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  • OFAC imposes additional oil sector sanctions against companies connected to Maduro regime

    Financial Crimes

    On April 12, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against four companies for their alleged involvement in the transportation of oil from Venezuela to Cuba. According to OFAC, the companies’ actions offer support to former President Maduro’s regime and contribute to the humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. In addition, OFAC identified nine vessels as blocked property owned by the identified companies. As a result, all property belonging to the sanctioned entities, and interests in property of the sanctioned entities (or of any entities owned 50 percent or more by them) subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from entering into transactions with them. Furthermore, OFAC also referred financial institutions to Financial Crimes Enforcement Network advisories FIN-2017-A006FIN-2017-A003, 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 foreign political figures and their financial facilitators.

    Visit here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Venezuela.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Settlement Cuba Venezuela Sanctions

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  • U.K. subsea services company and subsidiaries to pay $440,000 for Cuban and Iranian sanctions violations

    Financial Crimes

    On April 11, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced two settlements totaling more than $440,000 with a U.K. subsea services company and certain subsidiaries that operate in the oil and gas industry. The first settlement, for $227,500, resolves potential civil liability for seven alleged violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR). According to OFAC, two of the company's Malaysian affiliates produced analytical reports and conducted workshops for oil well drilling projects in Cuban territorial waters related to projects managed by companies including Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, which was previously designated by OFAC in January (see InfoBytes coverage here). OFAC considered various aggravating factors—including that the alleged violations constitute an egregious case—and noted that the company/subsidiaries “willfully violated U.S. sanctions laws and regulations when they knowingly dealt with Cuban interests despite prior notification of their unlawfulness.” OFAC also noted that senior managers “deliberately concealed their dealings with Cuba on multiple occasions.” OFAC considered numerous mitigating factors, including the company/subsidiaries’ voluntarily self-disclosure of the apparent violations and remedial efforts taken to avoid similar violations from occurring in the future.

    The same day OFAC announced a second settlement, this time for $213,866, which resolves potential civil liability for 13 alleged CACR violations. The settlement also resolves three alleged violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR) by the company’s U.S.-based parent company. According to OFAC, the company issued sanctions compliance guidance to all of its subsidiaries with instructions that transactions with Cuba and Iran (including indirect third parties) were prohibited. However, certain subsidiaries disregarded the guidance and allegedly engaged in transactions within Cuban and Iranian territorial waters. In reaching the settlement amount, OFAC determined, among other things, that (i) the company voluntarily self-disclosed the apparent violations; (ii) the alleged violations constitute a non-egregious case; (iii) the subsidiaries have confirmed the conduct has been terminated; and (iv) remedial efforts have been undertaken to minimize the risk of similar violations from occurring in the future.

    Financial Crimes Of Interest to Non-US Persons OFAC Department of Treasury Settlement Cuba Iran Sanctions

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  • OFAC sanctions companies for transporting Venezuelan oil to Cuba

    Financial Crimes

    On April 5, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against two non-U.S. companies for their alleged involvement in the transportation of oil from Venezuela to Cuba. According to OFAC, the companies have engaged in a “barter system,” in which Venezuelan oil supplies are exchanged for Cuban assistance in the form of “political advisors, intelligence and military officials, and medical professionals. . . all of whom” prop up “the illegitimate Maduro regime through oil-for-repression schemes as [an] attempt to keep Maduro in power.” 

    Visit here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Venezuela.

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

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  • London-based financial institution to pay $1.1 billion for U.S. sanctions violations

    Financial Crimes

    On April 9, U.S. and U.K regulators announced that a London-based global financial institution would pay $1.1 billion to settle allegations by the DOJ, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the Federal Reserve Board, the New York Department of Financial Services (NYDFS), the Manhattan District Attorney, and the U.K.’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) for allegedly violating multiple sanctions programs, including those related to Burma, Cuba, Iran, Sudan, and Syria. According to the OFAC announcement, from June 2009 until May 2014, the institution processed thousands of transactions involving persons or countries subject to sanctions programs administered by OFAC, but the majority of the actions at issue concern Iran-related accounts maintained by the institution’s Dubai branches. OFAC alleged the Dubai branches processed transactions through the institution’s New York branches on behalf of customers that were physically located or ordinarily resident in Iran.

    According to the $639 million settlement agreement, OFAC noted, among other things, that the institution “acted with reckless disregard and failed to exercise a minimal degree of caution or care” with respect to the actions at issue. Moreover, OFAC alleged that the institution had actual knowledge or reason to know its compliance program was “inadequate to manage the [the institution]’s risk.” OFAC considered numerous mitigating factors, including that the institution’s substantial cooperation throughout the investigation and its undertaking of remedial efforts to avoid similar violations from occurring in the future.

