Legislature(2007 - 2008)BELTZ 211

03/27/2007 01:30 PM LABOR & COMMERCE

Download Mp3. <- Right click and save file as

Audio Topic
01:32:04 PM Start
01:33:24 PM SB116
02:18:57 PM Adjourn
* first hearing in first committee of referral
+ teleconferenced
= bill was previously heard/scheduled
Heard & Held
Bills Previously Heard/Scheduled
                    ALASKA STATE LEGISLATURE                                                                                  
          SENATE LABOR AND COMMERCE STANDING COMMITTEE                                                                        
                         March 27, 2007                                                                                         
                           1:32 p.m.                                                                                            
MEMBERS PRESENT                                                                                                               
Senator Johnny Ellis, Chair                                                                                                     
Senator Gary Stevens, Vice Chair                                                                                                
Senator Bettye Davis                                                                                                            
Senator Con Bunde                                                                                                               
MEMBERS ABSENT                                                                                                                
Senator Lyman Hoffman                                                                                                           
COMMITTEE CALENDAR                                                                                                            
SENATE BILL NO. 116                                                                                                             
"An Act relating to the Uniform Money Services Act, to money                                                                    
transmission services, and to currency exchange services; and                                                                   
providing for an effective date."                                                                                               
     HEARD AND HELD                                                                                                             
PREVIOUS COMMITTEE ACTION                                                                                                     
BILL: SB 116                                                                                                                  
SHORT TITLE: UNIFORM MONEY SERVICES ACT                                                                                         
SPONSOR(s): SENATOR(s) ELTON                                                                                                    
03/14/07       (S)       READ THE FIRST TIME - REFERRALS                                                                        
03/14/07       (S)       L&C, FIN                                                                                               
03/27/07       (S)       L&C AT 1:30 PM BELTZ 211                                                                               
WITNESS REGISTER                                                                                                              
SENATOR KIM ELTON                                                                                                               
Alaska State Capitol                                                                                                            
Juneau, AK  99801-1182                                                                                                          
POSITION STATEMENT: Sponsor of SB 116.                                                                                        
MARK DAVIS, Director                                                                                                            
Division of Banking and Securities                                                                                              
Department of Commerce, Community & Economic Development (DCCED)                                                                
Juneau AK                                                                                                                       
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 116.                                                                                         
DAVID LANDSMAN, Director                                                                                                        
National Money Transmitters Association                                                                                         
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 116.                                                                                         
EZRA LEVINE, Partner                                                                                                            
Howery Law Firm                                                                                                                 
Money Services Round Table                                                                                                      
Washington D.C.,                                                                                                                
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 116.                                                                                         
MR. ALLEN MOORE, Manager and Owner                                                                                              
Cemerlang Financial Services                                                                                                    
Juneau AK                                                                                                                     
POSITION STATEMENT: Supported SB 116.                                                                                         
ACTION NARRATIVE                                                                                                              
CHAIR JOHNNY ELLIS  called the Senate Labor and  Commerce Standing                                                            
Committee meeting to  order at 1:32:04 PM. Present  at the call to                                                            
order were Senators Stevens, Davis, Bunde and Ellis.                                                                            
               SB 116-UNIFORM MONEY SERVICES ACT                                                                            
1:33:24 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ELLIS announced  SB 116 to be up for consideration  and that                                                              
it had a CS.                                                                                                                    
1:33:32 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR KIM  ELTON, sponsor of  SB 116, said  he wanted to  make a                                                              
few points. One  is that the bill has support from  both large and                                                              
small   money  transmitting   companies,   the  Association,   the                                                              
Department   of  Commerce,   Community   &  Economic   Development                                                              
