9 tasks to share $2 million in Rebuild Alabama Act grant cash

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) – Governor Kay Ivey’s office and the Alabama Department of Transportation are awarding more funds for road and bridge projects to several cities and counties in Alabama.

Just over $ 2 million will be used on nine projects. The money comes from the Rebuild Alabama Act of 2019, the an annual scholarship program That requires ALDOT to provide $ 10 million in addition to the state’s new gas tax revenue for local projects.

The nine projects include:

The Office of Governor Kay Ivey and the Alabama Department of Transportation are releasing $ 2 million in funds from the Rebuild Alabama Act of 2019 for the following projects.((Source: Governor’s Office))

Applicants will also contribute a total of $ 4.2 million to the projects, although no appropriate funding was required to be eligible, the governor’s office said.

“Improving Alabama’s infrastructure remains a top priority for the Ivey administration, and thanks to Rebuild Alabama, we can continue to make good use of those funds. More and more towns and cities in our state are seeing new road and bridge projects in their areas and I look forward to this continuing, ”said Governor Ivey. “When we invest in our roads and bridges, we invest in our employees and our future.”

This is the third round of projects to be awarded under the annual grant program for 2021. The first two rounds earlier in the year saw $ 8 million in state funding for 34 projects, with this final round increasing the total for FY2021 to $ 10.04 million in state funding for 43 local projects.

The law stipulates that all projects must be advanced within one year of the granting of funds.

Although a number of projects are expected to be under contract by the end of this year, all projects must move forward within one year of the funding being awarded.

Copyright 2021 WSFA 12 News. All rights reserved.

Journey nurses headed to Alabama due to CARES Act cash

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) – Healthcare facilities are grappling with a persistent lack of care and if you combine this with the pandemic, they desperately need more help.

Governor Kay Ivey announced Friday that she was providing funds from the CARES bill to help. The CARES bill will be used to pay for state nurses to come and help.

The $ 12.3 million federal grant will fund travel nurses who come to the state of Alabama to help with health facilities that need them.

Dr. Don Williamson, director of the Alabama Hospital Association, says the nurses will not be dispatched immediately. Part of the process is identifying who needs help most and then creating a plan based on those needs to serve the areas most in need.

At the moment he says more than half of the ventilators available are being used by COVID patients and we have reported a shortage of ICU beds, both of which stretch the staff extremely thin.

“We are very confident that in the next few days and weeks we will be able to support some of our hospitals that have been so negatively affected by this current crisis,” said Williamson.

Dr. Williamson calls this a critical point and commends the governor for raising the funds to get aid.

Copyright 2021 WBRC. All rights reserved.

Ector County commissioners focus on American Rescue Plan Act cash

ODESSA, Texas (KOSA) – As the coronavirus continues to spread, Ector County’s commissioners are making decisions on how federal funds will be distributed.

Tuesday morning commissioners heard from eight different groups requesting part of the American rescue plan – and it wasn’t just hospitals.

Groups like the Odessa Volunteer Fire Brigade and the ISD of Ector County together with ORMC and MCH.

The medical center is calling for $ 7 million for medical equipment and hospital staff.

And over in the county, some are calling for the funds to be used for infrastructure like roads and water.

Commissioners say they are looking at the best way to prioritize federal funding with community needs.

District Two Commissioner Greg Simmons said the court will start compiling a list but the decision will be difficult.

“We want to prioritize and make sure that most of the people are positively impacted with the money,” said Simmons. Again, healthcare is an important part of our community and we want to make sure that the hospitals have the necessary resources but also have different sources available so we cannot focus on that because it is other areas like water in different ones Districts that have got into a crisis mode. “

Commissioner Simmons said there was no real timetable in about 90 days – the court could start considering how the money should be spent.

Commissioners say Ector County has a year to explain where the funds will go.

Copyright 2021 KOSA. All rights reserved.

Weymouth colleges has $6.eight million in CARES Act cash to spend

WEYMOUTH – The Schools Department wants information from the public on how to spend nearly $ 7 million coming to the district through the federal emergency fund for elementary and secondary schools.

The district has so far received nearly $ 700,000 through the fund set up under the CARES Act as part of the Education Stabilization Fund. The district also expects an additional $ 2.9 million grant that will help pay for teaching coaches and interventionists, technology, and a universal all-day kindergarten.

“That’s $ 3 million that we didn’t have last year that we can pour into our current school year with positions that have been on our needs list for years and years,” said School Committee Chair Lisa Belmarsh recently held a school committee meeting.

Assistant Superintendent Brian Smith said the application and spending schedule for the city’s third round of funding – $ 6.8 million – is due in early October. The district plans to run a poll this Friday to get input from the public on how the money will be spent.

Smith said the survey will ask the public to prioritize five “buckets” of how they could be used, including community engagement, educational technology, mental health, operation and maintenance, and incomplete learning. It will also look for information on specific ways to spend the money.

Belmarsh said she cannot stress enough how effective the money will be, as the committee and administration are often looking for cuts rather than providing additional funding.

A student at Academy Avenue Elementary School gives Roary the Wildcat, the school mascot, a poke while he goes to school on Wednesday, May 26, 2021.  Mike Mejia / For The Patriot Ledger

“We now have almost $ 10 million for our schools. That has never happened in Weymouth,” she said.

She said she wants the district to use the money to explore the potential for free, universal preschools.

The city received a total of $ 17 million from the CARES Act in addition to funding for the school district.

Hundreds of thousands of Aid Cash Obtainable for Texas Utility Clients; Act Now, Says Atmos – NBC 5 Dallas-Fort Price

Texans struggling with overdue or high electricity and gas bills can qualify for up to thousands of dollars in aid if they act now.

