• California company accused of sanctions violations challenges U.S. Treasury Department
  • Appeals court generally sides with government but remands because of arbitrary and capricious decision related to five alleged violations
  • Traditional interpretation of “inventory exception” is considered by Court

It is rare for companies to go to court to fight penalties imposed by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) for violations of U.S. sanctions. It is even more rare for a court to make any sort of finding against the agency.  Yet that is exactly what happened when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit (D.C. Circuit) recently considered OFAC’s imposition of penalties against Epsilon Electronics (Epsilon) for alleged violations of U.S. sanctions against Iran.

Continue Reading Rare Court Case Sheds Light on U.S. Sanctions Enforcement

  • American Honda Finance Corporation pays for alleged violations of U.S. sanctions on Cuba
  • Violation committed by American Honda’s subsidiary in Canada
  • Penalty underscores breadth of U.S. jurisdiction, importance of compliance reviews

On June 8, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a monetary penalty against American Honda Finance Corporation (American Honda) for alleged violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR), the primary regulations by which the United States imposes economic sanctions on Cuba.  A copy of the OFAC press release announcing the penalty is available here.

Continue Reading The Long Arm of U.S. Sanctions: Penalty Imposed Against Canadian Subsidiary of U.S. Subsidiary of Japanese Company

  • Proposed legislation targets current gaps in U.S. financial crime law and enforcement
  • Bi-partisan Senate legislation would likely expand compliance obligations for banks and others in financial services industry
  • Proposed legislation is in line with U.S. and international efforts to fight terrorism and trafficking through economic sanctions and anti-money laundering (AML) rules

On May 25, 2017, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) introduced the “Combating Money Laundering, Terrorist Financing, and Counterfeiting Act of 2017” (the “Act”).  The full text of the bill is available here.

Continue Reading Proposed Legislation Would Combat Terrorist Financing, Money Laundering

I commented on an article published by PaymentsCompliance, a global leader in supporting the payments industry, on new legislation proposed in the U.S. Senate to target terrorism financing and money laundering. In the article, I point out that the proposed bill could create a greater compliance burden for banks and other financial entities and service providers. I also note that it is “nice to see a bipartisan effort to come up with something which most people would agree is a good measure.”

Continue Reading U.S. Bill Proposes Major AML Updates

  • Boeing announces deal to sell aircraft to Iran Aseman
  • The deal was apparently authorized by the U.S. Treasury Department, but Congressional foes fight to block it
  • If the deal goes through, further loosening of sanctions could follow

This story begins in July 2015, when the United States and its allies entered into a now-famous nuclear agreement with Iran which, among other things, paved the way for the United States to scale back economic sanctions on Iran – including those relating to commercial aircraft.  Executing that deal, in January 2016, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a new, favorable licensing policy for many transactions relating to the sale of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services to Iran.

Continue Reading The Long Road: Boeing Continues the March into Iran

  • One of largest export and sanctions penalties ever imposed
  • Reminder of U.S. government’s broad jurisdiction over export and sanctions matters
  • Cooperation could have helped ease the penalty significantly

On March 7, 2017, Chinese telecommunications company, Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corp. (ZTE), signed on to three separate settlement agreements with the United States, agreeing to pay $892 million for violations of U.S. sanctions and export controls. Even more could be due if ZTE strays from the commitments it has made under the settlement agreements.  This is one of the largest penalties ever imposed by the U.S. government for export and sanctions violations.

It is impossible in the space of this blog article to provide a detailed summary of this matter.  In addition, while the details of the matter would make good copy, we think (hope!) that this is something of an isolated incident.  At the same time, we think several lessons can be derived from this action.

Continue Reading Lessons from the Historic ZTE Enforcement Action

  • Canadian bank pays penalties for U.S. dollar transactions involving Cuba and Iran
  • Bank receives Finding of Violation – but no penalty – for violations by European subsidiaries
  • Disclosure and cooperation with OFAC mitigated penalties

Earlier this month, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $516,000 settlement with a large Canadian bank for allegedly violating U.S. sanctions against Iran and Cuba 167 times. OFAC also issued a separate finding of 3,491 additional violations by two of the bank’s European subsidiaries – an investment services company and another small bank.  Yet OFAC imposed no penalty for the subsidiaries’ alleged violations.

Continue Reading OFAC Sanctions: No Entity Too Small or Too Far for Enforcement

Effective December 23, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR) to expand the scope of medical devices that can be exported to Iran.

Now, unless specifically excluded by ITSR section 530(a)(3)(ii)-(iv), an item that qualifies as a “device” under section 201 of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (21 U.S.C. § 321) and is designated EAR99 (or would be if it were located in the United States) can be exported or re-exported to Iran without specific authorization from OFAC.  (Previous restrictions on payment terms and shipping dates remain in effect.)

Continue Reading Happy New Year: OFAC Expands Exports of Medical Devices to Iran

In what may be a harbinger of things to come, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has issued new guidance regarding what may occur if the United States re-implements economic sanctions against Iran that were scaled back following the July 2015 nuclear deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action or JCPOA). That guidance, in the form of two amended Frequently Asked Questions (M.4 and M.5, available here), makes clear that:

  • the United States will not retroactively impose sanctions for legitimate activity undertaken prior to any sanctions snapback;
  • continuation of previously legitimate activities following snapback could be penalized; and
  • the U.S. government intends to provide a 180-day period to wind down Iran business that was consistent with the lifting of U.S. sanctions under the JCPOA.

Continue Reading Happy (End of the) Holiday: OFAC Signals Potential Iran Sanctions Snapback

As a follow-up to a previous article, we’ve authored further details about the actions a company should take to respond to a discovered violation of U.S. sanctions. As pointed out in our article, while each enforcement action is different, “a company should consider their response to an OFAC violation an opportunity to attempt to mitigate and shape the outcome. A company’s response to one OFAC violation can have an impact on any future violations.”

The full article, “OFAC Violation Response Checklist,” was published by Lexis Practice Advisor®. This article appeared as part of a series of practice notes for Lexis Practice Advisor®; other articles included: