Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter and other publications for news affecting the financial services industry.
On June 7, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against Iran’s largest petrochemical holding group for providing financial support to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), an entity targeted for sanctions under OFAC’s Iran-related sanctions. In addition, OFAC designated the holding group’s network of 39 subsidiary petrochemical companies and foreign-based sales agents. According to OFAC, profits derived from the holding group’s activities “support the IRGC’s full range of nefarious activities, including the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction . . . and their means of delivery, support for terrorism, and a variety of human rights abuses, at home and abroad.”
As a result, all property and interests in property belonging to the identified entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from transacting with them. Moreover, OFAC warned foreign financial institutions that 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—if they knowingly facilitate significant transactions for any of the designated entities. OFAC further issued a reminder that as of November 5, 2018, purchasing, acquiring, selling, transporting, or marketing petrochemical products from Iran is sanctionable under OFAC’s sanctions against Iran (covered by InfoBytes here).
Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.
OFAC issues Finding of Violation, no penalties, against bank for alleged Iranian sanctions violations
On May 28, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a Finding of Violation against a U.S. bank, acting as a trustee for a customer, for violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR). According to the announcement, OFAC’s Finding of Violation was based on the fact that the bank processed at least 45 pension payments totaling over $11,000 to a U.S. citizen with a U.S. bank account, but who was residing in Iran. According to OFAC, the bank appears to have known that it was processing payments for the benefit of a person in Iran, not only because its internal system indicated that the individual’s address was located in Tehran, but also because the bank’s sanctions screening software produced an alert on each of the 45 payments. These alerts, however, were reviewed by compliance personnel who were not sanctions specialists instead of the bank’s central sanctions compliance unit. After learning of and reporting the issue to OFAC, the bank modified its review and reporting process to ensure that retirement payments are screened by the right screening platform and that sanctions alerts are handled through the appropriate process, including review by compliance specialists with expertise in sanctions.
When issuing a Finding of Violation against the bank, as opposed to a civil money penalty, OFAC considered the fact that, among other things, (i) no managers or supervisors appear to have been aware of the conduct that led to the violations; (ii) the payments at issue may not have actually been transferred to Iran; (iii) the bank took remedial action in response to the violations; and (iv) the bank cooperated with OFAC by self-disclosing the alleged violations and agreeing to tolling the matter with extensions.
OFAC imposes additional oil sector sanctions connected to Venezuela’s defense and intelligence sector
On May 10, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it had determined that persons operating in Venezuela’s defense and security sector may be subject to sanctions. Additionally, OFAC imposed sanctions against two companies for their alleged involvement in the transportation of oil from Venezuela to Cuba, which provides support to former President Maduro’s defense and intelligence sector. According to the Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin, “[OFAC’s] action today puts Venezuela’s military and intelligence services, as well as those who support them, on notice that their continued backing of the illegitimate Maduro regime will be met with serious consequences.” Furthermore, 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.
Visit here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Venezuela.
President Trump issues new Iran Executive Order targeting Iran's metal sector; OFAC publishes related FAQs
On May 8, President Trump issued Executive Order 13871 (E.O. 13871) authorizing the imposition of sanctions on persons determined to operate in Iran’s iron, steel, aluminum, and copper sectors. The order is intended to target sectors of the Iranian economy that OFAC has identified as providing “funding and support for the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, terrorist groups and networks, campaigns of regional aggression, and military expansion.” Among other things, E.O. 13871 authorizes the Secretaries of Treasury and State to impose sanctions on a foreign financial institution if it is determined that it has knowingly conducted or facilitated any significant financial transactions in these sectors, or for or on behalf of a blocked person. These sanctions are intend to curtail such institutions’ access to the U.S. financial system by prohibiting the opening of, or impose strict conditions on maintaining, a correspondent account or payable-through account by such foreign financial institutions in the United States.
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. 13871, including a discussion of the relevant 90-day wind-down period for affected transactions as well as sanction exceptions.
Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.
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.”
Buckley Special Alert
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control last week issued a framework for OFAC Compliance Commitments, which, for the first time, outlines OFAC’s views on essential elements of a risk-based sanctions compliance program in a single document that can serve as a roadmap for organizations as they structure and evaluate these programs. The framework should be considered carefully by U.S. organizations with any significant foreign dealings, and foreign organizations that conduct business with the United States or that utilize U.S. goods, services, or financial systems.
The framework also makes clear that OFAC intends to target individual employees who are culpable for violations. That emphasis follows an action from earlier this year, where OFAC sanctioned an individual it deemed responsible for circumventing his employer’s compliance protocols.
