Skip to main content
Menu Icon Menu Icon

InfoBytes Blog

Financial Services Law Insights and Observations
Section Content

Upcoming Events


Subscribe to our InfoBytes Blog weekly newsletter for news affecting the financial services industry.

  • Germany’s Largest Bank Agrees to Fix Foreign Exchange Activities Controls and Volcker Rule Compliance Program, Fined Nearly $157 Million

    Federal Issues

    On April 20, the Federal Reserve issued two separate enforcement actions against a major German global bank and its subsidiaries for allegedly failing to have appropriate controls to ensure that the bank’s foreign exchange activities (Covered FX Activities) were in compliance and also allegedly failing to have an adequate compliance program to ensure its traders abided by the Volcker Rule’s requirements. The combined sanctions total almost $157 million in civil money penalties.

    Covered FX Activities. According to the Fed’s cease and desist order, the Board of Governors’ investigation, covering October 2008 through October 2013, found deficiencies in the bank’s governance, risk management, compliance, and audit policies and procedures. Specifically, FX traders communicated through chatrooms with traders at other financial institutions, but due to deficient policies and procedures, the bank failed to detect and address such “unsafe and unsound conduct.” Under the terms of the order, the bank is required to submit the following: (i) a written plan to improve senior management’s oversight of the bank’s compliance with applicable U.S. laws and regulations and applicable internal policies in connection with its foreign exchange activities; (ii) an enhanced written internal control and compliance program designed to monitor and detect potential misconduct; and (iii) a written plan to improve its compliance risk management program with applicable U.S. laws and regulations with respect to foreign exchange activities. In addition, the bank must pay a $136.9 million civil money penalty.

    Volcker Rule. That same day the Fed also issued a consent order to the bank for allegedly failing to establish a compliance program reasonably designed to ensure and monitor compliance with Volcker Rule requirements. The Volker Rule prohibits insured depository institutions and affiliates from engaging in proprietary trading and from acquiring or retaining ownership interests in, sponsoring, or having certain relationships with a hedge fund or private equity fund. The  consent order’s findings were based on a Volcker Rule CEO attestation, “which identified the existence of weaknesses in the [bank’s] Volcker Rule compliance program, including, among other things, certain governance, design, and operational deficiencies across key compliance pillars and the design of reporting mechanisms.” Moreover, the Board of Governors’ determination was based on, among other things, (i) “significant” gaps in the bank’s compliance program which resulted in deficiencies in the scope of independent testing efforts; (ii) “significant” weaknesses in the bank’s demonstrable analyses “showing that its proprietary trading is not to exceed the reasonably expected near term demands of clients, customers, or counterparties—[referred to as “RENT-D”]—required for permitted market-making activities,”; and (iii) weakness in the bank’s metrics reporting and monitoring process which, when combined with the aforementioned, “limited the [b]ank’s ability to adequately monitor trading activity.” Under the terms of the consent order, the bank is required to submit a written plan to improve senior management’s oversight of the firm’s compliance with Volcker Rule requirements. It must also submit enhanced written internal controls and compliance risk management program measures. These submissions are in addition to paying a $19.71 million civil money penalty.

    Federal Issues Enforcement Bank Compliance Volcker Rule Sanctions Federal Reserve

    Share page with AddThis
  • DOJ’s Trevor McFadden Addresses Anti-Corruption, Export Controls & Sanctions Compliance Summit

    Financial Crimes

    On April 18, Acting Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Trevor McFadden spoke at the 10th annual Anti-Corruption, Export Controls & Sanctions Compliance Summit in Washington, D.C. According to Mr. McFadden, the Justice Department “remains committed to enforcing the FCPA and to prosecuting fraud and corruption more generally.” He emphasized the importance of company cooperation, stating that that the department considers voluntary self-disclosures and remedial efforts when making charging decisions. Mr. McFadden also stated that the department is making a “concerted effort to move corporate investigations expeditiously,” adding that FCPA investigations should be “measured in months, not years.”

    Mr. McFadden also discussed an increased prioritization of anti-corruption prosecutions around the world and stated that the DOJ will “seek to reach global resolutions that apportion penalties between the relevant jurisdictions so that companies that want to accept responsibility for misconduct are not unfairly penalized by multiple agencies.”

    Additionally, the department is assessing its FCPA Pilot Program. Last year, as part of the Program, the department began publishing information on cases it declined to prosecute due to voluntary self-disclosure, full cooperation, and comprehensive remediation. Mr. McFadden stated that the Program is “one example of an effort to provide more transparency and consistency for our corporate resolutions” and “will continue in full force.”

    Financial Crimes DOJ Anti-Corruption Export Controls Sanctions FCPA Pilot Program

    Share page with AddThis
  • FINRA Releases Revisions to Its Sanction Guidelines

    Financial Crimes

    On April 10, FINRA issued a notice revising its Sanction Guidelines to reflect recent developments in its disciplinary process, revisions to certain rules, and amendments to the levels of sanctions imposed during proceedings. FINRA Regulatory Notice 17-13 states that the revisions: (i) establish a new factor that requires “the exercise of undue influence over a customer be considered for all violations”; (ii) introduces new guidelines concerning systemic supervisory failures, short interest reporting, and borrowing and lending arrangements with customers; (iii) provides guidance on a new factor related to the mitigating effect of sanctions imposed by other regulators or firms; (iv) describes amendments made to twelve sections that revise sanctions for more serious rule violations; and (v) harmonizes “the Sanction Guidelines to the relevant precedent, prior amendments to the Sanction Guidelines and FINRA’s rulebook consolidation process.” FINRA further states that the purpose of the Sanction Guidelines is not to “prescribe fixed sanctions for particular violations . . . [but to] provide direction for Adjudicators in imposing sanctions consistently and fairly. The guidelines recommend ranges for sanctions and suggest factors that Adjudicators may consider in determining, for each case, where within the range the sanctions should fall or whether sanctions should be above or below the recommended range.” The revised guidelines are effective immediately.

