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Key Takeaways from FATF’s 2024 Targeted Update of Travel Rule Implementation for Virtual Assets and Service Providers - July 2024

Lana Schwartzman
Lana Schwartzman
July 10, 2024
Schwartzman boasts 19 years of experience in fintech and digital assets compliance, with a strong history of designing compliance programs and leading licensure strategies in crypto and financial companies.
Summary

On July 9, 2024, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) released its fifth targeted review of the implementation of FATF Standards on Virtual Assets (VAs) and Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs). This review provides an overview of the progress made by countries and the industry, as well as ongoing implementation gaps and concerns.

While the report covers a range of topics, we will focus here on the implementation of the Travel Rule. As a reminder, the Travel Rule requires VASPs and financial institutions to obtain, hold, and transmit specific originator and beneficiary information immediately and securely when transferring virtual assets. 

Let's dive in to the main takeaways from the report.

More jurisdictions are passing Travel Rule legislation 

85% of jurisdictions have passed or are in the process of passing Travel Rule legislation, compared to 69% last year

Jurisdictions have made progress on implementing the Travel Rule. In fact, 70% of respondents (65 of 94 jurisdictions, excluding those that prohibit or plan to prohibit VASPs explicitly) have passed legislation implementing the Travel Rule.

The methodology used by FATF and the Global Network consists of 205 jurisdictions in total. However, 147 jurisdictions responded to the 2024 survey (35 FATF members and 112 FSRB members). It is worth noting that 58 jurisdictions did not respond to the survey. The report infers that these 58 have not made progress on R.15, including the Travel Rule implementation. Responses were self-reported and not verified.

FATF is urging jurisdictions to make immediate progress to enact and enforce legislation implementing the Travel Rule

Despite the legislation, enforcement remains weak. Of the 65 jurisdictions that have passed legislation implementing the Travel Rule, only 17 have issued findings, directives, or taken enforcement or other supervisory actions against VASPs focused on Travel Rule compliance. [2]

The targeted update clarifies that a lack of interoperability and the Travel Rule tool’s deficiencies in comprehensive coverage are not excuses for not being compliant. FATF urges jurisdictions to make immediate progress in enacting and enforcing legislation implementing the Travel Rule. Specifically, the report shares the example that,

One jurisdiction shared that although regulated VASPs suffer from the lack of interoperability among Travel Rule compliance tools, non-compliant VASPs would still be penalised for their compliance shortcomings. [Paragraph 65]
Another jurisdiction reported imposing regulatory orders on a VASP for non-compliance related to Travel Rule tool deficiencies such as incomprehensive coverage of VAs or delayed data submission. [Paragraph 24]

In short, the FATF is urging jurisdictions to make immediate progress to enact and enforce legislation implementing the Travel Rule.

FATF highlights specific public and private sector challenges in Travel Rule implementation

Both jurisdictions and VASPs continue to face a range of challenges in implementing the Travel Rule, as highlighted below:

Inconsistent implementation and lack of enforcement

VASPs use Travel Rule obligations to mitigate illicit finance risks. However, inconsistent implementation and lack of enforcement have not sufficiently motivated the private sector to enhance compliance.

Interoperability Issues

Although progress has been made, challenges persist due to architectural differences and data protection requirements. VASPs integrating multiple compliance tools face technical, operational, and financial burdens.

Discreet, rather than interconnected, Travel Rule tools with closed lists of participants (aka closed networks)  may also complicate the identification of counterparty VASPs and could result in the misidentification of a counterparty VASP as an unhosted wallet simply because the counterparty did not use the same Travel Rule compliance tool as the beneficiary. The FATF urges the private sector to progress towards increasing compatibility amongst Travel Rule compliance tools, whether through technological advancements that allow interoperability between tools, or by developing relationships that permit transactions to be made through a chain of interoperable tools or other methods. [Paragraph41]

Notabene’s SafeGateway facilitates VASP-to-VASP interactions across various protocols. 

Complex transactions

The industry reported widespread use of the interVASP Messaging Standards (IVMS) for Travel Rule information, akin to ISO20022 for the VA sector. They see potential in further developing standards to enhance message transitions, such as handling transaction rejections and follow-up queries. The increasing sophistication of VA transfers involving professional traders and over-the-counter brokers indicates that some Travel Rule compliance tools may not suit broader transaction types.

To address this, Notabene launched SafeTransact for Networks, which ensures the smooth handling of complex multi-party transactions, careful management of PII, and regulatory compliance.

Sunrise Issue

The report highlights ongoing challenges with the Sunrise issue, where jurisdictions implement the Travel Rule at different times.