Atmos Energy urges customers in need to contact their energy supplier and apply for the “Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program”.

The program has been around for decades, but millions of additional federal dollars are now available through COVID relief funding.

“We know there is a need out there,” said Faye Kinner, customer service manager at Atmos Energy. “We know families struggle to pay their current and overdue fees, so we really encourage them to get in touch if they struggle. Contact your energy supplier so that we can point you to the resources you need. “

Time is also of the essence, said Kinner.

The financing in the millions expires at the end of September.

“These funds will expire at the end of September, so we really want to encourage customers to act now,” she said.

All utility customers can apply.

Traditional income qualifications have also eased due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Even if they weren’t eligible before, they can be eligible now, and it’s supposed to help you with all of your utility bills,” Kinner said.

Eligible customers could get thousands of dollars in relief money on utility bills.

“It can really make a difference, both for recurring fees and for your overdue fees,” said Kinner. “With the start of the cooler months and winter, we want to ensure that our customers are up to date with their natural gas bills.”

Kinner says customers should call customer service, tell them they’re having trouble, and point them in the right direction for the program.

That includes Atmos and electricity providers like TXU and Reliant, she said.

The customer service number for ATMOS is 888-286-6700.

For information on income limits for the Comprehensive Energy Assistance Program (CEAP), see the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs website.

Wooden County Commissioner helps Restoration Act cash for PSD consolidation

PARKERSBURG, W.Va. (WTAP) – The Wood County Commission may consider using funds from the American Recovery Act to help meet a long-term goal set by Commission President Blair Couch.

Couch has proposed consolidating some of the county’s smaller civil service districts for years.

This has been one of his goals in particular since the district commissions were given the power to process rate increase requests from the PSDs a few years ago.

The public law districts of Lübeck and Claywood Park had come before the Commission with requests for fees – in some cases more than once.

“Claywood Park and Lübeck are great PSDs,” Couch told us last week. “But the Charleston Civil Service Commission thinks it’s a worthy goal, and we’re going to involve them in it so we can get it right. I think there are inherent cost savings. “

The commission discussed the idea with representatives of the West Virginia Public Service Commission last summer, while Lübeck at the time had a proposal for a rate hike pending before the county.

The Commissioners will discuss the consolidation idea at their meeting on Monday morning.

Copyright 2021 WTAP. All rights reserved.

The Anti-Cash Laundering Act and Crypto Collide: Non-Fungible Tokens | King & Spalding

As NFTs gain popularity, buyers and sellers should consider the potential issues related to federal anti-money laundering laws.

While non-fungible tokens (“NFTs”) have existed for several years, the market for NFTs grew considerably during 2020 and into 2021, as a number of high-profile NFT sales grabbed headlines and well-known brands and organizations began exploring the use of NFTs. Amid this continued growth in adoption, and the expanding range of use cases, industry participants should make sure they are aware of the legal implications for issuing, purchasing, and trading these new assets.

For now, existing laws and regulations will likely be applied to promote transparency and to address several aspects of NFTs, including the potential investment value, the risk of speculation and volatile pricing, and potentially anonymous market participants. This article, which is the first in a multi-part series highlighting the legal and regulatory implications surrounding NFTs, explores the current state of play, potential risks, and likely regulatory developments relating to NFTs and federal anti-money laundering laws.

WHAT ARE NFTS?

NFTs are digital assets encoded on a blockchain that represent ownership of a unique asset or set of rights. Most blockchain tokens that represent digital assets (including cryptocurrencies) are fungible, meaning that the characteristics of any two tokens are the same. As a result, any two fungible tokens of the same type will generally have equal value. The technology underlying NFTs, on the other hand, ensures that each token is unique, and NFT creators have leveraged those characteristics of the technology to create a broad range of unique digital assets. NFTs range from digital artwork (including the $69 million sale of an NFT by digital artist Beeple),1 to virtual real estate (one buyer recently purchased nine digital plots of land in an online game for approximately $1.5 million),2 to digital Lebron James trading cards,3 to virtual race horses,4 to an entry ticket for a virtual celebrity beer pong tournament.5 NFTs are “minted” by issuers or creators and purchased through online exchanges or marketplaces.

NFTs are not limited to the digital space; rather, they “can also represent any type of physical asset, acting as a kind of ‘digital twin’ to anything existing in the real world and enabling the ownership and exchange of physical possessions within digital marketplaces.”6 One key characteristic of NFTs is provable ownership—that is, given the reliability of blockchain technology and decentralized ledgers, an NFT holder can be confident that his or her ownership of the underlying asset(s) is secure. NFTs are accompanied by “smart contracts,” which allow the seller to place conditions on the token-holder’s ownership rights, such as generating automatic royalty payments to the original NFT creator at each subsequent sale.7 The conditions of an NFT’s underlying smart contract are designed to be automatically enforced by the NFT’s code on the blockchain.