    Financial Crimes FINRA Sanctions

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC Sanctions a Coal Company and 11 “Agents” Linked to North Korea’s WMD Proliferation and Financial Networks

    Financial Crimes

    On March 31, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it was imposing sanctions on eleven North Koreans and one associated entity involved in that country’s efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction. The sanctions prohibit any U.S. individual from dealing with the designated North Koreans, 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.” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin explained that the “sanctions are aimed at disrupting the networks and methods that the Government of North Korea employs to fund its unlawful nuclear, ballistic missile, and proliferation programs.”

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions International

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC Reaches $1.192 Billion Resolution with Chinese Telecommunication Equipment Corporation

    Financial Crimes

    On March 7, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) announced a combined $1.192 billion resolution with other federal agencies against a Chinese telecommunications equipment corporation and its subsidiaries and affiliates to settle alleged violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. The resolution is pending approval of the company’s criminal plea in federal court. OFAC’s settlement agreement  resolves its investigation into the company’s practice of “utilizing third-party companies to surreptitiously supply Iran with a substantial volume of U.S.-origin goods, including controlled goods appearing on the Commerce Control List.” As noted by Steven T. Mnuchin, Secretary of the Treasury, this “settlement is OFAC’s largest ever against a non-financial entity and sends a powerful message that Treasury will aggressively pursue any company that willfully violates U.S. economic sanctions laws and obstructs federal investigations of such violations.”

    In addition to the monetary penalty, the company must maintain policies and procedures designed to minimize future risk of violations of U.S. economic sanctions and export control violations.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions OFAC

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC Sanctions More than Two Dozen Firms and Individuals in Connection with Iran's Ballistic Missile Program

    Federal Issues

    On February 3, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it was imposing new sanctions against several entities and individuals involved in procuring technology and/or materials to support Iran’s ballistic missile program, as well as for acting for or on behalf of, or providing support to, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force. The sanctions block “all property and interests in property of those designated today subject to U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with” the identified firms and individuals.

    International Anti-Money Laundering Sanctions OFAC Miscellany

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC Settles with Canadian Bank for Apparent Violations of Cuban Assets Control Regulations and Iran Sanctions


    On January 13, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) announced a $516,105 settlement agreement with a Canadian-based bank and its online-brokerage subsidiaries in connection with accounts held and transactions processed on behalf of certain Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons located in Cuba, Iran and other locations in the Middle East. OFAC also identified general “shortcomings in the bank’s OFAC compliance policies, procedures, and programs” including the bank’s failure to screen for any potential nexus to an OFAC-sanctioned country or entity prior to processing related transactions through the U.S. financial system and occurring due to shortcomings in the banks policies and procedures. The settlement agreement does, however, note that the Apparent Violations constituted a non-egregious case, that the Bank voluntarily self-disclosed the Apparent Violations, and that the applicable total base penalty amount for the apparent violations was $955,750—well above the $516,105 amount OFAC assessed.

    Notably, in the agreement’s concluding paragraph, OFAC highlights, as a general matter, the risks associated with both “subsidiaries in high-risk industries–such as securities firms” and, in particular “online payment platforms when the financial institution is unable to restrict access for individuals and entities located in comprehensively sanctioned countries.”

    Courts Banking Sanctions OFAC

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC Settles With Non-U.S. Company for Apparent Violation of Iran Sanctions


    On January 12, Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) announced a $17,500 settlement agreement with Aban Offshoe Limited ("Aban") of Chennai, India, in connection with an alleged violation of Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. The alleged violation arises out of events that occurred in June 2008, when Aban's Singapore subsidiary allegedly placed an order for oil rig supplies from a vendor in the United States with the intended purpose of re-exporting these supplies from the United Arab Emirates to a jack-up oil drilling rig located in the South Pars Gas Fields in Iranian territorial waters. OFAC noted, among other things, that the alleged violation constitutes a non-egregious case, but that Aban did not voluntarily self-disclose the apparent violation.

    Courts International Sanctions OFAC

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC Amends Executive Order Regarding Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities to Include Interfering With or Undermining Election Processes

    Consumer Finance

    On December 28, 2016, the President announced the issuance of an Executive Order Taking Additional Steps To Address The National Emergency With Respect To Significant Malicious Cyber-Enabled Activities thereby amending Executive Order 13694. Among other things, the new Executive Order allows for the imposition of sanctions on individuals and entities determined to be responsible for tampering, altering, or causing the misappropriation of information with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes or institutions. Five entities and six individuals have been identified and will be added to OFAC’s SDN List, the latest version of which can be accessed here.

    Banking International Sanctions OFAC Miscellany President-Elect

    Share page with AddThis
  • OFAC Release Further Updates to Iran Sanctions Rules

    Federal Issues

    On December 23, OFAC announced it has issued a final rule amending existing Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations to expand the scope of medical devices and agricultural commodities generally authorized for export or re-export to Iran. The amendment also includes new or expanded authorizations relating to training, replacement parts, software and services for the operation, maintenance, and repair of medical devices, as well as certain items that are broken or subject to product recalls or other safety concerns. In addition, this amendment revises the definition of the terms “goods of Iranian origin” and “Iranian-origin goods.” OFAC concurrently published new and updated FAQs pertaining to the amendment.

    International Sanctions OFAC Miscellany

    Share page with AddThis