Founded on 03-03-03, Adam Atlas Attorney at Law is a boutique commercial law firm dedicated to top-tier personal service to clients.

The firm advises principally on matters of fintech, payments, crypto, blockchain and merchant transaction acquiring law. Payments businesses are advised by the firm from inception through business modeling, legal framing, compliance review, financing, acquisitions, dispute settlement and exit strategies. All payments models can draw on the wide experience of the firm with credit card acquiring, MSB licensing, neobank law, OCC Special Purpose National Bank Charter for Fintech review, mobile payment application licensing, virtual currency, digital currency, Bitcoin, ev-payments, electric vehicle payment solutions, ATM placement, ACH, EFT, peer-to-peer lending, crowdfunding, merchant cash advance and virtual world law. Traditional domestic as well as high risk and foreign models have all drawn on the resources of the firm. Beyond payments, the firm looks to support IOT, drive by wire law and support legal framing of self-driving autonomous vehicles.

Atlas has advised on crypto currency matters, including Bitcoin, since 2012.

Most of the clients of the firm are fintech businesses located in the United States, including payment processors, banks and independent sales organizations. Taking an open-source approach to the law of payments, Atlas powers: ® a free resource with in-depth payments-related information – listing hundreds of them – providing 50 state MSB status information for any entity in 30 seconds. Fintech lawyers, banks and regulators can turn to the service to save time and increase accuracy.

ICO Legal Hit and Miss List – Always fresh list of ICO token issuance legal blunders.

The firm is led by Adam N. Atlas, Esq., B.A. Hon., B.C.L., LL. B., holds a Bachelor of Civil Law, Bachelor of Common Law and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, with Honors, all from McGill University, which included a year on exchange at the National University of Singapore. Atlas has been a member of the Bar of the State of New York and Bar of the Province of Quebec and since 1998. His professional memberships include, the American Bar Association, and the New York State Bar Association. Before establishing the firm, Atlas practiced corporate law at Stikeman Elliott, an international business law firm.

Four professionals are engaged in the work of the firm; they bring to files experience having worked in-house at a fully-licensed US MSB, New York payments trial leadership and experience in leading commercial and compliance work across dozens of payment models from credit card acquiring Through to virtual currency businesses.

Adam Atlas provides updates on U.S. MSB laws to the U.S. Money Services Business Association.



1.    Fintech and Crypto Law

Fintech law is critical at the ideation, implementation and growth periods of every payments business.  Simple advice on a business model can mean the difference between a path to growth or regulatory purgatory.

By way of example, our firm assisted in clarifying perhaps the most important question of the decade under U.S. law: is an ISO or payment processor a money services business (MSB) under the U.S. Bank Secrecy Act? When done right, it is not, as determined by FinCEN in 2014.

Our firm has also led in creating new rules related to the governance of crypto, including, for example, FinCEN’s guidance on virtual currency trading platforms.

By providing creative and robust regulatory guidance at all stages of a payments business, our firm leads in supporting some of the most advanced and successful payments models today.

Adam Atlas provides expert testimony in U.S. and other trials concerning payment processing and other payments-related norms and customs.

2.    TPP / PayFac / PSP / ISO / Agent Agreements

Banks have opted to outsource the business of recruiting new merchants to offer them credit card and debit card processing services. Independent Sales Organizations (ISO) and Independent Sales Representatives (ISR) enter into agreements with processors and banks to recruit new merchants. The firm advises on about one hundred such relationships per year. The advice includes negotiating key processor agreements, drafting agent and referral agreements, advising on acquisitions and financing as well as support in disputes. The firm has cultivated strong relationships working opposite all major US acquiring processors and banks and leverages those relationships to provide practical and efficient advice for ISOs and ISRs.

3.    MSB Licensing VCB Licensing and Compliance

Money transmitters, virtual currency businesses, foreign exchange dealers and other money services businesses (MSB) are held to a higher standard of compliance and are often required to register in the US with FinCEN as well as with state banking departments. With the advent of new applications, the obligation to register is not as obvious as it was for traditional money transmitters. Here, the firm draws on its experience advising numerous payments models, to support MSBs in sorting through registration issues. The firm powers the popular MSB Blog as part of its compliance practice. Below is a map of state MSB regulators maintained by our firm:

4.    Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Policy Drafting

AML policies are required for most MSBs, and recommended by the firm for all payments businesses so as to reduce the chance of unwittingly assisting in money laundering or the financing of terrorism. The firm regularity drafts AML policies for payments businesses. In contrast with compliance consultants that draft such policies, the firm brings its payments market experience into AML policies to tailor them to the specific risk profiles of the business model in question.

As a complement to AML policies, the firm also drafts company security policies, including those for acceptable use, backups, confidential data, data classification, email, employee screening, encryption, incident response, mobile devices, network access & authentication, network security, new account setup, outsourcing, passwords, physical security, remote access, retention, and wireless access.

5.    Payments and Crypto Business Consulting

Having seen thousands of payments models, the firm takes the liberty of offering business consulting advice on how to structure new payments businesses. Basic questions as to which party should pay for a given transaction or carry the risk may be pivoted to dramatically increase the value of a business. The firm is recognized as being dramatically creative in delivering new ideas to businesses and enriching the organic evolution of clients.