According to one study conducted in partnership with a financial institution, the NFT market has grown rapidly in recent years:8

 

2018

2019

2020

Active Wallets*

110,551

112,731

222,179

USD Traded

$159.1 million

$62.9 million

$250.8 million

Market Capitalization

$40.9 million

$141.6 million

$338 million

* Wallets allow users to send, receive, and spend cryptocurrency. This row indicates the # of wallets that have interacted with an NFT Smart Contract, including buyers, sellers, and anyone who has played a game or interacted with a project using NFTs

And that trend has continued during 2021. Indeed, one report shows that NFT sales in the first quarter of 2021 grew to more than $2 billion, over twenty times the volume of the previous quarter.9 On one major marketplace, NFT sales grew from $8 million in January 2021, to $95 million in February, to almost $150 million in March.10 While sales volume dropped to $94 million in April, the larger trend shows a marked increase from last year, during which the same marketplace had an average sales volume of only $1 million per month.11

RISKS AND COMPLIANCE: THE ANTI-MONEY LAUNDERING ACT OF 2020

As the digital art world grows and prices soar, NFT marketplaces specializing in digital art may become subject to suspicious activity reporting standards under the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”). On January 1, 2021, Congress passed the Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020 (“AMLA”) which provides the most comprehensive update to anti-money laundering laws under the BSA since the Patriot Act.12 Both the AMLA and BSA enable the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) to regulate the activity of financial institutions, including through various recordkeeping and reporting obligations. Although the AMLA does not directly mention NFTs, several provisions ought to be considered by individuals and financial institutions contemplating NFT transactions.

Is an NFT a “value that substitutes for currency or funds”?

Although the AMLA formally extended BSA reporting obligations to cryptocurrency exchanges, direct regulation of NFTs and related marketplaces will require additional action by Congress. Section 6102(d) of the AMLA expanded the definition of “financial institutions” to include businesses involved in the exchange of “value that substitutes for currency or funds,” thus codifying FinCEN’s longstanding position that cryptocurrency exchanges—which convert fiat currency such as the U.S. dollar into cryptocurrency and vice versa—are “money services businesses” subject to BSA reporting requirements.13 This requires cryptocurrency exchanges to engage in customer due diligence (“CDD”) to verify the identity of their customers, identify any beneficial owners of accounts, develop customer risk profiles, and monitor transactions to submit suspicious activity reports among other things.14

Cryptocurrencies are clearly a “value that substitutes for currency,” but it is less likely NFTs would be deemed the same. Currencies and their substitutes derive their utility, in part, from their inherently fungible nature.15 Generally speaking, NFTs would not be considered a currency nor a substitute because, by definition, they lack fungibility. NFTs are more akin to legal instruments, such as a deed, containing a unique signature demonstrating ownership of an asset. That lack of fungibility arguably pushes NFTs outside the reach of the AMLA, and further action from Congress would be necessary to apply anti-money laundering regulations to NFTs and their marketplaces directly.

FinCEN has yet to issue anything specifically on NFTs, and has similarly not indicated whether NFT players are or may become subject to the AML regime. That said, regulators have certainly begun formalizing procedures for applying current laws to digital assets. Just one example is DOJ’s recently published Asset Forfeiture Policy Manual that provided guidance regarding seizure of cryptocurrencies and digital tokens.16 And given the high degree of scrutiny and ongoing expansion of AML obligations to the cryptocurrency space, NFTs may not escape additional rulemaking or legislation.

Are NFT marketplaces “art dealers”?

Congress is in the process of expanding the BSA’s reach and could reasonably conclude that NFT exchanges should be included among the list of entities subject to the law’s reporting requirements.

The AMLA sought to address, among other things, the multibillion-dollar black market trade in art and antiquities, which is estimated to be the “third largest type of black market after illegal drugs and the arms trade.”17 Forthcoming regulations from FinCEN are expected to expand BSA reporting obligations to antiquities dealers, and in January 2022 Congress is scheduled to receive the results of an ongoing study by FinCEN that will “inform debates over whether to extend BSA requirements to art dealers.” 18 As discussed more fully below, extending reporting obligations to art dealers could have the effect of sweeping NFT exchanges into the scope of such obligations. If reporting obligations are extended, art dealers will be required to grapple with a number of anti-money laundering protocols more familiar to financial services entities. The rule would also make it far more difficult for buyers and sellers to obscure their identities through shell companies or offshore entities.

NFT marketplaces such as OpenSea, Rarible, and SuperRare function much like an auction house or an art dealer by connecting buyers and sellers who transact directly. In fact, SuperRare describes itself as “Instagram meets Christies,”19 and Mark Cuban is building an online art gallery to display his NFTs.20 Given their similarities, NFT marketplaces share many of the characteristics that make the art trade susceptible to money laundering—namely, “buyer secrecy, informal and self-regulated markets, non-transparent pricing, [and] high value transactions.”21 In early March, for example, an NFT consisting of a digital copy of a limited-edition Banksy print sold for nearly $400,000 in Ethereum on OpenSea to a bidder with the screen name “GALAXY,” whose profile lacks any identifying information.22 The buyer behind the $69.3 million sale of Everydays: The First 5000 Days by Beeple was also initially pseudonymous, although the purchaser later revealed his identity.23 Given that many of these transactions are completed using cryptocurrencies—which can be hard to trace to actual individuals—the NFT trade faces similar money laundering risks as the art trade more generally.24 Of course, as Congress considers subjecting art dealers to the BSA, it could also decide to define “art dealers” broadly to bring NFT marketplaces specializing in digital art within the BSA’s ambit. In addition, several prominent auction houses have started to participate in NFT sales,25 and those firms should be mindful that the compliance considerations applicable to traditional art sales should be applied to NFT sales as well.

NFTs and anti-money laundering risks from “tumblers”.

