Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
On August 6, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that the “Iranian Human Rights Sanctions Regulations” has been renamed as the “Iranian Sector and Human Rights Abuses Sanctions Regulations.” The amended sanctions regulations implement Executive Order (E.O.) 13871 (previously covered by InfoBytes here), which authorizes the imposition of sanctions on persons determined to operate in Iran’s iron, steel, aluminum, and copper sectors. OFAC concurrently amended and published several new FAQs, including a discussion of the relevant 90-day wind-down period for affected transactions as well as sanction exceptions. The amendments take effect August 7.
Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.
On August 6, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a roughly $1.7 million settlement with a Washington-based truck manufacturer for 63 alleged violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. The settlement resolves potential civil liability for actions taken by a wholly-owned subsidiary of the company that allegedly sold or supplied trucks with a total transactional value of over $5.4 million to European customers, but knew or had reason to know the trucks were ultimately intended for buyers in Iran.
In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various mitigating factors, including that (i) neither the company nor the subsidiary have received a penalty or finding of a violation in the five years prior to the transactions at issue; (ii) the subsidiary had in place at the time of the alleged violations a trade sanctions compliance program with contractual prohibitions on dealers and service partners that were re-selling products in violation of U.S. trade sanctions; and (iii) the company and subsidiary voluntarily self-disclosed the issue to OFAC, cooperated with OFAC during the investigation, and undertook remedial efforts to minimize the risk of similar violations from occurring in the future.
OFAC also considered various aggravating factors, including that the subsidiary failed to exercise caution when alerted to warning signs regarding the potential sales, and that in each instance, a subsidiary employee was aware of the conduct leading to the alleged violations.
Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.
On August 5, President Trump issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13884 titled “Blocking Property of the Government of Venezuela,” which, among other things, prevents all property and interest in property of the Government of Venezuela existing within the U.S. or in the possession of a U.S. person from being transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in. E.O. 13884 is being issued in light of the actions of the Maduro regime, “as well as human rights abuses, including arbitrary or unlawful arrest and detention of Venezuelan citizens, interference with freedom of expression, including for members of the media, and ongoing attempts to undermine Interim President Juan Guaido and the Venezuelan National Assembly's exercise of legitimate authority in Venezuela.”
In connection with the issuance of the E.O, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued new and revised FAQs, as well as 12 amended general licenses (General Licenses 2A, 3F, 4C, 7C, 8C, 9E, 10A, 13C, 15B, 16B, 18A, 20A) and 13 new general licenses (General Licenses 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31, 32, 33) related to Venezuela.
Additionally, OFAC issued new guidance highlighting the U.S. government’s “commitment to the unfettered flow of humanitarian aid to the Venezuelan people.” OFAC notes that its regulations and general licenses allow U.S. persons to continue to provide humanitarian support to the Venezuelan people, including via transactions through the U.S. financial system for authorized activities. OFAC sanctions do not prohibit transactions involving the country or people of Venezuela, provided blocked persons or proscribed conduct are not involved.
For continuing InfoBytes coverage on Venezuela, including more information on blocked persons or actions, click here.
On July 31, Department of Treasury Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence (TFI) Sigal Mandelker delivered remarks at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. to discuss the use of sanctions in combating critical national security and illicit financial threats. After summarizing several achievements related to the exposure and disruption of global financial schemes, Mandelker discussed TFI’s collaboration with other Treasury agencies, such as the Office of Foreign Assets Control, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, and the Office of Terrorist Financing and Financial Crimes, to create an organizational structure that “integrates unparalleled insight into the financing of emerging global threats with powerful economic authorities to counter them.” Mandelker noted that while sanctions can be very powerful tools to cut off both financial and material support to terrorist groups and regimes, a broader strategic approach is necessary, including, among other things, anti-money laundering measures, enforcement actions, foreign engagement, intelligence and analysis, and private-sector partnerships. She noted that one method employed by the agencies to maximize their impact in combating illicit financial threats is through the use of network sanctions, which recognize that “bad actors” rarely act alone, and instead frequently rely upon complicated structures using shell companies, business partners, and facilitators to disguise activities and launder money. “When we focus on these broader networks and their assets, we can more effectively block a bad actor’s ability to access their ill-gotten gains, making it more difficult for them to use the global marketplace or continue in their business arrangements,” Mandelker stated. Mandelker further commented that in 2019 alone, Treasury has “issued nearly $1.3 billion in civil monetary penalties and settlements for financial institutions and corporate actors related to violations of our sanctions programs.”
