Anti-money laundering concerns for money service businesses (MSBs)

February 14, 2023 | P. Jason Kroft, Ahmad Adam, Simon Igelman, Hayden Sahid

In our previous article in our series on money service businesses (“MSBs”), we identified the requirements to register as a federal money service business for certain businesses. In this piece, we discuss the compliance reporting obligations for MSBs.

Individuals and corporations involved in MSB activities are regulated under Canada’s Proceeds of Crime (Money Laundering) and Terrorist Financing Act (the “PCMLTFA”) and related regulations and are subject to the regulatory authority of the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada (“FINTRAC”). The PCMLTFA and its regulations require that MSBs have a comprehensive and robust compliance program with respect to anti-money laundering (“AML”) procedures. An MSB’s compliance program is guided by the recommendations of FINTRAC. A compliance program is required to have the following:

  1. A “Compliance Officer”, responsible for implementing the program;
  2. Written compliance policies and procedures that are kept up to date;
  3. A risk assessment of the business that documents the risk of a money laundering offence or a terrorist activity financing offence occurring in the course business activities;
  4. A written compliance training program for the business’ employees, agents or mandataries, or other authorized persons;
  5. An ongoing compliance training program; and
  6. A plan for how the compliance program will be reviewed and tested for its effectiveness, which must be reviewed and tested at least every two years.

In addition, the regulations to the PCMLTFA impose certain obligations on registered MSBs in regards to their compliance policies and procedures, requiring they be:

  1. Written and in a form that is accessible to its intended audience;
  2. Updated (to reflect changes in legislation or a business’ internal process); and
  3. If an entity, approved by a senior officer (director, CEO, etc.).

In addition, the compliance policies and procedures should cover “know your client” requirements, record keeping, and reporting requirements.

An MSB’s failure to comply with the PCMLTFA and related regulations risks criminal and administrative monetary penalties (“AMPs”) for non-compliance. A summary conviction can range from imprisonment for a term of not more than two years less a day or a fine of $250,000 to $1,000,000. An indictable offence can range from imprisonment for a term of not more than five years or a fine of $500,000 to $2,000,000. FINTRAC is the authoritative body that is responsible for administrating AMPs and will post a notice to the public regarding details of the violation.

The penalty amounts are determined by considering the following criteria:

  1. The purpose of AMPs, which is to encourage compliance, not to punish (non-punitive);
  2. The harm done by the violation; and
  3. The MSB’s history of compliance.

Please reach out to a member of Miller Thomson’s Structured Finance and Securitization team if you have any questions regarding money service businesses, the PCMLTFA and its related regulations.

If you would like to receive more updates like this, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletters at the link below.


This publication is provided as an information service and may include items reported from other sources. We do not warrant its accuracy. This information is not meant as legal opinion or advice.

Miller Thomson LLP uses your contact information to send you information electronically on legal topics, seminars, and firm events that may be of interest to you. If you have any questions about our information practices or obligations under Canada’s anti-spam laws, please contact us at

© Miller Thomson LLP. This publication may be reproduced and distributed in its entirety provided no alterations are made to the form or content. Any other form of reproduction or distribution requires the prior written consent of Miller Thomson LLP which may be requested by contacting