• Russian corporations de-listed through significant specific steps agreed to with OFAC
  • Exporter settles for $7.7 million and agrees to comprehensive compliance measures
  • OFAC outlines sanctions compliance best practices, expands oversight

As 2018 came to a close, the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced two actions that should be studied by any party subject to U.S. economic sanctions. OFAC is the U.S. government agency with principal responsibility for administering U.S. sanctions regulations.

First, on December 19, OFAC published a letter to members of the U.S. Congress announcing the agency’s intention to remove a group of Russian corporations from the List of Specially Designated and Blocked Persons List (SDN List) that OFAC maintains. As a general matter, U.S. individuals and entities are prohibited from engaging in any transaction with an SDN.

Then, on December 20, OFAC released its settlement agreement with Zoltek Companies, Inc. (Zoltek) for violations of the Belarus Sanctions Regulations. According to OFAC, the violations consisted of at least 26 transactions with an SDN.

These actions are quite different. But as described below, each includes very useful guidance about OFAC’s current view of sanctions compliance best practices.
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  • Penalties imposed for violations of U.S. sanctions on Russia and Ukraine
  • Violations identified during pre-acquisition due diligence on contractor
  • Denied persons screening was conducted but missed prohibited parties

In late November 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that Cobham Holdings, Inc. agreed to pay $87,507 to settle violations of U.S. sanctions on Ukraine and Russia.

Violations Identified During Pre-acquisition Due Diligence

According to OFAC, the violations were committed by Cobham’s former subsidiary, Metelics, prior to the sale of Metelics to MACOM. It was MACOM that identified the violations during due diligence related to its acquisition of Metelics. And it was presumably MACOM that required Cobham to make the voluntary disclosure to OFAC that led to the penalty in this matter.

The penalty is small by recent OFAC standards. (For example, it is about 620 times less than Societe Generale paid to OFAC as part of its global settlement of sanctions violations.)

But as a cautionary tale, the Cobham matter is important to any exporter.


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I provided insight on the Export Control Reform Act – a law passed in August 2018 that will limit exports of some emerging technologies to curb national security threats and espionage. Some technology groups fear that the Commerce Department, which regulates most U.S. exports, will too broadly define which emerging technologies should be covered by

I recently provided insight for a Bloomberg Law article on the new interim rules implementing the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (FIRRMA). The interim rules, which went into effect on November 10, broaden the authority of the Committee of Foreign Investment of the United States (CFIUS) – an interagency committee that reviews foreign investments

On November 7, 2018, Global Trade Magazine republished a blog post that I wrote discussing recent changes to U.S. law that further restrict trade with individuals and entities in Russia. The changes further complicate an already-difficult situation for businesses working in and with the country.

You may access the original September 27 blog post on

In an article published in the November 2018 issue of the ACC Docket, I co-authored an article with Elliot Burger, senior legal counsel at Linamar Corporation in Ontario, Canada discuss the expanding role of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).  CFIUS is the U.S. government committee that reviews transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by a foreign person in order to determine whether the transaction could harm U.S. national security.

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  • Mandatory declarations of certain transactions now required
  • Certain changes to pre-existing regulations also announced and effective immediately
  • Mandatory declaration requirement may not ease burden on parties filing with CFIUS

On October 11, the U.S. Treasury Department took the first steps to implement the significant changes introduced under the Foreign Industrial Review and Risk Modernization Act (FIRRMA). FIRRMA broadens the mandate of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which reviews foreign investments in the United States that could impact U.S. national security.

Most notably, the Treasury Department is establishing a pilot program that imposes new obligations on foreign parties making investments, even non-controlling investments, in U.S. businesses involved in 27 explicitly designated industries. The pilot program defines such investments as “pilot program investments.”


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  • Economic sanctions and export restrictions extended
  • Russian investment in United States likely subject to heightened scrutiny
  • Diligence on Russia transactions and business partners is essential to ensure compliance

Since the beginning of August 2018, the United States has taken multiple actions that will affect U.S. trade with Russia.  The actions cover exports to Russia, doing business with Russian partners, and potential Russian investment in the United States.  These actions have added to the already challenging landscape of conducting business in and with Russia.

Economic Sanctions in Place Since 2014 Are Expanded Again

The United States has maintained targeted economic sanctions on Russia since 2014.  Most of these sanctions are administered by the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

These sanctions ensnare many prominent Russian individuals and entities.  They have also ensnared prominent U.S. companies: see our July 2017 blog post on penalties imposed against Exxon for Russia sanctions violations.  For an example of how sanctions have been periodically and consistently extended, see our September 2016 blog post.


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I provided insight on Tesla Inc.’s recent announcement of potential Saudi Arabian funding to take the company private and how this move could draw scrutiny from the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS).  “The big question is whether this technology is really sensitive enough and whether if acquired by a non-U.S. company it could have some kind of negative impact on U.S. national security,” I explained. I noted that this could be possible since the Trump administration has announced possible tariffs on auto imports for national security reasons.

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