Ripple Labs is facing scrutiny from the Department of Treasury for its cryptocurrency operations.
In a settlement with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), Ripple Labs will be fined $700,000 for violating regulations under the Bank Secrecy Act and for not registering with FinCEN, despite operating a money services business. The company and its subsidiary XRP II are also being penalized for not having an anti-money laundering program in place. Of the total fine, $450,000 will be used to settle criminal charges raised during a concurrent investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office.
“Virtual currency exchangers must bring products to market that comply with our anti-money laundering laws,” said FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery in a statement.
“Innovation is laudable but only as long as it does not unreasonably expose our financial system to tech-smart criminals eager to abuse the latest and most complex products.”
Ripple Labs works with a select number of banks to facilitate fast inexpensive international money transfers using an asset called XRP. Like Bitcoin, XRP is technically a virtual currency, though it’s used as an asset to send fiat currency around the world.
Many Bitcoin companies and other startups operating cryptocurrency businesses have been wary about action from the U.S. Department of Treasury and other state financial agencies, because digital currencies are largely unregulated.
A Ripple Labs spokesperson acknowledged the “Wild West” nature of the space and the company’s plans for moving forward in a statement, “To that end, and as the government has recognized in today’s agreement, Ripple Labs has cooperated extensively with the government during its investigation and has taken a number of important steps over the years to build and strengthen our compliance programs.”
You can read the company’s full statement below:
“While we are pleased to have resolved this matter and to move forward with our business, we would like to address the nature and outcome of the investigation, and our company’s historical and present-day conduct with regards to compliance. An early company in an emerging, undefined fintech category, Ripple Labs was one of the first to proactively build out a compliance and risk program. We’ve been consistent in our message of supporting a compliant and healthy Ripple ecosystem. We have not willfully engaged in criminal activity, nor has the company been prosecuted.
We couldn’t agree more with Chief Weber’s observation that a ‘Wild West environment’ is untenable in financial services. To that end, and as the government has recognized in today’s agreement, Ripple Labs has cooperated extensively with the government during its investigation and has taken a number of important steps over the years to build and strengthen our compliance programs. These measures include: registering a subsidiary, XRP II, LLC, as a money service business to handle XRP sales for the company in 2013, in response to and in an attempt to comply with the March 2013 Guidance by FinCEN; hiring a chief compliance officer in January 2014, a general counsel, and a BSA officer in February 2015; and continuously enhancing an anti-money laundering program.
Ripple is infrastructure technology for banks to build compliant payment networks. The settlement announced today does not impede our ability to execute on those bank integrations. We’re continuing to focus on working towards an Internet of Value.”
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