Skip to main content
Menu Icon Menu Icon
Close

InfoBytes Blog

Financial Services Law Insights and Observations

Filter

Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.

  • OFAC reaches multiple settlements with companies that exported goods to Russia and Sudan

    Financial Crimes

    On September 27, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a roughly $1.4 million settlement with a Texas-based supplier of goods and services for the oil and gas industries (a subsidiary of a Netherlands corporation) for allegedly approving contracts that allowed a foreign subsidiary to supply goods to a Russian energy firm blocked under Directive 4 of Executive Order (E.O.) 13662, “Blocking Property of Additional Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine,” as implemented by the Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations. According to OFAC’s web notice, between July 2015 and November 2016, U.S.-senior managers at the company approved five contracts for its foreign subsidiary to supply oil and exploration goods to the blocked energy firm, thus constituting a “prohibited provision of services involving a person determined to be subject to Directive 4 ([the blocked energy firm]), its property, or its interests in property.”

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including, among other things, that (i) U.S. senior managers knew that their approvals were for contracts to supply goods to a blocked entity; (ii) the company “acted directly contrary to U.S. foreign policy objectives by approving the sale of oil production or exploration equipment to an entity subject to the restrictions of Directive 4”; and (iii) the company should have recognized the risk involved when the contracts were approved.

    OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including, among other things, that the company took meaningful corrective actions upon discovering the alleged violations to ensure sanctions compliance, and cooperated with OFAC’s investigation and entered into tolling agreements.

    OFAC separately reached a $160,000 settlement with a subsidiary of a subsidiary of the same Netherlands corporation for its apparent violation of OFAC’s now-repealed Sudanese Sanctions Regulations. According to OFAC’s web notice, three of the subsidiary’s U.S. employees allegedly facilitated the sale and shipment of oilfield equipment intended for delivery to Sudan, which was, at the time of the transaction, an apparent violation.   

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Sanctions Enforcement Settlement Russia Sudan

    Share page with AddThis
  • President Biden issues executive order blocking certain Russian pipelines

    Financial Crimes

    On August 20, President Biden signed Executive Order (E.O.) Blocking Property with Respect to Certain Russian Energy Expert Pipelines to take additional steps with respect to the national emergency declared in E.O. 14024 (covered by InfoBytes here) related to specific harmful foreign activities by the Russian government. The new E.O. prohibits, among other things, (i) “the making of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order”; and (ii) “the receipt of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person.” Concurrently, OFAC issued Russia-related General License (GL) 1A, as well as several new and updated FAQs related to the updated designations (see FAQs 894, 919, 920, and 921). Specifically, GL 1A authorizes certain activities involving the Federal State Budgetary Institution Marine Rescue Service (MRS) (“or any entity in which MRS owns, directly or indirectly, a 50 percent or greater interest”) that are not related to the construction of specified pipeline projects. Several individuals and entities have also been added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals List.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Of Interest to Non-US Persons Department of Treasury Russia OFAC Sanctions OFAC Designations Biden

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC sanctions Russian officials

    Financial Crimes

    On August 20, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of State joined the United Kingdom in announcing sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13382 against nine Russian individuals and two Russian entities in connection with poisoning or Russia’s chemical weapons program under a Russian opposition leader. According to OFAC, this is the third time Treasury has used discretionary authority to respond to Russia’s use of a chemical agent against its own citizens (covered by InfoBytes here). The Department of State also designated several entities and persons pursuant to E.O. 13382 for “having engaged, or attempted to engage, in activities or transactions that have materially contributed to, or pose a risk of materially contributing to, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery” by Russia. As a result of the sanctions, all of the property and interests in property of the designated persons that are in the U.S. or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, as well as any entities that are owned 50 percent or more by the designated persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. Additionally, OFAC regulations generally prohibit U.S. persons from participating in transactions with the designated persons unless exempt or otherwise authorized by an OFAC general or specific license. OFAC further warned that “any foreign person who knowingly facilitates a significant transaction or transactions for or on behalf of one of these persons risks being sanctioned.”

