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  • FinCEN Issues Advisory Regarding Venezuelan Government

    Financial Crimes

    On September 20, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued an advisory to financial institutions to warn of public corruption and money laundering related to Venezuelan government agencies and bodies. The advisory lists several red flags specific to the Venezuelan government to assist financial institutions with identifying and reporting suspicious activity to FinCEN, including, among other things, payments for government contracts made to personal accounts or to companies in a different line of business, payments made from shell corporations, and certain real estate purchases by Venezuelan government officials, primarily in south Florida and Houston, Texas.

    As previously reported in InfoBytes, sanctions have recently been imposed on several Venezuelan political figures. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here and here.)

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Treasury Department Sanctions

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  • OFAC Imposes Additional Iranian Sanctions, List Includes Entities Involved in DDoS Attacks Against U.S. Financial Institutions

    Financial Crimes

    On September 14, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it was imposing sanctions on 11 entities and individuals for supporting designated Iranian actors or for conducting malicious cyberattacks, including engaging in a series of distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks against approximately 46 U.S. financial institutions. As reported in an indictment delivered by a federal grand jury in the Southern District of New York (see March 24, 2016 DOJ press release), the DDoS attacks—allegedly conducted by seven Iranian individuals between December 2011 and mid-2013—denied customers access to online bank accounts and collectively cost the affected financial institutions “tens of millions of dollars in remediation costs as they worked to neutralize and mitigate the attacks on their [computer] servers.” During a DDoS attack, a “malicious actor” gains remote control of a server through the installation of malicious software. Once compromised, the “malicious actor” can collect hundreds or thousands of these compromised devices (collectively known as a “botnet”), and, once control is achieved, will “direct the computers or servers comprising the botnet to carry out computer network attack[s] and computer network exploitation activity.” Three of the seven sanctioned individuals worked for a company that was added to OFAC’s updated SDN list on September 14 and oversaw a network of compromised computers that powered DDoS attacks. The other four individuals operated a second DDoS botnet on behalf of a different company listed on OFAC’s non-SDN list. Both Iranian-based private computer security companies perform work on behalf of the Iranian Government, including Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Pursuant to E.O. 13694, U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with the designated entities and individuals, and “foreign financial institutions that facilitate significant transactions for, or persons that provide material or certain other support to, the entities and individuals designated today risk exposure to sanctions that could sever their access to the U.S. financial system or block their property and interests in property under U.S. jurisdiction.”

    In addition, pursuant to E.O. 13382, OFAC sanctioned an Iranian-based engineering company for engaging in activities related to Iran’s ballistic missile program, which include providing “ financial, material, technological, or other support for, or goods or services in support of, the [Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps].” Two Ukrainian-based companies were also sanctioned pursuant to E.O. 13224 for assisting previously sanctioned Iranian and Iraqi airlines in obtaining U.S.-origin aircraft, as well as crew and services.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions Treasury Department OFAC DOJ Indictment Privacy/Cyber Risk & Data Security

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  • GAO Issues Report on Combating Narcotics-Related Money Laundering in the Western Hemisphere

    Financial Crimes

    On September 7, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report, Anti-Money Laundering: U.S. Efforts to Combat Narcotics-Related Money Laundering in the Western Hemisphere, detailing activities by the Treasury and State Departments to combat these illicit activities. In conducting the study, GAO reviewed laws, regulations, and budget data, and also conducted interviews with experts and U.S. officials, in order to examine anti-money laundering activities over the period of fiscal years 2011 through 2015. GAO also made site visits to Colombia, Mexico, and Panama, identified as “jurisdictions of primary concern for money laundering” by the State Department. Among other things, the report noted that “State and Treasury allocated about $63 million to support AML-related capacity-building and technical assistance” to fund training and equipment for financial intelligence units employed to detect illicit financial transactions in these countries. The report further provides that many entities are required to report suspicious activities to the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, which was established to collect, analyze, and disseminate “financial intelligence information to combat money laundering.”

    Financial Crimes Anti-Money Laundering GAO Bank Secrecy Act Treasury Department Department of State FinCEN

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  • OCC Updates Comptroller’s Licensing Manual to Provide Revised Guidance on Flood Insurance Requirements

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On September 7, the OCC released OCC Bulletin 2017-35 announcing a replacement of its handbook titled “Flood Disaster Protection Act” (FDPA)—last issued in 1999—to reflect recent amendments to the FDPA and implement regulations that resulted from the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 (Biggert-Waters Act) and the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014. The booklet, which is part of the Comptroller’s Licensing Manual, clarifies the following changes, among other things:

    • flood insurance requirement exemptions for certain detached nonresidential structures;
    • a requirement that banks—or servicers acting on behalf of a bank—escrow flood insurance premiums and fees for “any loan secured by a residential improved real estate or a mobile home that is made, increased, extended, or renewed on or after January 1, 2016,” and also lists exemptions to the requirement;
    • a requirement that banks and servicers “subject to the escrow requirement” must provide borrowers the option to escrow flood insurance premiums and fees and are required to implement the escrow “as soon as reasonably practicable” after the request has been received;
    • FDPA provisions on force-placed insurance, including termination and refund requirements; and
    • “examination procedures for determining compliance with the detached structure, escrow, and force placement provisions.”

