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On April 19, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued General License No. 2H (GL 2H) to authorize a “45-day wind down period” for nine Belarusian entities to enter into certain transactions. GL 2H replaces and supersedes in its entirety General License No. 2G and authorizes all transactions with any entities that are owned by 50 percent or more by the nine named entities. All property and interests in property of these entities, if blocked, remain blocked, and U.S. persons must report authorized transactions or any series of transactions exceeding $50,000 to the U.S. Department of State no later than 30 days after execution. The authorization expires on June 3.
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.”
On May 27, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in response to the Department of State’s announcement of an end to certain Iran nuclear-related waivers, issued a new FAQ and added two individuals to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List). FAQ 829 provides a 60-day wind-down period for persons currently engaged in activities permitted by these waivers; however, OFAC cautions that such activities should be wound down by July 27 or persons risk exposure to sanctions under U.S. law absent another waiver or exception. The FAQ notes that the Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act “provides for sanctions on persons determined to knowingly provide significant financial, material, technological, or other support to, or goods or services in support of any activity or transaction on behalf of or for the benefit of, an Iranian person on OFAC’s SDN List.”
On May 14, the U.S. Departments of State and Treasury, along with the U.S. Coast Guard, issued a global advisory warning the maritime industry of deceptive shipping practices used by Iran, North Korea, and Syria to evade economic sanctions. The “Sanctions Advisory for the Maritime Industry, Energy and Metals Sectors, and Related Communities” expands upon previously issued advisories and discusses due diligence approaches that entities, including financial institutions, should employ to monitor illicit activity and mitigate the risk of potentially engaging in prohibited activities or transactions. Among other things, the advisory provides a list of general compliance practices that may help entities “in more effectively identifying potential sanctions evasion.” These include: (i) institutionalizing sanctions compliance programs; (ii) establishing Automatic Identification System (AIS) best practices and contractual requirements to monitor for manipulations and disruptions, which may be an indication of potential illicit or sanctionable activity; (iii) monitoring ships throughout the entire transaction lifecycle, including those leased to third parties; (iv) knowing your customers and counterparties; (v) exercising supply chain due diligence; (vi) incorporating these best practices into contractual language; and (vii) engaging in industry information sharing of challenges, threats, and risk mitigation measures.
See here for previous InfoBytes coverage on global shipping advisories.
Departments of Treasury, State, and Homeland Security issue joint advisory warning businesses of North Korean sanctions evasion tactics
On July 23, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in conjunction with the Department of State and the Department of Homeland Security, issued an advisory to warn businesses—including manufacturers, buyers, and service providers—of the potential risks that may result from sanctions evasion tactics used by North Korea across supply chains. The advisory also provides assistance for businesses complying with Title III of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 with respect to North Korean sanctions. According to the advisory, the U.S. government “is focusing its disruption efforts on North Korean citizens or nationals whose labor generates revenue for the North Korean government.” Specifically, the advisory warns businesses to examine their entire supply chains and adopt appropriate, well-documented due diligence best practices, which “may be considered mitigating factors when the U.S. government determines the appropriate enforcement response.” The advisory also outlines penalties for violations of sanctions and enforcement actions.
See here for previous InfoBytes coverage on North Korea sanctions.
On May 1, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Ukraine-/Russia-related General License 12B (GL 12B) authorizing specified wind-down activities, which would be otherwise prohibited by Ukraine-related Sanctions Regulations, through June 5. According to a Treasury announcement, GL 12B—which replaces and supersedes General License 12A in its entirely—permits “originating and intermediary U.S. financial institutions to process funds transfers that they would otherwise block to an account held by a blocked U.S. person at a U.S. financial institution,” and allows the release of “such funds for authorized maintenance and wind-down purposes.”
The same day, OFAC also issued Ukraine-/Russia-related General License 13A (GL 13A) to replace and supersede General License 13 (GL 13) in its entirety. (See previous InfoBytes coverage on GL 13 here.) GL 13A authorizes certain divestiture transactions with specified blocked persons to a non-U.S. person, and allows the facilitation of transfers of debt, equity, or other holdings involving listed blocked persons, including entities owned 50 percent or more and issued by the named persons. GL 13A is effective through June 6.
Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Ukraine/Russian sanctions.