     

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury OFAC Sanctions SDN List Of Interest to Non-US Persons Russia Department of State OFAC Designations

    Share page with AddThis
  • Biden order authorizes sanctions authority covering Russian activities

    Financial Crimes

    On April 15, the Biden administration announced several actions intended to block property with respect to specified harmful foreign activities by the Russian government, including the issuance of Executive Order (E.O.) Blocking Property With Respect To Specified Harmful Foreign Activities Of The Government Of The Russian Federation. Specifically Directive 1 to the E.O. provides that, at the determination of the acting director of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and in consultation with the State Department, U.S. financial institutions are prohibited from:

    • Participating “in the primary market for ruble or non-ruble denominated bonds issued after June 14, 2021 by the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, the National Wealth Fund of the Russian Federation, or the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation”; and
    • “Lending ruble or non-ruble denominated funds to the Central Bank of the Russian Federation, the National Wealth Fund of the Russian Federation, or the Ministry of Finance of the Russian Federation.”

    These actions are prohibited as of June 14, 2021, “except to the extent provided by law or unless licensed or otherwise authorized by [OFAC].” For purposes of the Directive, a “U.S. financial institution” is defined as “any U.S. entity (including its foreign branches) that is engaged in the business of accepting deposits, making, granting, transferring, holding, or brokering loans or other extensions of credit, or purchasing or selling foreign exchange, securities, commodity futures or options, or procuring purchasers and sellers thereof, as principal or agent.” This term also includes branches, offices, and agencies of foreign financial institutions located in the U.S., but does not include such institutions’ foreign branches, offices, or agencies.

    In conjunction with the issuance of the new E.O., OFAC also published several new and updated FAQs and added several individuals and entities to OFAC’s list of Specially Designated Nationals. The new additions include sanctions taken against (i) several Russian technology companies that support the Russian Intelligence Services, which OFAC stated are responsible for having “executed some of the most dangerous and disruptive cyber attacks in recent history”; (ii) five individuals and three entities related to Russia’s occupation of the Crimea region of Ukraine pursuant to E.O.s 13660 and 13685; and (iii) 16 entities and 16 individuals that attempted to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election at the direction of Russian government leadership.

    As a result of the sanctions, all of the property and interests in property of the designated persons that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, as well as any entities that are owned 50 percent or more by the designated persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. Additionally, OFAC regulations generally prohibit U.S. persons from participating in transactions with the designated persons unless exempt or otherwise authorized by an OFAC general or specific license. In its announcement, OFAC further warned that “foreign persons that knowingly engage in a significant transaction or transactions with the persons designated today may themselves face the risk of designation,” and emphasized that “financial institutions and other persons that engage in certain transactions or activities with the sanctioned entities and individuals may expose themselves to secondary sanctions or be subject to an enforcement action.”

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury OFAC Sanctions OFAC Designations Of Interest to Non-US Persons Russia

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC sanctions Russian officials

    Financial Crimes

    On March 2, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13661 against seven Russian government officials in connection with the “poisoning and subsequent imprisonment of [a] Russian opposition figure.” One of the designated individuals is also being sanctioned pursuant to E.O. 13382 “for acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, the Federal Security Service.” In conjunction with OFAC’s sanctions, the Department of State also designated several entities and persons pursuant to E.O. 13882 for “having engaged, or attempted to engage, in activities or transactions that have materially contributed to, or pose a risk of materially contributing to, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or their means of delivery” by Russia. As a result of the sanctions, all of the property and interests in property of the designated persons that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, as well as any entities that are owned 50 percent or more by the designated persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. Additionally, OFAC regulations generally prohibit U.S. persons from participating in transactions with the designated persons unless exempt or otherwise authorized by an OFAC general or specific license. OFAC further warned that “any foreign person who knowingly facilitates a significant transaction or transactions for or on behalf of one of these persons risks being sanctioned.”

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Sanctions Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Designations SDN List Russia Department of State

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC amends cyber-related general license and related FAQs

    Financial Crimes

    On March 2, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued cyber-related General License (GL) 1B, “Authorizing Certain Transactions with the Federal Security Service,” which authorizes certain transactions and activities that are “necessary and ordinarily incident” to the “[r]equesting, receiving, utilizing, paying for, or dealing in licenses, permits, certifications, or notifications issued or registered by the Federal Security Service for the importation, distribution, or use of information technology products in the Russian Federation,” provided certain criteria are met. OFAC also published three amended FAQs related to GL 1B (see 501, 502, and 503). Effective March 2, GL 1B supersedes and replaces GL 1A, which was issued in 2018 and covered by InfoBytes here.

