and the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association.

This blog post again takes the form of a Q&A session, in which Don responds to questions posed by Money Laundering Watch about the impact of BSA filings, from the perspective of IRS-CI.  We hope you enjoy this discussion on this important topic. – Peter Hardy and Siana Danch

Continue Reading  BSA Filings and Their Utility to Law Enforcement:  A Guest Blog

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) has issued its Year in Review for FY 2023 (“YIR”).  It consists of five pages of infographics.  According to FinCEN’s press release:

The Year in Review is intended to help stakeholders gain insight into the collection and use of Bank Secrecy Act [(“BSA”)] data, including FinCEN’s efforts to support law enforcement and national security agencies. The Year in Review includes statistics from fiscal year 2023 on BSA reporting and how it is queried and used by law enforcement agencies. The Year in Review also includes information on how FinCEN uses and analyzes BSA reporting to fulfill its mission, including to support alerts, trend analyses, and regulatory actions. The publication of the Year in Review is in furtherance of FinCEN’s commitment to provide information and statistics on the usefulness of BSA reporting, consistent with Section 6201 of the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020.

According to the YIR, there are approximately 294,000 financial institutions and other e-filers registered to file BSA reports with FinCEN.  Collectively, they filed during FY 2023 a total of 4.6 million Suspicious Activity Reports (“SARs”) and 20.8 million Currency Transaction Reports (“CTRs”), as well as 1.6 million Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (“FBARs”), 421,500 Forms 8300 regarding cash payments over $10,000 received in a trade or business, and 143,200 Reports of International Transportation of Currency or Monetary Instruments (“CMIRs”) for certain cross-border transactions exceeding $10,000.

As we will discuss, a massive amount of SARs and CTRs are filed every year.  Apparently – and the YIR necessarily represents only a snapshot lacking full context, so extrapolation is dangerous – only a very small portion of those filings ever become relevant to actual federal criminal investigations.  Further, the YIR suggests that information sharing under Section 314 of the Patriot Act between the government and financial institutions remains an under-utilized tool.

Continue Reading  FinCEN Releases Year-in-Review for FY 2023: SARs, CTRs and Information Sharing

But Five Justices Express Deep Concern as to Civil Forfeiture Regimes

On May 9, in Culley et al. v. Marshall, the Supreme Court ruled that the U.S. Constitution does not require a preliminary hearing in civil forfeiture cases involving personal property for claimants to raise the “innocent owner” defense. Rather, the Court ruled that a “timely” forfeiture hearing affords claimants due process and that no separate preliminary hearing is constitutionally required. Although Culley arose under Alabama law, it has direct consequences for the forfeiture laws of many states, as well as federal civil forfeiture proceedings, in which claimants can raise the innocent owner defense.

It is important to remember that Culley involves personal property: as the Court noted, existing Supreme Court law allows States to immediately seize personal property (i.e., cars, currency, art, jewelry, etc.) subject to civil forfeiture if the property otherwise could be removed, destroyed, or concealed before a forfeiture hearing. Calero-Toledo v. Pearson Yacht Leasing Co., 416 U. S. 663, 679–680 (1974). In contrast, existing Supreme Court law provides that States ordinarily may not seize real property (i.e., land and structures) before providing notice and a hearing. United States v. James Daniel Good Real Property, 510 U. S. 43, 62 (1993). Moreover, States and Congress of course still can craft statutes which afford protections beyond the bare minimum required by the Constitution.

Finally, and more importantly, the dissenting and concurring opinions make clear that the legal and social debates over civil forfeiture practices, and their potential abuse, are far from over.

Continue Reading  Supreme Court:  Innocent Owners of Forfeited Personal Property Must Wait

Form Would Impose De Facto KYC Obligations Relating to Unhosted Wallets

On April 18, the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”) issued a draft version of Form 1099-DA, a proposed information reporting form regarding certain digital asset sales and exchanges that “digital asset brokers” will need to file with the IRS and provide to the individuals involved in the sales and exchanges (“Draft Form”). The detailed and complicated Draft Form would be the first of its kind. 