(DCCED),  and from  consumer advocates.  It  has implications  for                                                              
the industry, the consumer and homeland security.                                                                               
SENATOR  ELTON apologized  for bringing  a 28-page  bill to  them,                                                              
but  said it  is based  on model  legislation that  has been  used                                                              
elsewhere. It  insures the safety  and soundness in  the financial                                                              
institutions  used by Alaskans  who don't use  banks. Most  of the                                                              
bill is taken  up with the mechanics of regulation  like licensing                                                              
background  checks, investigations,  and filing  reports. As  with                                                              
any business regulation,  it is going to be self-supported  by the                                                              
businesses. This does not have a cost to the general fund.                                                                      
SENATOR ELTON  said SB  116 addresses two  industries that  pose a                                                              
risk  for  money  laundering -  money  transmission  and  currency                                                              
exchange.  Money  transmission also  poses  a risk  for  terrorist                                                              
1:36:27 PM                                                                                                                    
The only  difference between this  bill and the  model legislation                                                              
is that  the model  also covers  check cashing,  which is  another                                                              
industry  with  its  own  dynamics.  He left  it  out  because  it                                                              
doesn't impact  homeland security and  can be dealt with  later if                                                              
people want.                                                                                                                    
He said the federal  government encourages states to  work with it                                                              
on these businesses  by licensing money service  businesses (MSB).                                                              
In fact,  the Federal  Bank Security  Act that  was updated  after                                                              
9/11  makes  it a  federal  felony  to  transmit money  without  a                                                              
license  in   states  that  require   one.  So  if   this  passes,                                                              
violations will be federal felonies.                                                                                            
SENATOR ELTON  said several Alaskan  businesses do  transmit money                                                              
now,  but are  not registered  with the  federal Financial  Crimes                                                              
Enforcement Network  (FINCEN). State licensure will  require money                                                              
transmitters  to get  registered so  they don't  run afoul  of the                                                              
federal  government. It  ensures law  enforcement coordination  to                                                              
make  sure these  businesses  aren't abused  by  people who  avoid                                                              
banks  because they  don't want  the scrutiny  of bank  examiners.                                                              
The bill  insures safety and  soundness for consumers  through its                                                              
bonding and net worth requirements.                                                                                             
1:38:07 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  ELTON  described  how   Juneau  is  familiar  with  money                                                              
transmitting  companies because  a typical  user might be  someone                                                              
who is  on one  of the  foreign flagged  tour ships  who wants  to                                                              
wire money to their home country and their families.                                                                            
1:38:49 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR   BUNDE  mentioned   that  illegal   aliens  doing   money                                                              
laundering has been  in the news lately and he asked  if this bill                                                              
impacted those situations.                                                                                                      
SENATOR  ELTON replied  that  he didn't  think  his bill  affected                                                              
that issue,  but he encouraged  him to ask  the people who  are in                                                              
the business. It's  possible that it might concern  how banks deal                                                              
with  money transmitters  and  bank accounts  for  them. Now,  the                                                              
federal  government requires  banks to  know about,  not just  the                                                              
person  that  has the  account,  but  the  people that  are  doing                                                              
business  with  the  account-holder.  So, there  are  some  issues                                                              
around the banks that are not addressed in the bill.                                                                            
1:41:02 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS  said the Kodiak Western  Union has seen  a lot of                                                              
money  transfers   by  foreign   nationals  who  work   in  Kodiak                                                              
canneries  who send money  home and  he asked  if they  would lose                                                              
that business.                                                                                                                  
SENATOR  ELTON replied  that  Western Union  would  speak to  that                                                              
later on, but  the only concern they  had is that there  is no cap                                                              
on  the  fee  service.  He  explained  that  all  of  the  state's                                                              
regulatory  boards  have  fees  that have  to  fully  support  the                                                              
activities of  the board. Western  Union would prefer to  see just                                                              
a flat fee  instead of one that  could slide up or  down depending                                                              
on  what the  expenses  of the  board were.  But  they had  worked                                                              
