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On November 18, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13848 against six Iranian individuals and one Iranian entity for allegedly attempting to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election. According to OFAC, “state-sponsored Iranian cyber actors executed an online operation to intimidate and influence American voters, and to undermine voter confidence and sow discord” by obtaining or attempting to obtain U.S. voter information, sending threatening and intimidating emails to voters, crafting and disseminating “disinformation pertaining to the election and election security,” and illicitly accessing “content management accounts of several online U.S. media entities, which resulted in their ability to edit and create fraudulent content.” As a result, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, as well as any entities owned 50 percent or more by such persons. U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from entering into transactions with the sanctioned persons. Additionally, OFAC warned that “financial institutions and other persons that engage in certain transactions or activities with the sanctioned entity and individuals may expose themselves to sanctions or be subject to an enforcement action.”
The sanctions are part of a collective effort with the U.S. Department of State and the FBI. Concurrent with the designations, the DOJ unsealed an indictment against two of the sanctioned individuals. The DOJ charged the Iranian nationals with (i) conspiracy to commit computer fraud and abuse, voter intimidation, and transmission of interstate threats, (ii) voter intimidation, and (iii) transmission of interstate threats. One of the individuals was additionally charged with unauthorized computer intrusion and computer fraud.
On November 24, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control issued Venezuela-related General License (GL) 8I, which extends the authorization of certain transactions that were in effect prior to July 26, 2019, involving Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. that are necessary for the limited maintenance of essential operations in Venezuela or the wind-down of operations in Venezuela for certain entities that would otherwise be prohibited by Executive Order 13850 (as amended), as incorporated into the Venezuela Sanctions Regulations. (Covered by InfoBytes here.) Effective through June 1, 2022, GL 8I replaces GL 8H, which was issued June 1.
OFAC expands Belarusian human rights sanctions; restrict regime’s access to international capital markets
On December 2, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13405 against 20 individuals and 12 entities for allegedly enabling the “Lukashenka regime’s blatant disregard for international norms and the wellbeing of its own citizens.” Additionally, OFAC identified three aircraft as blocked property pursuant to E.O.s 14038 and 13405. As part of the action—which was taken in coordination with the EU, the UK, and Canada—OFAC also “impos[ed] restrictions on dealings in new issuances of Belarusian sovereign debt in the primary and secondary markets.” As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned persons, and “any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more” by the blocked persons that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked. OFAC further noted that its regulations generally prohibit U.S. persons from participating in transactions with the designated persons.
The same day, OFAC also issued new Belarus-related Directive 1 under E.O. 14038, which “prohibits transactions in, provision of financing for, or other dealings by U.S. persons or within the United States in new debt with a maturity of greater than 90 days issued on or after December 2, 2021 by the Ministry of Finance of the Republic of Belarus or the Development Bank of the Republic of Belarus.” OFAC provided Guidance on Directive 1’s scope and implications through new Frequently Asked Questions 940, 941, 942, 943, 944, 945, 946, 947, 948 and updated FAQ 918. Additionally, OFAC issued Belarus General License 5, which authorizes limited transactions and activities necessary for the wind down of transactions involving certain identified entities. OFAC stated that these new restrictions reflect the close coordination between the U.S. and its partners and allies to restrict the Lukashenka regime’s access to international capital markets.
On November 22, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13224, as amended, against an individual it claims is acting as a financial facilitator for the Islamic State’s Khorasan Province (ISIS-K). According to OFAC, ISIS-K was previously designated as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist under E.O. 13224, and as a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the Department of State in 2016. The designated individual, OFAC stated, has provided support to ISIS-K’s Afghani operations “by facilitating international financial transactions that fund human trafficking networks and facilitating the movement of foreign fighters who seek to escalate tensions in Afghanistan and the region.” According to OFAC Director Andrea Gacki, this designation “underscores the United States’ determination to prevent ISIS-K and its members from exploiting the international financial system to support terrorist acts in Afghanistan and beyond.” OFAC’s action was handled in coordination with the Department of State, which designated three individuals as Specially Designated Global Terrorists for their roles as leaders of ISIS-K.
As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the designated individual subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and any “entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by them, individually, or with other blocked persons, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and report to OFAC.” U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with the designated individual unless authorized by a general or specific OFAC license or otherwise exempt. OFAC warned that the agency “can prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the United State[s] of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that either knowingly conducted or facilitated any significant transaction on behalf of a Specially Designated Global Terrorist.” OFAC further noted that that engaging in certain transactions with the designated individual “entails risk of secondary sanctions pursuant to E.O. 13224, as amended.”
On November 18, President Biden signed Executive Order (E.O.) “Termination of Emergency With Respect to the Situation in Burundi” to terminate a 2015 emergency declared in E.O. 13712 and revoke the authorization of sanctions with respect to Burundi. (See also OFAC’s announcement here.) According to Deputy Secretary of the Treasury Wally Adeyemo, the steps are a result of changed circumstances and positive political developments and reforms taken by President Ndayishimiye, who continues “to press the Government of Burundi to improve the human rights situation in the country and hold accountable those responsible for violations and abuses.” Adeyemo added that the revocation demonstrates that the U.S. “may ease or remove sanctions when circumstances warrant such an adjustment, including in cases where relevant parties change their behavior.” As a result, all persons previously blocked pursuant solely to the Burundi Sanctions Regulations are now removed from OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List, and all property and interests in property blocked solely pursuant to these regulations are unblocked. Additionally, OFAC will remove the Burundi Sanctions Regulations from the Code of Federal Regulations in the future. However, “[p]ending or future OFAC enforcement investigations or actions related to apparent violations of the Burundi Sanctions Regulations that occurred while E.O. 13712 was in effect may still be carried out,” Treasury stated.
