Dec. 5, 2019

Blog

Watch the video explaining the content, meaning and scope of the decision made by the Conseil d'Etat (French Council of State) on November 15, 2019, La Banque Postale v. Autorité de contrôle prudentiel et de résolution (ACPR).

The Autorité de contrôle prudentiel et de résolution - ACPR (French Authority of prudential control and resolution) pronounced a very high sanction, representing 7% of La Banque Postale's net annual result. The breach is constituted by the fact of not having prevented the use of the banking technique of the "money order" which was used to escape the freezing of the assets.

The Conseil d'Etat recalls that by nature if the assets are frozen, it is not possible that anyone is able to dispose of these assets. However, by the use of "money orders", persons targeted by asset freezing decisions, tools used in connection with the fight against money laundering and the fight against terrorism, had been able to circulate money to from accounts managed by La Banque Postale, of which they were not customers.

This case was not foreseen at the time when the Bank Postale was sanctioned by the ACPR for not having prevented such a use, the texts forcing it under its obligations of "conformity" to prevent this behavior of violation background gels on the part of his customers, but only that.

This case of a use of a means by a person who is not a customer of the bank was not foreseen at the time when the alleged facts took place and the Bank claims not to be able to be punished since in the repressive matter it is necessary to respect the principle of non-retroactivity of the texts, - in this case texts later supplemented to aim at such an assumption -, the non-retroactivity being a major principle itself related to the principle of the legality of the offenses and the penalties.

We are therefore in the hypothesis of a silence of the texts.

What to decide? Can the Bank be condemned and so heavily or not by the ACPR?

The Bank does not think so. 

It acted against this sanction decision firstly because those who used these money orders were not its clients. It has strong reasons to avail itself of this fact, since subsequently the texts needed to be modified to aim not only the use of this technique of money order by those who have a count in the bank and also by those who act with cash through the bank without a count, that is to say without an account holder to look at. Because we are in criminal matters, the restrictive interpretation and non-retroactivity of the text should lead to follow the reasoning of the Bank. But the Conseil d'Etat does not because it considers that implicitly but necessarily even with this subsequent modification of the text, it had aimed that use before.

By this way, the Conseil d'Etatuncil develops a very broad concept of the obligations of banks in their role in the fight against money laundering, and therefore a very repressive point of view, which permeates their "obligation of Compliance". Thus, when the bank also argues that it can not be sanctioned since for it this activity of money order is  deficit and that it did not cause harm to its customers even by assuming badly its obligations, theConseil d'Etat stresses that this is not a pertinent perspective since the Compliance obligations falls within the "overriding general interest of protection of public order and public security, to which the freezing of assets legislation responds".

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Read the  judgment of the Conseil d'Etat ( in French). 

June 24, 2019

Publications

In what it presents as a set of guidelines designed by a risk-driven approach, the FATF published on 21 June 2019 recommendating to fight the use of crypto-assets and cryptocurrency platforms for launderind money and financing terrorism.

This fight against money laundering is (with the fight against corruption) often presented as the core of the Compliance Law. The FATF takes a large part of it. Even if this new branch of Law aims to crystallize other ambitions, such as the fight against tax fraud or climate change, or even the promotion of diversity or education and the preservation of democratie, the legislation of Compliance Law are mature in the matter of money laundering and the terrorism financing, as they are in the fight against corruption.

The news comes then not from the new legal mechanisms but rather from the new technological tools that could allow the realization of the behaviors against which these obligations of compliance have been inserted in the legal system. It is then to these technologies that the law must adapt. This is the case with crypto-assets and cryptocurrency platforms. Because these are rapidly evolving technologies, with the exercise of written guidelines in 2019 to inform the meaning of the provisions adopted in 2018, the FATF is taking the opportunity to change the definition it provides of crypto-assets and cryptocurrencies. So that a too narrow definition by the texts does not allow the operators to escape the supervision (phenomenon of "hole in the racket" - loophole)..  