So-called “tumbling” poses an added layer of anti-money laundering concerns with respect to NFTs. One distinct feature of cryptocurrencies is that the ownership history of a particular coin can be traced.26 In theory, one can trace the owner-history of cryptocurrencies because each transaction involving a particular coin is publicly recorded on the blockchain.27 Cryptocurrencies are held in virtual “wallets” which function as the digital address, or identity, of the wallet holder.28 When a cryptocurrency coin is passed to another wallet, the data is recorded in a transaction “block” which lists the digital wallet addresses of the sender and recipient.29 Each transaction block is then automatically recorded and stored publicly on the blockchain, which functions as a public digital ledger of all transactions.30 Working backwards, it is generally possible to trace the ownership history of a coin by analyzing the coin’s transaction blocks to see all of the digital wallets through which it has passed.31 Although the digital addresses of each wallet do not directly identify the actual owner, wallets can be linked to real people by mapping IP addresses and other forms of data analytics.32

Cryptocurrency “tumblers” can increase the difficulty of tracing a coin’s ownership history, however, by circulating that coin through multiple transactions33 and thus “washing” its potential connection to suspicious wallets or transactions.34 Significant time, patience, data, and processing power is required to “untumble” coins—the more a coin is tumbled, the harder it is to trace.35

FinCEN guidance considers cryptocurrency tumbling to be a “money transmitting business,” thus requiring registration with FinCEN, compliance with both BSA reporting requirements and “know your customer” due diligence obligations, and implementation of an anti-money laundering compliance program.36 This guidance has been tested and upheld in United States v. Harmon, an ongoing criminal money laundering case against Larry Dean Harmon for operating Helix—a tumbling service that was allegedly used on the dark web to conceal cryptocurrencies used for black-market activities.37 Harmon was indicted for money-laundering and operating an unlicensed monetary business in violation of the BSA. In upholding the indictment, the court noted that tumblers “work by literally mixing up a user’s payment with lots of other payments from other users” to obfuscate their ownership history, thus qualifying as a “money transmitting business” by “receiving bitcoin and transmitting that bitcoin to another location or person.”38 The Harmon prosecution is still ongoing with jury selection set for later this year,39 and it is possible that the district court’s rationale in upholding the indictment could be reevaluated on appeal.

Theoretically, NFT marketplaces could be leveraged to achieve the same result as tumbling.40 Given the extraordinarily high value of some NFTs, individuals could execute multiple NFT transactions whereby a significant number of coins are spread to different accounts. Repeating this process over and over, individuals could distance themselves from coins linked to dark web activities or cryptocurrency exchanges that do not comply with anti-money laundering and customer due diligence requirements. In short, NFT transactions could be used as another way to add multiple “blocks” to a coin’s ledger, thereby obfuscating the transaction history and associated accounts.41

Although NFT marketplaces may in some cases help obfuscate ownership of cryptocurrency linked to illicit activities, NFT marketplaces are unlikely to qualify as a “money transmitting business” because they merely (1) allow NFT purchasers and sellers to connect and transact without an intermediary (i.e., a “peer-to-peer” platform) and (2) do not directly handle or otherwise process the cryptocurrencies used to purchase NFTs. Indeed, one commentator described an NFT marketplace as “eBay on the blockchain.”42 Given that NFT marketplaces pose similar money-laundering risks as auction houses and art dealers involved with in high-value transactions, however, Congress could decide to independently subject NFT marketplaces to BSA reporting requirements, “know your customer” due diligence, and other requirements.

Regardless of future regulatory changes, crypto-exchanges and traditional financial institutions handling NFT transactions should beware of obligations for reporting suspicious activity.

Both cryptocurrency exchanges and traditional financial institutions are subject to the BSA and therefore may be required to file suspicious activity reports (“SARs”) for transactions involving NFTs for digital art and other tethered assets. In fact, recent guidance from FinCEN was issued to “provide specific instructions for filing SARs related to trade in antiquities and art.”43 Under the guidance, to comply with BSA obligations, financial institutions—a definition that now includes cryptocurrency exchanges—are required to submit SARs for suspicious activity related to art and antiquities. The guidance explains that SAR filings should:

  • include a detailed description of how the questionable activity is tied to art and antiquities;
  • provide identifying information (including IP addresses) for the purchasers, sellers, and any other intermediaries or agents; and
  • state the volume and dollar amount of the suspicious transactions.

Additionally, SARs ought to identify any “other transactions or proposed transactions that may involve antiquities or art” and identify where the reported individuals or entities are currently operating. Given the similar money-laundering risks shared between high-value art transactions and NFTs, financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges may be obligated to file SARs when executing NFT transactions on behalf of their clients. They should therefore have in place controls for identifying suspicious activity relating to NFTs, as well as determining when and how to report it.

CONCLUSION

Traditional financial institutions are no strangers to the stringent BSA and other anti-money laundering compliance requirements. Those institutions’ involvement with NFT-related transactions may generate new compliance obligations. Unless and until NFT-specific guidance is provided, companies should look to guidance on analogous services and products. Given the money-laundering risks shared between NFTs and the art and antiquities markets, financial institutions should pay special attention to the opaque and often anonymous NFT market and should consider filing SARs if they detect any suspicious activity related to an NFT transaction. In this rapidly evolving area, both financial institutions and cryptocurrency exchanges should also consider re-examining their existing anti-money laundering compliance programs to meet the needs of their clients and federal regulators.

1 Katie Tsai, “Digital Artist Beeple Sees NFTs, Like the One He Sold for Over $69 Million, Around for ‘Many Decades,’” CNBC (Apr. 30, 2021), available at https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/30/beeple-real-name-mike-winkelmann-sees-nfts-around-for-many-decades.html.

2 Janine Yorio, “Here Comes the Virtual Real Estate Boom,” CoinDesk (Feb. 16, 2021), available at https://www.coindesk.com/here-comes-the-virtual-real-estate-boom.

