From Marijuana Businesses to Virtual Currencies: Three Learning Events to Remember

The Northern California Chapter hosted three different learning events this year for their chapter members.  Topics ranged from FATCA to investigative techniques and additional hot topics  BSA/AML/OFAC compliance professionals could face in their careers.

The first learning event was on Thursday, May 29 where approximately 70 BSA/AML/OFAC compliance professionals gathered at the Omni Hotel in San Francisco to attend the anti-money laundering (AML) Hot Topics learning event, which was sponsored by Oracle. Oracle’s representative Don Ryu provided a presentation on the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) requirements and provided an overview of FATCA and the implementation timeline. Speakers for the session covered additional hot topics including banking marijuana businesses, sanctions and virtual currencies. The first speaker was Robert “Bud” Heng, (RH Counseling), who spoke about the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network’s (FinCENs) recent guidance on banking marijuana businesses. He covered the state versus federal differences on marijuana issues and what the regulatory expectations are in regards to banking marijuana businesses. Specifically, he covered the different suspicious activity reports (SARs) that should be filed based on what type of marijuana activity financial institutions are seeing through their customer’s accounts. Second was Tim Byun (formerly of Visa) who provided insight into the recent sanctions against the Ukraine including the timeline and evolution of the sanctions. He also provided some helpful tips on how to take action on potential matches. Finally, Karsten Behrend (Xapo) provided an overview of virtual currencies and their risks and benefits.

Learning Event Two: Payment Technologies and Virtual Currencies

On Thursday, July 31, BSA/AML/OFAC compliance professionals gathered at Silicon Valley Bank in Santa Clara to attend the second annual half-day learning event focused on emerging payment technologies. Three sessions covered (1) emerging payments technology, (2) emerging payments companies and (3) virtual currency/bitcoin investigations. For the first session, speakers from Xapo and PayPal discussed payment technologies including: RFID tabs, beacons, QR barcodes, NFC, digital wallets and bitcoin. In addition to discussing the emerging technologies and what they do, the challenges of adoption and compliance risks/concerns were raised. For the second session, three companies presented their products. This included Square (merchant services), PayNearMe (digitization of currency) and BitAccess (bitcoin ATMs). For the third and final session, speakers from virtual currency companies as well as a representative from the San Francisco High Intensity Financial Crimes Area Task Force discussed virtual currency investigations. This included an AML case study of Butterfly Labs. After the sessions concluded, attendees were invited to network during a hosted cocktail hour.

Learning Event Three: Investigative Techniques

On Thursday, October 9, approximately 30 BSA/AML/OFAC compliance professionals gathered at Bank of the West in San Ramon to attend an interactive session on Investigative Techniques. Neal Reiter from Identity Mind shared some great tips on streamlining and enhancing investigations. In addition, he provided information on various paid and free sites that could assist in investigations. Finally, he provided insight into strategies to streamline/automate investigations. After the formal presentation, the audience was split into groups so that participants could network and share investigative tips and tricks.

Overall, all three learning events were a success and the Northern California Chapter looks forward to having more educational events in the future.