In a November 10 article published by PaymentsCompliance, I commented on expanded sanctions the United States has imposed against North Korea. These newest sanctions prohibit access to the U.S. financial system for certain entities found to be aiding North Korea. In the article I note that, “the recent U.S. sanctions actions related to North Korea

The Future of U.S. Sanctions on Iran | Webinar | Thad McBride: PresenterU.S. Sanctions on Iran continue to be in a state of flux.  Yet the opportunities in Iran mean that more and more companies are considering the possibility of entering the Iranian market.  The continued uncertainty regarding the future of U.S. Sanctions on Iran implies the need for international companies to be prepared for any possible

Over the past month, we have closely monitored efforts by the U.S. Congress to tie the president’s hands over sanctions on Russia.  Today, the president signed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA or the Act), which will have a significant impact on numerous U.S. industries operating in Russia.  And Russia’s response to the legislation indicates that further tensions between the United States and Russia – and possibly additional sanctions on both sides – are likely to follow.

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  • Penalty imposed against Exxon related to contracts with Russian oil company Rosneft
  • Rosneft is not a prohibited party but its president is
  • OFAC alleges that “senior-most” Exxon management were involved
  • Exxon responds with suit against OFAC

On July 20, 2017, the U.S. Treasury Department Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that ExxonMobil (Exxon) must pay a $2 million penalty for violating U.S. sanctions on Russia.  On the same day, Exxon responded by suing OFAC.


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  • Proposed legislation would extend sanctions on Russia and Iran
  • New restrictions aimed at Russian energy sector and cybercriminals
  • Legislation may pit Senate against House and the president

On June 19, 2017, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill mandating sanctions against Russia and Iran and a 30-day congressional review period should the president attempt to reduce those sanctions.

The bill remains in the House after congressional leaders challenged the fact that the revenue-raising bill did not originate in the House. The White House nonetheless is in the unenviable position of having to defend (or oppose) the implementation of sanctions against both Iran and Russia while attempting to conduct diplomacy with the Kremlin.  With a veto-proof majority in at least one chamber, the president’s options appear limited.


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  • 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.


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  • 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.


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  • 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.


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In an article published in the May/June 2017 issue of ABA Bank Compliance (a publication of the American Bankers Association), I provided insight on how banks can mitigate violations with the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). In January 2017, OFAC announced a settlement in which a large Canadian bank agreed to pay more than