 

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In fact, in October 2018, the FATC (Financial Action Task Force) developed 15 principles applying to these platforms, to allow this intergovernmental organization to carry out its general mission to combat money laundering and the financing of terrorism. These June 2019 recommendations are to interpret them.

 

In this very important document, where it is expressly stated that it is a matter of fixing the obligations of those who propose crypto-assets and crypto-currencies, the notion of self-regulation is rejected. Il est writter : "Regarding VASP (virtual assets services providers) supervision, the Guidance makes clear that only competent authorities can act as VASP supervisory or monitoring bodies!footnote-1628, and not self-regulatory bodies. They should conduct risk-based supervision or monitoring, with adequate powers, including the power to conduct inspections, compel the production of information and impose sanctions. There is a specific focus on the importance of international co-operation between supervisors, given the cross-border nature of VASPs’ activities and provision of services."

On the contrary, it is a matter of elaborating the control obligations that these service providers must exercise over products and their customers (Due Diligences), which must be supervised by public authorities. 

In order to exercise this supervision and monitoring, the national authorities themselves must ensure that they work together : "As the Virtual Assets Services Providers (VASP) sector evolves, countries should consider examining the relationship between AML/CF (Anti-Money Laundering and Counter Terrorist Financint) measures for covered VA activities and other regulatory and supervisory measures (e.g., consumer protection, prudential safety and soundness, network IT security, tax, etc.), as the measures taken in other fields may affect the ML/TF risks. In this regard, countries should consider undertaking short- and longer-term policy work to develop comprehensive regulatory and supervisory frameworks for covered VA activities and VASPs (as well as other obliged entities operating in the VA space) as widespread adoption of VAs continues".

After particularly interesting comparative law information on Italy, the Scandinavian countries and the United States, the report concludes: "International Co-operation is Key", because of the global nature of this activity.

 

Since the issue is not the global Regulation of these platforms and types of products, but only the possible modes of money laundering and terrorist financing to which they may give rise, the FATF recalls that neither crypto-products nor product suppliers are not referred to as such. As the guidance's title recalls, common to the 2018 document adopting the 15 principles and this interpretive document, these are "risk-based" rules. Thus, it is according to the situations that these - products and suppliers - that they may or may not present risks of laundering and financing of terrorism: depending on the type of transaction, the type of client, the type of country, etc. For example, from the moment that the transaction is anonymous, that is impossible to know the "beneficiary", or that it is transnational and instantaneous, which makes it difficult to supervise because of the heterogeneity of national supervisions little articulated between them.

In reports that public supervisors must have with crypto-product suppliers, they must adjust according to the level of risk presented by them, higher or lower: "Adjusting the type of AML/CFT supervision or monitoring: supervisors should employ both offsite and onsite access to all relevant risk and compliance information.However, to the extent permitted by their regime, supervisors can determine the correct mix of offsite and onsite supervision or monitoring of Virtual Assets Services Providers (VASPs). Offsite supervision alone may not be appropriate in higher risk situations. However, where supervisory findings in previous examinations (either offsite or onsite) suggest a low risk for ML/TF, resources can be allocated to focus on higher risk VASPs. In that case, lower risk VASPs could be supervised offsite, for example through transaction analysis and questionnaires".

This "adjustment" required does not prevent a very broad conception of the power of supervision. So, for nothing escapes the recommendations (and in particular the obligations that ensue for the suppliers of these products), the definition of the crypo-assets and crypo-currencies is this one: “Virtual asset” as a digital representation of value that can be digitally traded or transferred and can be used for payment or investment purposes. Virtual assets do not include digital representations of fiat currencies, securities, and other financial assets that are already covered elsewhere in the FATF Recommendations."

And for the same reason of effectiveness is posited the principle of technological neutrality: "Whether a natural or legal person engaged in Virtual Assets (VA) activities is a Virtual Asset Services Provider (VASP) depends on how the person uses the VA and for whose benefit. As emphasized above, ...  then they are a VASP, regardless of what technology they use to conduct the covered VA activities. Moreover, they are a VASP, whether they use a decentralized or centralized platform, smart contract, or some other mechanism.".

