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OFAC Fines International Technology Subsidiary More Than $12 Million for Violating Iranian Sanctions
On July 27, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it had reached a settlement with a subsidiary of a Singapore-based international technology group for alleged violations of OFAC sanctions against Iran. OFAC claimed that between August 25, 2010 and November 5, 2011, the subsidiary entered into contracts with multiple Iranian companies, engaged several third-party vendors to provide goods and services for the contracts, and caused “at least six separate financial institutions to engage in the unauthorized exportation or re-exportation of financial services from the [U.S.] to Iran.” Furthermore, the subsidiary made a statement to a non-U.S. financial institution in Singapore (the Bank) stating, “In consideration of [the Bank] agreeing to continue providing banking services in Singapore to our company, we . . . hereby undertake not to route any transactions related to Iran through [the Bank], whether in Singapore or elsewhere.” However, the subsidiary began originating USD funds transfers through the Bank related to Iranian business transactions. Moreover, its actions provided “significant economic benefit” to Iran and individuals on OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons. Specifically, OFAC maintained the subsidiary violated the following sanctions programs: (i) the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and (ii) the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560.
The settlement requires the company to pay more than $12 million to settle the claims, which the company did not voluntarily self-disclose to OFAC.
On June 26, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) reached a settlement with an international financial services and insurance company based in New York for alleged violations of OFAC sanctions programs. OFAC claimed that the company “issued policies and insurance certificates, and/or processed claims and other insurance-related transactions that conferred economic benefit to sanctioned countries or persons and undermined the policy objectives of several U.S. economic sanctions programs.” Specifically, OFAC maintained the company violated the following sanctions programs: (i) Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 560 (ITSR); (ii) Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 544 (WMDPSR); (iii) Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 538 (SSR); and (iv) Cuban Assets Control Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 515 (CACR). The settlement requires the company to pay $148,698 to settle the claims, which the company voluntarily self-disclosed to OFAC.
For others to avoid these issues, OFAC suggested that “the best and most reliable approach for insuring global risks without violating U.S. sanctions law is to insert in global insurance policies an explicit exclusion for risks that would violate U.S. sanctions laws.”
On March 7, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) announced a combined $1.192 billion resolution with other federal agencies against a Chinese telecommunications equipment corporation and its subsidiaries and affiliates to settle alleged violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. The resolution is pending approval of the company’s criminal plea in federal court. OFAC’s settlement agreement resolves its investigation into the company’s practice of “utilizing third-party companies to surreptitiously supply Iran with a substantial volume of U.S.-origin goods, including controlled goods appearing on the Commerce Control List.” As noted by Steven T. Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, this “settlement is OFAC’s largest ever against a non-financial entity and sends a powerful message that Treasury will aggressively pursue any company that willfully violates U.S. economic sanctions laws and obstructs federal investigations of such violations.”
In addition to the monetary penalty, the company must maintain policies and procedures designed to minimize future risk of violations of U.S. economic sanctions and export control violations.
OFAC Sanctions More than Two Dozen Firms and Individuals in Connection with Iran's Ballistic Missile Program
On February 3, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it was imposing new sanctions against several entities and individuals involved in procuring technology and/or materials to support Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well as for acting for or on behalf of, or providing support to, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force. The sanctions block “all property and interests in property of those designated today subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with” the identified firms and individuals.
OFAC Settles with Canadian Bank for Apparent Violations of Cuban Assets Control Regulations and Iran Sanctions
On January 13, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) announced a $516,105 settlement agreement with a Canadian-based bank and its online-brokerage subsidiaries in connection with accounts held and transactions processed on behalf of certain Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons located in Cuba, Iran and other locations in the Middle East. OFAC also identified general “shortcomings in the bank’s OFAC compliance policies, procedures, and programs” including the bank’s failure to screen for any potential nexus to an OFAC-sanctioned country or entity prior to processing related transactions through the U.S. financial system and occurring due to shortcomings in the banks policies and procedures. The settlement agreement does, however, note that the Apparent Violations constituted a non-egregious case, that the Bank voluntarily self-disclosed the Apparent Violations, and that the applicable total base penalty amount for the apparent violations was $955,750—well above the $516,105 amount OFAC assessed.
