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EFTs, PSPs & Crowdfunding : Canada’s Changing Regulatory Landscape

On April 27th, 2022 amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations (PCMLTFR) and associated regulations related to penalties for non-compliance were passed. These amendments were unusual, as there was little prior public consultation, no pre-publication for public comment, and they came into force “on publication” (right away). This is particularly unusual, as new business models were included in the money services business (MSB) and foreign money services business (FMSB) categories.

Specifically, a number of payment services providers (PSPs) became MSBs through a change in the definition of electronic funds transfers (EFTs), and companies that provide crowdfunding services also became MSBs/FMSBs. Historically, these types of changes would have included a pre-publication of the proposed amendment with time for industry participants to comment. There is also, generally, a period of time between the publication of final amendments and the coming into force date (often a year). Absent these buffers, both industry and Canada’s AML regulator, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) have been scrambling to assess the many nuances of the amendments.

While we’ve seen a number of responses to individual applicants for MSB registrations and requests for policy interpretations from FINTRAC, today’s release was the first substantial piece of public guidance from the regulator. For those inclined, it can be accessed here: https://fintrac-canafe.canada.ca/notices-avis/2022-07-21-eng

EFTs and PSPs

What may have seemed like an inconsequential change to the definition of EFTs, which removed certain exemptions, has significant impacts on payment services providers.

“As payment services are not a prescribed service under the PCMLTFA, FINTRAC is taking the position that persons or entities that provide invoice payment services or payment services for goods and services are engaged in the business of remitting or transmitting funds, or dealing in virtual currency.”

FINTRAC’s guidance goes on to define each of these activities and the (very limited) exemptions in each case.

Crowdfunding

While crowdfunding gets a nod in the title of the guidance, it doesn’t really factor into the substance of today’s piece. There are definitions in the amendments themselves in this case, and it’s likely that additional guidance will follow as FINTRAC works through these registrations.

crowdfunding platform means a website or an application or other software that is used to raise funds or virtual currency through donations. (plateforme de sociofinancement)”

crowdfunding platform services means the provision and maintenance of a crowdfunding platform for use by other persons or entities to raise funds or virtual currency for themselves or for persons or entities specified by them. (services de plateforme de sociofinancement)”

FINTRAC’s MSB/FMSB Registration Process

The guidance notes that FINTRAC is working to get businesses registered “over the next several weeks.” As there are many businesses that will be newly registering as MSBs or FMSBs, industry participants should expect some delays. It has also become much more common for FINTRAC to ask for additional details about the business, such as the business model and flow of funds.

There is also a tool to check to see if your business should be registered: https://www.fintrac-canafe.gc.ca/msb-esm/questions/2-eng

If you’re ready to register, you can find an overview of the process and links to the pre-registration form here: https://fintrac-canafe.canada.ca/msb-esm/register-inscrire/reg-ins-eng

Requesting Policy Interpretations

There are two important FINTRAC email addresses. If you have a question specifically about whether or not your business should register, first try msb-esm@fintrac-canafe.gc.ca.

For other policy interpretation requests (or if your request is particularly complex), your best avenue is most likely guidelines-lignesdirectrices@fintrac-canafe.gc.ca.

Enforcement Actions

FINTRAC’s guidance indicates that the regulator will take a reasonable approach to entities required to register.

“We understand that there will be challenges in meeting certain obligations. FINTRAC will be reasonable in its assessment and enforcement approach and is committed to working with reporting entities subject to the PCMLTFA and its Regulations to increase their awareness, understanding and compliance with their obligations. Please continue to monitor our website for updates or additional guidance.”

This gentle approach will not last indefinitely. If your business needs to be registered (and get its house in order AML compliance-wise), it’s time to get started.

We’re here to help.

Whether you want a hand drafting a policy interpretation request, an AML compliance program, or training for your newly minted AML Compliance Officer (congratulations, I’m sorry), we’re here to help. Please get in touch.

Canada’s 2017 Budget & PCMLTFA Updates

Greetings fellow compliance geeks!

As you may know, Canada’s latest budget bill contains a number of amendments to the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (PCMLTFA). We’ve created a marked up version of the PCMLTFA to help you work through and understand the changes, and you can access it using the link below with this caveat: you are welcome to use and share this markup, but you may not charge money for access to it. Information should be free.

Yes, I get it, give me access!

If you prefer a copy of the markups in Microsoft Word, please contact us.

