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  • Custody bank to pay $115 million to end overbilling investigation

    Courts

    On May 13, a Massachusetts-based custody bank entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (agreement) with the DOJ related to a criminal indictment for a single count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. According to the DOJ’s press release, the bank acknowledged that, from at least 1998 through 2015, it, along with eight co-conspirator bank executives (collectively, “defendants”), defrauded clients of more than $290 million by charging hidden markups to out-of-pocket (OOP) expenses “on top of fees that the clients had agreed to pay the bank, and despite written agreements that caused clients to believe the expenses would be passed through to them without a markup.”

    Under the terms of the agreement, the bank agreed to (i) pay a $115 million monetary penalty; (ii) continue to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney’s Office; (iii) enhance its compliance practices; and (iv) hire an independent compliance and business ethics monitor for two years. The DOJ credited the bank for (i) voluntarily disclosing its misconduct; (ii) cooperating with the DOJ’s investigation; (iii) undertaking remedial measures to enhance its compliance program and to ensure consequences for individuals and business units involved in the misconduct; (iv) reimbursing affected clients for the overbilled amounts; and (v) previously paying $88 million in civil money penalties to the SEC and $8.575 million in civil penalties to state regulators.

    Courts Fees Department of Justice Indictment Wire Fraud

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  • OFAC sanctions Mexican cartel members and facilitator

    Financial Crimes

    On May 12, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act against a commander and his organization responsible for facilitating drug trafficking between Mexico and the U.S. OFAC also designated six other individuals and one entity as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Kingpin Act for their connections to the organization. Director of OFAC Andrea Gacki noted that the sanctioned organization “help[s] fuel our nation’s opioid epidemic” and that “Treasury and our U.S. government partners, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, will continue to use every available resource to dismantle these criminal networks.” As a result of the sanctions, all property belonging to the sanctioned persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from engaging in any dealings involving the property of blocked or designated persons.

    These sanctions against the drug trafficking cartel are the most recent efforts taken by OFAC pursuant to the Kingpin Act (covered in InfoBytes, here and here).

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury SDN List Of Interest to Non-US Persons Mexico Sanctions OFAC Designations Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration Department of Homeland Security

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  • OFAC sanctions Mexican cartel members and facilitator

    Financial Crimes

    On May 12, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions pursuant to the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act against a commander and his organization responsible for facilitating drug trafficking between Mexico and the U.S. OFAC also designated six other individuals and one entity as Specially Designated Narcotics Traffickers pursuant to the Kingpin Act for their connections to the organization. Director of OFAC Andrea Gacki noted that the sanctioned organization “help[s] fuel our nation’s opioid epidemic” and that “Treasury and our U.S. government partners, including the Drug Enforcement Administration, will continue to use every available resource to dismantle these criminal networks.” As a result of the sanctions, all property belonging to the sanctioned persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked and must be reported to OFAC. U.S. persons are also generally prohibited from engaging in any dealings involving the property of blocked or designated persons.

    These sanctions against the drug trafficking cartel are the most recent efforts taken by OFAC pursuant to the Kingpin Act (covered in InfoBytes, here and here).

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury SDN List Of Interest to Non-US Persons Mexico Sanctions OFAC Designations Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration Department of Homeland Security

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  • OFAC reaches $2.1 million settlement with German software company

    Financial Crimes

    On April 29, OFAC announced a more than $2.1 million settlement with a Germany-based software company for 190 apparent violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. According to OFAC’s website notice, between June 2013 and January 2018, the company “authorized 13 sales of [company] software licenses, 169 sales of related maintenance services and updates, and eight sales of cloud-based subscription services.” Third-party resellers, which the company allegedly referred to as “pass-through entities” in Turkey, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Germany, and Malaysia, sold the software licenses and related maintenances services and updates, OFAC noted.