3 Jabari Young, “People Have Spent More Than $230 Million Buying and Trading Digital Collectibles of NBA Highlights,” CNBC (Feb. 28. 2021), available at https://www.cnbc.com/2021/02/28/230-million-dollars-spent-on-nba-top-shot.html.

4 Taylor Lorenz, “Digital Horses Are the Talk of the Crypto World,” N.Y. Times (May 1, 2021), available at https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/01/style/zed-run-horse-racing.html.

5 Tanzeel Akhtar, “Social Token App Fyooz Offers Chance to Play Beer Pong with Rap Artist Post Malone,” Yahoo!Money, (Feb. 11, 2021), available at https://money.yahoo.com/social-token-app-fyooz-offers-130707216.html.

6 See Non-Fungible Tokens Yearly Report 2020 (Free Version), NonFungible.com & L‘atelier/BNP Paribas, PDF at 3 (Feb. 16, 2021), available at https://nonfungible.com/blog/nft-yearly-report-2020 [hereinafter “NFT Yearly Report 2020”].

7 See Interview of Professors Burt Rosenberg and Tarek Sayed, University of Miami (Mar. 26, 2021), available at https://news.miami.edu/stories/2021/03/nfts-are-a-new-financial-frontier-in-cyberspace.html.

8 NFT Yearly Report 2020, PDF at 26–27.

9 See Robert Frank, NFT sales top $2 billion in first quarter, with twice as many buyers as sellers, CNBC (Apr. 13, 2021), available at https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/13/nft-sales-top-2-billion-in-first-quarter-with-interest-from-newcomers.html.

10 See Elizabeth Howcroft, After first quarter frenzy, NFT market shows signs of stabilizing, Reuters (May 4, 2021), available at https://www.reuters.com/technology/after-first-quarter-frenzy-nft-market-shows-signs-stabilising-2021-05-04/.

11 See id.

12 Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020, Pub. L. No. 116-283, H.R. 6395, 116th Cong. § 6101 et seq. (enacted Jan. 1, 2021) (to be codified at 31 U.S.C. § 5323), available at https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/116/hr6395/text.

13 Fin. Crimes Enf’t Network, U.S. Dep’t of the Treasury, FIN-2019-G001, Application of FinCEN’s Regulations to Certain Business Models Involving Convertible Virtual Currencies 3 (2019), available at https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/2019-05/FinCEN%20Guidance%20CVC%20FINAL%20508.pdf.

14 See 31 C.F.R. § 1010 et seq.

15 C.f. United States v. Faiella, 39 F. Supp. 3d 544, 545 (S.D.N.Y. 2014) (finding that Bitcoin qualifies as money precisely because “Bitcoin can be easily purchased in exchange for ordinary currency, acts as a denominator of value, and is used to conduct financial transactions”); United States v. Ulbricht, 31 F. Supp. 3d 540, 570 (S.D.N.Y. 2014) (defining “money” as “an object used to buy things” and concluding that “the only value for Bitcoin lies in its ability to pay for things” because “Bitcoins can be either used directly to pay for certain things or can act as a medium of exchange and be converted into a currency which can pay for things”). See also Sebastian Omlor, The CISG and Libra: A Monetary Revolution for International Commercial Transactions?, 3 Stan. J. Blockchain L. & Pol’y 83, 90 (“The two basic functions of money are to be a unit of account and a universal means of exchange.”).

16 See U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Asset Forfeiture Policy Manual 26 (2021), available at https://www.justice.gov/criminal-afmls/file/839521/download.

17 Combating Illegal Antiquities Trade, Standard Charted Bank (Dec. 2018), available at https://av.sc.com/corp-en/others/Combating-Illegal-Antiquities-Trade_FINAL.pdf.

18 Transnational Crime Issues: Arts and Antiquities Trafficking, Congressional Research Service (Mar. 1, 2021), https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/IF/IF11776.

19 Frequently Asked Questions, SuperRare (last visited May 3, 2021), available at https://superrare.co/about.

20 Shalini Nagarajan, Billionaire Mark Cuban is setting up a digital art gallery that allows users to display NFTs in any form, report says, Business Insider (Mar. 24, 2021), available at https://markets.businessinsider.com/news/stocks/billionaire-mark-cuban-setting-up-digital-art-gallery-for-nfts-2021-3-1030240151.

21 Combating Illegal Antiquities Trade, supra at note 12, available at https://av.sc.com/corp-en/others/Combating-Illegal-Antiquities-Trade_FINAL.pdf.

22 See Jamie Redman, Burned Banksy NFT Sale Captures Close to $400K, Critics Claim Buyers Are ‘Morons’, Bitcoin.com (Mar. 8, 2021), available at https://news.bitcoin.com/burned-banksy-nft-sale-captures-close-to-400k-critics-claim-buyers-are-morons/; User Profile: “Galaxy”, OpenSea, available at https://opensea.io/accounts/GALAXY.

23 Robert Frank, Crypto investor who bought Beeple’s NFT for $69 million says he would have paid even more, CNBC (Mar. 30, 2021), available at https://www.cnbc.com/2021/03/30/vignesh-sundaresan-known-as-metakovan-on-paying-69-million-for-beeple-nft.html.

24 See United States v. Harmon, No. 19-CR-395-BAH, 2021 WL 1518344 (D.D.C. Apr. 16, 2021) (explaining the role of cryptocurrency “tumblers” in relation to multi-count money-laundering indictment against the operator of a tumbler service). For a general overview of the difficulty of tracing the ownership history of cryptocurrencies, see P. Vigna and C. Ostroff, Why Hackers Use Bitcoin and Why It Is So Difficult to Trace, Wall Street J. (July 16, 2020) available at https://www.wsj.com/articles/why-hackers-use-bitcoin-and-why-it-is-so-difficult-to-trace-11594931595.

