Archive: May 2016

1
Future of Fintech Regulations in the US
2
AML review targets digital currencies
3
New “FinTech Bridge” between UK and Singaporean FinTech companies and investors
4
CFPB Takes Aim at Marketplace Lenders
5
K&L Gates at Shoptalk, The tech event for nextgen commerce
6
Treasury releases white paper on marketplace lending
7
FinCEN proposal to impose AML obligations on U.S. Funding Portals
8
ASIC update on fintech regulatory sandbox proposal
9
Digital currency and GST
10
FinTech start-ups to play in the FCA Sandbox

Future of Fintech Regulations in the US

By Charles Carter and Anthony (Tony) Yerry (ed. Cameron Abbott and Giles Whittaker)

Investment in financial technology (fintech) companies has surpassed US$24 billion worldwide since 2010, which consequently emphasises the importance of the relationship between fintech companies and regulators as they attempt to establish a culture of compliance while not stifling innovation.

As suggested by the industry experts according to The Wall Street Journal, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) may be the best federal agency to regulate fintech companies in the US. On March 31 the OCC during a speech at Harvard University on the innovation of the fintech industry released a white paper which attempts to launch formal discussions between regulators and the industry.

For more information and analysis of the OCC white paper please see K&L Gates’ e-alert here.

AML review targets digital currencies

By Jim Bulling and Michelle Chasser

The Australian Attorney General’s Department (AG) has released its statutory review of the Anti-Money Laundering and Counter-Terrorism Financing Act 2006 (AML Act). Recommendations have been made to better incorporate digital wallets and digital currencies in the AML Act.

The AG has recommended that:

  1. the AML Act be amended to ensure that digital wallets are comprehensively captured. Some digital wallets are already caught by the AML Act where they are considered to be ‘accounts’ provided by traditional financial product providers such as banks and credit unions. However, a potential regulatory gap was identified for new types of digital wallets inspired by technological advances. For example, digital wallets which store digital currency are not regulated under the AML Act;

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New “FinTech Bridge” between UK and Singaporean FinTech companies and investors

By Jonathan Lawrence

The UK Government has announced a new “FinTech Bridge” to help UK FinTech firms and investors access the Asian market and expand to Singapore, as well as attracting Singaporean FinTech companies and investors to the UK.

The launch on 11 May 2016 included the signing of a regulatory cooperation agreement between the Financial Conduct Authority (“FCA”) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (“MAS”). The agreement will enable the regulators to refer FinTech firms to their counterparts across the globe. It also sets out how the regulators plan to share and use information on financial services innovation in their respective markets.

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CFPB Takes Aim at Marketplace Lenders

By David Christensen

Last Fall, in its 2015 Rulemaking Agenda, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (“CFPB”) signaled its intent to “to develop rules to define larger participants in markets for consumer installment loans.”[1]  Under the Dodd-Frank Act, the CFPB is authorized to issue “larger participant” rules to define entities in a particular market for consumer financial products or services.  The issuance of such rules opens the door for supervisory and examination authority over such entities.  Fast forward to Spring 2016, when the CFPB announced that it is accepting complaints from consumers regarding alleged problems with online marketplace loans, and it appears that the CFPB has marketplace lenders squarely in its sights.[2]

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K&L Gates at Shoptalk, The tech event for nextgen commerce

By Bob Zinn and Megan Wotherspoon

K&L Gates is attending Shoptalk from May 15-18. More than 3,000 people will be gathering in Las Vegas for the leading tech event for nextgen commerce with 325 confirmed guest speakers. We look forward to hearing how individuals and companies are reshaping how the consumer shops and buys products, services, and experiences.

Let’s meet up and share information at the conference! Contact Bob Zinn or Megan Wotherspoon.

Look for our follow up blog post with a recap of the conference.

Treasury releases white paper on marketplace lending

By Sean P. Mahoney

On May 10, 2016, the US Treasury issued its much anticipated white paper on marketplace lending.  The whitepaper follows Treasury’s July 2015 request for information.  The white paper highlighted some keys risks and made six concrete recommendations for future action.

