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On May 7, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it removed sanctions imposed on a former high-ranking Venezuelan official in the Maduro regime after he broke ties with the regime. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the sanctions were imposed in February of this year pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13692. As a result of the removal, any otherwise lawful transactions involving U.S. persons and the individual are no longer prohibited. OFAC emphasized that the action “demonstrates that U.S. sanctions need not be permanent and are intended to bring about a positive change of behavior,” and further “shows the good faith of the [U.S.] that removal of sanctions may be available for designated persons who take concrete and meaningful actions to restore democratic order, refuse to take part in human rights abuses, speak out against abuses committed by the illegitimate Maduro regime, or combat corruption in Venezuela.”
On January 28, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, PDVSA. As a result, all assets belonging to the company subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons generally are prohibited from dealing with the company. However, OFAC concurrently issued a number of licenses in order to authorize certain transactions with the company and its subsidiaries, including those necessary to wind down operations or existing contracts.
Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage of Venezuela actions and E.O.s.
OFAC announces several actions related to the “snap-back” of sanctions on Iran, effective November 5
On November 5, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced several actions in conjunction with the full re-imposition of sanctions on Iran effective immediately. As previously covered by InfoBytes, President Trump announced his decision to withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) on May 8. Following the end of the wind-down period, which authorized certain activities through November 4, OFAC issued FAQs related to the “snap-back” of Iranian sanctions. OFAC also updated its Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list to add over 700 persons, including persons previously removed from the SDN list during the U.S.’s participation in the JCPOA and persons previously identified on the Executive Order 13599 list. OFAC additionally provided a technical notice containing details related to the SDN list changes.
OFAC’s announcement also refers to an amendment effective November 5 to the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR), in connection with President Trump’s decision to cease U.S. participation in the JCPOA. The newly issued amendment reflects sanctions re-imposed by Executive Order 13846, as covered by InfoBytes here, in addition to changes to certain sanctions lists maintained by OFAC. OFAC also announced it is “amending an existing general license in the ITSR to authorize U.S. persons to sell personal property in Iran and transfer the proceeds to the [U.S.],” if the personal property was either: (i) acquired before the individual became a U.S. person; or (ii) inherited from persons in Iran.
See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage on Iranian sanctions.
President Trump issues new Venezuela Executive Order targeting gold sector; OFAC publishes related FAQs
On November 1, President Trump issued Executive Order 13850 (E.O. 13850) authorizing the imposition of sanctions on persons who operate in Venezuela's gold sector “or in any other sector of the Venezuelan economy as may be determined by the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the Secretary of State.” The sanctions come in response to the actions of Venezuelan President Maduro’s regime and associated persons in allegedly “plunder[ing] Venezuela's wealth for their own corrupt purposes.” Among other things, the sanctions specifically block the acquisition or retention of property and interests in the United States by persons who “operate in the gold sector of the Venezuelan economy” or “have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, any activity or transaction” involving deceptive practices or corruption in conjunction with the Venezuelan government.
The same day, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released a set of FAQs connected to the issuance of E.O. 13850, stating that it “expects to use its discretion to target in particular those who operate corruptly in the gold or other identified sectors of the Venezuela economy, and not those who are operating legitimately in such sectors.”
On October 11, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory for financial institutions on ways to help better detect and report the Iranian regime's efforts to evade U.S. sanctions through potentially illicit transactions. The advisory outlines deceptive practices used by the Iranian regime to evade sanctions, including front companies, fraudulent documents, transactions involving exchange houses, falsified shipping documents, and the use of virtual currencies, and warns financial institutions that FinCEN expects Iran to expand use of these practices following the November 5 return of sanctions previously suspended as part of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here on Executive Order 13846, issued last August reimposing sanctions against Iran.) The advisory also includes a series of red flags to help banks identify possible deceptive activity, and provides information for filing suspicious activity reports. FinCEN advises foreign financial institutions to consult the advisory to “better understand the obligations of their U.S. correspondents, to avoid exposure to U.S. sanctions, and to address the Anti-Money Laundering/Combating the Financing of Terrorism risks that Iranian activity poses to the international financial system.”
See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.