    The $639 million penalty will be deemed satisfied by the institution’s payments to other U.S. regulators, which includes, $240 million forfeiture and $480 million fine to the DOJ, $164 million fine to the Federal Reserve, and $180 million fine to the NYDFS. The institution also settled with the FCA for $133 million. The settlement illustrates the risks to foreign financial institutions associated with compliance lapses when processing transactions through the U.S. financial system.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Sanctions DOJ Federal Reserve NYDFS UK FCA Settlement Of Interest to Non-US Persons

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  • OFAC reaches settlement with tool company for alleged Iranian sanctions violations

    Financial Crimes

    On March 27, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $1,869,144 settlement with a U.S. tool manufacturer and its China-based subsidiary for 23 alleged violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR). The settlement resolves potential civil liability for the company’s alleged transactions, valued at over $3.2 million, involving the subsidiary’s exporting and attempts to export 23 shipments of power tools and spare parts “with knowledge that such goods were intended specifically for supply, transshipment, or reexportation, directly or indirectly, to Iran.” Because the ITSR generally prohibit non-U.S. subsidiaries of U.S. persons from knowingly engaging in transactions with Iran, this settlement illustrates the importance of implementing OFAC compliance measures at such subsidiaries.

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors and characterized the alleged violations as “an egregious case.” While the company voluntarily self-disclosed the alleged violations on behalf of its subsidiary, OFAC stated, among other things, that the company allegedly failed to implement procedures to monitor and audit the subsidiary’s compliance with applicable sanctions policies post-acquisition. Moreover, OFAC claimed that the subsidiary’s senior management continued to export goods to Iran, despite executing written agreements stating they would not engage in such conduct and attending compliance training sessions.

    OFAC also considered numerous 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 company immediately implemented “substantive remedial efforts,” including halting all of the subsidiary’s exports and hiring an independent investigator; and (iii) the company cooperated with OFAC’s investigation. OFAC noted that the company has committed to taking corrective actions to minimize the risk of recurring conduct.

    Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.

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

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  • OFAC sanctions individuals and entities for transferring over a billion dollars and euros to IRGC

    Financial Crimes

    On March 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against “25 individuals and entities, including a network of Iran, UAE, and Turkey-based front companies,” for allegedly transferring “over a billion dollars and euros” in funds to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Iran's Ministry of Defense and Armed Forces Logistics (MODAFL). Among other things, the designated individuals and entities also procured vehicles worth millions of dollars for MODAFL, which was also sanctioned, along with Iran’s IRGC-controlled bank and currency exchange arm, for allegedly providing assistance and banking services to the IRGC-Qods Force. According to OFAC, the sanctions were issued pursuant to Executive Order 13224, which “provides a means by which to disrupt the financial support network for terrorists and terrorist organizations.” As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the identified individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from entering into transactions with them. In addition, OFAC noted that persons who engage in transactions with the designated individuals and entities may be exposed to sanctions themselves or subject to enforcement action. Moreover, OFAC warned foreign financial institutions that, unless an exemption applies, they may be subject to U.S. sanctions if they knowingly facilitate significant transactions for any of the designed individuals or entities.

    Visit here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.

    Financial Crimes Iran Sanctions OFAC Department of Treasury

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  • OFAC sanctions Venezuela’s national development bank and subsidiaries connected to Maduro regime

    Financial Crimes

    On March 22, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned national development bank and four subsidiaries located in Venezuela, Uruguay, and Bolivia for allegedly providing financial support to former President Maduro. According to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, “[r]egime insiders have transformed [the bank] and its subsidiaries into vehicles to move funds abroad in an attempt to prop up Maduro.” As a result, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned entities (or of any entities owned 50 percent or more by the bank) that are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from entering into transactions with them. 

    OFAC concurrently issued five new General Licenses (GL) (see GL 4A, 15, 16, 17, 18), which, among other things, authorize certain transactions involving the sanctioned banks for certain entities, including those necessary to wind down operations or existing contracts. OFAC also published two FAQs to provide additional guidance on the GLs and sanctions.

    Furthermore, OFAC also referred financial institutions to Financial Crimes Enforcement Network advisories FIN-2017-A006 and FIN-2017-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.

    Visit here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Venezuela.

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

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  • OFAC sanctions Venezuela’s state gold mining company and its president for assisting Maduro regime

    Financial Crimes

    On March 19, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against Venezuela’s state-owned metals mining company and the company’s president. According to OFAC, the designations target the “illicit gold operations that have continued to prop up the illegitimate regime of former President Nicolas Maduro.” As a result, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned entity and individual, and of any entities owned 50 percent or more by them, which are subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from entering into transactions with them. OFAC’s announcement referred to Financial Crimes Enforcement Network advisories FIN-2017-A006 and FIN-2017-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.

    Visit here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Venezuela.