25 See, e.g., Lucas Matney, CryptoPunks NFT bundle goes for $17 million in Christie’s auction, TechCrunch (May 11, 2021), available at https://techcrunch.com/2021/05/11/cryptopunks-nft-bundle-goes-for-17-million-in-christies-auction/.

26 See John Bohannon, Why criminals can’t hide behind Bitcoin, Science Magazine (Mar. 9, 2016), available at https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/03/why-criminals-cant-hide-behind-bitcoin.

27 See Study on Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain, E.U. Pol’y Dep’t for Economic, Scientific and Quality of Life Policies 17 (2018), available at https://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/150761/TAX3%20Study%20on%20cryptocurrencies%20and%20blockchain.pdf.

28 Id. at 17.

29 Id.

30 Id

31 See id. at 46.

32 See John Bohannon, Why criminals can’t hide behind Bitcoin, Science Magazine (Mar. 9, 2016), available at https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2016/03/why-criminals-cant-hide-behind-bitcoin.

33 See Mark Rash, Bitcoin Tumbling Leads to Multicount Indictment, Security Boulevard (Feb. 27, 2020), available at https://securityboulevard.com/2020/02/bitcoin-tumbling-leads-to-multicount-indictment/.

34 Toshendra Kumar Sharma, How is Blockchain Verifiable by Public and Yet Anonymous?, Blockchain Council (last visited May 2, 2021), available at https://www.blockchain-council.org/blockchain/how-is-blockchain-verifiable-by-public-and-yet-anonymous/.

35 See id.

36 See Fin. Crimes Enf’t Network, U.S. Dep’t of the Treasury, FIN-2019-G001, Application of FinCEN’s Regulations to Certain Business Models Involving Convertible Virtual Currencies 21 (2019), available at https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/2019-05/FinCEN%20Guidance%20CVC%20FINAL%20508.pdf; see also 31 U.S.C. § 5330; 31 C.F.R. § 1022.380.

37 See United States v. Harmon, 474 F. Supp. 3d 76 (D.D.C. 2020) [Harmon I]; Harmon II, No. 19-CR-395 (BAH), 2020 WL 7668903 (D.D.C. Dec. 24, 2020); Harmon III, No. 19-CR-395 (BAH), 2021 WL 1518344 (Apr. 16, 2021).

38 Harmon I, 474 F. Supp. 3d at 82, 109 (quoting Usha R. Rodrigues, Law and the Blockchain, 104 Iowa L. Rev. 679, 712 n.224 (2019)).

39 See Joint Mot. to Continue Trial and Pretrial Dates, ECF No. 89, United States v. Harmon, No. 19-CR-395 (BAH) (D.D.C.).

40 According to Tim Swanson, Head of Market Intelligence for the London-based blockchain firm Clearmatics: “NFTs are just another way of achieving the same goal, of breaking down the provenance and walking away with ‘clean’ or screened coins.” See Simon Chandler, Money Laundering Might Taint NFTs Too, Prepare for Tighter Controls, CryptoNews (Mar. 27, 2021), available at https://cryptonews.com/exclusives/money-laundering-might-taint-nfts-too-prepare-for-tighter-co-9689.htm.

41 Id.

42 See Top NFT Marketplaces: Beginners Guide, DappRadar (Apr. 4, 2021), available at https://dappradar.com/blog/top-7-nft-marketplaces-beginners-guide (“OpenSea is the first and biggest peer-to-peer NFT marketplace for crypto goods. You can think of it as eBay on the blockchain.”).

43 Fin. Crimes Enf’t Network, U.S. Dep’t of the Treasury, FIN-2021-NTC2, FinCEN Informs Financial Institutions of Efforts Related to Trade in Antiquities and Art 1 (2021), available at https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/2021-03/FinCEN%20Notice%20on%20Antiquities%20and%20Art_508C.pdf.

Veterans Affairs solely spent about half of CARES Act cash to date, GAO says

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Twenty billion dollars is nothing to make fun of, even for a department the size of Veterans Affairs. But that’s how much extra VA got the CARES Pandemic Control Bill, which was passed last March. This year, however, VA did only about half committed the money. Sharon Silas, Director of Health at the Government Accountability Office, spoke with Federal Drive with Tom Temin about what else the surveillance agency found.

Tom Available: Sharon, good to have you back.

Sharon Silas: Great thanks for having me

Tom Available: So you’ve made up your mind, or I think you’ve been told, GAO was ordered by Congress to take a look at what happened to that 19.6 billion, to be precise, it wasn’t quite 20 billion. And only half committed a year later. Tell us more about what you looked at and what you found.

Sharon Silas: For sure. The CARES Act therefore required GAO to report on the ongoing monitoring and oversight of the federal government’s efforts in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic. Because of this, we try to understand how VA committed and expanded these additional funds, and then also to evaluate how VA monitored COVID-19 funding.

Tom Available: And so it seems like they got more money than they needed at that point in time.

Sharon Silas: Well, for fiscal 2020, VA’s annual budget was more than $ 200 billion. Most of that went into health care support administered by the Veterans Health Administration and then into benefits administered by the Veterans Benefits Administration. The CARES Act and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, both passed in March 2020, provided additional funding of $ 19.6 billion. So that goes beyond the annual budget. And these funds should be specifically used to prevent, prepare for and respond to COVID-19. And to support COVID-19 testing during the pandemic. The bulk of this funding went to the Veterans Health Administration, followed by the VA Office of Information Technology.