On August 1, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a $3 million settlement with a captive auto finance company, resolving allegations that it violated the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA) by repossessing 113 vehicles owned by SCRA-protected servicemembers without first obtaining court orders and failing to refund upfront capitalized cost reduction (CCR) amounts to servicemembers who lawfully terminated vehicle leases early under the SCRA. According to the DOJ’s complaint, when a servicemember terminated their lease early pursuant to the SCRA, the finance company retained the entire CCR amount even though the SCRA requires that it refund all lease amounts paid in advance for a period after the effective date of the termination. The settlement agreement covers all repossessions of servicemembers vehicles and leases terminated by servicemembers since January 2008, and requires the finance company to create an almost $3 million settlement fund to compensate affected servicemembers and pay the U.S. Treasury $62,000. Moreover, the agreement requires the finance company to review and update its SCRA policies and procedures to prevent future violations and to provide SCRA compliance training to specified employees.
OFAC sanctions corruption network linked to Venezuela’s food subsidy program; DOJ charges two of same individuals for money laundering related to bribery
On July 25, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against two Colombian nationals responsible for “orchestrating a vast corruption network,” which has enabled former President Maduro and his regime “to significantly profit from food imports and distribution in Venezuela.” According to OFAC, the Colombian nationals created a network comprised of shell companies, business partners, and family members—all of whom have also been designated for their involvement in the network—that illicitly profited from their involvement in Venezuela’s food subsidy program as well as other contracts with the Venezuelan government. The sanctioned network—which also included Maduro’s three stepsons—allegedly “laundered hundreds of millions of dollars in corruption proceeds around the world.” As a result of the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of the individuals and entities designated today, and of any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more by those individuals or entities, that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC.” OFAC noted that its regulations “generally prohibit” U.S. persons from participating in transactions with the designated entities and individuals. OFAC also referred financial institutions to Financial Crimes Enforcement Network advisories FIN-2019-A002, FIN-2017-A006, and FIN-2018-A003 for further information concerning the efforts of Venezuelan government agencies and individuals to use the U.S. financial system and real estate market to launder corrupt proceeds, as well as human rights abuses connected to corrupt foreign political figures and their financial facilitators.
The same day, the DOJ announced charges, pursuant to an indictment filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, against two of the same sanctioned Colombian nationals for money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering. The charges relate to the Colombian nationals’ alleged roles in laundering the proceeds of an illegal bribery scheme from bank accounts located in Venezuela to and through bank accounts located in the United States. The bribery scheme resulted in the transfer of approximately $350 million, and allegedly involved contracts to build low-income housing units and efforts to take advantage of Venezuela’s government-controlled exchange rates through the use of “false and fraudulent import documents for goods and materials.”
On July 29, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the addition of a North Korean individual operating in Vietnam to the Specially Designated Nationals List pursuant to Executive Order 13687. According to OFAC, the individual works on behalf of the Munitions Industry Department (MID), a Workers’ Party of Korea subordinate, and was responsible for trade activity that earned currency for the North Korean regime, which violates the United Nations Security Council resolutions (UNSCRs) and supports North Korea’s weapons program. OFAC notes that its regulations “generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within the United States that involve” transactions with the designated entities and individuals. Moreover, OFAC warned foreign financial institutions that if they knowingly facilitate significant transactions for any of the designated entities or individuals, they may be subject to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through account sanctions which, if imposed, could restrict their access to the U.S. financial system.