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

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  • White House releases 2020 budget proposal; key areas include appropriations and efforts to combat terrorist financing

    Federal Issues

    On March 11, the White House released its fiscal 2020 budget request, A Budget for a Better America. The budget was accompanied by texts entitled Major Savings and Reforms (MSR), which “contains detailed information on major savings and reform proposals”; Analytical Perspectives, which “contains analyses that are designed to highlight specified subject areas or provide other significant presentations of budget data that place the budget in perspective”; and an Appendix containing detailed supporting information. Funding through appropriations and efforts to combat terrorist financing remain key highlights carried over from last year. Notable takeaways of the 2020 budget proposal are as follows:

    CFPB. In the MSR’s “Restructure the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau” section, the budget revives a call to restructure the Bureau, and proposes legislative action to implement a two-year restructuring period, subject the CFPB to the congressional appropriations process starting in 2021, and “bring accountability” to the Bureau. Among other things, the proposed budget would cap the Federal Reserve’s transfers to the Bureau at $485 million in 2020.

    Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC). The 2020 budget proposal requests that Congress establish funding levels through annual appropriations bills for FSOC (which is comprised of the heads of the financial regulatory agencies and monitors risk to the U.S. financial system) and its independent research arm, the Office of Financial Research (OFR). Currently FSOC and OFR set their own budgets.

    Flood Insurance. The Credit and Insurance chapter of the budget’s Analytical Perspectives section discusses FEMA initiatives such as modifying the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) to become a simpler, more customer-focused program, and “doubling the number of properties covered by flood insurance (either the NFIP or private insurance) by 2022.” Separately, the budget proposal emphasizes that the administration believes that “flood insurance rates should reflect the risk homeowners face by living in flood zones.”

    Government Sponsored Enterprises. Noted within the MSR, the budget proposes doubling the guarantee fee charged by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to loan originators from 0.10 to 0.20 percentage points from 2020 through 2021. The proposal is designed to help “level the playing field for private lenders seeking to compete with the GSEs” and would generate an additional $32 billion over the 10-year budget window. 

    HUD. The budget proposes to eliminate funding for the Community Development Block Grant program, stating that “[s]tate and local governments are better equipped to address local community and economic development needs.” The proposal would continue to preserve access to homeownership opportunities for creditworthy borrowers through FHA and Ginnie Mae credit guarantees. The budget also requests $20 million above last year’s estimated level to help modernize FHA’s information technology systems and includes legislative proposals to “align FHA authorities with the needs of its lender enforcement program and limit FHA’s exposure to down-payment assistance practices.”

    SEC. As stated in both the budget proposal and the MSR, the budget again proposes to eliminate the SEC’s mandatory reserve fund and would require the SEC to request additional funds through the congressional appropriations process starting in 2021. According to the Appendix, the reserve fund is currently funded by collected registration fees and is not subject to appropriation or apportionment. Under the proposed budget, the registration fees would be deposited in the Treasury’s general fund.

    SIGTARP. As proposed in the MSR, the budget revives a plan that would reduce funding for the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP) “commensurate with the wind-down of TARP programs.” According to the MSR, “Congress aligned the sunset of SIGTARP with the length of time that TARP funds or commitments are outstanding,” which, Treasury estimates, will be through 2023. The reduction reflects, among other things, that less than one percent of TARP investments remain outstanding.  This will mark the final time payments are expected to be made under the Home Affordable Modification Program.

    Student Loan Reform. As with the 2019 budget proposal, the 2020 proposed budget seeks to establish a single income-driven repayment plan that caps monthly payments at 12.5 percent of discretionary income. Furthermore, balances would be forgiven after a specific number of repayment years—15 for undergraduate debt, 30 for graduate. In doing so, the proposal would eliminate subsidized loans and the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, auto-enroll “severely delinquent borrowers,” and create a process for borrowers to share income data for multiple years. With certain exceptions, these proposals will only apply to loans originated on or after July 1, 2020.

    Treasury Department. The budget states that combating terrorist financing, proliferation financing, and other types of illicit financing are a top priority for the administration, and $167 million has been requested for Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence to “continue its work safeguarding the financial system from abuse and combating other national security threats using economic tools.” The proposed budget also requests $125 million for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network to administer the Bank Secrecy Act and its work to prevent the financing of terrorism, money laundering, and other financial crimes. An additional $18 million was proposed for strengthening and protecting Treasury’s IT systems.

    Federal Issues Trump Budget CFPB FSOC Flood Insurance National Flood Insurance Program GSE HUD SEC Student Lending Department of Treasury Bank Secrecy Act FinCEN

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  • OFAC sanctions Russians for aggression against Ukraine

    Financial Crimes

    On March 15, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced its decision to sanction six Russian individuals and eight entities, pursuant to Executive Order 13661, for “playing a role in Russia’s unjustified attacks on Ukrainian naval vessels in the Kerch Strait, the purported annexation of Crimea, and backing of illegitimate separatist government elections in eastern Ukraine.” The action complements sanctions imposed the same day by the European Union and Canada as part of a coordinated effort “to counter Russia’s continued destabilizing behavior and malign activities.” As a result, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned individuals and entities, as well as any entities owned 50 percent or more by them, are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from entering into transactions with them.

    Visit here for continuing InfoBytes cover of actions related to Russia and Ukraine.

    Financial Crimes Ukraine Sanctions Russia OFAC Department of Treasury

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