Tom Available: Alright. By this point, as of March, when you actually looked, they had committed about $ 9 billion and spent about $ 8 billion. And what does it say about whether they need the other half of that money?

Sharon Silas: For sure. And you’re right, by the end of March 2021, VA had just spent more than half of that funding, about $ 9.9 billion out of $ 19.6 billion. One of the things that we saw while looking at VA’s commitment and spending of these funds is that there was some kind of time when they were ramped up in order to be able to monitor and track those funds. Some of the issues they had to deal with were setting up some new codes for their financial management system specifically aimed at tracking these additional funds. When VA initially attempted to launch and respond to COVID-19, they first coded a portion of the COVID-19-related expenses with obligations from annual funds. And so they later had to go back and re-code these to make sure they were actually headed for the extra funding. There were also some delays in the VA Office of Information Technology, which received the second largest portion of the funding from the adjuncts. However, the Information Technology Office for its delays and their process of recruiting additional staff also contributed to the slow growth in commitments and spending of funds. If you look at all of the year you can see that when they came up and started some of these processes, they were able to commit and spend some of that funds faster.

Tom Available: We speak to Sharon Silas, the director of health in the Government Accountability Office. But given the pace of a pandemic with fewer and fewer new cases emerging, frankly, they need fewer and fewer tests, do they need the other 9 or 10 billion that have not yet been signed?

Sharon Silas: For sure. Some of the funds that the Veterans Health Administration used during the period we studied went primarily towards community care, salaries and expenses, supplies and supplies, and helping homeless veterans. When we looked at what the Veterans Health Administration plans to use for the rest of the funds, they plan to use those funds to distribute vaccines, extra PPE, and keep doing COVID 19 tests. The Information Technology Office again received the second largest share of the funds – during the period we examined, they mainly committed funds for the operations and maintenance activities related to COVID-19 such as expanding telehealth for veterans and then teleworking for VA employees as well. With a view to their spending plans for the remainder of the fiscal year, they plan to use these funds for additional equipment, building network capacity, and purchasing software licenses. According to the spending plans and our discussions with VA officials, they plan to expand the remaining funds by the end of fiscal year 2021.

Tom Available: And of that total of 19.6 billion, how much was for the Information Technology Office?

Sharon Silas: About 11% of this funding went to the Office of Information Technology and 89% to the Veterans Health Administration. So the majority of the funds went into these two components of VA.

Tom Available: So about 2 billion, in other words

Sharon Silas: Yes.

Tom Available: And are you satisfied that the remaining spending you want to make is actually related to the pandemic – especially in the OIT?

Sharon Silas: Yes. As I mentioned earlier, when VA was responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were many attempts to predict where they would need these funds. And then, as the pandemic continued, they could make adjustments and better plan how to use those funds. So if you look at the spending plans for the rest of the fiscal year, it looks like the funding is being used appropriately.

Tom Available: And the coding problems and so on to make sure the right funds were booked in the right way. That’s kind of an OIT problem too, right, because they had to build the new codes and procedures into the accounting system – right?

Sharon Silas: Right, yes. Once they have the code in place and are also using the processes they already have, they have initiated or issued new guidelines to track these funds. All of these different elements were introduced during the pandemic and are now in place so they can properly track the funds as needed.

Tom Available: For sure. If it is a general concern of GAO, it may be outside the scope of the report. But I mean, it’s kind of a guise for GAO not to make sure that when agencies get a piece of capital S like this, they find an extra amount of money, no ways to spend it, to spend it, to spend it, but that they do really use what they need for the purpose of the hand for which it was used? And I should probably never say that out loud, but turn back a little.

Sharon Silas: I mean, for this review, at least, we did not assess how closely the VA components match the processes they developed to manage the additional funding. We have reviewed the VA financial management processes in the context of the federal standards for internal controls in terms of monitoring and communication. However, in the course of our review we looked at a non-generalized sample of VISNS, the networks and the financial coding for 10 national contracts and during the course of this review we found no non-compliance with their processes. However, in one report, we find that others have identified issues with VA’s financial management practices in the past.

Tom Available: So see any special recommendations from this look?

Sharon Silas: No, we didn’t have any recommendations for this review.

Tom Available: Alright. Sharon Silas is the director of health at GAO. As always, thank you very much.

Sharon Silas: Many Thanks.

The Anti-Cash Laundering Act of 2020: A Survey of Key Provisions and Apply Takeaways | Perkins Coie

On New Year’s Day 2021, Congress suspended a presidential veto to pass the 2020 Anti-Money Laundering Act (GwG 2020), which amends and modernizes the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). The GwG 2020 includes comprehensive reforms to update and modernize the laws, rules and regulations to combat money laundering in the USA. While most of these reforms target financial institutions subject to the BSA, some have far-reaching implications for domestic and international business.

