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On November 17, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it had reached a $204,277 settlement with a U.S. financial institution for alleged violations of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR). The settlement involves actions taken by an international credit card company which, at the time of the apparent violations, was a wholly owned subsidiary of an entity that was itself 50 percent owned by the U.S. financial institution. According to the announcement, between 2009 and 2014, credit cards that the company issued to over 100 corporate customers were used to make purchases in Cuba or otherwise involved Cuba. OFAC asserts that the company failed to implement controls to prevent this even though it had policies and procedures in place to review transactions for compliance with CACR.
In determining the settlement amount, OFAC considered that (i) employees within the company had reason to know of the conduct that led to the alleged violations; (ii) none of the entities involved appeared to appreciate the risk that the credit cards might be used in Cuba; (iii) at the time they occurred, the actions resulted in harm to the US sanctions program objectives; (iv) the U.S. financial institution is a large and sophisticated financial entity; and (v) during the investigation, the entities provided “verifiably inaccurate or incomplete, including material omissions.” OFAC also considered the fact that the entities voluntarily self-disclosed the alleged violations and the U.S. financial institution took “swift and appropriate remedial action” upon discovery.
OFAC recently announced updates to CACR, covered by InfoBytes here.
On November 21, the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) published additional guidance regarding member firms’ obligations under FINRA Rule 3310, which requires adoption of an anti-money laundering (AML) program. The guidance provided in Regulatory Notice 17-40 follows the Financial Crime Enforcement Network’s (FinCEN) 2016 adoption of a final rule on customer due diligence requirements for financial institutions (CDD Rule). Under the CDD Rule, member firms must now comply with a “fifth pillar,” which requires them to “identify and verify the identity of the beneficial owners of all legal entity customers” at the time when a new account is opened, subject to certain exclusions and exemptions. Additionally, the “fifth pillar” requires member firms to understand the nature and purpose of customer relationships, conduct ongoing monitoring to report suspicious activities and transactions, and maintain and update customer information “on a risk basis.”
The “fifth pillar” supplements the previously established Bank Secrecy Act AML program requirements, coined the “four pillars,” which require member firms to (i) establish policies and procedures to “achieve compliance”; (ii) conduct independent compliance testing; (iii) designate responsible individuals to implement and monitor AML compliance; and (iv) provide ongoing training.
The CDD Rule became effective on July 11, 2016, and member firms must comply by May 11, 2018. FINRA advises members firms to consult the CDD Rule, along with FinCEN's related FAQs, to ensure AML program compliance.
DOJ Charges Head of Organization Backed by Chinese Energy Conglomerate and Former Foreign Minister of Senegal With Bribing High-Level Officials in Chad and Uganda
On November 20, the DOJ unsealed a criminal complaint charging two people (collectively, the “Defendants”) with participating in a multi-year, multimillion-dollar scheme to bribe high-level officials in Chad and Uganda in exchange for business advantages for a Shanghai-based energy conglomerate (the “Energy Company”). One of the Defendants is the head of a non-governmental organization based in Hong Kong and Virginia that holds “Special Consultative Status” with the United Nations Economic and Social Council. The Energy NGO is funded by the Energy Company. The other Defendant is the former Foreign Minister of Senegal and operated an international consulting firm. The DOJ charged the Defendants with (i) conspiring to violate the FCPA, (ii) violating the FCPA, (iii) conspiring to commit international money laundering, and (iv) committing international money laundering. The Defendants have both been arrested and presented before Magistrates.
The DOJ alleges that the Defendants conspired to bribe African government officials on behalf of the Energy Company. Specifically, the DOJ alleges that in an effort to secure oil rights from the Chadian government, the Defendants offered a $2 million bribe to the President of Chad – and in return, the Defendants secured exclusive oil rights without competition. The Defendants allegedly wired almost a million dollars through New York’s banking system in furtherance of their scheme. One of the Defendants also allegedly provided Ugandan officials with gifts and promises to share profits derived from the Energy Company.
The DOJ announced last week that two former executives of a Dutch oil and gas services company pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas. The company's CEO from 2008 to 2011 and a former U.S.-based sales and marketing executive, admitted their involvement in a scheme to bribe government officials in Brazil, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea. The government’s allegations relate to payments made and kickbacks provided to foreign officials in exchange for their assistance in securing contracts in those countries.
The former U.S.-based sales and marketing executive is scheduled for sentencing on January 31, 2018, and the company's former CEO is scheduled for sentencing on February 2, 2018.
Click here for FCPA Scorecard’s prior coverage of this matter.
American Multinational Retail Corporation Sets Aside $283 Million for Potential Resolution of FCPA Allegations
On November 16, an American multinational retail corporation disclosed in an SEC filing that it has set aside $283 million for a potential resolution with DOJ and SEC of alleged FCPA violations. The investigation into possible FCPA violations in Mexico was first disclosed in the company’s December 2011 SEC filing and, in subsequent filings, the company stated that the allegations had been expanded to include possible violations in Brazil, China, and India, among others.
In its November 16 filing, the company reiterated that it has been cooperating with the DOJ and SEC in their investigations, and the discussions with these government agencies has progressed such that the company can reasonably estimate a probable loss of $283 million, although it noted that the company cannot assure that its efforts to resolve these matters will ultimately succeed as anticipated.