If ultimately promulgated, the Draft Form and its supporting regulations would impose customer identification obligations upon a potentially broad swath of digital industry participants, including those who currently take the position that they do not need to collect customer identification information because they provide only decentralized finance (“DeFi”) services and/or provide only “unhosted” digital wallet services. Such customer identification obligations would be imposed under the Internal Revenue Code (the “Code”), rather than – as has been discussed for years – anti-money laundering (“AML”) and Know Your Customer (“KYC”) requirements under the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”). From the perspective of the digital asset industry, the precise source of the obligations would not matter much, because the practical consequences would be similar: they will need to collect tax identification information from sellers and buyers of digital assets.   

Continue Reading  IRS Unveils Broad Draft Information Reporting Form for Digital Asset Transactions

We are very pleased to be presenting on both Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering (BSA/AML) compliance and the Corporate Transparency Act (CTA), in partnership with the Practicing Law Institute

First, on April 8 at 1 p.m., Siana Danch will discuss issues involving the CTA during a live one-hour briefing with Sara C. Lenet of Hogan

With Guest Speaker IRS Criminal Investigation Special Agent Jonathan Schnatz

We are very fortunate to have Special Agent Jonathan Schnatz as our guest speaker in this podcast on international efforts to investigate tax evasion and money laundering, and how they relate to criminal investigations and civil audits of U.S. businesses and individuals.

Special Agent Schnatz

Years in the making, on February 13, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) issued a notice of proposed rulemaking (“NPRM”) to include “investment adviser” (“IA”) within the definition of “financial institution” under the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”). FinCEN has posted a fact sheet on the NPRM here.

The NPRM subjects broad categories of IAs to statutory and regulatory anti-money laundering/countering terrorist financing (“AML/CTF”) compliance obligations. FinCEN is accepting comments on the NPRM until April 15, 2024.

Continue Reading  FinCEN Seeks to Make Investment Advisers Subject to Bank Secrecy Act

Third of Three Posts in a Related Series on Recent AML and Money Laundering Prosecutions

As we have blogged, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has been busy lately in regards to money laundering and Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) / Anti-Money Laundering (“AML”) prosecutions.

In our first blog post in this three-part series, we discussed a significant prosecution of an individual, and two related corporate non-prosecution agreements involving the gaming industry.  In our second blog post, we discussed two unusual prosecutions involving, respectively, an executive of a bank and an alleged AML specialist working with small financial institutions.

In our final post of this series, we will discuss the prosecution and sentencing of a lawyer who allegedly became part of the massive fraud and money laundering scheme perpetrated by his cryptocurrency client.  Specifically, on January 25, lawyer Mark Scott (“Scott”) was sentenced to 10 years in prison for allegedly laundering approximately $400 million in connection with a fraudulent cryptocurrency scheme known as “OneCoin.”  Scott was a former partner at the international law firm of Locke Lord.  Although the alleged facts and circumstances of this case are both extreme and lurid, it nonetheless reminds lawyers of the need to be careful about getting too involved in the businesses of their clients, particularly in the presence of multiple red flags.

Continue Reading  Former Big Law Lawyer Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison for Allegedly Laundering $400 Million in Crypto Client Funds

The beneficial ownership information (“BOI”) registry under the Corporate Transparency Act (“CTA”) is now up and running at the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”).  This post will follow up on a previous blog regarding the recently-published CTA BOI access regulations (the “Access Rule”).  As we will discuss, the Access Rule leaves open many important questions for financial institutions (“FIs”) covered by the CTA, as they await further proposed regulations from FinCEN regarding alignment of the CTA with the Customer Due Diligence (“CDD”) Rule.

The full federal register publication for the Access Rule is here.  It is 82 pages long.  We therefore have created this separate 13-page document, which is slightly more user-friendly, setting forth only the actual regulations (now published at 31 C.F.R. § 1010.955).

Continue Reading  Final CTA Access Rule Answers Some Questions, and Leaves Open Others

Farewell to 2023, and welcome 2024.  As we do every year, let’s look back.

We highlight 10 of our most-read blog posts from 2023, which address many of the key issues we’ve examined during the past year: criminal money laundering enforcement; compliance risks with third-party fintech relationships; the scope of authority of bank regulators; sanctions