through that and supported the bill.                                                                                            
1:42:43 PM                                                                                                                    
MARK  DAVIS,   Director,  Division  of  Banking   and  Securities,                                                              
Department   of  Commerce,   Community   &  Economic   Development                                                              
(DCCED),  supported SB  116  and testified  that  it provides  for                                                              
efficient  regulation.  It  doesn't  require  companies  that  are                                                              
licensed in other  states to apply for licensure in  Alaska; so it                                                              
doesn't require duplication  of licensing and allows  them to work                                                              
through their  affiliates in the  state. The larger  company would                                                              
become responsible for the actions of the affiliate.                                                                            
He  said this  system allows  two  essential things.  It lets  the                                                              
Division  of  Banking  and  Securities   monitor  compliance  with                                                              
various  laws and  it  also has  some consumer  protection  issues                                                              
that  are  not in  the  uniform  act. A  provision  requires  each                                                              
licensee to  state, up  front, to the  customer what  charges they                                                              
make when using  the service. Currently, Alaska does  not have any                                                              
regulations on any  of these businesses and this would  be a first                                                              
MR.  DAVIS supported  the idea  of  making sure  each business  is                                                              
following  the various  federal and/or  state laws  that apply  to                                                              
their  services.   The  Act   allows  for   the  division   to  do                                                              
examinations   and  to  do   an  examination   upon  receiving   a                                                              
complaint. It would  not be too burdensome; a  bank examiner would                                                              
have  to  look  at  the  records   that  are  being  kept  by  the                                                              
particular  company.  Money transmitters  are  already  registered                                                              
with  the IRS  and should  be registered  with  the Department  of                                                              
Treasury.  However,  as  Senator  Elton  noted,  not  all  are  so                                                              
registered in  the State of Alaska.  "So this bill would  clean up                                                              
that situation,  which would be  very positive," he said  and that                                                              
currently  Alaska does  not have  any  regulations and  this is  a                                                              
first step.                                                                                                                     
1:47:03 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  STEVENS asked  what the  charges would  be to send  money                                                              
from Kodiak to Philippines.                                                                                                     
MR.  DAVIS   replied  that  the   fee  is  a  percentage   of  the                                                              
transaction  and the currency  exchange rate,  which changes  from                                                              
day to  day because  of currency  fluctuations.  The idea  in this                                                              
bill is that  everyone would have  to post their charges  up front                                                              
so people know upfront what they are.                                                                                           
SENATOR STEVENS  asked if  he understood  correctly that  the cost                                                              
of the  transaction won't  change, but the  rates will  be posted.                                                              
This should create competition and allow consumer choice.                                                                       
MR. DAVIS replied that was correct.                                                                                             
SENATOR  STEVENS  asked  what  "no  cap  for  financial  services"                                                              
MR. DAVIS  answered that  the department's  fiscal note  indicates                                                              
it needs  half of an investigator,  which is how they  are working                                                              
with payday lending  right now, which is a similar  type industry.                                                              
He thought  the cost of  the regulation  to the division  would be                                                              
equal to the fees  and they can be adjusted by  regulation so that                                                              
would be monitored.                                                                                                             
1:49:03 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BUNDE  asked what problem  this legislation solves  and if                                                              
there has been abuse.                                                                                                           
MR. DAVIS replied  that he hadn't heard of abuse  with the charges                                                              
and  he has  not had  that  many complaints.  He  has a  predatory                                                              
lending  hotline,   but  hadn't  received  many   calls  on  money                                                              
transmitters.  But he  knows from  the pay lending  bill that  the                                                              
posting  of the  charges has  led  to competition  and he  thought                                                              
that would  occur here. The  other thing  he noted is  the federal                                                              
Money  Laundering Suppression  Act  of 1194  urged  the states  to                                                              
enact  uniform laws  to license  and  regulate money  transmitters                                                              
and currency  exchange businesses and  this uniform act in  SB 116                                                              
would conform  to that.  "There is a  definite advantage  to money                                                              