President Trump issues Executive Order delegating sanctions implementation authority; OFAC issues new CAATSA - Russia-related FAQ
On September 20, President Trump announced the issuance of Executive Order 13849 (E.O. 13849), “Authorizing the Implementation of Certain Sanctions Set Forth in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA),” pursuant to national emergencies previously declared in Executive Orders 13660, 13694, and 13757. E.O. 13849 grants authority to the Secretary of the Treasury to take certain actions to implement the sanctions against identified persons, including the promulgation of regulations. Among other things, E.O. 13849 prohibits: (i) any U.S. financial institution from making loans or extending credits to sanctioned persons “totaling more than $10,000,000 in any 12-month period, unless the person is engaged in activities to relieve human suffering and the loans or credits are provided for such activities”; (ii) any foreign exchange transactions, subject to U.S. jurisdiction, in which the sanctioned person has any interest; and (iii) transfers of credit or payments between, by, or through financial institutions for the benefit of a sanctioned person subject to U.S. jurisdiction. E.O. 13849 further describes the actions that can be taken to implement the sanctions.
In response to E.O. 13849, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control published a new CAATSA - Russia-related FAQ providing additional clarifying information.
Find continuing InfoBytes covered on CAATSA-related sanctions here.
President Trump issues Executive Order authorizing sanctions in the event of foreign interference in U.S. elections
On September 12, President Trump announced the issuance of Executive Order 13848 (E.O.), which authorizes sanctions against foreign persons found to have engaged in, assisted, or otherwise supported foreign interference in U.S. elections. Should an intelligence assessment determine such activity has occurred, Section 2 of the E.O. requires that transactions in property and interests of such interfering persons that are in the U.S. or under control of a U.S. person be blocked, and Section 3 of the E.O. directs the Secretaries of State and Treasury—in consultation with the heads of other appropriate agencies—to recommend to the President additional sanctions against “the largest business entities licensed or domiciled in a country whose government authorized, directed, sponsored, or supported election interference, including at least one entity from each of the following sectors: financial services, defense, energy, technology, and transportation.” Such additional sanctions may include, with respect to the targeted entities, (i) blocking all transactions related to property and interests subject to U.S. jurisdiction; (ii) prohibitions on U.S. financial institutions making loans or extending credit to identified entities; (iii) prohibitions on transfers of credit or payments between, by, or through financial institutions for the benefit of such an entity; and (iv) prohibitions on U.S. persons investing in equity or debt of such entities.
On September 6, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) made additions to the Specially Designated Nationals List pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13722. OFAC’s additions to the designations identify one individual and one entity found to have “engaged in significant activities undermining cybersecurity through the use of computer networks or systems against targets outside of North Korea” on behalf of the Government of North Korea. OFAC cites to the individual’s participation in a 2016 cyber-enabled fraudulent transfer of $81 million, a 2017 ransomware attack, and the 2014 cyber-attack against a U.S. entertainment company. As a result, all assets belonging to the identified individual and entity subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.
See here for previous InfoBytes coverage on North Korean sanctions.
On July 10, President Trump issued an Executive Order (EO) excepting Administrative Law Judges (ALJs) from the federal government’s competitive hiring service. The EO is in response to the recent Supreme Court decision in Lucia v. SEC, which held that ALJs are “inferior officers” subject to the Appointments Clause of the Constitution. (Previously covered by InfoBytes here.) The EO allows federal agencies to hire ALJs without going through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) competitive selection process, which will give agencies the ability to select candidates who meet the agency’s specific needs— providing greater “flexibility and responsibility for ALJ appointments,” according to the White House announcement. The announcement emphasizes that the EO “reduces the legal uncertainty” over new ALJ appointments under the Appointments Clause in order to safeguard agencies’ enforcement of federal laws.
President Trump issues new Executive Order prohibiting the purchase of debt from the Venezuelan government
On May 21, President Trump issued an Executive Order (E.O.) prohibiting U.S. companies or individuals from buying debt or accounts receivable from the Venezuelan government “in light of the recent activities of the Maduro regime, including endemic economic mismanagement and public corruption at the expense of the Venezuelan people and their prosperity.” The sanctions specifically prohibit transactions related to the following: (i) “the purchase of debt owed to the Venezualan government, including accounts receivable;” (ii) debt pledged as collateral after May 21, including accounts receivable; and (iii) “the sale, transfer, assignment, or pledging as collateral by the Government of Venezuela of any equity interest in any entity in which the Government of Venezuela has a 50 percent or greater ownership interest.”
The E.O., issued in conjunction with E.O. 13692, follows two prior E.O.s, which also targeted the Maduro regime—E.O. 13827, which prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in transactions that involve digital currency issued by, for, or on behalf of the Venezuelan government, and E.O. 13808, which prohibits transactions related to new debt, bonds, and dividend payments in conjunction with the Venezuelan government and the state-owned oil company. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here and here.). The E.O. took effect on May 21 at 12:30 p.m. EDT.
See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Venezuela.
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