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

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC issues counter terrorism general licenses and related FAQs, updates SDN List

    Financial Crimes

    On January 19, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued four General Licenses in conjunction with State Department designations against a foreign terrorist organization: General License 9, “Official Business of the United States Government,” General License 10, “Official Activities of Certain International Organizations,” General License 11, “Certain Transactions in Support of Nongovernmental Organizations’ Activities in Yemen,” and General License 12, “Transactions Related to the Exportation or Reexportation of Agricultural Commodities, Medicine, Medical Devices, Replacement Parts and Components or Software Updates.” The general licenses authorize certain transactions ordinarily prohibited by the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations, Foreign Terrorist Organizations Sanctions Regulations, and Executive Order 13224, including actions “to help facilitate the uninterrupted flow of humanitarian assistance, including COVID-19-related assistance, and certain other critical commodities to the people of Yemen that would otherwise be prohibited pursuant to authorities administered by OFAC.” OFAC also published related FAQs 875, 876, and 877.

    OFAC also updated its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List to add individuals and entities associated with Venezuela, Russia, and Yemen designations.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Yemen Russia Venezuela Sanctions Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Designations

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC sanctions individuals and entities for Russian-linked election interference

    Financial Crimes

    On January 11, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against seven individuals and four entities that are allegedly part of a Russia-linked foreign influence network associated with a Russian agent previously designated for his attempt to influence the 2020 U.S. presidential election. The individuals and entities associated with the Russian agent are now being similarly designated pursuant to Executive Order 13848 for “having directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed, or otherwise been complicit in foreign influence in a United States election.” As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to, or owned by, the identified individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and “any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by the designated entities, are also blocked.” U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Russia OFAC Designations Of Interest to Non-US Persons Department of Treasury Sanctions

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC sanctions entities for assisting North Korean regime

    Financial Crimes

    On November 19, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13722 against two entities allegedly involved in the exportation of forced labor from North Korea. According to OFAC, the sanctioned entities—a Russian construction company and a North Korean company—have “engaged in, facilitated, or been responsible for the exportation of forced labor from North Korea, including exportation to generate revenue for the Government of North Korea or Workers’ Party of Korea.” In addition, OFAC updated the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Person List to provide additional information on three previously designated companies responsible for sending North Korean workers to Russia and China. As a result of the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of these targets that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.” OFAC noted that its regulations “generally prohibit” U.S. persons from participating in transactions with the designated persons, and warned foreign financial institutions that if they knowingly facilitate significant transactions for any of the designated individuals or entities, they may be subject to U.S. secondary sanctions.

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury OFAC Sanctions North Korea Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Designations

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC warns of sanctions risks for high-value artwork

    Financial Crimes

    On October 30, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued an art advisory highlighting characteristics and vulnerabilities in the high-value artwork market that pose sanctions risks. The advisory advises “art galleries, museums, private art collectors, auction companies, agents, brokers, and other participants in the art market” of the importance of maintaining risk-based compliance programs to mitigate exposure to sanctions-related violations. The advisory further emphasizes that the “Berman Amendment” to the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Trading with the Enemy Act “does not categorically exempt all dealings in artwork from OFAC regulation and enforcement.” According to OFAC, shell companies and intermediaries are often used to remit and receive payments for high-value artwork. The anonymity that these channels provide, OFAC cautions, allows blocked and other illicit persons to cloak their true identities and helps conceal prohibited conduct from law enforcement and regulators.

    The report references previously issued OFAC guidance and discusses a report issued by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in July (covered by InfoBytes here), which details findings from a two-year investigation related to how Russian oligarchs appear to have used the art industry to evade U.S. sanctions. According to the report, while the art industry is largely unregulated, and, unlike financial institutions, is not subject to the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and is not required to maintain anti-money laundering (AML) and anti-terrorism financing controls, sanctions imposed by OFAC do apply to the industry, and U.S. persons are not permitted to conduct business with sanctioned individuals or entities.

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

    Share page with AddThis

Pages