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On May 13, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) provided clarifying text related to the modified North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enforcement Act (covered by InfoBytes here), which bars foreign subsidiaries of U.S. financial institutions from knowingly engaging in transactions with Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) identified under North Korea-related authorities. OFAC added the following text to 490 SDN records to assist the private sector in identifying persons that have been so designated: “Transactions Prohibited For Persons Owned or Controlled by U.S. Financial Institutions: North Korea Sanctions Regulations section 510.214.”
On May 12, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued two new General Licenses (GL) Venezuela GL 3H, “Authorizing Transactions Related to, Provision of Financing for, and Other Dealings in Certain Bonds,” and GL 9G, “Authorizing Transactions Related to Dealings in Certain Securities.” OFAC removed and revoked GL13E. The changes reflect the need to remove Nynas AB. According to the announcement, Nynas AB “has undertaken a corporate restructuring that has resulted in Nynas AB no longer being blocked pursuant to the Venezuela Sanctions Regulations.” Therefore, U.S. persons can engage in transactions or activities with Nynas AB, “provided such activities do not involve blocked persons or otherwise prohibited activities.” OFAC also made conforming technical updates to two FAQs to reflect the issuance of the new GLs.
On May 8, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) reissued the renewal of its Geographic Targeting Orders (GTOs). The GTOs require U.S. title insurance companies to identify the natural persons behind shell companies that pay “all cash” (i.e., the transaction does not involve external financing) for residential real estate in the 12 major metropolitan areas covered by the orders. The renewed GTOs are identical to the November 2019 GTOs (covered by InfoBytes here). The purchase amount threshold for the beneficial ownership reporting requirement remains set at $300,000 for residential real estate purchased in the covered areas. The GTOs do not require reporting for purchases made by legal entities that are U.S. publicly-traded companies.
The renewed GTOs take effect May 10, will extend until November 5, 2020, and cover certain counties within the following areas: Boston; Chicago; Dallas-Fort Worth; Honolulu; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; Miami; New York City; San Antonio; San Diego; San Francisco; and Seattle.
FinCEN FAQs regarding GTOs are available here.
On May 6, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $257,862 settlement with an animal nutrition company for 44 alleged violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR). According to OFAC, between July 2012 and September 2017, the company and its owned or controlled foreign entities allegedly coordinated agricultural commodity sales to a Cuban company without OFAC authorization by processing Cuba-related business through its foreign affiliates and developing “a transaction structure that it incorrectly determined would be consistent with U.S. sanctions requirements.” OFAC noted that the company “could potentially have availed itself of such authorization” or applied for a specific licenses from OFAC, but “failed to seek appropriate advice or otherwise take the steps necessary to authorize these transactions.” OFAC determined that in light of the fact that the transactions may have been eligible for authorization, as well as the company’s voluntary self-disclosure, compliance enhancements, and other factors, the apparent violations constituted a non-egregious case.
OFAC advised U.S. companies with a global presence to maintain an appropriate sanctions compliance program and to seek “appropriate advice and guidance” when contemplating business that may be impacted by U.S. sanctions programs. In addition, OFAC referenced enforcement and compliance resources and cautioned that sanctions violations can arise from a misinterpretation or lack of understanding of OFAC’s regulations, including general licenses and authorizations. OFAC advised U.S. persons to “exercise[e] caution when dealing with foreign subsidiaries or affiliates located in regions subject to U.S. sanctions programs” and to understand the full scope and applicability of authorizations related to certain sanctions prohibitions.
On May 6, the FDIC and Federal Reserve extended the following two upcoming resolution plan filing deadlines for certain banks in light of recent challenges arising from Covid-19:
- September 29, 2020 (90 day extension). This extension applies to the four institutions required to submit plans to address previously identified shortcomings.
- September 29, 2021 (90 day extension). This extension applies to the targeted resolution plans to be submitted by large foreign and domestic Category II and Category III banks under the agencies’ large bank regulatory framework.
Resolution plans for the eight global systemically important banks are still due July 1, 2021, however the agencies noted that they “will monitor conditions and may adjust this deadline if warranted.”
