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  • Federal Reserve orders Chinese bank to correct BSA/AML controls

    Financial Crimes

    On March 12, the Federal Reserve Board (Fed) entered into a consent order with a Chinese bank (bank) and its New York branch (branch) in connection with alleged Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering (BSA/AML) violations. According to the Fed’s order, a recent examination identified “significant deficiencies” in the branch’s BSA/AML compliance and risk management controls. The consent order requires, among other things, the bank and branch submit within 60 days: (i) a written governance plan to achieve compliance with BSA/AML requirements; (ii) a system to identify and assess risks associated with all products and customers, including “politically exposed persons”; (iii) an enhanced customer due diligence program plan; and (iv) a compliance program to ensure accurate suspicious activity monitoring and reporting. The bank and branch are further required to engage an independent third party acceptable to the Fed to review their dollar-clearing transaction activity in the second half of 2016 “to determine whether suspicious activity involving high-risk customers or transactions” was properly flagged. The order imposes no financial penalty.

    Financial Crimes Federal Reserve Bank Secrecy Act Anti-Money Laundering Bank Compliance International

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  • OFAC reissues North Korean Sanctions Regulations

    Financial Crimes

    On March 1, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published a final rule in the Federal Register to amend and reissue the North Korea Sanctions Regulations in their entirety. The final rule implements Executive Orders 13687, 13722, and 13810, references the North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enhancement Act of 2016 and the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017, and provides the Treasury Secretary, “in consultation with the Secretary of State, additional tools to disrupt North Korea’s ability to fund its weapons of mass destruction and ballistic missile programs.” All property and interests in property of the Government of North Korea and the Workers’ Party of Korea are blocked, transactions by U.S. persons involving the sanctioned entities are generally prohibited, and “all transactions within the United States, including all financial transactions that transit the U.S. financial system, must comply with OFAC regulations.” Among other things, the final rule (i) incorporates several general licenses previously only available on OFAC’s North Korea Sanctions page; (ii) adds several new general licenses; (iii) adds and expands provisions to provide the public with a more comprehensive set of regulations; (iv) updates certain regulatory provisions; and (v) makes other technical and conforming changes. The final rule takes effect March 5, 2018. Also released the same day were updates to OFAC’s North Korea-related FAQs.

    See here for previous InfoBytes coverage on North Korean sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions International Department of Treasury CAATSA

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  • OFAC sanctions target North Korea’s shipping and trading industry

    Financial Crimes

    On February 23, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed additional sanctions targeting the North Korean shipping and trading industry. The sanctions include the designation of 27 entities, 28 vessels, and one individual consistent with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017. Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin stated, “Treasury is aggressively targeting all illicit avenues used by North Korea to evade sanctions, including taking decisive action to block the vessels, shipping companies, and entities across the globe that work on North Korea’s behalf. This will significantly hinder the Kim regime’s capacity to conduct evasive maritime activities that facilitate illicit coal and fuel transports, and erode its abilities to ship goods through international waters.” All property or interests in property held by the sanctioned individual and entities within U.S. jurisdiction must be blocked, and transactions between the designated persons and Americans are also prohibited.

    Separately, OCAC issued a global shipping advisory in conjunction with the U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Coast Guard to, among other things, (i) outline methods employed by North Korea to facilitate illicit transactions to evade sanctions; (ii) list due diligence steps companies should employ to monitor illicit North Korean activity and mitigate the risk of potentially engaging in prohibited activity or transactions; and (iii) provide an overview of penalties associated with violating U.S. or UN sanctions.

    See here for previous InfoBytes coverage on North Korean sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions CAATSA International Department of Treasury

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  • FDIC adopts final rule to remove references to external credit ratings from international banking regulations

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance

    On February 15, the FDIC announced it adopted a final rule, which removes references to external credit ratings from its international banking regulations related to permissible investment activities and the pledging of assets. According to FIL-9-2018, among other things, the amended final rule (adopted February 14) modifies the FDIC’s definition of “investment grade” under FDIC Rules and Regulations Part 347 by replacing references to external credit ratings with standards of creditworthiness that conform to Section 939A of the Dodd-Frank Act. As FIL-9-2018 explains, the final rule defines “investment grade” as a security issued by an entity that has adequate capacity to meet financial commitments for the projected life of the exposure. And as the final rule itself explains, this revision was made to “encourage regular, in-depth analysis by the banking organization of credit risks of securities, which is a prudent practice already expected of banks.” The final rule takes effect on April 1.

    Agency Rule-Making & Guidance FDIC International Credit Ratings Dodd-Frank

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  • DOJ unseals charges against former Venezuelan government officials for money laundering and FCPA violations in state-owned energy company scheme

    Financial Crimes

    On February 12, the DOJ unsealed charges against five former Venezuelan government officials for their involvement in a money laundering scheme at Venezuela’s state-owned energy company. The five defendants are each charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. Two defendants are also charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA. 

    Four of the defendants were arrested in Spain in October 2017 on arrest warrants based on an indictment filed in the Southern District of Texas last August. One has been extradited from Spain, while the others are pending extradition. 

    The indictment alleges that the five defendants possessed significant influence within the company, which permitted them to solicit vendors for “bribes and kickbacks in exchange for providing assistance to those vendors in connection with their [company] business.” The company vendors included residents of the U.S. and vendors who owned U.S.-based businesses. According to the indictment, two company vendors transferred more than $27 million to accounts in Switzerland that were connected to two of the defendants. The two company vendors previously pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Texas to FCPA charges related to the bribery of company officials. 

    The charges are part of an ongoing investigation by the DOJ and ICE-HSI into bribery at the company, which has resulted in charges against fifteen individuals, ten of whom have pleaded guilty.

