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Sarah Aberg is special counsel in the White Collar Defense and Corporate Investigations Group in the firm's New York office.

For the first time outside of the originating case itself, a federal appeals court was called upon to apply the principles governing disgorgement in SEC enforcement actions established by the United States Supreme Court’s high-profile decision in Liu v. Securities & Exchange Comm’n, No. 18-1501, 2020 WL 3405845 (U.S. June 22, 2020) (blog article here).  In Securities & Exchange Comm’n v. Yang, No. 19-55289, 2020 WL 4530630 (9th Cir. Aug. 6, 2020), the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit reviewed a district court order, issued some eighteen months before the Supreme Court spoke in Liu, awarding the SEC disgorgement.  In an unpublished memorandum decision, the Court of Appeals reversed the disgorgement awards and remanded the case to the district court to explicitly determine whether the awards comported with the requirements for such relief under Liu.  The Yang decision drew attention because it served as an example of how the high court’s decision is impacting appellate review of disgorgement awards.  If Yang is any indication, courts of appeal will be remanding cases to district courts with instruction to reach specific findings regarding compliance with Liu’s disgorgement requirements.
Continue Reading Ninth Circuit Reverses SEC Disgorgement Award and Remands in First Decision Post-Liu

A recent enforcement action offers a glimpse of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (“FINRA”) expectations for firms conducting anti-money laundering (“AML”) due diligence and transaction monitoring.  On July 27, 2020, FINRA settled with broker-dealer JKR & Company (“JKR”) over allegations that the firm failed to detect, investigate, and report suspicious activity in four customer accounts in violation of FINRA Rules 3310(a) and 2010.  JKR agreed to a $50,000 fine and a censure to resolve the matter.  The settlement is notable in that FINRA applied transaction monitoring and due diligence expectations common in the banking industry to a broker-dealer.  It also serves as a reminder that FINRA expects member firms to not only establish written AML policies and procedures, but also to put their AML programs into practice in order to meet their regulatory obligations.
Continue Reading FINRA Settlement Highlights Importance of Anti-Money Laundering Due Diligence and Monitoring

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”) recently signaled its approval for banks to fully wade into the cryptocurrency custodian space.  On in a July 22, 2020 interpretive letter, the OCC concluded that a national bank may provide cryptocurrency custody services on behalf of its customers, including by holding the unique cryptographic keys associated with cryptocurrency, so long as the institution is able to effectively manage the risks and complies with applicable law.
Continue Reading Office of the Comptroller of the Currency Affirms Authority of a National Bank to Provide Cryptocurrency Custody Services

In Liu v. Securities & Exchange Comm’n, No. 18-1501, 2020 WL 3405845 (U.S. June 22, 2020), the United States Supreme Court upheld the authority of the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) to seek disgorgement as an equitable remedy under 15 U.S.C. § 78u(d)(5), so long as it “does not exceed a wrongdoer’s net profits and is awarded for victims.”  Although Liu preserved the SEC’s disgorgement powers as a general matter, it narrowed the criteria for appropriate equitable relief, effectively curtailing the SEC’s ability to pursue unduly broad disgorgement remedies.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Preserves But Limits SEC Disgorgement Power

Presidential Proclamation

On June 22, 2020, the White House announced an extension and expansion of Proclamation 10014, which was originally announced on April 22, 2020 and restricted the issuance of and entry on immigrant visas.  The new visa ban expands the restrictions to certain non-immigrant categories.
Continue Reading How the New Presidential Proclamation Regarding Non-Immigrant Visas Affects Your Company

The United States Department of Justice (DOJ) released updated guidance regarding its evaluation of corporate compliance programs on June 1, 2020.  The release comes just over a year since the guidance was last updated in April 2019.  While these latest changes are less extensive than the most recent ones, there are some key differences that suggest the DOJ may be shifting some areas of focus when it comes to its approach to assessing the effectiveness of corporate compliance programs.
Continue Reading DOJ Updates Corporate Compliance Guidance

On May 26, 2020, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, (“FinCEN”) issued a notice in the Federal Register updating cost estimates related to compliance with filing suspicious activity reports (SARs).  Under the Bank Secrecy Act, 31 U.S.C. § 5311 et seq., certain businesses providing financial services are required to file SARs upon suspicion that a crime or violation was committed by, at, or through that financial institution (so long as certain dollar thresholds are met), or upon suspicion of insider abuse of any kind.
Continue Reading FinCEN Issues Notice on SARs Filing Figures

On May 13, 2020, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) Director Kenneth Blanco delivered remarks to the Consensus Blockchain Conference regarding the agency’s recent observations in connection with virtual currencies, including the current risks of criminal exploitation of virtual currency, significant issues FinCEN anticipates for virtual currencies in the future, and the industry’s compliance with the Travel Rule.
Continue Reading FinCEN Director Addresses COVID-19 Related Virtual Currency Issues at Consensus Blockchain Conference

On May 4, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) issued a temporary final rule easing some restrictions on small businesses seeking to raise capital pursuant to Regulation Crowdfunding (“Reg CF”).  The SEC made the move in response to feedback from its Small Business Capital Formation Advisory Committee and other outreach conducted by SEC staff regarding the industry’s urgent need for expedited access to capital while maintaining investor protections as the COVID-19 pandemic persists.
Continue Reading SEC Offers Limited Rule Relief to Spur Small Business Crowdfunding During Pandemic

On May 12, 2020, speaking at the Securities Enforcement Forum West 2020, Steven Peikin, the co-Director of the Securities and Exchange Commission Enforcement Division, provided an overview of the division’s activities over the last several months as it has responded to the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The Division is actively monitoring issuers and market participants for any sign of abuse of the situation, swiftly implementing interim trading suspensions where the possibility of such abuse is identified, and filing enforcement actions in record time where it determines such abuse has occurred.
Continue Reading SEC Co-Director of Enforcement Outlines Division’s Response to COVID-19