    Notably, the OCC stated that the Biggert-Waters Act provision, which requires the acceptance of private flood insurance policies that meets specified criteria to satisfy the mandatory purchase requirement, has not yet been adopted and will be addressed separately.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance OCC Flood Insurance Licensing Treasury Department Force-placed Insurance Escrow Mortgages

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  • FinCEN Releases Advisory Alert for Financial Institutions, OFAC Issues Sanctions Against South Sudanese Government Officials

    Financial Crimes

    On September 6, the Treasury Department issued a press release announcing multiple actions taken in response to the “continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation in South Sudan.” Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, Sigal Mandelker, stated, “These actions send a clear message to those enriching themselves at the expense of the South Sudanese people that we will not let them exploit the U.S. financial system to move and hide the proceeds of their corruption and malign behavior.”

    Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). FinCEN issued an advisory (FIN-2017-A004) to financial institutions to address concerns that certain South Sudanese senior political figures may potentially move assets using the U.S. financial system. FinCEN projects that since 2013—when a new political conflict began in Sudan—certain senior political officials from both the government and opposition parties have “engaged in and profited from corrupt practices.” The advisory provides due diligence guidance for U.S. financial institutions, issues a reminder regarding suspicious activity report filing obligations, and warns financial institutions to “assess the risk for laundering of the proceeds of public corruption associated with specific particular customers and transactions.”

    Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Pursuant to Executive Order 13664, which blocks the property of certain persons with respect to South Sudan and authorizes sanctions against persons who threaten the peace, security, or stability of South Sudan, OFAC issued sanctions against three government officials and three entities owned by one of the sanctioned individuals. The identified individuals’ actions include, among other things, (i) “actions or policies that threaten the peace, security, and stability of South Sudan”; (ii) “actions or policies that have the purpose or effect of expanding or extending the conflict in South Sudan or obstructing reconciliation or peace talks or processes”; and (iii) “obstruction of the activities of international peacekeeping, diplomatic, or humanitarian missions in South Sudan, or of the delivery or distribution of, or access to, humanitarian assistance.” The sanctions prohibit any U.S. individual from dealing with the designated entities and individuals, and further states that “all of these individuals’ and entities’ assets within U.S. jurisdiction are blocked.” Additionally, individuals designated under Executive Order 13664 are banned from entry into the U.S.

    Financial Crimes OFAC FinCEN Sanctions Treasury Department

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  • CFPB, Treasury, and FinCEN Release Memorandum Emphasizing Financial Institutions’ Role in Preventing Elder Financial Exploitation

    Consumer Finance

    On August 30, the CFPB, Treasury Department, and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (the agencies) issued a joint memorandum concerning elder financial exploitation (EFE). The agencies note that EFE—which is defined as “the illegal or improper use of an older person’s funds, property or assets”—has become the most common form of elder abuse in the U.S. The Memorandum on Financial Institution and Law Enforcement Efforts to Combat Elder Financial Exploitation emphasizes that financial institutions can play a key role in detecting, responding to, and preventing EFE, encourages collaboration with law enforcement and local adult protective service agencies to facilitate the timely response to reports, and outlines guidance relating to the filing of suspicious activity reports (SARs). According to the memorandum, “SARs can play an important role in the fight against EFE by providing information and references to any supporting documentation that can trigger an investigation, support an ongoing investigation, or identify previously unknown subjects and entities.” The agencies cautioned, however, that “access to SARs and their use is restricted under federal law” and that law enforcement agencies should contact FinCEN for assistance in SAR-related inquiries.

    Consumer Finance CFPB FinCEN SARs Agency Rule-Making & Guidance Treasury Department

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  • President Trump Imposes Additional Venezuelan Sanctions

    Financial Crimes

    On August 24, President Trump announced the issuance of new sanctions against Venezuela. Executive Order 13808 “Imposing Additional Sanctions with Respect to the Situation in Venezuela,” adds additional restrictions to those declared in Executive Order 13692. The sanctions prohibit transactions related to the following:

    • “new debt with a maturity of greater than 90 days” in conjunction with the Venezuelan state-owned oil and natural gas company (state-owned company);
    • “new debt with a maturity of greater than 30 days, or new equity, of the Government of Venezuela, other than debt” in conjunction with the state-owned company;
    • “bonds issued by the Government of Venezuela prior to the effective date of this order”;
    • “dividend payments or other distributions of profits to the Government of Venezuela from any entity owned or controlled, directly or indirectly, by the Government of Venezuela;
    • “[t]he purchase, directly or indirectly, by a [U.S.] person or within the [U.S.], of securities from the Government of Venezuela, other than securities qualifying as new debt with a maturity of less than or equal to 90 days [for state-owned company debt] or 30 days [for other Government of Venezuela debt].”

