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Financial Services Law Insights and Observations


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  • 2nd Circuit rules that FCPA does not reach foreign individuals without their own ties to U.S.

    Financial Crimes

    On August 24, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit rejected the government’s argument for a broad interpretation of personal jurisdiction in FCPA cases, ruling that a non-resident foreign national lacking sufficient ties to a U.S. entity cannot be charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA or with aiding and abetting an FCPA violation. The three-judge panel upheld the lower court’s finding that a British national and former French multinational rail transportation company executive (defendant-appellee), could not be charged with conspiring or aiding and abetting something he could not be directly charged with because he was “not an agent, employee, officer, director or shareholder of an American issuer or domestic concern” within the scope of the FCPA’s jurisdictional provision and had not himself taken actions inside the U.S. 

    The defendant-appellee was an employee of the French company’s UK subsidiary and worked for a French subsidiary. The government alleged that he was “one of the people responsible for approving the selection of, and authorizing payments to,” consultants used by the French company’s U.S. subsidiary to bribe Indonesian officials related to a power contract. The government alleged numerous U.S. acts in furtherance of the bribery (including e-mails and calls by the defendant-appellee to the U.S.), although the defendant-appellee himself never traveled to the U.S. during the scheme. The defendant-appellee was one of four executives charged in 2013 in connection with the bribes; the other three executives—all of whom worked for the U.S.-based subsidiary—a power generation equipment manufacturer (which entered into a deferred prosecution agreement)—entered guilty pleas. The company pleaded guilty in December 2014 and paid a fine of $772 million.

    The charges against the defendant-appellee included a FCPA conspiracy count as well as substantive FCPA bribery violations and related money laundering charges. The District Court granted the defendant-appellee’s motion to dismiss part of the conspiracy count, ruling that if he was not alleged in that count to be a covered person under the FCPA, then the government could not impose accomplice liability either. Similarly, where the government had not alleged that the defendant-appellee ever traveled to the U.S. during the bribery scheme, then he could not be accused of conspiring to violate the provision proscribing acts by foreign nationals taken within the U.S. The District Court allowed the count to move forward where it separately alleged that the defendant-appellee was also an agent of the U.S. subsidiary, which would bring him within the FCPA’s defined reach.

    The 2nd Circuit agreed with the District Court that if the defendant-appellee was not an agent of the French company’s U.S. subsidiary (something the court assumed for the purpose of the appeal only), and therefore himself covered under the FCPA, then he could not be charged with conspiracy or complicity liability. The court relied primarily on the idea that Congress enacted an “affirmative legislative policy” in the FCPA that was intended to punish some categories of defendants, taking into account considerations of extraterritoriality, while intentionally omitting others. Secondarily, the court also held that there was no “‘clearly expressed congressional intent to’ allow conspiracy and complicity liability to broaden the extraterritorial reach of the statute.” The court summed up its ruling as requiring that the government demonstrate that the defendant-appellee “falls within [a category enumerated in the FCPA] or acted illegally on American soil.”

    The court did reverse the District Court’s second ruling that unless the defendant-appellee traveled to the U.S. during the bribery scheme, he could not be charged with conspiring to violate the FCPA provision covering acts by foreign nationals within the U.S. The government had indicated that it still intended, at trial on the other counts, to prove that he was an agent of the U.S. subsidiary, thereby bringing him back within the categories explicitly covered by the FCPA. (The substantive FCPA counts remaining did allege that the defendant-appellee was acting as an agent).

    See previous FCPA Scorecard coverage here, here, and here.

    Financial Crimes DOJ International Bribery FCPA

  • International bank agrees to pay $4.9 billion in civil penalties to settle allegations of RMBS misconduct


    On August 14, the DOJ announced a settlement with an international bank to resolve federal civil claims of misconduct in the bank’s underwriting and issuing of residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) to investors in the lead-up to the 2008 financial crisis. According to the press release, the bank allegedly violated the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act by, among other things, failing to accurately disclose the risk of the RMBS investments when selling the securities. Under the terms of the settlement, the bank has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $4.9 billion. The bank disputes the allegations and does not admit to any liability or wrongdoing.

    Securities DOJ Settlement RMBS Mortgages International FIRREA

  • OFAC targets shipping industry in expanded North Korea sanction

    Financial Crimes

    On August 15, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed additional sanctions, pursuant to Executive Order 13810, designed to reinforce the U.S.’s ongoing commitment to prevent the financing of North Korea’s weapons of mass destruction programs and activities. The sanctions designate a Chinese-based trading company and its Singaporean-based affiliate, along with a Russian-based port service agency and its director general, for allegedly facilitating illicit shipments on behalf of North Korea. Pursuant to OFAC’s sanctions, all property and interests in property of the designated persons within U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from participating in transactions with these persons. 

    See here for previous InfoBytes coverage on North Korean sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury North Korea Sanctions International

  • Regulators create Global Financial Innovation Network


    On August 7, the United Kingdom’s Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) announced the creation of the Global Financial Innovation Network (GFIN) in collaboration with 11 global financial regulators, including the CFPB. As set forth in the GFIN Consultation Document, the three major functions of the initiative are: (i) information sharing among regulators on topics including emerging technologies and business models; (ii) providing a forum for joint policy work; and (iii) instituting “cross-border trials” to create a testing environment for companies as they deal with global regulatory challenges. GFIN’s intention is to serve as an efficient way for innovative fintech firms to interact with regulators and promote transparency, and plans to explore the concept of a “global sandbox” to create opportunities for these firms to test new financial services and products such as artificial intelligence, distributed ledger technology, and initial coin offerings in multiple jurisdictions.