Click here for FCPA Scorecard’s prior coverage of this matter.
On November 15, the SEC Division of Enforcement released a report highlighting the division’s priorities for the coming year and summarizing the enforcement actions from FY 2017. Division Co-Directors Stephanie Avakian and Steven Peikin identify and discuss the five core principles that guide their decision making: (i) “Focus on the Main Street Investor”; (ii) “Focus on Individual Accountability”; (iii) “Keep Pace With Technological Change”; (iv) “Impose Sanctions That Most Effectively Further Enforcement Goals”; and (v) “Constantly Assess the Allocation of [the Division’s] Resources.”
The report highlights the two new initiatives announced in 2017 as key priorities: the Cyber Unit and Retail Strategy Task Force (previously covered by InfoBytes). The report also gives an overview of the 754 FY 2017 enforcement actions, including a summary of the various remedies the Division sought.
On November 9, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against ten current or former officials of the government of Venezuela for “undermining electoral processes, media censorship, or corruption in government-administered food programs in Venezuela.” The designation follows October 15, 2017 state elections in Venezuela, which were “marked by numerous irregularities that strongly suggest fraud helped the ruling party unexpectedly win a majority of governorships.” Under the sanctions, issued pursuant to Executive Order 13692 (see previous InfoBytes coverage here), all assets belonging to the identified individuals subject to U.S. jurisdiction are frozen, and U.S. persons are prohibited from having any dealings with them.
On November 7, the DOJ unsealed FCPA charges against five individuals for their alleged participation in a foreign bribery scheme involving a British luxury car company and its U.S. subsidiary. Of the five individuals, one was indicted while the remaining four pleaded guilty for their roles in an alleged scheme to pay bribes to a Kazakhstan official in order to secure a supply contract for a gas pipeline from Kazakhstan to China. The charges and guilty pleas were unsealed in Ohio federal district court.
These charges follow on the heels of the company’s January 2017 settlement with DOJ in which the company agreed to a three-year deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to pay $170 million to resolve charges that it conspired to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA around the world. As part of the DOJ settlement, the company agreed to continue to cooperate fully with the DOJ’s investigation, including its investigation of individuals. The DOJ settlement comprised just a fraction of the $800 million total penalty the company agreed to pay as part of a global resolution related to the corrupt conduct.
Of the four guilty pleas, three individuals (a former executive of the company, a former employee of the company, and an executive at an international engineering consulting firm) pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA. The fourth individual (a former senior executive of the company) also pleaded guilty to one count of violating the FCPA in addition to conspiracy. The indicted individual, a former CEO of the company's intermediary, was charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and seven counts of violating the FCPA, along with various money laundering charges.
The DOJ’s announcement noted the “significant cooperation and assistance” from the UK SFO and Brazil law enforcement. This continues the increased trend of DOJ receiving and then highlighting cooperation efforts by its international counterparts.
On November 8, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced amendments to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations to implement changes related to certain financial transaction restrictions and economic activities. In accordance with the National Security Presidential Memorandum issued by President Trump on June 16, the amendments will, among other things, prohibit “persons subject to U.S. jurisdictions” from engaging in financial transactions with entities and subentities identified on the State Department’s Cuba Restricted List. This effort is intended to “channel economic activities away from the Cuban military, intelligence, and security services, while maintaining opportunities for Americans to engage in authorized travel to Cuba and support the private, small business sector in Cuba.” The amendments will take effect November 9. OFAC also released updated FAQs and a fact sheet to answer questions related to the amended regulations.
FinCEN Announces Final Rule Restricting North Korea’s Access to U.S. Financial System; Issues Advisory Regarding North Korean Strategies
On November 2, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a final rule (Rule) under Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT ACT, which prohibits U.S. financial institutions from processing transactions for foreign correspondent accounts involving a Chinese bank (Bank) that was suspected of facilitating illicit North Korean financial activity and laundering funds to finance North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs. U.S. financial institutions are also instructed to apply enhanced due diligence to foreign correspondent accounts to prevent them from being used to process transactions involving the Bank. The Rule is effective 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register.
In tandem with the issuance of the Rule, FinCEN issued an advisory (FIN-2017-A008) to warn U.S. financial institutions about strategies used by North Korean enterprises as a means to gain access to international financial systems, including (i) the use of a network of global financial representatives; (ii) trade-based payment schemes; (iii) front and shell companies; (iv) surge activity cycles; and (v) financial institutions that operate in areas bordering North Korea. The advisory’s regulatory guidance is designed to assist financial institutions in identifying and reporting suspicious activity by North Korea and its financial institutions. The guidance follows a September 26 announcement by the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control that imposed additional sanctions on North Korean banks and individuals connected to global North Korean financial networks. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)
- Melissa Klimkiewicz to discuss "Lender town hall" at the National Flood Conference webinar
- Daniel P. Stipano to discuss "BSA for BSA seasoned officers" at an NAFCU webinar
- Sherry-Maria Safchuk to discuss "The CCPA: Successes, failures, and practical considerations for compliance" at a American Bar Association webinar
- Jon David D. Langlois to discuss "LIBOR transition: Preparations for legal professionals" at a Mortgage Bankers Association webinar
- Garylene D. Javier to discuss "Navigating workplace culture in 2020" at the DC Bar Conference