FinCEN (Financial Crimes Enforcement Network)

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Insignia 320 x 213.jpg
Founded 1990
Headquarters Vienna, Virginia, United States
Key People Kenneth A. Blanco
Products Money laundering prevention and enforcement
Website FinCEN Homepage

FinCEN is the commonly used name for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury ("Treasury"). It regulates "money transmitters," a term which is meant to extend to cryptocurrency exchanges.


FinCEN is authorized by the Bank Secrecy Act, the series of laws originating in 1970 that direct the Treasury to combat money laundering. FinCEN was established within the Treasury in 1990 with the mission to support the "detection, investigation and prosecution of domestic and international money laundering and other financial crimes."[1] In 1994, FinCEN was given regulatory responsibilities.[2] It was recognized as an official bureau of the Treasury by Congress in the USA Patriot Act of October 2001.[3][4]

In July 2011, FinCEN adopted extensive modifications of and additions to its regulations, among which was the addition of the words "other value that substitutes for currency" to the definitions of "money service businesses" and "money transmitter."[5] In March 2013, FinCEN established that it was regulating cryptocurrencies alongside other money transactions.[6]

FinCEN consists of six divisions: Intelligence, Enforcement, Policy, Liaison, Technology, and Management Divisions.[7]

Cryptocurrency Regulations

Like all other money service businesses, money transmitters that deal in cryptocurrencies must register with the Treasury and renew their registrations biannually. They must maintain a current list of their agents, although their agents do not themselves need to register unless they dual trade. The regulations apply only to persons who engage in money service or money transmission activities as a business.

FinCEN announced in March 2018 that issuers of ICOs are money transmitters and that they, as well as ICO exchanges, need to comply with FinCEN regulations for money service businesses. Persons dealing with ICOs that are registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission are exempt.[8]

FinCEN's first action against an unregistered money transmitter, Eric Powers, was disclosed on April 18, 2019. Powers had held himself forward on Craigslist, an Internet service and product bulletin board, as being in the business of exchanging U.S. currency for bitcoin and vice versa. FinCEN complained that in addition to not registering, Powers also did not file suspicious activity or other reports with FinCEN.[9]

On June 27, 2019, four members of the U.S. House of Representatives - Emanuel Cleaver, II (D-MO), Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN), Bill Foster (D-IL) and French Hill (R-AR) - held a meeting with Kenneth Blanco, head of FinCEN, to discuss Facebook's cryptocurrency, Libra. The discussion was part of a larger discussion about how artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning could potentially limit illicit money laundering activities.[10]