Notably, in the agreement’s concluding paragraph, OFAC highlights, as a general matter, the risks associated with both “subsidiaries in high-risk industries–such as securities firms” and, in particular “online payment platforms when the financial institution is unable to restrict access for individuals and entities located in comprehensively sanctioned countries.”
On January 12, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) announced a $17,500 settlement agreement with Aban Offshoe Limited ("Aban") of Chennai, India, in connection with an alleged violation of Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. The alleged violation arises out of events that occurred in June 2008, when Aban's Singapore subsidiary allegedly placed an order for oil rig supplies from a vendor in the United States with the intended purpose of re-exporting these supplies from the United Arab Emirates to a jack-up oil drilling rig located in the South Pars Gas Fields in Iranian territorial waters. OFAC noted, among other things, that the alleged violation constitutes a non-egregious case, but that Aban did not voluntarily self-disclose the apparent violation.
On December 23, OFAC announced it has issued a final rule amending existing Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations to expand the scope of medical devices and agricultural commodities generally authorized for export or re-export to Iran. The amendment also includes new or expanded authorizations relating to training, replacement parts, software and services for the operation, maintenance, and repair of medical devices, as well as certain items that are broken or subject to product recalls or other safety concerns. In addition, this amendment revises the definition of the terms “goods of Iranian origin” and “Iranian-origin goods.” OFAC concurrently published new and updated FAQs pertaining to the amendment.
OFAC Clarifies Iran Sanctions Snapback, Also Amends General License Regarding Foreign Flights to Iran
On December 15, OFAC updated the Frequently Asked Questions Relating to the Lifting of Certain U.S. Sanctions Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, clarifying two FAQs regarding the re-imposition of sanctions in the event of a “sanctions snapback.” Among other things, the revised guidance clarified that the U.S. will not retroactively impose sanctions for activity considered legitimate during the time of the transaction, but that activity would have to immediately halt because the agreement does not grandfather existing contracts. In addition, OFAC explained that the U.S. would provide non-Iranian foreigners a 180-day period to wind down operations that were authorized prior to a snapback. The FAQ-guidance also explained that if a snapback of sanctions were to result in the revocation of licenses, the U.S. government would provide a 180-day wind-down period for those deals, and non-Iranian foreigners could receive repayment from Iranians for goods and services provided prior to a snapback under the terms of an existing contract.
Separately, OFAC issued amended license General License J-1, regarding foreign flights to Iran, to also authorize flights that involve code-sharing agreements. A code-share is a marketing arrangement in which an airline places its designator code on a flight operated by another airline, and sells tickets for that flight. GL J-1 is effective as of December 15 and replaces and supersedes General License J in its entirety.
On December 1, the U.S. Senate, by a 99-0 margin, passed a 10-year extension of the Iran Sanctions Act (ISA) sending the measure to the White House and delaying any potentially tougher actions until next year. Originally approved in 1996, the extended bill passed onto the Senate in November with only one vote against it from the House. Congressional authority to enforce sanctions against Iran—which was due to expire on December 31 if not renewed—will be presented to President Barack Obama, who will decide whether to sign the bill into law in the coming days.
On October 7, OFAC updated its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) relating to the Listing of Certain U.S. Sanctions under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In addition to adding three FAQs related to due diligence (see M.10 through M.12), OFAC amended two FAQs (C.7 and C.15) regarding Financial and Banking Measures and one FAQ (K.19) related to Foreign Entities Owned or Controlled by U.S. Persons. FAQ M.10 clarifies that while “[i]t is not necessarily sanctionable for a non-U.S. person to engage in transactions with an entity that is not on the SDN List but that is minority owned, or that is controlled in whole or in part, by an Iranian or Iran-related person on the SDN List,” it is recommended that persons engaging in such transactions exercise caution to ensure that they do not involve Iranian or Iran-related persons on the SDN List. FAQs M.11 and M.12, respectively, address (i) due diligence expectations related to the screening of potential Iranian counterparties; and (ii) the circumstances under which OFAC expects a non-U.S. financial institution to repeat the due diligence their customers have already performed on an Iranian customer.
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- 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