On October 15, 2021, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) issued its first-ever sanctions compliance guidance (the “OFAC Guidance” or “Guidance”) for the virtual currency industry. The Guidance represents a focused effort by OFAC to highlight sanctions risks present in the virtual currency industry, which has experienced tremendous growth in the past few years, and to suggest methods for ensuring compliance. The Guidance is a helpful compilation and distillation of OFAC’s guidance and resources relevant to virtual currency, as well as virtual currency-related enforcement actions and frequently asked questions, all designed to serve as a primer for those operating in the virtual currency sector who may be unfamiliar with OFAC and U.S. sanctions. OFAC suggests that many virtual currency businesses are launching products and services without making adequate provision for sanctions compliance, and the Guidance seems aimed at addressing this. The Guidance is the latest in a series of OFAC actions focused on the virtual currency sector, including a series of enforcement actions against virtual currency companies, updated guidance on ransomware attacks and designation of a virtual currency exchange. Industry participants should be aware of this history and the new guidance, and prepare for enhanced scrutiny and enforcement.
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