16 Dems press regulators on pot businesses

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March 6, 2014 – Sixteen House Democrats from states legitimizing certain marijuana businesses wrote federal financial institution regulators Wednesday to urge implementation of recent guidance on how financial institutions can serve such businesses.

In Wednesday's letters, the lawmakers cited past statements by the regulators that they would consider whether to provide institutions guidance once the Justice Department and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network settled on an approach. Now that FinCEN has issued guidance, the lawmakers are pressing regulators to implement and “ensure your on-site examiners fully comply with the new standards.” (Despite the FinCEN guidance, NAFCU believes there are unsettled issues.)

The lawmakers, led by Rep. Ed Perlmutter, D-Colo., who has sponsored legislation that would protect institutions working with such businesses, sent their letters to the heads of NCUA, the Federal Reserve Board, FDIC and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

Separate letters were sent to each agency. The one to NCUA states, “Credit unions need to have confidence they can provide banking services to legitimate marijuana businesses without threat their regulators will penalize them, threaten their deposit insurance, increase their capital requirements or force them to close accounts or stop providing services.”

The FinCEN guidance calls for three different types of suspicious activity reports on transactions involving marijuana businesses. Since these businesses are legitimized only in certain states and not at the federal level, each transaction must be reported. Institutions must also adhere to “know your customer” rules.

A memo from Justice last month to state attorneys general notes that financial institutions face criminal penalties if they fail to report transactions.