On April 27, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued General License No. 2E (GL 2E) to extend the authorization allowing nine Belarusian entities to enter into transactions otherwise prohibited by Executive Order 13405. GL 2E replaces and supersedes in its entirety General License No. 2D, and authorizes transactions with any entities that are owned 50 percent or more by the nine named entities. All property and interests in property of these entities, if blocked, remain blocked, and U.S. persons must report authorized transactions or any series of transactions exceeding $50,000 to the U.S. Department of State no later than 30 days after execution. The authorization expires on October 30, unless otherwise extended or revoked.
Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Belarus General Licenses.
On November 8, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations to implement changes related to certain financial transaction restrictions and economic activities. In accordance with the National Security Presidential Memorandum issued by President Trump on June 16, the amendments will, among other things, prohibit “persons subject to U.S. jurisdictions” from engaging in financial transactions with entities and subentities identified on the State Department’s Cuba Restricted List. This effort is intended to “channel economic activities away from the Cuban military, intelligence, and security services, while maintaining opportunities for Americans to engage in authorized travel to Cuba and support the private, small business sector in Cuba.” The amendments will take effect November 9. OFAC also released updated FAQs and a fact sheet to answer questions related to the amended regulations.
U.S. Government Revokes Certain Sanctions on Sudan Following Review Period of Sudanese Policies and Actions
On October 6, the U.S. Government announced, effective October 12, the revocation of certain economic sanctions against Sudan and the Government of Sudan (GOS) as a recognition of sustained positive actions in connection with efforts to cease hostilities, improve humanitarian access, promote regional stability, and address the threat of terrorism. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the announcement follows a joint review conducted by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development that began in January 2017 as required by Executive Order 13761 and amended by Executive Order 13804. The Secretary of State issued a contemporaneous report concluding that, despite GOS’ demonstrated improvement in the areas that led to the issuance of Executive Order 13761, there remain a range of concerns. As such, while the comprehensive sanctions program has been lifted, certain sanctions and trade restrictions remain in place. Specifically:
- the national emergency, established in Executive Order 13067 with respect to Sudan, remains in effect;
- U.S. sanctions related to the conflict in Darfur, pursuant to Executive Order 13400, remain in place;
- The U.S. Government maintains the authority to designate Sudanese persons according to other relevant sanctions authorities; and
- Sudan remains on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, which will continue to impose restrictions on certain dealings involving Sudan, including U.S. foreign assistance and restrictions on defense exports and sales.
Following revocation of the sanctions, U.S. persons will no longer be banned from engaging in most transactions previously prohibited by the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (31 C.F.R. Part 538).
The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control also released updated FAQs to answer questions related to the revocation, along with a new general license that authorizes certain transactions.
OFAC Imposes Additional North Korean Sanctions; Senate Banking Committee Hearing Discusses Multi-Department Efforts
On September 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it was imposing sanctions on an additional eight North Korean banks and 26 individuals connected to North Korean financial networks across the globe. The individuals sanctioned are North Korean nationals who represent North Korean banks operating in China, Russia, Libya, and the UAE, and have been designated “in response to North Korea’s ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction and continued violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions.” OFAC’s action complements the United Nations Security Council’s resolution UNSCR 2375, adopted September 11, 2017. As a result, property or interests in property of the designated persons within U.S. jurisdictions are blocked.
These actions closely follow President Trump’s recent issuance of sanctions targeting individuals, companies, and financial institutions that finance or facilitate trade with North Korea. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)
Additionally, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (Committee) held an open session hearing on September 28 entitled “Evaluating Sanction Enforcement and Policy Options on North Korea: Administration Perspectives.” Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) opened the hearing to stress that “[m]any Members of Congress, including on this committee, have a keen interest in knowing more about how and when enforcement of these new measures will occur, wondering if last week’s executive order and earlier UN sanctions will be sufficient to achieve U.S. policy goals.” Sen. Crapo also mentioned the Committee’s legislative efforts to “maximize pressure against North Korea.”
The September 28 hearing—a video of which can be accessed here—included testimony from the following witnesses concerning North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program and the need to curtail the country’s access to revenue, trade, and financial systems.
- The Honorable Sigal Madelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes, U.S. Department of the Treasury (testimony)
- Ms. Susan A. Thornton, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of State (testimony)
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “How the new administration sets the tone for 2021” at the American Conference Institute Legal, Regulatory and Compliance Forum on Fintech & Emerging Payment Systems
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss UDAAP at an American Bar Association webinar
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "What to expect: The new administration and regulatory changes" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss “The future of fair lending” at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Steven R. vonBerg to discuss "LO comp challenges" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss "Major litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Legal Issues and Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Michelle L. Rogers to discuss “The False Claims Act today” at the Federal Bar Association Qui Tam Section Roundtable