Analysis Notes

The biggest takeaway from these amendments is related to section 5 (e.1), which adds “trust companies incorporated or formed by or under a provincial Act that are not regulated by a provincial Act” as being federally regulated entities. This has been a loophole in Canadian legislation for a long time, and was called out in Canada’s most recent mutual evaluation by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF). If you’re company falls into this category, it’s time to start thinking about anti money laundering (AML) compliance. If you have business arrangements (clients, suppliers, etc.) that are unregulated provincial trusts, there are a few early steps that you might want to consider:

  • Re-assess the AML risk that these provincial trust companies pose;
  • Reach out to ask if they have a Compliance Officer and an AML program (in some cases, you will be pleasantly surprised); and
  • Consider whether or not additional controls are required to mitigate the risk posed.

The additional information that’s changing includes a lot of items that most us would consider housekeeping, like changing foreign country to foreign state in a number of places, and adding bullet points to what is considered “prescribed information:”

  • the name, address, electronic mail address and telephone number of every trustee and every known beneficiary and settlor of a trust referred to in paragraph (a);
  • the name, address, electronic mail address and telephone number of each person who owns or controls, directly or indirectly, 25 % or more of an entity referred to in paragraph (a), other than a trust; and
  • information respecting the ownership, control and structure of an entity referred to in paragraph (a).

The only piece there that will be new (at least in terms of requirements) is the “electronic mail address” (email) for beneficial owners. If you’re not already collecting this information, it’s time to think about how to get started. If you’re collecting the email address, but its optional, consider making it a required field.

The modifications also give the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) the ability to share information with the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Forces where there are reasonable grounds to believe that there is a threat. Presumably, this would include contexts like a terrorist attack on Canada. It’s somewhat surprising that this was not already in place.

There have also been changes to the things about which “the Governor in Council may, on the recommendation of the Minister, make any regulations that the Governor in Council considers necessary for carrying out the purposes and provisions of this Act, including regulations…” These are interesting in thinking about what may be next in line for additional regulation:

  • respecting dealing in virtual currencies;
  • respecting the keeping of records referred to in section 6;
  • respecting the verification of the identity of persons and entities referred to in section 6.1; (d) respecting the reports to the Centre referred to in section 7 and subsections 7.1(1) and 9(1);
  • respecting the determination of whether a person is a person described in any of paragraphs 9.3(1)(a) to (c);
  • respecting the measures referred to in subsections 9.3(2) and (2.1);
  • respecting the measures referred to in subsection 9.4(1);
  • respecting the program referred to in subsection 9.6(1);
  • respecting the special measures referred to in subsection 9.6(3);
  • respecting the registration referred to in sections 11.1 to 11.2;
  • respecting the reports referred to in subsection 12(1); and
  • prescribing anything that by this Act is to be prescribed.

The only truly interesting point here is dealing in virtual currency, which also came up in Bill C-31 which passed in 2014. This bill, also called the Economic Action Plan 2014 Act, No. 1, has not been fully implemented. Some of its provisions (including those specifically related to including dealing in virtual currency under the definition of money services businesses) are also being amended. In the markups, these changes are highlighted in blue rather than in yellow to distinguish between the two.

Finally, there is a change to the definition of a head of an international organization. This one seems a bit nitpicky to me, but if you’re in the process of updating your documentation for the changes that are coming into force in June of this year, you might want to consider this as well. Head of an international organization (HIO) means a person who, at a given time, holds — or has held within a prescribed period before that time — the office or position of head of an international organization that is established by the governments of states or the head of an institution of any such organization.

We’re Here To Help

If you have questions about these changes, the changes coming into force in June of this year, or AML compliance in general, please contact us.

Proposed PCMLTFR Updates

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We’ve created a marked-up version of the Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Regulations (PCMLTFR) that reflects the draft amendments posted in the Canada Gazette on July 4th, 2015.

Here’s a printable and downloadable PDF file: PCMLTFR Mark-Up (July 4, 2015 Draft Amendments)

If you would like a copy of the file in Microsoft Word, please contact us.

Need A Hand?

At Outlier, we believe that it is important to participate in decisions that affect you and your business.  If you would like someone to look over your submission before you make comments to the Department of Finance, you can get in touch with us free of charge.  We will look over your submission and make suggestions, without any cost to you.  If you need a hand, please feel free to contact us.

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