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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

OFAC issues Finding of Violation, no penalties, against bank for alleged Iranian sanctions violations

Financial Crimes OFAC Iran Enforcement Sanctions Department of Treasury Of Interest to Non-US Persons

Financial Crimes

On May 28, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a Finding of Violation against a U.S. bank, acting as a trustee for a customer, for violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR). According to the announcement, OFAC’s Finding of Violation was based on the fact that the bank processed at least 45 pension payments totaling over $11,000 to a U.S. citizen with a U.S. bank account, but who was residing in Iran. According to OFAC, the bank appears to have known that it was processing payments for the benefit of a person in Iran, not only because its internal system indicated that the individual’s address was located in Tehran, but also because the bank’s sanctions screening software produced an alert on each of the 45 payments. These alerts, however, were reviewed by compliance personnel who were not sanctions specialists instead of the bank’s central sanctions compliance unit. After learning of and reporting the issue to OFAC, the bank modified its review and reporting process to ensure that retirement payments are screened by the right screening platform and that sanctions alerts are handled through the appropriate process, including review by compliance specialists with expertise in sanctions.

When issuing a Finding of Violation against the bank, as opposed to a civil money penalty, OFAC considered the fact that, among other things, (i) no managers or supervisors appear to have been aware of the conduct that led to the violations; (ii) the payments at issue may not have actually been transferred to Iran; (iii) the bank took remedial action in response to the violations; and (iv) the bank cooperated with OFAC by self-disclosing the alleged violations and agreeing to tolling the matter with extensions.

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