On November 16, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) held a virtual “FinCEN Exchange” with representatives from financial institutions, other key industry stakeholders, and federal government agencies to discuss identifying and combating illicit financial flows related to environmental crimes and related money laundering. As previously covered by InfoBytes, FinCEN released the “FinCEN Exchange” program in 2017, which established regular briefings between FinCEN, law enforcement, and financial institutions to share high-priority information regarding potential national security threats and illicit financial transactions. Topics discussed at the recent FinCEN Exchange included, among other things: (i) illicit financial flows related to wildlife trafficking; (ii) illegal logging, fishing, and mining; (iii) waste and hazardous substances trafficking; and (vi) potential solutions for better understanding the associated illicit flows. According to FinCEN, the agency “is focusing on environmental crimes because of an upward trend in these activities and their related financial flows; their strong association with two of FinCEN’s national anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) priorities, specifically corruption and transnational criminal organizations; and their contribution to the climate and biodiversity crises.”
On November 15, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13851 against nine officials of the Nicaraguan government and one entity for allegedly engaging in actions or policies that undermine democratic processes or institutions in Nicaragua. According to OFAC, the designations “target[ed] those who are repressing Nicaraguans for exercising their human rights and fundamental freedoms.” As a result, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned individuals and entities, and any entities that own, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more of such persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from entering into transactions with the sanctioned persons.
On November 12, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 14046 against four entities and two individuals associated with the military conflict and human rights crisis in Ethiopia. OFAC noted that the E.O., which was signed by President Biden on September 17, authorized targeting of actors that contribute to the ongoing crisis in Ethiopia and is not directed at Ethiopian or Eritrean people (covered by InfoBytes here). As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned entities and individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. OFAC further noted that no entity is to be blocked “pursuant to E.O. 14046 solely because it is owned in whole or in part, directly or indirectly, by one or more sanctioned persons, unless the entity is itself a sanctioned person.”
The same day, OFAC issued Ethiopia General License 4, “Authorizing the Wind Down of Transactions Involving Hidri Trust or Red Sea Trading Corporation,” which are two of the four entities for which sanctions were announced. Ethiopia General License 4 authorizes “all transactions and activities prohibited by Executive Order (E.O.) 14046 that are ordinarily incident and necessary to the wind down of transactions involving Hidri Trust or Red Sea Trading Corporation” through December 14, provided certain criteria are met. OFAC also updated FAQ 927, which provides clarification on non-U.S. persons’ risk exposure to U.S. sanctions for engaging in transactions and activities that would be authorized for U.S. persons pursuant to the prior E.O. of September 17. Additionally, OFAC published two new FAQs (935 and 936), which provide further information on Ethiopia-related sanctions.
On November 15, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) published a final rule in the Federal Register, which updates regulation 31 CFR 1010.370 to mirror statutory amendments to Section 5326 of the Bank Security Act (BSA). Specifically, Section 5326 has been amended three times (in 1992, 2001, and 2017) to expand the authority of the Secretary of the Department of the Treasury. The final rule updates the regulation to reflect the subsequent statutory amendments by, among other things, updating the authority of FinCEN to issue orders imposing additional reporting and recordkeeping requirements on financial institutions and nonfinancial trades or businesses in a geographic area. The final rule also notes that since the amendments promulgated by the rule conform the regulation to the statute and reflect no discretionary or substantive determination, no public comment was solicited; therefore, the final rule is effective immediately.
President Biden extends national emergency prohibiting securities investments in Chinese military companies
On November 9, President Biden issued a notice, extending for one year, the national emergency declared pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13959, as expanded by E.O. 14032, involving securities investments related to Chinese military companies. As previously covered by InfoBytes, E.O. 14032 generally prohibits U.S. persons from “the purchase or sale of any publicly traded securities, or any securities that are derivative of such securities, or are designed to provide investment exposure to such securities, of” any listed Chinese military company. The E.O. also establishes deadlines for divestment of investments in companies currently listed as Chinese military companies as well as companies that later may be added to the list of Chinese military. Among other things, E.O. 14032 also prohibits any transactions by U.S. persons or within the U.S. that evade or avoid, have the purpose of evading or avoiding, cause a violation of, or attempt to violate the provisions set forth in the order, as well as any conspiracy to violate any of these prohibitions.
In continuing the national emergency underlying these actions and extending E.O. 14032, Biden stated the “threat from securities investments that finance certain companies of the [People’s Republic of China] and certain uses and development of Chinese surveillance technology continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States.”
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Getting your company ready: Managing fair lending for IMBs” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Independent Mortgage Bankers Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Be Your Compliance Best in 2022” at the California Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Lauren R. Randell to discuss “Significant legal developments in the Northeast” at the 37th Annual National Institute on White Collar Crime
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “Small business & regulation: How fair lending has evolved & where it is heading?” at the Consumer Bankers Association Live program
- Jonice Gray Tucker and Kari Hall to discuss “Equity, equality, regulation and enforcement – The evolving regulatory landscape of fair lending, redlining, and UDAAP” at the ABA Business Law Committee Hybrid Spring Meeting