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Emerging Financial Technologies

With an unparalleled combination of experience in financial technologies, financial services, regulatory, and law enforcement, Steptoe provides strategic advice and guidance to help clients navigate the new breed of financial technologies entering the market, driven by technological advancements, customer demand, and innovation.  Steptoe advises clients on the full spectrum of regulatory, compliance, legislative, enforcement, and litigation issues faced by our financial services and FinTech clients.

Bitcoin and other digital currencies have the potential to disrupt traditional banking and payments systems.  But there is a growing recognition that bitcoin, as a currency, is just the first “app” to utilize blockchain technology, and that there are endless other possibilities for the blockchain that could transform e-commerce and global finance, much like the Internet did over 20 years ago.  Other FinTech innovations similarly have the potential to reshape how we bank, invest, trade commodities, move money, and do business like never before.

However, these emerging financial technologies are subject in many cases to existing legal requirements and regulatory frameworks, with little clarity around how these old regimes apply to new technologies.  New and untested state and federal rules adopted in response to digital currencies only add to the regulatory uncertainty.  For both the startups and investors driving this wave of innovation and the more established institutions seeking to respond to it, this is a challenging regulatory, enforcement, and business environment. 

Compliance and Enforcement

Steptoe’s FinTech team provides strategic compliance advice to help companies stay out of trouble, and aggressive defense and effective government engagement to help companies get out of trouble.

For companies developing or adopting emerging financial technologies, compliance with Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), Anti-Money Laundering (AML), and Know Your Customer (KYC) requirements and with sanctions regimes must be top of mind.  Steptoe lawyers develop or evaluate AML policies and procedures and assist in establishing internal compliance programs using best practices that meet with regulatory approval, for both early-stage and established companies.  Members of our team helped draft many provisions of the USA Patriot Act while in government, and we work across all AML requirements, counter-terrorist financing and sanctions regimes, KYC rules, and asset blocking and reporting requirements.   

Steptoe’s white-collar criminal defense and government investigations practice is among the most well-respected and preeminent in the United States.  The group built this reputation by defending some of the nation’s highest profile senior executives, public officials, and corporations in complex white-collar criminal litigation, corporate investigations, and related administrative enforcement and civil litigation matters.  Steptoe also has extensive experience in handling investigation and enforcement proceedings relating to BSA/AML rules and sanctions regimes.

Financial Services

In addition to regulatory compliance and defense from government investigations, Steptoe provides clients with a full range of other services, including legislative and policy advocacy and financial litigation.  We have extensive experience working directly with key policy makers who impact the regulation of the financial services, financial products, and capital markets sectors.

Steptoe’s FinTech Team

Steptoe’s FinTech team has the experience, insight, and vision to help start-ups, their investors, and established institutions with the legal and strategic issues involved in developing or adopting new financial technologies.  Our team includes former high-ranking officials in the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission with extensive knowledge in cryptocurrency and financial regulatory matters.  We have vast experience working with every US government agency involved in these issues, as well as state agencies such as the New York Department of Financial Services.  We understand the requirements at the regulatory and policy level, and are considered thought leaders on the regulatory and policy issues surrounding cryptocurrencies and the blockchain.

Representative Matters

Steptoe regularly advises a diverse array of clients on issues relating to bitcoin and other digital currencies and the blockchain and on AML and KYC rules, including:

  • Representing the Chamber of Digital Commerce in engaging with law enforcement and regulatory authorities.
  • Advising prominent retailers on legal and business issues involved in accepting Bitcoin and other digital methods of payment.
  • Advising a prominent venture capital firm on bitcoin-related regulatory issues.
  • Acting as a liaison between a leading early-stage Bitcoin company and federal law enforcement and regulatory agencies.
  • Advising a prominent retailer on legal and business issues related to alternate methods of payment.
  • Organizing briefings on the merits of emerging financial technologies for congressional and agency staff.
  • Counseling financial institutions on AML compliance issues relating to digital currencies. 
  • Providing AML compliance advice to companies that could be considered Money Service Businesses through the issuance of prepaid access devices (formerly known as stored value cards).
  • Advising financial institutions on the USA Patriot Act KYC requirements and long-standing Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) anti-terrorism/asset-blocking regimes.
  • Assisting a non-US mining company with the revision of an AML/terrorism financing compliance policy and program to be consistent with US legal developments.

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