    Financial Crimes DOJ FCPA International Anti-Money Laundering Bribery

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  • FinCEN proposes measure against Latvian bank for alleged money laundering schemes, blocks U.S. accounts

    Financial Crimes

    On February 13, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued a finding and notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM), pursuant to Section 311 of the USA PATRIOT Act, seeking to prohibit the opening or maintaining of correspondent accounts in the United States for, or on behalf of, a Latvian-based bank. The NPRM is being issued based on findings that the bank has “institutionalized money laundering as a pillar of [its] business practices.” According to the NPRM, the bank’s management (i) “permits the bank and its employees to orchestrate and engage in money laundering schemes”; (ii) “solicits the high-risk shell company activity that enables the bank and its customers to launder funds”; (iii) “maintains inadequate controls over high-risk shell company accounts”; and (iv) “seeks to obstruct enforcement of Latvian anti-money laundering and combating the financing of terrorism (AML/CFT) rules in order to protect these business practices.” Specifically, Secretary of the Treasury Steven T. Mnuchin asserted that the bank’s failure to implement effective AML/CFT and sanctions policies and procedures has become a conduit for widespread illicit activity, “including activity linked to North Korea’s weapons program and corruption connected to Russia and Ukraine.” The measures set forth under the NPRM are designed to protect the U.S. financial system from money laundering and terrorist financing threats. Comments are due 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

    Financial Crimes FinCEN Anti-Money Laundering Combating the Financing of Terrorism International Department of Treasury Federal Register

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  • OFAC updates Venezuela-related FAQs, addresses new debt prohibitions

    Financial Crimes

    On February 12, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced the release of updated FAQs to provide additional guidance on debt-related prohibitions outlined in Executive Order 13808 (E.O. 13808). Specifically, under E.O. 13808, U.S. persons (along with persons within the U.S.) are prohibited from “engaging in transactions related to, providing financing for, or otherwise dealing in new debt” with maturities longer than 90 days for Venezuela’s state-owned oil company or 30 days for other segments of the Government of Venezuela. “New debt” is defined as debt created on or after August 25, 2017, which includes the extension of credit for the sale of goods or services. OFAC cautioned that receiving payments outside of the stipulated maturity payments is generally prohibited. The FAQs also address the handling of certain late payments related to new debt incurred by the state-owned oil company or the Government of Venezuela.

    See here for previous InfoBytes coverage of Venezuelan sanctions.

    Financial Crimes OFAC International

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  • OFAC issues sanctions against persons involved in Hizballah financial network

    Financial Crimes

    On February 2, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced sanctions against six individuals and seven entities for providing financial support to terrorists or acts of terrorism. Issued pursuant to Executive Order 13224, which “provides a means by which to disrupt the financial support network for terrorists and terrorist organizations by authorizing the U.S. government to designate and block the assets of foreign individuals and entities that commit, or pose a significant risk of committing, acts of terrorism,” the sanctions target the business operations of Hizballah and serve to further Treasury’s continued measures to “sever Hizballah from the international financial system.” OFAC stressed that, pursuant to the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations, it has the authority to “prohibit or impose strict conditions on the opening or maintaining in the [U.S.] of a correspondent account or a payable-through account by a foreign financial institution that knowingly facilitates a significant transaction for Hizballah, or a person acting on behalf of or at the direction of, or owned or controlled by, Hizballah.” All property, or interests in property, held by the sanctioned individuals and entities within U.S. jurisdiction will be blocked, and transactions between the sanctioned individuals and entities and Americans are also “generally prohibited.”

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Department of Treasury International

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  • Treasury releases list of Russian senior foreign political figures and oligarchs, does not impose new sanctions

    Financial Crimes

    On January 29, the U.S. Treasury Department released an unclassified report to Congress containing a list of 210 individuals who are either senior foreign political figures in the Russian Federation or Russian oligarchs with a net worth of at least $1 billion. Treasury emphasized that the report—which was mandated through Section 241 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA)— (i) is not a sanctions list; (ii) should not be interpreted as a determination that individuals or entities included in the report or listed within classified appendices or annexes meet the criteria for sanctions designation (individuals and entities subject to separate sanctions are denoted within the report); and (iii) does not serve to indicate that the U.S. Government possesses information about an “individual’s involvement in malign activities.” Classified lists that may include officials and oligarchs of lesser rank and wealth will be submitted as well. Additionally, Treasury submitted to Congress a required classified annex to the report, which lists Russian parastatals entities that are defined as “companies in which state ownership is at least 25 percent and that had 2016 revenues of approximately $2 billion or more.” The annex also presents an analysis of potential impact on the U.S. economy that may result should additional debt and equity restrictions or sanctions be imposed on the identified entities.

    Separately, on January 30, Treasury released updated FAQs to address questions related to the report’s release.

    See here for additional CAATSA InfoBytes coverage.

    Financial Crimes Department of Treasury Sanctions International CAATSA

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  • Bank regulators share living will expectations with foreign banks operating in the U.S.

    Federal Issues

    On January 29, the Federal Reserve Board and the FDIC sent letters to 19 foreign banks operating in the United States to outline and clarify resolution plan expectations. According to a joint release issued by the regulators, Dodd-Frank-mandated resolution plans—commonly known as living wills—require certain foreign banks to detail strategic plans for their U.S. operations “for rapid and orderly resolution under bankruptcy” should the banks fail or fall under material financial distress. Requested in the letters, among other things, are specifics on resolution strategies, capital calculations, management of liquidity, stress testing, and organizational structures. Banks are required to submit 2018 resolution plans no later than December 31, 2018. Refer here to access a list of banks and letters.

    Federal Issues Federal Reserve FDIC Living Wills International Bank Regulatory

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