Cryptocurrency + FinTech

On May 23, the U.S. Supreme Court issued its decision in Coinbase, Inc. v. Suski et al., unanimously affirming the Ninth Circuit’s decision holding that when parties have agreed to two contracts — one sending arbitrability disputes to arbitration, and the other sending arbitrability disputes to the courts — a court must decide which contract governs. The decision teaches a cautionary lesson that parties with multiple contracts between them must keep issues of arbitrability consistent between the contracts.

Yesterday, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB or Bureau) issued a procedural rule streamlining the designation proceedings for nonbank supervision based on a particular entity posing “risks to consumers.” As discussed in “Our Take” below, the changes are designed to encourage nonbanks to volunteer to be supervised, while making it easier for the CFPB to impose supervisory oversight when companies do not consent.

On April 8, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released its Final Rule to revise existing regulations implementing Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). This Final Rule clarifies the obligations of state and local governments to make web content and mobile applications accessible.

On February 13, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) released a blog post warning companies that it could be deemed an unfair or deceptive practice for a company to adopt more permissive data practices and to only inform consumers of such changes through retroactive amendments to its terms of service or privacy policy.

We are pleased to share our annual review of regulatory and legal developments in the consumer financial services industry. With active federal and state legislatures, consumer financial services providers faced a challenging 2023. Courts across the country issued rulings that will have immediate and lasting impacts on the industry. Our team of more than 140 professionals has prepared this concise, yet thorough analysis of the most important issues and trends throughout our industry. We not only examined what happened in 2023, but also what to expect — and how to prepare — for the months ahead.

Cryptocurrency, with its anonymity and decentralization, has revolutionized financial transactions. However, it has also opened doors for illicit activities, such as terrorist financing. Below we explore the role of cryptocurrency in terrorist financing, focusing on Hamas, a U.S.-designated terrorist organization.

On November 20, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) instituted a civil enforcement action against Kraken, a major U.S. cryptocurrency exchange. The SEC alleged Kraken operated as an unregistered broker, dealer, exchange, and clearing agency, in violation of the Securities Exchange Act. The SEC’s lawsuit aims to prohibit Kraken from continuing these activities and seeks an unspecific amount of civil monetary penalties.

On November 20, 2023, the California Department of Financial Protection and Innovation (DFPI) issued an invitation for comments on proposed application-related rulemaking under the Digital Financial Assets Law (DFAL). This move comes after Governor Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 39 and Senate Bill 401, which together create the DFAL. The DFAL and Senate Bill 401, signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on October 13, 2023, are set to regulate virtual currency activities within California, effective July 1, 2025.

On November 21, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) unsealed its criminal indictment against Binance.com (Binance), the world’s largest cryptocurrency exchange, and its CEO, Changpeng “CZ” Zhao (CZ). The indictment against Binance contains three charges: (1) conspiracy to violate the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) by failing to implement and maintain an effective anti-money laundering (AML) program; (2) conducting an unlicensed money services business; and (3) willful violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). On the same day, at a press conference also attended by Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) Chairman Russ Behnam, Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Binance pled guilty to all charges, and the DOJ is requiring Binance to pay approximately $4.3 billion in criminal penalties and forfeiture. CZ also pled guilty to violating the BSA by failing to maintain an effective AML program. As a result, he must resign as Binance’s CEO and is awaiting criminal sentencing.