The interpretative guidelines then formulate the obligations that these platforms have with regard to the supervisors they obey(question of the "jurisdiction", ratione loci ; ratione materiae): " The Guidance explains how these obligations should be fulfilled in a VA context and provides clarifications regarding the specific requirements applicable regarding the USD/EUR 1 000 threshold for virtual assets occasional transactions, above which VASPs must conduct customer due diligence (Recommendation 10); and the obligation to obtain, hold, and transmit required originator and beneficiary information, immediately and securely, when conducting VA transfers (Recommendation 16). As the guidance makes clear, relevant authorities should co-ordinate to ensure this can be done in a way that is compatible with national data protection and privacy rules. ".

These platforms are not uniformly defined due to the diversity of their activities. Because it is their activity that makes them responsible for this or that regulator. For example from the Central Bank or the Financial Regulator: "For example, a number of online platforms that provide a mechanism for trading assets, including VAs offered and sold in ICOs, may meet the definition of an exchange and/or a security-related entity dealing in VAs that are “securities” under various jurisdictions’ national legal frameworks. Other jurisdictions may have a different approach which may include payment tokens. The relevant competent authorities in jurisdictions should therefore strive to apply a functional approach that takes into account the relevant facts and circumstances of the platform, assets, and activity involved, among other factors, in determining whether the entity meets the definition of an “exchange”!footnote-1626 or other obliged entity (such as a securities-related entity) under their national legal framework and whether an entity falls within a particular definition. In reaching a determination, countries and competent authorities should consider the activities and functions that the entity in question performs, regardless of the technology associated with the activity or used by the entity".

 

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Reading this very important document, it is possible to make 6 observations: 

1. Interpretative documents are often more important than rules interpretated themselves. En these guidances, first and foremost, these are major obligations that are stated, not only for platforms but also for national laws, and well beyond the issue of money laundering. So, it is laid: "Countries should designate one or more authorities that have responsibility for licensing and/or registering VASPs. ...  at a minimum, VASPs should be required to be licensed or registered in the jurisdiction(s) where they are created. ".This is a general prescription, involving a general regulation of these platform, which registered in a general way, will probably be supervised in a general way.

Secondly, it is a series of binding measures that is required of the National legal systems, for example the possibility of seizing crypto-values.

It shows that the soft Law illustrates the continuum of the texts, and allows their evolution. Here the evolution of the definition of the object itself: the definition of crypto-assets and crypto-currencies is widened, so that the techniques of money laundering and terrorist financing are always countered, without it being necessary to adopt new binding rules. We are beyond mere interpretation. And even more of the principle of restrictive interpretation, classically attached to the Repressive Law ...

2. Fort the effectiveness of the Compliance Law, definition become extremely broad. Thus, to follow the FATF, the definititon off a financial institution is as follows: "“Financial institution” as any natural or legal person who conducts as a business one or more of several specified activities or operations for or on behalf of a customer". This is more the definition of a company in Competition Law!footnote-1627....Why ? Because otherwise, an operator finds a status allowing him to escape the category and obligations listed. The principle of efficiency implies it. The principle of "legality", derived from criminal law, has hardly any existence. But this also corresponds to the general evolution of the financial world, in which one no longer stars from the organ (for example to be a"bank") but of activity, but from an activity or a fonction whose metamorphoses are so rapid that it is almost impossible to define them ....

3. In the same way, the definition of crypto-assets or crypto-currencies: "“Virtual asset” as a digital representation of value that can be digitally traded or transferred and can be used for payment or investment purposes. Virtual assets do not include digital representations of fiat currencies, securities, and other financial assets that are already covered elsewhere in the FATF Recommendations". This definition is purely operational because nothing can escape the FATF: all that is financial or monetary, whatever its form or support, its traditional form or a form that will be invented tomorrow, is within its competence and, through a such definition, is under national supervisors. In Compliance Law, and since everything is based on risk analysis, the idea is simple: nothing must escape obligations and supervision.