More specifically, the white paper noted that the use of sophisticated data-driven algorithms may result in unexpected correlations that could result in disparate impacts and give rise to fair lending violations.  The use of data outside of regulated credit reports also creates the risk that borrowers may have no redress if information used as a basis for an underwriting decision proves inaccurate.  Treasury made it a point to note, however, that marketplace lenders that partner with banks may be subject to regulation and examination by prudential bank regulators under the US Bank Service Company Act.

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FinCEN proposal to impose AML obligations on U.S. Funding Portals

By C. Todd Gibson, Michael McGrath and Ken Juster

On April 4, 2016, the U.S. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (a bureau of the U.S. Treasury Department) (“FinCEN”) proposed rules that would require “funding portals” established under new Regulation Crowdfunding to implement policies and procedures designed to prevent money laundering, terrorist financing, and other financial crimes.

Current regulations under the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”) define a “Broker or Dealer in Securities” as an entity registered, or required to be registered as a broker or dealer under the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.  Certain funding portals that operate in compliance with Regulation Crowdfunding are exempt from such registration, and therefore fall outside of the BSA definition.  FinCEN is proposing to amend the defintion of a “Broker or Dealer in Securities” to specifically include funding portals, which will have the effect of imposing the same BSA obligations on funding portals as are currently imposed on fully-registered broker-dealers, such as filing suspicious activity reports.

A copy of the proposed amendment can be found here.

ASIC update on fintech regulatory sandbox proposal

By Jim Bulling and Jack Fraser

ASIC has put out a media release on the proposed regulatory sandbox licensing exemption and will release a public consultation paper on the proposal in June of this year. The purpose of the sandbox is to foster innovation in the FinTech industry by allowing eligible businesses to test their products in the market without initially being subject to the usual regulatory mechanisms and requirements.

ASIC Commissioner John Price said that this “consultation paper will seek feedback on additional steps that ASIC may take to facilitate fintech innovation while maintaining protections to ensure investor and consumer trust and confidence”.

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Digital currency and GST

By Jim Bulling and Michelle Chasser

The application of consumption tax to digital currencies varies between countries. The UK and countries in the EU have made Bitcoin exempt from such taxes, while other countries such as Japan, Singapore, Canada and Australia treat digital currencies as intangible property which is subject to the tax.

In Australia, this has resulted in consumers paying Goods and Services Tax (GST) when they exchange money for digital currencies and again when they use the digital currency to make a purchase. Treasury has released a discussion paper on the application of GST on digital currencies. While the proposals are very different technically, they both result in removing the double taxation.

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FinTech start-ups to play in the FCA Sandbox

By Jonathan Lawrence

The UK Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) recently released its 2016 Business Plan. Possibly the most eye-catching initiative is the regulatory sandbox. The sandbox has been formed to provide a safe environment for businesses to test their products. For new entrants to the financial services market, the intention is that unauthorised businesses can use the sandbox to test products, services, business models and delivery without first needing to meet all of the normal regulatory requirements and incurring the costs of putting in place the complex structures and processes to successfully apply for regulatory authorisation. These firms will be granted limited authorisation for testing purposes. The FCA has suggested a number of safety measures for consumers ranging from informed consent through to the businesses in the sandbox providing a meaningful indemnity for losses. Furthermore, the FCA will apply discretion in determining both the level of limited authorisation and the safety measures on a case-by-case basis rather than forcing a one-size-fits-all model.

Firms and businesses interested in utilising the sandbox must satisfy specified criteria and apply for the first cohort between 9 May and 8 July 2016. The second cohort will have an application deadline of mid-January 2017.  The sandbox will not be available for activities which fall outside of the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. For example, payment service providers and e-money issuers already potentially benefit from the lighter touch regimes in the Payment Services Regulations and the Electronic Money Regulations. Accessing the sandbox is not straightforward, and businesses will need to give careful consideration as to whether they might qualify. The success of the sandbox is in part dependent on the quality of applicant. If businesses do their bit and if the FCA continues the trend of assisting disruptors where it can then the sandbox could fulfil the initial optimism around the initiative.

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