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On August 1, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced several new sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The new sanctions, issued pursuant to Executive Order 14024, target elites, a major multinational company, a sanctions evasion operation, and a yacht used by a sanctioned individual. The action was taken together with the U.S. Department of State, which imposed additional sanctions on entities and individuals, as well as visa restrictions. As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property belonging to the sanctioned persons that are in the U.S. or in the possession or control of U.S. persons, and “any entities that are owned, directly or indirectly, 50 percent or more” by the targeted persons are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. Additionally, U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in any dealings involving the property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons, unless exempt or authorized by a general or specific OFAC license.
On August 1, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to Executive Order 13846 against companies used by one of Iran’s largest petrochemical brokers to facilitate the sale of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products from Iran to East Asia. The designations follow OFAC sanctions announced on July 6 against a network of individuals and entities for facilitating the delivery and sale of hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of Iranian petroleum and petrochemical products from Iranian companies to East Asia through a web of Gulf-based front companies (covered by InfoBytes here). As a result of the sanctions, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction, as well as any entities owned 50 percent or more by such persons, are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from entering into transactions with the sanctioned persons. Additionally, OFAC warned that “any foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for any of the individuals or entities designated today could be subject to U.S. sanctions.”
On July 28, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Financial Research (OFR) announced the establishment of the Climate Data and Analytics Hub pilot, which will be used to help financial regulators assess risks to financial stability due to climate change. According to the announcement, the Climate Data and Analytics Hub permits participants to integrate data from across the federal government, including wildfire, crop condition, precipitation, and other climate-related data, with their public supervisory data for a more precise view of the relationship between climate change and financial stability risk. Additionally, it is “equipped with statistical and visualization applications that will allow deeper insight into climate-related financial risks and vulnerabilities.” Access to the pilot is initially limited to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, with the goal of expanding access to all of the Financial Stability Oversight Council member agencies. The OFR also released a Fact Sheet, which provides more information on the Climate Data and Analytics Hub.
On July 28, the Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC) released a Fact Sheet detailing the progress made to-date by the FSOC’s members in implementing the climate-related financial risk report’s recommendations. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in October 2021 the FSOC released a report, Report on Climate Related Financial Risk, identifying climate change as an emerging threat to financial stability and issued over 30 related recommendations to financial regulators. According to the Fact Sheet, the FSOC has made substantial progress since the October 2021 report by: (i) enhancing public climate-related disclosure; (ii) assessing and mitigating climate-related risks that could threaten U.S. financial stability; (iii) building capacity and expanding efforts to address climate-related financial risks; and (iv) filling climate-related data and methodological gaps.
On July 26, the U.S. Treasury Department issued a joint statement covering the recently held sixth meeting of the U.S.-UK Financial Regulatory Working Group. Participants included officials and senior staff from both countries’ treasury departments, as well as regulatory agencies including the Federal Reserve Board, CFTC, FDIC, OCC, SEC, the Bank of England, and the UK’s Financial Conduct Authority. The Working Group discussed, among other things, (i) market developments since the Russian invasion of Ukraine; (ii) continuing international and bilateral cooperation; (iii) the international financial sector priorities at the G7, the G20, the Financial Stability Board (FSB), and the International Organisation of Securities Commissions (IOSCO); (iv) the risks associated with the Non-Bank Financial Intermediation (NBFI) sector and interconnectedness with other financial and non-financial actors; and (v) “the mutual desire to promote multilateral cooperation around risk management in global derivatives and banking markets.” The Working Group participants will continue to engage bilaterally on these issues and others ahead of the next meeting, planned for later this year.
On July 21, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced Russia-related General License (GL) 45 and GL 46. GL 45 authorizes transactions related to the wind down of certain financial contracts prohibited by Executive Order (E.O.) 14071. GL 46 authorizes transactions in support of an auction process to settle certain credit derivative transactions prohibited by E.O. 14071. OFAC also announced that it published two new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) and two amended FAQs on “Russian Harmful Foreign Activities Sanctions.” Additionally, OFAC added a name to the SDN list.
On July 20, the Group of Creditors of Ukraine issued a joint statement regarding coordinated suspension of debt services for Ukraine through 2023, as the Russian invasion continues. According to the statement, the group noted that it would also consider the possibility of deferral for an additional year beyond 2023. The statement granted Ukraine’s request for deferral given the “exceptional circumstances, and acknowledging Ukraine’s exemplary track record of honoring debt service to date,” also “strongly encourage[s] all other official bilateral creditors to swiftly reach agreement with Ukraine on a debt service suspension.”