About the series

This multi-part series will highlight key findings from the 2020 AMLA that have practical implications for our clients, including (1) new and far-reaching requirements for beneficial ownership disclosure of companies that the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is currently actively working to implement; (2) increased incentives for whistleblowers to report money laundering violations; (3) Extension of the US subpoena to include foreign financial institutions with correspondent accounts in the United States; (4) New criminal penalties for disguising the involvement of senior foreign policy figures and certain Designated Bodies in transactions involving US financial institutions; (5) Extension of the Money Laundering Act to codify responsibility for activities in virtual currencies; and (6) developing regulatory solutions with a greater focus on emerging technologies. The following is a general overview of some of the topics covered in this series:

New disclosure requirements for beneficial ownership. Perhaps most importantly, the 2020 AMLA requires many Limited Liability Companies (LLC) to disclose their beneficial owners to the government – a new requirement that will apply to previously unregulated companies. The AMLA instructs FinCEN to keep a secure register of beneficial ownership rights of legal entities in order to facilitate investigations by law enforcement agencies and due diligence by financial institutions. This provision, which is aimed at Shell companies and other single-purpose vehicles, is designed to prevent the use of anonymous units to disguise the natural persons behind a company. On April 1, 2021, FinCEN published an advance notice of the proposed rulemaking, setting out the issues it is addressing in order to have the necessary rules in place by January 1, 2022 and asking the public for comments on how the rule of beneficial ownership should be implemented. The first part of this series will describe the expanded legal definition of beneficial owner, examine the long list of AMLA’s exemptions from registration requirements, and discuss some of the key lessons learned from FinCEN’s recent public announcement.

Significantly improved whistleblower incentives. The GwG 2020 will introduce a whistleblower program based on the program of the US Securities and Exchange Commission. These provisions encourage whistleblowers to report violations of the BSA and authorize higher financial rewards for those who provide information to their employers or the government. The availability of rewards for internal reporting is a provision that can be particularly problematic when the reporting employee and the company disagree on whether the conduct in question needs to be reported to regulators or otherwise. The second part of this series discusses these provisions in detail.

Extended subpoena. The 2020 AMLA expands the U.S. Department of Justice’s subpoena to include foreign financial institutions. It gives the Treasury Secretary and the Attorney General the power to issue subpoenas to foreign financial institutions holding correspondence accounts in the United States in relation to account information in their possession. This is a significant addition to the previous authorization, which was limited to records on US correspondence accounts. The third part of this series explains these new regulations and how they affect foreign financial institutions and foreign individuals and companies that are being investigated.

New penalties for covering up transactions with high-ranking foreign policy figures. Finally, the GwG 2020 amends the BSA to the effect that criminal sanctions are provided that forbid the deliberate concealment of transactions with high-ranking foreign policy figures and certain designated money laundering bodies in front of financial institutions. The prohibition specifically extends to anyone involved in the concealment, misrepresentation, or forgery (or attempt to cover up, misrepresentation or forgery) any financial institution having material facts relating to the ownership or control of assets in excess of US $ 1 million – Dollars by a senior foreigner political figure (or an immediate family member or close associate). The penalty sharpens the transaction diligence process and will no doubt improve the quality of care financial institutions receive when reviewing account holders and transactions. Like other recent anti-money laundering disclosure requirements – such as the real estate-related global targeting mandates that have been issued over the past few years and expanded continuously – this can have important implications for the expansion of anti-corruption enforcement. This determination is examined in the fourth part of our series.

Expansion of the Money Laundering Act to codify responsibility for activities in virtual currencies. The GwG 2020 codifies earlier FinCEN guidelines, according to which companies that carry out certain business activities in virtual currencies must register as money service providers. By expanding the definitions of terms such as “financial institution” and “money transfer business”, the new law includes companies that exchange or otherwise transfer virtual currencies or “values ​​that replace currencies”. FinCEN’s guidelines have been controversial in the industry and codifying them into law will create additional challenges and opportunities.

Developing an emerging financial technology focus. The GwG 2020 gives the financial supervisory authorities and the Government Accountability Office the impetus to conduct studies and submit reports to Congress and develop skills to better understand and adapt the legal framework in order to address emerging fintech technologies. The law instructs FinCEN to hire emerging technology professionals to identify emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, digital identity technology, and distributed ledger technologies that can potentially aid government and financial institutions in combating money laundering and terrorist financing. Federal financial regulators are expected to investigate new payment methods, such as virtual currency and peer-to-peer payment systems, and provide reports to Congress on their use in money laundering and illegal activities. The federal financial supervisory authorities have promoted the use of emerging technologies by financial institutions, and the AMLA 2020 instructs FinCEN to set up a no-action letter procedure that enables the industry to find the technology solutions acceptable to the supervisory authorities for compliance with the To understand BSA better.

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Ernie Zulia exits Hollins College stage to organize for subsequent act | Leisure

Originally from Ohio, Zulia first got involved in the Roanoke theater scene in the summer of 1976 when he came straight from college in western New York to play on the summer shows at the Mill Mountain Playhouse. At the time, the theater company was still producing its productions at the Rockledge Inn on Mill Mountain. In October of that year, the Rockledge Inn burned down as a result of arson.

The theater insisted, however, moved into the empty Grandin Theater and started the “Phoenix Season” in the summer of 1977 with a smash production of “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum”, which included Zulia.

A decade later, after earning a Masters of Fine Arts from Northwestern University, Zulia moved to Roanoke and became assistant artistic director of the Mill Mountain Theater. Zulia and collaborator David Caldwell worked under the longtime artistic director of MMT, Jere Hodgin, and adapted Robert Fulghum’s bestseller “Everything I really need to know, what I learned in kindergarten” for the stage. Shortly after a world premiere in Mill Mountain, Zulia left Roanoke to conduct the piece around the world.

By 2004 he returned to Roanoke to direct and teach as a visiting artist at Hollins – and was eventually hired as chairman of the theater department. Zulia recruited Todd Ristau, founder of Hollins Playwright’s Lab, to the faculty and created the Hollins Theater Institute as the umbrella for the department’s undergraduate and graduate programs. A $ 3 million gift from the James S. McDonnell Family Foundation allowed Zulia to oversee a major renovation and upgrade of the university’s 97-year-old theater.