    In arriving at the settlement amount, OFAC considered various aggravating factors, including that the company (i) demonstrated reckless disregard and failed to exercise sufficient caution or care for U.S. economics sanctions by failing to act on audit findings regarding sanction risk or warnings from compliance, and by ignoring whistleblower complaints; (ii) failed to have an adequate compliance program for a company of its size; (iii) had information to conclude that the software and cloud services were being utilized by entities and end-users in Iran and were supported from the US; and (iv) “is a sophisticated software company with significant international operations and has numerous foreign subsidiaries.”

    OFAC also considered various mitigating factors, including that the company (i) cooperated with OFAC’s investigation; (ii) has undertaken remedial measures, including terminating the users connected to the third-country entities, the partners who participated in the sales to Iranian companies, and five employees who were found to have “knowingly engaged in the sale of. . . products to Iran”; (iii) has prohibited downloads of software, support, and maintenance from embargoed countries; (iv) implemented a risk-based export control framework for partners that requires a stringent review of proposed sales by a third-party auditor; (v) created an upgraded compliance program; and (vi) hired new employees responsible for export control and trade sanctions compliance.

    Separately, the DOJ announced that the company agreed to pay a $8 million fine and entered into a Non-Prosecution Agreement as a result of its voluntary disclosure to the DOJ and “extensive cooperation and strong remediation.” Pursuant to the agreement, the company “will disgorge $5.14 million of ill-gotten gain.”

     

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

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  • FTC brings first action under Covid-19 Consumer Protection Act

    Federal Issues

    On April 15, the FTC announced a civil complaint filed by the DOJ on its behalf, against a St. Louis-based company and its owner for violating the Covid-19 Consumer Protection Act and the FTC Act by making deceptive marketing health claims about their products. (See also DOJ press release here.) This is the first action the FTC has brought under the new law, which makes it unlawful under Section 5 of the FTC Act “for any person, partnership, or corporation to engage in a deceptive act or practice in or affecting commerce . . . that is associated with the treatment, cure, prevention, mitigation, or diagnosis of COVID–19” or “a government benefit related to COVID–19.” The FTC’s complaint alleges that the defendants deceptively marketed their products as being an effective treatment for Covid-19 based on the results of certain scientific studies, even though they “lacked any reasonable bases” for their claims. According to the FTC’s announcement, the defendants also allegedly advertised—without scientific support—that their products were equally, or more, effective than the currently available vaccines. The FTC seeks an injunction against the defendants, along with monetary penalties and other civil remedies to prevent harm caused by the defendants’ misrepresentations.

    Federal Issues FTC Department of Justice UDAP Deceptive Enforcement Consumer Protection Covid-19 Consumer Protection Act

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  • DOJ charges unlicensed money service business with AML violations

    Federal Issues

    On April 14, the DOJ unsealed an indictment charging two defendants with allegedly failing to maintain anti-money laundering (AML) controls, failing to file suspicious activity reports (SARs) with the Department of Treasury, and owning and operating an unlicensed, unregistered money transmitting business in violation of the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). According to the DOJ, the defendants allegedly conducted high-risk transactions through their unlicensed money transmitting and money service business via a New York credit union, “caus[ing] the transfer of more than $1 billion in high-risk transactions, including hundreds of millions of dollars originating from foreign jurisdictions.” The DOJ alleged that while the defendants represented to financial institutions that they were aware of the risks associated with the high-risk business and would conduct the required, appropriate BSA/AML oversight, one of the defendants “willfully failed to implement and maintain the requisite [AML] programs or conduct oversight required to detect, identify, and report suspicious transactions.” The defendants have been charged with failure to maintain an AML program, failure to file SARs, and operating an unlicensed money transmitting business. The indictment seeks forfeiture of any property constituting, or derived from, proceeds obtained directly or indirectly as a result of the alleged offenses.

    Federal Issues Department of Justice Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Of Interest to Non-US Persons SARs Money Service / Money Transmitters Financial Crimes

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