In recent months, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) have announced several notable penalties for violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  The FCPA prohibits bribery of foreign government officials and requires issuers of securities on U.S. exchanges to keep and maintain accurate books and records and robust internal controls.

We have summarized a few of these enforcement actions below to serve as a reminder of the various ways in which companies can fall afoul of the FCPA.

Goldman Sachs Pays Largest-Ever FCPA Penalty

In October 2020, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (Goldman Sachs) agreed to a $3.3 billion penalty to resolve allegations that the company and its Malaysian subsidiary violated the FCPA by making payments to a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).  This represents the largest-ever FCPA penalty imposed on a company.

The DOJ and SEC alleged that senior employees of Goldman Sachs used a third-party intermediary to bribe high-ranking government officials in Abu Dhabi and Malaysia.  The improper payments were allegedly made by Goldman Sachs to assist with efforts to obtain business from 1MDB.


Continue Reading FCPA Update: Enforcement Continues

Two recent enforcement actions taken by the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) serve as a reminder of the long-arm and broad scope of U.S. economic sanctions jurisdiction.  (Separately, perhaps nothing illustrates the breadth of OFAC’s purview as well as the agency’s recent Advisory on Potential Sanctions Risks Arising from Dealings in High-Value Artwork.)  OFAC is the main U.S. government agency that administers U.S. sanctions.

Berkshire Hathaway Agrees to Settlement for Violations of U.S. Sanctions on Iran

On October 20, 2020, OFAC announced a settlement with Berkshire Hathaway related to alleged violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran committed by Berkshire’s Turkish subsidiary.  Berkshire is the multinational holding company headed by billionaire Warren Buffett.

According to OFAC, Berkshire’s Turkish subsidiary made 144 shipments of cutting tools and related products to Turkish distributors with knowledge that the goods would be shipped on to Iran.  The products were valued at approximately $383,000.


Continue Reading OFAC Enforcement Update: November 2020

As developments related to COVID-19 continue to unfold, Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys are monitoring the situation and providing guidance through a series of video chats entitled, “COVID-19 Compliance Conversations.”

In this episode, Thad McBride is joined by Mahesh Joshi, Vice President & Chief Compliance Officer at NCR. Mahesh shares thoughts on how he

As developments related to COVID-19 continue to unfold, Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys are monitoring the situation and providing guidance through a series of video chats entitled, “COVID-19 Compliance Conversations.”

In this episode, Thad McBride is joined by Ernie Edgar, General Counsel at Atkins North America, to discuss operational and legal challenges he and

As developments related to COVID-19 continue to unfold, Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys are monitoring the situation and providing guidance through a series of video chats entitled, “COVID-19 Compliance Conversations.”

In this episode, Thad McBride is joined by Ed Bond, the Director of IBM’s Export Regulation Office, to discuss issues that exporters need to

As developments related to COVID-19 continue to unfold, Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys are monitoring the situation and providing guidance through a series of video chats entitled, “COVID-19 Compliance Conversations.”

In this episode, Thad McBride and Lindsey Fetzer provide a brief overview of compliance considerations related to international donations and charitable contributions. Watch the

The U.S. government continues to take action in an effort to slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus.  In so doing, the government has provided insight into those industries and operations deemed to be essential to U.S. national security.  Lessons learned from these actions will almost certainly help inform U.S. policymakers and regulators when the current crisis has eased, particularly with respect to reviewing foreign investment in the United States.  (Such investment, when it could implicate U.S. national security, is subject to review and approval by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.)

DHS Outlines Essential Businesses for Quarantine Purposes

On March 19, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued guidance to identify those industries and businesses considered to be “essential” for U.S. continued operational purposes.  That Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce was published by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), which forms part of DHS.  The guidance is available here.


Continue Reading COVID-19 and National Security: Federal Government Defines Essential Business

  • Humanitarian exports to Iran are permitted – within limits.
  • Corruption can flourish in the midst of crisis.
  • Export controls limit sharing technical data related to the virus with some countries.
  • Compliance professionals should be proactive and visible during a time of crisis.

Despite the sobering news reports on the global spread of COVID-19, companies are

A bill was recently introduced by U.S. Representative Bryan Steil (R-Wisconsin) that would allow the U.S. Treasury Department to target European financial intuitions conducting business with Iran through the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges (INSTEX) vehicle in order to avoid U.S. sanctions.

While there have been a low number of actions against European institutions,

  • Actions underscore long arm of U.S. sanctions jurisdiction
  • Voluntary disclosures and cooperation can lead to significant penalty reductions
  • Facilitation of a violation is treated the same as a direct violation

In two recent enforcement actions, the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) demonstrated the long-arm of U.S. economic sanctions jurisdiction.  One matter involved Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques SCRL (SITA), a Swiss firm that provides commercial telecommunications network and information technology services to the civilian air transport industry.  The other involved Eagle Shipping International (Eagle), a U.S.-based shipping and logistics company.

Each action serves as a reminder of the U.S. government’s willingness to enforce U.S. sanctions in the context of what is primarily non-U.S. conduct.  The resolutions also illustrate the potential benefits of voluntarily disclosing sanctions violations to OFAC.


Continue Reading Sanctions Enforcement Update: Penalties for Logistics, Telecom Companies