FinCEN fines Ripple Labs $700K for multiple violations

The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, working in coordination with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California, has assessed a $700,000 civil money penalty against Ripple Labs Inc. and its wholly owned subsidiary, XRP II LLC (formerly XRP Fund II LLC).

FinCEN said Ripple Labs willfully violated several requirements of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) by acting as a money services business and selling its virtual currency, known as XRP, without registering with FinCEN, and by failing to implement and maintain an adequate anti-money laundering program designed to protect its products from use by money launderers or terrorist financiers. XRP II later assumed Ripple Labs’ functions of selling virtual currency and acting as an MSB; however, like its parent company, XRP II willfully violated the BSA by failing to implement an effective AML program, and by failing to report suspicious activity related to several financial transactions, according to a press release about the fine.

“Virtual currency exchangers must bring products to market that comply with our anti-money laundering laws,” said FinCEN Director Jennifer Shasky Calvery. “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.”

FinCEN said its assessment is concurrent with the USAO-NDCA’s announcement of a settlement agreement with Ripple Labs and XRP II. In that settlement, the companies resolved possible criminal charges and forfeited $450,000. The $450,000 forfeiture in that action will be credited to partially satisfy FinCEN’s $700,000 civil money penalty. A Statement of Facts and Violations, describing the underlying activity and details of the BSA violations, is incorporated into FinCEN’s assessment as well as the USAO-NDCA’s settlement.

Both actions were accompanied by an agreement by Ripple and XRP II to engage in remedial steps to ensure future compliance with AML/CFT obligations, as well as enhanced remedial measures.

Among these steps are agreements to transact XRP and “Ripple Trade” activity only through a registered MSB; to implement and maintain an effective AML program; to comply with the Funds Transfer and Funds Travel Rules; to conduct a three-year “look-back” to require suspicious activity reporting for prior suspicious transactions; and a requirement for the companies to retain external independent auditors to review their compliance with the BSA every two years up to and including 2020. Pursuant to the agreement, Ripple Labs also will undertake certain enhancements to the Ripple Protocol to appropriately monitor all future transactions.

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