    In a press release issued the same day, the Bureau noted that the decision to join the group is a demonstration of its “commitment to promoting innovation by coordinating with state, federal and international regulators.” Acting Director Mick Mulvaney further commented, “We look forward to working closely with other regulatory authorities—whether in the United States or abroad—to facilitate innovation and promote regulatory best practices in consumer financial services.”

    The working group seeks multi-jurisdictional comments on the Consultation Document to assess feedback on its proposed mission, function, and priorities. U.S. persons can submit comments through the Bureau’s Office of Innovation or through the FCA and other regulators. Comments must be received by October 14.

    Fintech Financial Conduct Authority CFPB Regulatory Sandbox International

  • OFAC issues Ukraine-/Russia-related General License to extend expiration date

    Financial Crimes

    On July 31, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it was issuing Ukraine-/Russia-related General License 13C (GL 13C) to replace and supersede General License 13B (GL 13B) in its entirety, and to extend the expiration date through October 23, 2018. (See previous InfoBytes coverage on GL 13B, which was set to expire August 5, here.) GL 13C, which permits the same conduct as GL 13B, authorizes activities that would otherwise be prohibited by the Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations. Permissible activities include authorizing certain divestiture transactions with specified blocked persons to a non-U.S. person, and allowing the facilitation of transfers of debt, equity, or other holdings involving listed blocked persons, including entities owned 50 percent or more and issued by the named persons. In accordance with the issuance of GL 13C, OFAC issued updates to relevant FAQs.

    Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Ukraine/Russian sanctions.

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury OFAC Russia Sanctions International Ukraine

  • OFAC, France announce coordinated action against global procurement network supporting Syria’s chemical weapons program

    Financial Crimes

    On July 25, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added five entities and eight individuals to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List for their ties to a procurement network providing support to Syria’s chemical weapons program. OFAC acted in coordination with the French government and pursuant to Executive Order 13382, which targets proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters. As a result, all assets belonging to the identified individuals and entities subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from entering into transactions with them.

    Visit here for continuing InfoBytes coverage on Syrian sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Syria International Sanctions

  • OFAC issues Venezuela General License, updates FAQs

    Financial Crimes

    On July 19, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued Venezuela General License 5 (GL 5) to allow U.S. persons to engage in transactions related to the financing for, and other dealings in the Petroleos de Venezuela SA 2020 8.5 Percent Bond that would otherwise by prohibited by Executive Order 13835 (E.O. 13835). (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) OFAC also published two additional FAQs to provide additional guidance on the reasons for the issuance of GL 5 as well as answers to whether E.O. 13835 prohibits U.S. persons having a legal judgment against the Government of Venezuela from attaching and executing against Venezuelan government assets, including vessels, properties, or financial assets.

    Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Venezuela sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Department of Treasury Venezuela International

  • FinCEN director comments on cooperative efforts to freeze assets belonging to transnational criminal organization

    Financial Crimes

    On July 14, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) Director Kenneth A. Blanco issued a statement regarding recent actions taken by Argentina’s Unidad de Informaciὀn Financiera de la República Argentina (UIF-AR) to freeze assets belonging to Clan Bakarat, a transnational criminal organization with ties to Hezbollah leadership. According to Director Blanco, FinCEN’s cooperative efforts with UIF-AR led to the action against Clan Barakat, which is currently listed with the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist for its suspected involvement with money laundering and terrorist financing among other things.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN International OFAC Department of Treasury Anti-Money Laundering

  • OFAC revokes JCPOA-related General Licenses

    Financial Crimes

    On June 27, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued an announcement revoking Iran-related General Licenses H and I (GL-H and GL-I) following President Trump’s May 8 withdrawal from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action. In conjunction with these changes, OFAC amended the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations to authorize certain wind-down activities through August 6 (GL-I) and November 4 (GL-H) related to, among other things, letters of credit and brokering services. In addition OFAC released updated FAQs related to the May 8 re-imposition of nuclear-related sanctions.

    See here for continuing InfoBytes coverage of actions related to Iran.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Iran Sanctions International

  • FinCEN issues advisory on connection between politically exposed persons and financial facilitators

    Financial Crimes

    On June 12, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory to U.S. financial institutions to increase awareness of the connection between high-level political corruption and human rights abuses. The advisory highlights the use of financial facilitators as a means to gain access to global financial systems for the purpose of moving or hiding illicit proceeds and evading U.S. and global sanctions. Among other things, the advisory, which is designed to assist financial institutions in identifying and reporting suspicious activity, provides typologies used by “politically exposed persons” (PEPs) to access the U.S. financial system and obscure illicit activity. FinCEN also provides several red flags outlining various types of suspected schemes that may be indicators of suspicious activity. The advisory’s regulatory guidance further reminds financial institutions of their risk-based, due diligence obligations, which include (i) identifying legal entities owned or controlled by PEPs (as required by FinCEN’s Customer Due Diligence Rule); (ii) complying with anti-money laundering program obligations; and (iii) filing Suspicious Activity Reports related to illegal activity undertaken by senior foreign political figures.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Sanctions International Anti-Money Laundering SARs


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