laundering suppression by this bill."                                                                                           
SENATOR STEVENS  asked how  this would protect  a consumer  from a                                                              
company going into bankruptcy.                                                                                                  
MR. DAVIS  replied that  SB 116  has a  bond provision  that would                                                              
provide  some protection.  Second,  the division  could also  make                                                              
sure that the  companies that are applying for  the licensing have                                                              
the  business  acumen   and  financial  ability  to   be  in  this                                                              
SENATOR BUNDE  asked if he said  only a handful of people  do this                                                              
business in Alaska.                                                                                                             
MR.  DAVIS replied  that he  thought  this would  affect about  30                                                              
companies.  Western Union  is  here, but  that  would be  licensed                                                              
through  its  national  affiliate.  It's  good  to  have  as  many                                                              
companies as possible.                                                                                                          
1:52:00 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR  BUNDE mentioned  the  $80,000 fiscal  note.  He asked  if                                                              
that would be passed on to the customer.                                                                                        
MR. DAVIS replied yes.                                                                                                          
1:52:51 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR ELTON  said four  people do this  business in  Juneau plus                                                              
Western Union and  the fiscal note was predicated  on 40 companies                                                              
around the state, if he recalled correctly.                                                                                     
MR. DAVIS  added  that it should  be based  on 30  - 40  statewide                                                              
based on the division's informal survey.                                                                                        
1:53:38 PM                                                                                                                    
DAVID    LANDSMAN,   Director,    National   Money    Transmitters                                                              
Association, said  it was founded  in 1999 to defend  the concerns                                                              
of  state   license  remittance   companies.  That  is   the  only                                                              
requirement  they have  for membership  - to  be state licensed  -                                                              
except  in  the case  of  Mr.  Allen  Moore  who is  not  licensed                                                              
because he operates in Alaska.                                                                                                  
He explained  that Mr. Moore was  very interested in  getting this                                                              
license bill  passed because  of the  banking problem.  And that's                                                              
the  main  problem  the Association  wants  to  solve  right  now,                                                              
"because it's a matter of survival."                                                                                            
MR.  LANDSMAN said  the question  has been  raised -  what is  the                                                              
linkage between  the licensing bill  and the banking  problem. The                                                              
linkage  is that  the professionalization  of this  industry is  a                                                              
prerequisite to them  getting the kind of recognition  and respect                                                              
that would  help them get their  bank accounts back.  He explained                                                              
there are  no such  things as a  right to a  bank account  in this                                                              
country and  a bank  has the right  to choose  who to  do business                                                              
with and who not  to. The only trouble is they  have chosen not to                                                              
do business  with any  money service businesses.  This has  led to                                                              
real distortions  in the market  that impact the consumer,  not to                                                              
mention the existence of above-board money transmitters.                                                                        
This issue  has a lot  of implications  for national  security and                                                              
our  country's anti-money  laundering  (AML) laws.  He thought  it                                                              
was   the  first   prerequisite   for  keeping   track  of   these                                                              
transactions.  The federal  government made  a conscious  decision                                                              
to leave  it up to the  states; very few  states are not  doing it                                                              
right  now. In  the  states that  are  licensing  people there  is                                                              
still the problem  of getting shut out of the  bank accounts. "So,                                                              
this is  really just  the first  step on the  road to  getting our                                                              
industry  professionalized   both  in  substance   and  in  public                                                              
The banks are not  the villains in this, he said,  and if there is                                                              
a  villain,  it can  be  said  to be  overzealous  regulators.  He                                                              
recognized  that the  problem is  coming from  the federal  level.                                                              
The  state banking  charter  is  at issue  here.  These banks  are                                                              
examined  by the  state,  but it  is also  examined  by the  FDIC,                                                              
which is  one of  the five  federal banking  regulators is  one of                                                              
the prime  culprits. In their execution  of their job,  there is a                                                              
lot  of  anecdotal evidence  to  say  a  false standard  is  being                                                              