  • Phased Implementation and Grace Periods: Among the 80 jurisdictions implementing or planning to implement the Travel Rule, many are adopting a phased approach or granting grace periods with exemptions or flexible compliance expectations for VASPs.
  • Interaction Restrictions: Most jurisdictions restrict domestic VASPs from interacting with foreign counterparts that lack Travel Rule legislation to mitigate associated risks.
  • Risk Mitigation Measures: Specifically, of the 65 jurisdictions that have passed legislation enacting the Travel Rule, about half have measures in place to ensure domestic VASPs are only transacting with regulated and/or Travel Rule-complaint counterparts or are otherwise mitigating the risks.

Despite the challenges mentioned above, FATF calls on all jurisdictions to rapidly enact and enforce the Travel Rule.

VASP should perform counterparty due diligence, even when Travel Rule obligations differ

In order to transmit the required Travel Rule information, VASPs identify and conduct due diligence on their counterparty VASP. This remains a challenge due to difficulties in identifying the counterparty VASP based on VA wallet addresses and varying counterparty VASP due diligence requirements across jurisdictions. 

The FATF report suggests that for cases in which only one of the originator and beneficiary VASPs has Travel Rule obligations due to differences in national requirements, VASPs should still take steps to comply with targeted financial sanctions obligations. They further suggest to transact with unlicensed/unregistered foreign counterparts only if the originator VASP takes risk mitigating measures in place.

Counterparty due diligence ensures VASPs avoid dealing with illicit or sanctioned actors and helps ensure that a counterparty can comply with the Travel Rule, including protecting the confidentiality of shared information. Note that counterparty due diligence for the purpose of complying with R.16 is distinct from the obligations applicable to cross-border correspondent relationships (R. 13). [Page 22]

FATF highlights issues with some Travel Rule compliance tools

The 2022 and 2023 Targeted Update reports highlighted that while the industry has developed various Travel Rule compliance tools in response to FATF standards, many tools still do not fully meet these standards and face interoperability challenges. Common shortcomings include a failure to transmit information immediately in information transmission, affecting sanctions screening and due diligence. 

Regulators and supervisors are encouraged to engage with VASPs to ensure compliance tools meet all FATF requirements and take enforcement actions for non-compliance. VASPs should “deliberative and make informed decisions and select a compliance tool(s) that will allow them to meet all FATF Travel Rule requirements”. The lack of interoperability between tools can hinder transaction monitoring and counterparty identification. The FATF urges the private sector to enhance tool compatibility through technological advancements or relationships among tool providers.

An increasing number of jurisdictions report VASPs using in-house developed compliance tools. There is interest in understanding how these tools interact with others and concerns about their effectiveness. Collaborative efforts between supervisory authorities, regulated VASPs, and tool providers are recommended to ensure tools meet regulatory requirements before use.

VASPs should take a deliberative and informed decision and select a compliance tool(s) that will allow them to meet all FATF Travel Rule requirements. Box 2.1 below sets out guiding questions that VASPs should ask to determine whether potential Travel Rule solution tools will comply with all FATF requirements. [Paragraph 40]
👀 Stay tuned for an updated chart comparing SafeTransact’s capabilities vs the VAGC’s guiding questions. 

FATF proposes revisions to Recommendation 16 and implications for Travel Rule

In February 2024, the FATF initiated a public consultation on proposed changes to Recommendation 16 (R.16) and its Interpretive Note on payment transparency. The revisions aim to align the Standard with evolving payment systems and messaging standards (ISO 20022) while maintaining technological neutrality and the principle of "same activity, same risk, same rules." These updates could impact the VA sector by specifying the required originator and beneficiary information and defining the roles of VASPs in complex payment chains. The final revisions to R.16 will determine any changes to the Travel Rule requirements for VASPs. Read Notabene’s response to the public consultation here.

Summary of Recommendations from FATF to public sector

  • Jurisdictions without Travel Rule legislation/regulation should urgently introduce it.
  • Jurisdictions with the Travel Rule should quickly operationalize it through effective supervision and enforcement.
  • Jurisdictions should publicize information on registered or licensed VASPs to facilitate counterparty due diligence.
  • Jurisdictions should engage with the VASP sector to identify and ensure Travel Rule compliance tools meet FATF requirements.
  • VASPs and compliance tool providers should review and improve tools to fully comply with FATF requirements and enhance compatibility for effective implementation.
  • FATF will update and publish assessments of R.15 compliance by 2025.

If you have any questions about the FATF report, or the implementation of the Travel Rule for your business or jurisdiction, let us know at questions@notabene.id.

And if you are in the process of determining the right Travel Rule solution for your needs, we'd be happy to offer a free consultation with our compliance experts.

References

[1] FATF. (2024). “Targeted Update on Implementation of the FATF Standards on VAs and VASPs.” June 2024, para 21

[2] Targeted Update, page 19, para 24

[3] Targeted Update 2024 page 24, Box 2.1.

FAQs