Martha Leon Fernandez
The collapse of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB), the 16th-largest bank in the United States, in early March of this year is considered the biggest bank failure since the fall of Washington Mutual during the 2008 global financial crisis. After 40 years of success, the bank collapsed swiftly and unexpectedly. The collapse has ricocheted through the industry, provoking bank closures, rattling the global markets, and threatening the livelihood of startups. The Federal government has not only intervened and taken over the bank, but prosecutors and regulators from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have initiated preliminary investigations. Inevitably the collapse will cause regulators to revise the current banking rules and pursue stricter regulation in order to prevent the demise of other banks and a financial crisis.
Since the beginning of 2023, the cryptocurrency market has faced legal action from multiple U.S. agencies in efforts to control a sector that, until recently, mostly operated beyond the bounds of conventional financial regulation. As a result of the executive order issued by the Biden Administration in March 2022, various federal agencies examined the risk and benefits of cryptocurrencies and have issued official reports. These reports have led to coordinated action against the crypto market. The administration aims to “ensure that cryptocurrencies cannot undermine financial stability, to protect investors, and to hold bad actors accountable.” In their attempts to promote regulation, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the U.S. Department of Treasury, have acted against the crypto market on several fronts, frightening off bank allies, suing crypto firms for violating investor protection laws, and targeting exchanges connected to money laundering.
The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is a bureau of the U.S. Department of Treasury committed to safeguarding the financial system by detecting and preventing money laundering, the financing of terrorism, and other illicit activity since the 1970s. The Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) expanded the definition of “financial institution.” The ENABLERS Act (Act) is the latest proposed amendment that seeks to expand the provisions of the BSA to several different professions, such as lawyers, trust companies, investment advisors, accountants, public relations firms, and art dealers, amongst others. Should this amendment pass, it will be the most significant money laundering reform yet. It will expand its reach by requiring these financial service providers to adopt anti-money laundering safeguards to close the loophole in the U.S. anti-money laundering system. The safeguard will require these professionals to help prevent and report cases of money laundering by implementing due diligence rules in their practice to ensure that the money entering the system is not “dirty.” This is currently not required of lawyers or any of these other professions.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) have guarded controlled substances zealously since the inception of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), passed in the 1970s. However, the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic challenged nearly all of society’s conventional protocols, and the federal government responded to concerns that patients wouldn’t receive care by loosening its regulations for healthcare services. In 2020, the DEA permitted health providers to prescribe schedule II-controlled substances to patients via telehealth appointments instead of in-person visits. Now, two years later, the FDA has confirmed an Adderall shortage, which is a schedule II controlled substance that is in high demand and used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). The Justice Department’s DEA division has initiated probes against various online mental health companies and worries that the drug is overprescribed and abused by young adults.
This year the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has come under fire for its slow response to the nationwide baby formula shortage. In September 2022, FDA Commissioner Robert M. Califf authorized the release of an internal report. The report details how the baby formula shortage occurred, the FDA’s response to the shortage, and the challenges it faced in resolving the shortage. The report also revealed the changes in FDA regulatory procedure to ensure another shortage does not occur.
In October of 2021, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced it would ramp up its enforcement against corporate repeat offenders of white-collar crimes and prioritize action against individual actors to promote accountability. The new measures implemented permit the DOJ to consider all prior wrongdoing by a corporation when deciding how to resolve a new investigation. Leniency programs of the past will not be extended to wrongdoers unless all believed participants, whether employees or executives, are disclosed. There has also been a shift from financial penalties to probationary settlements, which require companies not only to admit fault and pay fines but also to improve their monitoring of employees to deter crime. This may require outside monitoring to verify compliance, which can be burdensome and expensive.