4. Platform apprehension is done by the criterion of activity, according to the "functional" method. Thus, its supervision, or even its regulation, and its obligations of compliance, will apply, depending on what it does, to the Financial Regulator (if it does ICO) or to others if it only uses tokens as an instrument of exchange. If it makes several uses, then it would fall under several Regulators (criterion ratione materiae).

5. The principle of "technological neutrality" is a classic principle in Telecommunications Law. Here we measure the interference between the principles of Telecommunications Law and Financial Law, which is logical because crypto-financial objects are born of digital technology. This neutrality allows both technological innovation to develop and supervision to be unhindered for not having foreseen an innovative technology appearing after the adoption of the legal text. Here again, the effectiveness of Compliance and risk management are served, without the innovation being thwarted, which is often opposed.

6. What is expected of national public authorities is a very wide "interregulation". This is both "positive". Indeed, this includes financial matters but also the security of networks, or the protection of consumers. It can be called equilibrium interregulation in that all goals converge. But this is also an "interregulation" that can be described as balance. Indeed, the FATF is concerned about the protection of personal data. However, it emphasizes that the effectiveness of the Compliance system must stop. But the protection of personal data is also a part of Compliance Law.... This is one of the major challenges in the future: the balance between security and the fight against global evils(here the fight against money laundering and terrorism) and the protection of the privacy of individuals, as both fall under Compliance, but both have opposite legal effects: one the transmission of information, and the other the secret of the information. 

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1

souligné par nous

2

Underlined by us.

3

Plus loin, le texte donne une définition plus détaillée : "When determining whether a specific activity or entity falls within the scope of the definition and is therefore subject to regulation, countries should consider the wide range of various VA services or business models that exist in the VA ecosystem and, in particular, consider their functionality or the financial activities that they facilitate in the context of the covered VA activities (i.e., items (i) through (v) described in the VASP definition above). Further, countries should consider whether the activities involve a natural or legal person that conducts as a business the five functional activities described for or on behalf of another natural or legal person, both of which are essential elements to the definition and the latter of which implies a certain level of “custody” or “control” of the virtual asset, or “ability to actively facilitate the financial activity” on the part of the natural or legal person that conducts the business for a customer."

Aug. 26, 2016

Thesaurus : Doctrine

Référence complète : PANDO, A., Lutte anti-blanchiment : les sanctions contre les agents immobiliers pourraient se durcir, Les Petites Affiches, n°170, 26 août 2016, p.4-6.

 

Les étudiants de Sciences po peuvent lire l'article va le drive dans le dossier MAFR - Régulation.

 

L'auteur expose l'activation du système mis en place en 2009 pour lutter contre le blanchiment d'argent, dispositions aujourd'hui contenues dans le Codes Monétaire et Financier. 

Il souligne que les "professions orphelines", c'est-à-dire sans instance ordinale vont, du fait des attentats, être plus surveillées dans leur collaboration avec les autorités publiques : elles "ne vont plus échapper aux contrôles de leur compliance anti-blanchiment", parce que la Commissions Nationale des Sanctions commence à bouger.

L'AAI mise en place en 2009 et jusqu'ici peu active, la "Commission Nationale des Sanctions" (CNS) a publié son premier rapport, publiant ainsi des sanctions contre les agents immobiliers après des contrôles de ceux-ci par la DGCCRF.

L'auteur souligne que la profession d'agent immobilier est peu préparée à être active pour porter les obligations de détection et d'information en matière de blanchiment. Le plus souvent, ils en ignorent l'existence.

Dans son rapport, la CSN affirme que pour l'instant elle s'en tient à la "pédagogie" et prononce des blâmes mais prévoit qu'elle va devenir plus sévère. La profession dit que le système ne lui est pas adapté et qu'ils "se sentent déchargés de toutes obligations de vigilance par l'intervention des notaires qui concluent les transactions".

De toutes les façons le système français va étendre les professions non financières contraintes, à travers l'application de la 4ième directive communautaire anti-blanchiment, par exemple les marchands de pierres précieuses.

L'auteur suggère une pareille extension aux agents sportifs.