* * *
Click here to read the full special alert.
If you have questions about the OFAC’s new guidance or related issues, please visit our Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering & Sanctions practice page or contact a Buckley attorney with whom you have worked in the past.
On May 2, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $871,837 settlement with a New York global shipping and logistics company, as well as its subsidiaries and affiliates, for five alleged violations of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations. The settlement resolves potential civil liability for the company’s alleged processing of five electronic funds transfers pertaining to payments associated with blocked vessels identified on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals List.
In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, such as (i) the alleged violations constitute an egregious case and were not voluntarily self-disclosed; (ii) the company recklessly disregarded its obligations to comply with U.S. economic and trade sanctions; (iii) managers were aware of, and participated in, the conduct leading to the alleged violations; and (iv) the company is a global, commercially sophisticated company operating in a high-risk industry.
OFAC also considered numerous mitigating factors, including that the company has not received a penalty or finding of a violation in the five years prior to the transactions at issue, and the company cooperated with OFAC during the investigation and has undertaken remedial efforts to minimize the risk of similar violations from occurring in the future.
On May 2, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the publication of A Framework for OFAC Compliance Commitments to provide guidance on the essential components of a risk-based sanctions compliance program (SCP) for organizations subject to U.S. jurisdiction, along with foreign entities that conduct business in or with the U.S. or U.S. persons, or use U.S.-origin goods or services. The framework highlights five essential compliance components that should be incorporated into an effective SCP: (i) senior management commitment; (ii) risk assessment “identifying potential OFAC issues” likely to be encountered; (iii) internal controls; (iv) testing and auditing; and (v) training. The framework notes that should an entity be subject to a civil monetary penalty (CMP), the Office of Compliance and Enforcement will determine, as appropriate, what other elements should be added to the entity’s SCP. In additional, OFAC states it will “consider favorably” entities that are able to demonstrate the existence of an effective SCP at the time of an apparent violation, which may mitigate a CMP and contribute towards the determination as to whether the violations are “deemed ‘egregious.’”
On April 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced regulations effective April 29 implementing Executive Order (E.O.) 13848. As previously covered by InfoBytes, E.O. 13848 was issued last September to authorize sanctions against foreign persons found to have engaged in, assisted, or otherwise supported foreign interference in U.S. elections. OFAC stated it intends to supplement the final rule with further regulations, “which may include additional interpretive and definitional guidance, general licenses, and statements of licensing policy.”
On April 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against the two individuals identified as current or former officials of the Government of Venezuela for providing support to former President Maduro’s regime. Financial Crimes Enforcement Network advisories FIN-2017-A006, FIN-2017-A003, and FIN-2018-A003 provide additional 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. As a result, all property and interests in property of the sanctioned individuals, and 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 generally prohibited from entering into transactions with designated persons.
Visit here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Venezuela.
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Regulatory changes: Proposed AML regulatory changes, marijuana banking and hemp/CBD" at the ACAMS Carolinas Chapter AML and OFAC Symposium-Technology and Hot Topics
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "Navigating the challenges of the latest data protection regulations and proven protocols for breach prevention and response" at the ACI National Forum on Consumer Finance Class Actions and Government Enforcement
- Buckley Webcast: Flirting with alternatives — Opportunities and challenges created by alternative data, modeling, and technology
- Daniel P. Stipano and Moorari K. Shah to discuss "Vendor management: What is the NCUA looking for?" at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions BSA Seminar
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Reporting requirements for credit unions: CTRs and SARs" at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions BSA Seminar
- Sasha Leonhardt and John B. Williams to discuss "Privacy" at the National Association of Federally-Insured Credit Unions Summer Regulatory Compliance School
- Warren W. Traiger to discuss "CRA modernization" at the National Association of Industrial Bankers and the Utah Association of Financial Services Annual Convention
- Benjamin W. Hutten to discuss "Requirements for banking inherently high-risk relationships" 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
- Brandy A. Hood to discuss "RESPA Section 8/referrals: How do you stay compliant?" at the New England Mortgage Bankers Conference
- Amanda R. Lawrence to discuss "Data privacy litigation" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Lessons learned from recent enforcement actions and CMPs" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "Assessing the CDD final rule: A year of transitions" at the ACAMS AML & Financial Crime Conference
- Jonice Gray Tucker to discuss "HMDA data is out, now what?" at the Mortgage Bankers Association Regulatory Compliance Conference
- 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