applied. The  standard they say should  be applied is that  a bank                                                              
can have as many  MSB customers as they want as  long as they have                                                              
systems that  are adequate to handle  the AML risk. In  fact, what                                                              
is happening  is that is  not the only  standard. Banks  are being                                                              
told to  close MSB accounts  because they  have too many  of them.                                                              
Unfortunately  that  concept of  concentration  of  risk is  being                                                              
transplanted   from   credit   to  compliance   and   it's   being                                                              
misapplied, he  said. Further, most  banks have made  the decision                                                              
these days  not to  do business  with MSBs  because it's  just not                                                              
worth it.                                                                                                                       
MR. LANDSMAN  said he  understands this might  not be  the correct                                                              
forum  for  this  kind  of  discussion   and  he  appreciated  the                                                              
committee's forbearance in listening.                                                                                           
1:58:24 PM                                                                                                                    
He believed  the need for  licensing is  not gauged by  the number                                                              
of  consumer  complaints alone.  Hawaii  did  a study  looking  at                                                              
whether or not  there were sufficient consumer  complaints to pass                                                              
its bill and it  concluded there weren't enough. Yet,  a couple of                                                              
months later  its bill passed. It's  for the reason of  being able                                                              
to at least  identify who is  doing these kinds of  businesses and                                                              
fulfilling  the state's role.  Unfortunately it  can be  looked at                                                              
as  an  unfunded  mandate,  but  this  is  the  role  the  federal                                                              
government  was  hoping  the  states  would  pick  up.  An  entire                                                              
industry is getting denied banking accounts.                                                                                    
MR.  LANDSMAN said  he  represents mostly  small  to medium  sized                                                              
money transmitters  who are  honest and hard  working who  serve a                                                              
real important need in society.                                                                                                 
2:00:21 PM                                                                                                                    
EZRA   LEVINE,  Partner,   Howery  Law   Firm,  Washington   D.C.,                                                              
represents the  Money Services Round  Table, which is  composed of                                                              
the  large national  non-bank money  transmitters.   They  include                                                              
American Express,  Western Union, Money-Gram, and  others that are                                                              
licensed in  all of the  states and under  the 47 states  that now                                                              
have laws similar to SB 116.                                                                                                    
MR.  LEVINE  said  he  helped  write  the National  Conference  of                                                              
Commissioners on  Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) model  and testified                                                              
in  favor or  it  as well  as  the competing  model  of the  Money                                                              
Transmitter   Regulators'   Association,   which   are   amazingly                                                              
similar. He  said they were the  only ones who are  complying with                                                              
the   anti-money   laundering   record   keeping   and   reporting                                                              
regulations  under the  U.S. Bank  Secrecy  Act. The  have both  a                                                              
soundness and  safety focus and  make sure that the  companies are                                                              
complying with  the Bank Secrecy  Act as  it was enhanced  in 2001                                                              
by the Patriot Act.                                                                                                             
2:03:28 PM                                                                                                                    
MR. LEVINE explained  that consumer protections in  bankruptcy are                                                              
not  just a  bond,  but the  principal  protection  is that  every                                                              
money  transmitter includes  not  only folks  that transmit  funds                                                              
but  those who  issue  transmission instruments,  like  travelers'                                                              
checks  and money orders,  as well.  He said  that grocery  stores                                                              
also issue  money orders and anybody  who is licensed has  to have                                                              
a pool of eligible  securities - like cash and  government bonds -                                                              
equal  to  all   the  outstanding  customer  obligations   of  the                                                              
licensee. A  statutory trust  is imposed on  those assets  to deal                                                              
with bankruptcy  issues. Not only  is the bond available,  but the                                                              
permissible   investments   and   failure  to   have   permissible                                                              
investments or  to lie about it  is a felony under the  state law.                                                              
"So, it's  a very, very, good  protection." Further, he  said, the                                                              
new disclosure  provision  for receipts  and fees  and for  the FX                                                              
rates  are  a marvelous  tool  for  the  consumers. He  said  that                                                              