6.    Community Service

The firm has an ongoing commitment to pro bono service. The flagship community service program of the firm is to provide free legal advice to ISO and other payments widows. As ISO owners age, their spouses are sometimes left inheriting businesses that they do not know how to operate. Widows in that situation are welcome to seek free advice on a portfolio sale or on protecting the residual streams to which they are entitled.

Adam Atlas serves in a volunteer capacity as a leader board member of community organizations.


Firm Sponsored Tools

Feed:  Atlas Currency and Payments Law Updates

Book:  Short book on becoming an MSB

MSB Research Tool:

U.S. Payment Processors Family Tree

Trade Associations

Attending trade association meetings is, perhaps, the best way to acquire a broad knowledge of the offerings in the payments marketplace. The following associations are all recommended for this purpose. The firm makes an effort to attend a number of these shows:

MSB / VCB Related Trade Associations

Payment Processing / Acquiring Trade Associations

Atlas Payments Data Vault

We accumulate knowledge for the benefit of our clients. Here are some sample tools as part of our open-source approach to the practice of law.

Please let us know how we can make your knowledge complete to be a strong competitor in the payments marketplace.

Payment Network Rules

Visa, MasterCard and other acquiring organizations have adopted rules that are, de facto, the law of the land for many issues between acquiring banks, issuing banks, processors, ISOs and agents. Below are links to sites that publish the rules:


Below is a small selection of interesting cases from payments, but does not purport to be a current or complete survey of such caselaw:

IN RE: AMERICAN EXPRESS MERCHANTS’ LITIGATION, United States Court of Appeals For the Second Circuit, January 30, 2009, Docket No. 06-1871-cv:
Held that the validity of a waiver of a right to a class action claim in an Amex Card Services Agreement is properly decided by the Court and not by arbitration despite an arbitration clause and (b) the waiver of the right to a class action claim in the Amex Card Service Agreement is unenforceable because it would de facto grant Amex immunity from antitrust liability by removing the Plaintiff`s only reasonably foreseeable means of recovery. The underlying case, not decided upon in this decision, relates to the fact that Amex, a credit card acquirer that is more expensive to merchants partly because of its higher-end clientele, is getting into lower-end card issuing. The Honor All Cards requirement of the Amex Card Services Agreement requires merchants to accept all Amex cards and thereby forces merchants to decide between (a) accepting all Amex cards, including lower-end cards that are markedly more expensive than Visa and MasterCard equivalents, and (b) rejecting all Amex cards and depriving themselves of the higher-end customers.

LML Patent Corp. v. JP Morgan Chase & Co. et. al. Original Statement of Claim, US District Court, Eastern District of Texas, Marshall Division Case No. 08-338, November 19, 2008:
LML filed suite against JP Morgan and 18 other defendants, including PayPal that provide equipment, systems and services that convert paper checks into electronic transactions. The suite claims that the defendants violated US Patent No. RE40220 which is a method of carrying out a conversion of a check into an ACH.

Lonner v Simon Prop. Group, Inc., 2008 NY Slip Op 07877, October 14, 2008, Appellate Division, Second Department: $2.50 monthly gift card inactivity fee illegal for lack of adequate disclosure. Great refresher on the law of fine print.

AdvanceMe Inc. v. Rapidpay, LLC, et al., Memorandum and Opinion Order, USDC Eastern District of Texas, Tyler Division, Justice Davis, August 14, 2007

U.S. House of Representatives Judiciary Committee Antitrust Task Force Hearing on Credit Card Interchange Fees, July 19, 2007

Canadian House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance (FINA) Briefing on automated teller machine fees and electronic payments, April 17, 19 2007 and March 22, 2007

ICO Legal Hit and Miss List from Crypto Lawyer Adam Atlas

Our firm has been weary of ICOs because so many of them are illegal securities or unlicensed MSBs. To help founders and investors, and for a little fun, we started a list of important ICOs and started to score them as legal hits or misses. We hope you fund this educational and also entertaining! The videos are a kind of art unto themselves and should be preserved. Does the SEC have a museum?

Competition in Payments

Competition in Payments Our recent post to LinkedIn of the US Payments Family Tree generated record feedback. There is thirst for a above-the-tree-line view on who is who the payments landscape. Once upon a time, everyone read the Nilson Report that amazingly published regular figures on the volume of processing at each US acquirer. Divining competitors is not that easy anymore. Here are a few reasons why the competitive landscape is more complex and interesting: 1. ‘Big hat, no cattle’ processors. With bountiful capital (2017 fintech investments $31 billion, 2018 $39.6 billion and the first half of 2019, $27.9 billion), fintech startups have had the luxury of being unprofitable. Square and Stripe exemplify fintechs for which profit is a difficult question. Possibly profitless market-leaders like Uber, Airbnb and WeWork had investors …

Contact – Retain

Adam Atlas Attorney at Law
5585 Monkland Avenue, Suite 150
Montreal, QC, Canada H4A 1E1


Skype: adam.atlas

Licensed in NY and QC


Feed:  Atlas Currency and Payments Law Updates

Book:  Short book on becoming an MSB

MSB Research Tool:

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