On July 22, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released amendments to the Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations (GTSR); Transnational Criminal Organizations Sanctions Regulations (TCOSR); and portions of the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations (HFSR). Specifically, the GTSR and the TCOSR were amended to implement the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Amendments Act of 2018. The TCOSR was also amended to implement Executive Order 13863. OFAC also announced amendments to the GTSR to implement and reference the Sanctioning the Use of Civilians as Defenseless Shields Act of 2018. Finally, OFAC amended the HFSR to make various technical and conforming changes as well as update certain provisions. The amendments take effect July 23.
On July 18, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13382 against an international network of seven entities and five individuals involved in the procurement of sensitive materials for sanctioned elements of Iran’s nuclear program. According to OFAC, the network—based in Iran, China, and Belgium—acted as a procurement network in order to acquire materials controlled by the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), which were then used in facilities belonging to the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran. OFAC noted that while United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231 does permit certain NSG-controlled items to go to Iran, participants are required to receive advance, case-by-case approval, which the identified entities and individuals in this action did not receive. As a result of the sanctions, “all property and interests in property of these persons that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.” OFAC notes that its regulations “generally prohibit” U.S. persons from participating in transactions with the designated entities and individuals. Moreover, OFAC warned foreign financial institutions that if they knowingly facilitate significant transactions for any of the designated entities and individuals, they may be subject to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through account sanctions which, if imposed, could restrict their access to the U.S. financial system.
On July 19, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned four officials of Venezuela’s General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence (DGCIM). As previously covered by InfoBytes, the DGCIM was sanctioned by OFAC on July 11, pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13850, for operating in the country’s defense and security sector. According to OFAC, the designations of the four individuals were pursuant to E.O. 13692, following the arrest, physical abuse, and death of a Venezuelan Navy Captain. As a result of the designations, all property and interests in property of the designated persons within U.S. jurisdiction must be blocked and reported to OFAC. OFAC notes that its regulations “generally prohibit” U.S. persons from participating in transactions with these individuals and entities.
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Requirements for banking inherently high-risk relationships" at the Georgia Bankers Association BSA Experience Program
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "BSA program reporting, management and board of directors responsibilities" at the Georgia Bankers Association BSA Experience Program
- Hank Asbill to discuss "Ethical guidance in conducting internal investigations – The intersection of Yates and Upjohn" at the American Bar Association Southeastern White Collar Crime Institute
- H Joshua Kotin to discuss "Recent developments in fair lending and avoiding the pitfalls" at the Arkansas Community Bankers/Bankers Assurance 2019 Compliance Conference
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "RESPA Section 8/referrals: How do you stay compliant?" at the New England Mortgage Bankers Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Risk management in enforcement actions: Managing risk or micromanaging it" at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Annual Meeting
- Valerie L. Hletko to discuss "Banking on guns ‘n drugs: Social policy meets financial services" at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Annual Meeting
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Navigating the conflicting federal and state laws for doing business with cannabis companies" at the American Bar Association Business Law Section Annual Meeting
- Tim Lange to discuss "Services and value" at the North American Collection Agency Regulatory Association Annual Conference
- Katherine L. Halliday to discuss "UDAP, UDAAP & the Map rule compliance basics" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "How to ace your TRID exam" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "Data privacy litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to discuss "Navigating FHA rules and regs" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Washington regulatory overview" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "HMDA data is out, now what?" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Assessing the CDD final rule: A year of transitions" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from recent enforcement actions and CMPs" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Kathryn L. Ryan to discuss "The state’s role in fintech: Providing an industry framework for innovation" at Lend360
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to discuss "Truth in lending" at the American Bar Association National Institute on Consumer Financial Services Basics
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from recent enforcement actions" at the Institute of International Bankers Risk Management and Regulatory Examination/Compliance Seminar
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "Fintech regulatory developments, crypto-assets, blockchain and digital banking, and consumer issues" at the Practising Law Institute Banking Law Institute
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "How to balance a successful (and stressful) career with greater personal well-being" at the American Bar Association Women in Litigation Joint CLE Conference