On April 30, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued a Finding of Violation to a travel-related services company for alleged violations of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations. According to OFAC, the company allegedly issued a prepaid card to, and processed 42 transactions totaling more than $35,000 on behalf of, a Specially Designated National (SDN) due to human error and screen system defects. When issuing the Finding of Violation, OFAC considered the fact that, among other things, (i) the company did not engage in willful or reckless behavior; (ii) there is no indication that the company was aware that it provided a card to an SDN or that its risk engine could be overridden; (iii) the company took remedial action in response to the violations to prevent similar reoccurrences; (iv) the company cooperated with OFAC and voluntarily disclosed the violations; and (v) OFAC has not issued a penalty notice or Finding of Violation to the company in at least five years prior to the alleged violations. A civil monetary penalty was not issued to the company.
On May 1, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) announced it would extend the initial compliance dates for certain parts of its single-counterparty credit limit rule (SCLL), which was approved in 2018 and limits a U.S. bank holding company’s or foreign banking organization’s credit exposure to another counterparty. As previously covered by InfoBytes, the Fed initially proposed the extension last November. Under the extension, the largest foreign banks subject to the single-counterparty credit limit rule will have until July 1, 2021 to comply, while smaller foreign banks will not be required to comply until January 1, 2022.
OFAC designates Iranian front company and owner; DOJ files concurrent criminal charges and related civil forfeiture action
On May 1, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated a dual Iranian and Iraqi national and a company owned, controlled, or directed by the designated individual for their alleged involvement with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force (IRGC-QF). According to OFAC, the designated individual allegedly provided support for several years to IRGC-QF’s smuggling operations by securing entry to vessels carrying IRGC-QF shipments, using business connections to facilitate logistics, and developing revenue generating illicit business opportunities. 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 further noted that its regulations “generally prohibit all dealings by U.S. persons or within (or transiting) the United States that involve any property or interests in property of blocked or designated persons,” and warned foreign financial institutions that knowingly facilitating significant transactions or providing significant financial services to the designated individuals may subject them to U.S. correspondent account or payable-through sanctions.
On the same day, the DOJ announced a two-count criminal complaint against the designated individual and another Iranian national for allegedly conspiring to provide U.S. financial services to help several Iranian entities and their front companies purchase a petroleum tanker. The defendants allegedly concealed that the sale of the vessel was destined for Iran, and attempted to evade the regulations, prohibitions, and licensing requirements of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. The DOJ also filed a related civil forfeiture complaint claiming that more than $12 million is subject to forfeiture.
On May 4, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) released a report identifying challenges, good practices, and policy responses to new money laundering and financing threats arising from the Covid-19 pandemic. The report notes that the global response to the Covid-19 pandemic is limiting the ability of the government and public sector to implement oversight of anti-money laundering and countering the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) obligations. Among other things, FATF noted that Covid-19 threats and corresponding vulnerabilities could result in the following: (i) increased misuse of online financial services and virtual assets to move illicit funds; (ii) the bypassing of customer due diligence measures; and (iii) the misuse and misappropriation of domestic and international financial aid. Additionally, FATF noted that the increased use of online platforms for social interaction, consumer shopping, and banking measures may also lead to increased fraud by criminal actors, such as impersonation of officials, counterfeiting essential goods, and fundraising for fake charities. To address these concerns, FATF emphasized that domestic coordination assessing the impact of Covid-19 on AML/CFT risks, the use of a risk-based approach to customer due diligence, and strengthened communication with the private sector may help support the implementation of measures to manage the new risks and vulnerabilities.
On April 29, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) issued a follow-up statement that allows firms the ability to use the LIBOR interest rate benchmark in new sterling LIBOR linked loans for an addition six months due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The FCA acknowledges that due to challenges presented by the current operating environment, it is not feasible for lenders to complete the transition from LIBOR across all new sterling LIBOR linked loans before the original Q3 2020 target end date. The FCA provides several recommendations including: (i) lenders should be in a position to offer non-LIBOR linked products by the end of Q3; (ii) from Q3 onward, lenders and borrowers should agree on a process to facilitate conversion to an alternative rate prior to the end of 2021; and (iii) all new issuances of sterling LIBOR-referencing loan products that expire after the end of 2021 should cease by the end of Q1 2021. The announcement also reiterates the FCA’s previously stated position that the central assumption that firms cannot rely on LIBOR being published after the end of 2021 remains unchanged (covered by InfoBytes here).
Find continuing InfoBytes coverage on LIBOR here.
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