Advisory: Guidance on Domain Naming for Authorized Agents Operating Under US Money Transmitter Licenses in Online Businesses

Comprehensive Shifts in the Sponsorship Dynamics of Money Services Businesses (MSBs) in the U.S.

Traditional Models and the Inception of Regulatory Revisions

Historically, the establishment and operation of money services businesses in the United States allowed for a relatively straightforward model for agents to function under established entities. Take, for instance, a licensed entity named “Acme Money Transfer”, which could smoothly run its operations using a dedicated domain, such as “”. New entrants (i.e. authorized agents of Acme), like an illustrative agent named Peter, had the capacity to form their own platforms, for example, “”, while being formally affiliated with Acme, providing services with pertinent disclaimers highlighting Acme’s provision. However, the waters have been stirred by a tangible regulatory change emanating initially from California, fundamentally altering the permissible domain structures for agents.

The In-depth Ramifications of Domain Structure Alterations

Agents like Peter are now enveloped by a regulatory mandate to house their services directly on the primary license holder’s domain, manifesting either as a subdomain or a subdirectory. This translates into structuring as “” or “”. Consequently, the initial agent domain (like “”) would be subject to discontinuation or redirection to the newly configured URL nested under Acme’s domain. This regulatory adaptation, while originating from California’s governing body, is anticipated to permeate through to other states, thereby crafting a unified rule applicable even when agents operate across diverse states, such as Arizona or Florida.

Unpacking Queries and Adhering to Compliance Standards

Under the new regulatory framework, entities are expressly prohibited from operating as an autonomous money transfer service on a distinct domain, even whilst underpinning an agent relationship. Any divergence from the redirection to the licensed holder’s domain poses a risk of encountering stringent regulatory intervention, inclusive of potential shutdowns by regulators. Agents are now corralled into a streamlined model where services are offered exclusively under the domain of the license holder, ensuring an overt and auditable link between the agent and the license holder.

Gazing into Potential Future Regulatory Developments

The trajectory and persistence of this policy alteration remain shrouded in a veil of uncertainty, with the potential for additional evolution in the ensuing years. Notably, the firm regulatory posture adopted by California’s authorities implicitly nudges entities towards obtaining their individual licenses, steering clear from the prior agent model.

Expanding the Lens to Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS)

While the present regulatory perturbations do not exert a direct impact on Banking-as-a-Service (BaaS) providers, there lurks a prospective reality where similar domain restrictions could unfurl onto BaaS providers in the foreseeable future. This could cascade into implications for services extended by major banking conglomerates like Citibank or JPMorgan Chase, especially if they navigate towards a similar agent-centric operational model.

Forging Ahead: Guidance for Entities

Entities and prospective agents are implored to immerse themselves in a meticulous understanding of these sweeping regulatory changes, prior to devising and executing operational and business trajectories. A vigil stance on forthcoming regulatory metamorphoses is imperative to ensure that services remain unfailingly compliant with impending policy recalibrations. This pivotal juncture heralds a marked inflection point in the operational schema of money service businesses and their agents, underscoring the imperativeness of adhering to new regulatory paradigms to ensure resilient, compliant, and sustainable operations moving forward.

Why this change?

Many people have been asking why there has been a noticeable shift in the California regulator’s stance on domain-related issues pertaining to agents. Let’s dive deeper into this.

In the past, being an agent for a money transfer operator implied that you had a physical store. This store would bear the branding of the operator, displaying logos and other standardized signage. It was designed to clearly indicate that you were an affiliate or payout location for the money transfer service. As an agent, you couldn’t advertise or promote any other company, nor could you offer your own services. Everything you presented had to align with the money transfer company you represented.

This same principle is now being applied to the online realm. Regulators don’t want agents to have unrestricted control over their online domains where they might make claims about being a FinTech company offering various services. Instead, the regulators aim to ensure that the main money transfer or financial service company, which holds the official license, has complete authority over the content on these domains. The goal is to prevent agents from offering or advertising services that the primary license holder doesn’t provide.

In essence, regulators are drawing from the traditional model of physical agent stores and applying the same rules and expectations to the digital world, ensuring that agents remain true to the services of the principal license holder online. This isn’t just a trend in California, but is becoming more widespread.

This page was last updated on October 16, 2023.

Share with others...