Financial Institutions

On December 20, 2018, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) released its 2019 Examination Priorities.  The six themes for this year’s priorities are:  retail investors (including seniors and those saving for retirement), compliance and risk in registrants responsible for critical market infrastructure (clearing agencies, transfer agents, national securities exchanges and Regulation SCI entities), oversight of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority and Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, digital assets, cybersecurity and anti-money laundering.  The only new theme for 2019 compared to 2018 is digital assets, which we take to imply a plan to more closely—and substantively—regulate investment advisers and broker-dealers involved with this asset class.  The 2019 priorities also more explicitly than the 2018 priorities describe specific practices that OCIE found concerning in examinations of those entities, many of which involved failure to adequately safeguard client assets and the adequacy of disclosures of conflicts of interest.  We expect to see a corresponding focus in Enforcement Division investigations and cases on these issues as a result. Continue Reading Lessons from the SEC Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations’ 2019 Priorities

On Tuesday, September 11, 2018, Judge Raymond J. Dearie of the Eastern District of New York issued a decision holding that Initial Coin Offerings (“ICO”) may qualify as securities offerings and therefore be subject to the criminal federal securities laws.  This ruling came as two U.S. regulators—the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (“FINRA”)—announced separate actions under securities laws against companies engaged in the cryptocurrency marketplace, including the sale of digital tokens.  As the popularity of cryptocurrencies grows and businesses and entrepreneurs increasingly turn to ICOs to raise capital, these developments may serve as guideposts for how cryptocurrencies and ICOs will be viewed by courts and federal regulators in cases to follow. Continue Reading Federal Court, SEC, and FINRA Scrutinize Cryptocurrencies and ICOs

A federal district court in California has become the latest court to hold that the 10-year statute of limitations under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act of 1989 (“FIRREA”) for offenses “affecting a financial institution” extends to offenses committed by banks and their employees, not just offenses committed against them.  The decision is the latest chapter in a long-running debate between the Government and financial institutions that has played out in a series of federal court decisions over the last three years regarding interpretation of FIRREA.  While this is not the first decision to hold that the 10-year limitations period applies to offenses by financial institutions, it is the first outside of the Second Circuit. Continue Reading California District Court Holds that FIRREA’s 10-Year Statute of Limitations Reaches Risks Caused to Financial Institutions by Their Own Employees

In a February post, we discussed in detail recent changes to the U.S. tax rules governing the deductibility of settlement payments and court-ordered damages payments.  The IRS has now released some limited guidance on this new law (IRS Notice 2018-23), and this post addresses what is in this guidance (the “Notice”).

To recap, under the new law: a settlement or court-ordered payment made to (or at the direction of) a government in relation to the violation of any law (or the investigation or inquiry by such government into the potential violation of any law) is not deductible for U.S. tax purposes unless the payment constitutes “restitution (or remediation of property) ” or “a payment for the purpose of coming into compliance with a law”.

Continue Reading IRS Issues Guidance on Deductibility of Settlement Payments Under New Law

Investigations into potential violations of U.S. and non-U.S. securities laws are often resolved by a settlement requiring the business to make one or more large settlement payments.  We have seen settlements paid to the DOJ, the SEC, other U.S. and non-U.S. regulators, and private plaintiffs.  An important question is whether the payment will be deductible for tax purposes.  Since 1969, the U.S. tax law has denied a deduction for “any fine or similar penalty paid to a government for the violation of any law.”[i]  This limitation was significantly changed by the U.S. tax reform law enacted in December of 2017 (known as the Tax Cuts & Jobs Act or “TCJA”).  These changes, which had been proposed in Congress over 30 times since 2003 but not enacted until now, respond in part to disputes the IRS has had with taxpayers in the past.  Continue Reading Settlement Payments Under the New Tax Reform Law