On July 20, EU and U.S. participants, including officials from the Treasury Department, Federal Reserve Board, CFTC, FDIC, SEC, and OCC, participated in the U.S. – EU Joint Financial Regulatory Forum to continue their ongoing financial regulatory dialogue. Matters discussed focused on six themes: “(1) market developments and financial stability risks, (2) sustainable finance and climate-related financial risks, (3) regulatory developments in banking and insurance, (4) regulatory and supervisory cooperation in capital markets, (5) operational resilience and digital finance, and (6) anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT).”
The statement acknowledged that the Russia/Ukraine conflict, as well as “inflationary pressures”, exposes “a series of downside risks to financial markets both in the EU and in the U.S.” The statement notes that financial markets have so far proven to be “resilient” and stressed that “[i]nternational cooperation in monitoring and mitigating financial stability risks remains essential in the current global environment in light of the negative impacts on global energy and commodities markets.” During the Forum, participants also discussed recent developments related to digital finance and crypto-assets, including so-called stablecoins, as well as potential central bank digital currencies. Additionally, participants discussed various issues related to third-party providers; climate-related financial risks and challenges, including sustainability reporting standards; the transition away from LIBOR; and progress made in strengthening their respective AML/CFT frameworks.
On July 19, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California granted a plaintiff’s motion for preliminary approval in a class action settlement in a FCRA case. In a class action against a credit reporting agency (CRA) for allegedly violating FCRA by erroneously linking class members to criminals and terrorists with similar names in a database maintained by the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the district court ruled that all class members had standing to assert their FCRA claims. The jury returned a verdict for the plaintiffs and awarded punitive damages. As previously covered by InfoBytes, in February 2020, the 9th Circuit reduced the punitive damages award and affirmed the district court’s ruling that all class members had standing due to, among other things, the CRA’s alleged “reckless handling of information from OFAC,” which subjected class members to “a real risk of harm.” As previously covered by InfoBytes, in April 2020, the 9th Circuit granted a joint motion to stay the mandate pending the CRA’s filing of a petition for writ of certiorari with the U.S. Supreme Court. The Supreme Court granted the CRA’s petition for certiorari and reversed the 9th Circuit’s finding on standing, holding that the class members whose credit reports were not provided to third-party businesses did not suffer a concrete harm and thus did not have standing to assert their “reasonable procedures” claims under the FCRA. The Court also held that none of the class members had standing to pursue the disclosure claims under the FCRA because they had not “suffered a concrete harm.” The Ninth Circuit remanded to the district court for further proceedings consistent with the Supreme Court’s ruling.
The parties participated in a mediation and reached a class-wide settlement. The plaintiff moved for preliminary approval, which the district court granted on July 19. The settlement class is composed of two categories of individuals: (1) the 1,853 class members that the defendant CRA identified in its pre-trial stipulation as individuals for whom the defendant had delivered a credit report containing OFAC data to a third-party, and (2) class members from the remaining group of 6,332 individuals not identified in the stipulation who submit a claim demonstrating publication of OFAC data to a third-party during the class period. The Settlement agreement, among other things, requires the defendant to establish a settlement fund of $9 million, which includes attorney fees and costs.
On July 15, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $430,500 settlement with a subsidiary of a national bank for allegedly processing transactions in violation of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations. According to OFAC’s web notice, between May 2018 and July 2018, the bank allegedly processed 214 transactions totaling $155,189, in violation of OFAC’s Kingpin sanctions. Specifically, OFAC noted that the processed transactions were for an account whose supplemental card holder was designated in connection with illegal drug distribution and money laundering.
In arriving at the settlement amount of $430,500, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including that the bank “is a large and sophisticated financial institution with a global presence,” and “conferred $155,189.42 in economic benefit to an account associated with a [person] who was designated for involvement in illegal drug distribution and money laundering.” OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including that the bank cooperated with OFAC throughout the investigation, and has undertaken remedial measures intended to minimize the risk of recurrence of similar conduct.
- Kathryn L. Ryan and Jedd R. Bellman to discuss “Risk and compliance management: Are you covered?” at a Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Melissa Klimkiewicz and Daniel A. Bellovin to discuss “Things to know about flood insurance” at a NAFCU webinar
- Hank Asbill to discuss “Ethical issues at sentencing” at the 31st Annual National Seminar on Federal Sentencing
- Max Bonici will moderate a panel on “Enforcement risk and other regulatory and compliance issues related to crypto and digital assets” at the American Bar Association’s 2022 Annual Meeting
- John R. Coleman to provide a “CFPB Update” at MBA’s 2022 Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss “The shifting data privacy and data protection landscape” at MBA’s 2022 Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Jeffrey P. Naimon to provide “An update on key fair lending cases and the CRA and UDAAP rules” at MBA’s 2022 Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Fundamentals of financial crime compliance” at the Practicing Law Institute
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss “Ongoing CDD: Operational considerations” at NAFCU’s Regulatory Compliance & BSA Seminar
- James C. Chou to discuss ransomware at NAFCU’s Regulatory Compliance & BSA seminar