Hawaii has  the very same  law that is  being proposed  for Alaska                                                              
and  the costs  of  regulation have  not  increased  costs to  the                                                              
2:05:34 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR STEVENS asked  how much more it would cost  to send $1,000                                                              
to the Philippines if this law passed.                                                                                          
MR. LEVINE suspected  the costs would be fairly  deminimis because                                                              
all the companies in all the states pool their costs.                                                                           
SENATOR STEVENS reiterated  that it didn't seem  that the consumer                                                              
would get much protection out of this bill.                                                                                     
MR. LEVINE  replied that the theory  is that the  state government                                                              
is insuring  to the  maximum extent practicable  that a  system is                                                              
in place  to insure that  when someone  buys a money  order, which                                                              
is just piece of  paper with "money order" written  on it, that it                                                              
is  good,  even in  the  face  of bankruptcy.  Virtually  all  the                                                              
states are doing it now.                                                                                                        
2:08:36 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BUNDE asked if Mark Davis supported this bill.                                                                          
MR. DAVIS replied yes.                                                                                                          
2:09:49 PM                                                                                                                    
MR.   ALLEN  MOORE,   Manager  and   Owner,  Cemerlang   Financial                                                              
Services,  LLC, said he  transfers money  exclusively for  crewmen                                                              
on the tour ships  and supported SB 116. It would  be advantageous                                                              
to the  industry and the people  he servers if  money transmitters                                                              
were regulated  by the state. It  would put a license  on the wall                                                              
and give  customers confidence  that a body  of law is  behind it.                                                              
As  part of  the licensing  he  would become  bonded  or he  would                                                              
purchase a CD and pledge it to the state.                                                                                       
CHAIR ELLIS asked him who he represents.                                                                                        
MR. MOORE replied  that Cemerlang represents a company  out of New                                                              
York for  the Philippines.  His  network is for  Indonesia  and he                                                              
didn't anticipate a fee increase.                                                                                               
2:12:50 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR BUNDE asked what the banking problem is.                                                                                
MR.  MOORE  replied that  Cemerlang  was  banking for  over  eight                                                              
years  with Key  Corp,  but Key  Corp decided  it  didn't want  to                                                              
service  MSBs  and  other  banks have  made  that  same  decision.                                                              
People in  the industry can't get  accounts; it's a  real problem.                                                              
Money can't be sent home.                                                                                                       
SENATOR STEVENS  asked if he  gets bonded,  would he have  to bond                                                              
himself or would the larger firm's bond cover him.                                                                              
MR. MOORE replied  that he is his own company  and registered with                                                              
the federal  Financial Crimes  Enforcement  Network (FINCEN)  as a                                                              
money transmission  company. No  bond is  required and  he doesn't                                                              
have one;  rather he has  a stock portfolio  that he keeps  in the                                                              
corporate name.                                                                                                                 
SENATOR  STEVENS asked  if he  would have  to purchase  a bond  if                                                              
this passed.                                                                                                                    
MR. MOORE replied yes, or a CD and pledge it to the state.                                                                      
2:16:05 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR  ELLIS   mentioned  the  Alaska  Public   Interest  Research                                                              
Group's (AKPIRG) letter from Steve Cleary in support of SB 116.                                                                 
2:16:30 PM                                                                                                                    
SENATOR ELTON commented  that he thought the most  important thing                                                              
is what  this bill  does for  the consumer.  They are  getting the                                                              
knowledge that  they are dealing  with a State of  Alaska licensed                                                              
company that  has to follow rules  and that is not  a fly-by-night                                                              
business.  That,  along with  the  bond  or  CD, gives  a  certain                                                              
amount of  comfort when you're  handing over a substantial  amount                                                              
of money.                                                                                                                       
2:18:10 PM                                                                                                                    
CHAIR ELLIS  said the bill  would be held  for a further  hearing.                                                              
There being no  further business to come before  the committee, he                                                              
adjourned the meeting at 2:18:57 PM.                                                                                          

Document Name Date/Time Subjects