    On August 25, OFAC also issued four General Licenses containing additional provisions: (i) General License 1 imposes a wind-down period through September 24, 2017 for contracts and other agreements that were effective prior to the Executive Order's effective date; (ii) General License 2 authorizes certain transactions involving a specifically listed holding company; (iii) General License 3 authorizes dealings in certain specified Government of Venezuela-related bonds that would otherwise be prohibited; and (iv) General License 4 allows new debt transactions related to “the provision of financing for, and other dealings in new debt related to the exportation or reexportation, from the [U.S.] or by a U.S. person . . . of agricultural commodities, medicine, medical devices, or replacement parts and components for medical devices,” provided compliance with the outlined requirements and limitations. OFAC also published answers to several related frequently asked questions concerning the additional sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Treasury Department

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  • OFAC Settles Alleged Iran Sanction Violations with Singapore-Based Oilfield Services Company

    Financial Crimes

    On August 24, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it had reached a $415,350 settlement with a Singaporean oilfield services company for an alleged 55 violations of Iran sanctions regulations. OFAC asserted that the company “exported or attempted to export 55 orders of oil rig supplies from the [U.S.] to Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, and then re-exported or attempted to re-export these supplies to four separate oil rigs located in Iranian territorial waters” from approximately October 2011 through February 2013. OFAC alleged that each instance of this conduct, which the company did not voluntarily self-disclose, violated OFAC’s Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. Had the company not settled, OFAC determined that civil monetary penalties ranged from approximately $923,000 to $13.75 million. In establishing the penalty, OFAC considered that the company: (i) failed to act with an appropriate level of caution by exporting goods to oil rigs located in Iranian territorial waters; (ii) aided the development of Iran's energy resources; (iii) “is a large, sophisticated company with 14 offshore drilling rigs doing business throughout the world;” and (iv) “did not have an OFAC compliance program in place at the time of the transactions.” As for mitigating factors, OFAC determined that: (i) the company has no prior sanctions history with OFAC; (ii) the company took remedial action by implementing an OFAC compliance program; and (iii) the company cooperated with the investigation and entered into a tolling agreement with OFAC.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Treasury Department

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  • OFAC Imposes Sanctions on Chinese and Russian Entities and Individuals for Aiding North Korea

    Financial Crimes

    On August 22, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it was imposing sanctions on ten entities and six individuals from China, Russia, Singapore, and Namibia for their roles in supporting North Korea’s efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction, violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and attempted evasion of U.S. sanctions. The sanctions prohibit any U.S. individual from dealing with the designated entities and individuals, and further states that “any property or interests in property of the designated persons in the possession or control of U.S. persons or within the United States must be blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.” OFAC’s notice identified entities and individuals that (i) assisted already-designated persons supporting North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs; (ii) dealt in the North Korean energy trade; (iii) facilitated overseas labor to North Korea; and (iv) enabled sanctioned North Korean entities to access the U.S. and international financial systems. Targets include three Chinese coal companies allegedly responsible for importing nearly half a billion dollars' worth of North Korean coal, as well as three Russians individuals and two Singapore-based companies OFAC claimed were involved in providing oil to North Korea.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions Treasury Department OFAC

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  • OFAC Settles Alleged Iran Sanction Violations with International Freight Forwarder

    Financial Crimes

    On August 17, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it had reached a $518,063 civil settlement with a California-based international freight forwarder for alleged violations of sanctions against Iran. OFAC claimed that the company shipped “used and junked cars and parts” from the U.S. to Afghanistan, via Iran, on 140 separate occasions from approximately April 2010 through June 2012. OFAC alleged that each instance of this conduct, which the company “did not voluntarily self-disclose,” violated OFAC’s Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR). See 31 C.F.R. § 560.204.

    Had the company not settled, OFAC determined that civil monetary penalties ranged from approximately $1.5 million to $35 million. In establishing this range, OFAC alleged that the following were aggravating factors: (i) the company “demonstrated a reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements by failing to exercise a minimal degree of caution or care in transshipping goods through Iran”; (ii) the company’s “President and co-owner knew and approved of the transshipments via Iran”; (iii) the company “provided an economic benefit to Iran through its pattern of conduct and the volume of transactions in which it engaged”; and (iv) the company is “sophisticated” and has “experience with U.S. export laws and OFAC regulations, particularly the ITSR.”

    As for mitigating factors, OFAC alleged that: (i) the goods “did not appear to have an end use in Iran”; (ii) the company “has no prior OFAC sanctions history”; (iii) the company is a “small business,” and the alleged violations “constituted less than one percent of its total shipments” during the relevant time period; (iv) the company “had an OFAC compliance program in place” during the relevant time period; (v) the company “took remedial steps”; and (vi) the company “cooperated with OFAC’s investigation.”

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Treasury Department

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