FinCEN and OFAC’s Record Settlement with Binance: A Wake-Up Call for the Crypto Industry

The Binance case and what it means for other MSBs

FinCEN’s Historic Settlement with Binance

The U.S. regulator FinCEN recently imposed a landmark penalty of $3.4 billion on Binance, marking the largest ever in the history of the U.S. Treasury and FinCEN. This punitive measure stems from Binance‘s admission of operating as an unregistered Money Services Business (MSB) in the U.S.

The company acknowledged its failure to establish a robust anti-money laundering (AML) program, which included significant lapses in performing Know Your Customer (KYC) procedures. Consequently, this allowed various illicit actors, including those involved in terrorism, ransomware, child exploitation, and fraud, to use its platform unimpeded.

OFAC’s Enforcement Action: A Staggering Revelation

OFAC’s action against Binance highlights the gravity of the company’s misconduct, emphasizing its volume of transactions and senior management’s complicity. Binance executed over 1.67 million virtual currency trades involving U.S. persons and users in sanctioned jurisdictions. Despite being aware of the potential sanctions violations, Binance continued these operations, even advising users on circumventing geofencing controls.

Implications for Other MSBs in the Crypto Environment

This case sets a precedent for the entire crypto industry, especially for MSBs operating in this space, such as Mercuryo, that lost its crypto license in Estonia at the end of 2022. The Russian-controlled crypto payment scheme works closely with crypto exchanges as a payment facilitator for the FIAT sector. Mercuryo acts as an MSB in North America and thus fits into the FinCEN definition of the Binance case.

The severity of the penalties reflects the U.S. regulators’ commitment to enforcing compliance with AML and sanctions regulations. It sends a clear message: non-compliance with regulatory standards will result in significant consequences.

Conclusion: A Call for Compliance and Transparency

For other MSBs in the crypto environment, this case serves as a crucial reminder of the importance of compliance with regulatory standards. The need for robust AML programs, thorough KYC processes, and adherence to sanctions laws is more critical than ever. This enforcement action is likely to spur a wave of compliance reviews and enhancements across the sector, as companies strive to align with regulatory expectations and avoid similar repercussions.

The Binance case is not just a singular event but a turning point in regulatory oversight in the crypto industry. For MSBs, the message is clear: prioritize compliance or face potentially devastating penalties. The focus on transparency and adherence to legal obligations is paramount for the sustained growth and legitimacy of the crypto sector.