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Signing Tax Return Without Checking the Box and Failing to File FBARs Constitutes Willfulness as a Matter of Law, Fourth Circuit Holds

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On October 20, 2020, the Fourth Circuit upheld the imposition of enhanced civil penalties on husband and wife taxpayers for their willful failure to file Reports of Foreign Bank and Financial Accounts (FBARs), despite any evidence that they were aware of the FBAR-filing requirement.

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FinCEN Releases First Advisory on COVID-19 Illicit Activity, Including New Red Flags for Potential COVID-19 Fraud and Scams

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On May 18, 2020, the Department of Treasury's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) released its first advisory to financial institutions about detecting and preventing COVID-19 fraud. The guidance provides financial institutions with 22 red flag indicators to help identify potential illicit activity related to the pandemic, such as price gouging and hoarding medical supplies; fraudulent cures, tests, and vaccines; and non-delivery scams. FinCEN plans to issue additional advisories about financial crimes related to the pandemic in the future.

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Crypto Currency: Bitcoin Transactions Per Se Affect Interstate Commerce, Ninth Circuit Rules

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On April 17, 2020, in United States v. Costanzo, the Ninth Circuit upheld the conviction of a defendant under the “sting” money laundering provision, ruling that the defendant's bitcoin sales to undercover agents had the requisite effect on interstate commerce as the sales used internet-enabled and cellular network connected devices.

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FinCEN Imposes Civil Money Penalty on Former Bank Officer for Failing to Adequately Staff Bank's AML Compliance Function and for Capping Bank's Suspicious Activity Reports

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In February, 2018, FinCEN and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency imposed a $185 million civil money penalty on U.S. Bank N.A. for willful violations of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA), including failing to establish and implement an adequate anti-money laundering (AML) program and failing to report suspicious activity. On March 4, 2020, FinCEN imposed a $450,000 civil money penalty on the Bank's former Chief Operational Risk Officer for his role in these failures.

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False Claims Act Relators Cannot Intervene in Criminal Proceedings that Result from Relator's Disclosure to Government, Third Circuit Rules

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On October 28, 2019, the Third Circuit in United States v. Wegeler addressed an issue of first impression, holding that a False Claims Act (FCA) relator whose information resulted in a criminal prosecution cannot intervene in that prosecution to pursue a whistleblower award. The court held a relator can only get a recovery by proceeding with his FCA qui tam action. In so ruling, the Third Circuit joined the Ninth and Eleventh Circuits, which are the only other circuits to have considered this issue.

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Felony Tax Obstruction Statute Only Applies to Ongoing or Foreseeable Proceedings, Not to Routine Non-Compliance with Tax Code Requirements, SCOTUS Clarifies

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On March 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court in Marinello v. United States imposed a significant limitation on the government's ability to charge and successfully convict taxpayers for obstructing administration of the Internal Revenue Code. Section 7212(a) of the IRC makes it a felony to “corruptly or by force” “endeavor[] to obstruct or impede[] the due administration of this title.” In a 7-2 decision, the Court announced a narrow interpretation of “due administration of [the IRC],” holding that due administration referred only to a particular proceeding and not general IRS administration.

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Time is Running Out to Disclose Hidden Foreign Assets and Receive Amnesty from Criminal Prosecution, IRS Says

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The IRS has announced that it is ending its Offshore Voluntary Disclosure Program (OVDP) in September, 2018. The OVDP currently is the only available mechanism for U.S. taxpayers with undisclosed foreign assets to come into compliance with U.S. tax and foreign asset reporting laws and eliminate the risk of related criminal exposure. Taxpayers who still have undisclosed offshore financial accounts and other assets have roughly six months to send a completed disclosure package to the IRS; the process of crafting and submitting a disclosure can be lengthy so taxpayers should not delay.

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Latvian Bank Faces Exclusion as a "Primary Money Laundering Concern" Based on North Korean Ties and Other Misdeeds

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On February 12, 2018, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network ("FinCEN"), a division of the Treasury Department charged with enforcing the anti-money laundering provisions Bank Secrecy Act ("BSA"), branded ABLV Bank, AS as a "financial institution of primary money laundering concern" and announced its intention, via a notice of proposed rulemaking, to effectively exclude ABLV Bank from the U.S. financial system by prohibiting U.S. banks from opening or maintaining correspondent accounts in ABLV Bank's name or on its behalf.

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The New Tax Bill: Settlement Considerations Regarding Tax Treatment of Fines, Penalties, and Restitution

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Corporations and counsel negotiating settlement agreements with the United States under the False Claims Act, or other statutes that provide for monetary damages and penalties, must be aware of the impact of the recently enacted Tax Cuts and Jobs Act on the ability to take business tax deductions for these amounts. The Act made changes to tax treatment that are effective for agreements and orders that are finalized on or after December 22, 2017.

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Thoughts on the Manafort & Gates Indictment: Focused on FBAR Violations

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On Monday, October 30, 2017, Special Counsel Robert Mueller unsealed the indictment against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and his business associate, Richard Gates. The majority of the indictment - 7 out of 12 counts - relates to the pair's alleged failure to file FBARs, which is a violation of Title 31, not Title 26, of the U.S. Code.

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