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  • OFAC sanctions Russian oligarchs and government officials; releases new general licenses and updated FAQs

    Financial Crimes

    On April 6, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced its decision to sanction seven Russian oligarchs along with 12 companies they own or control, 17 senior Russian government officials, and a state-owned Russian weapons trading company and its Russian bank subsidiary, pursuant to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA) and Executive Orders 13661, 13662, and 13582. In a foreign policy statement released the same day, President Trump explained that the identified persons placed on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) and Blocked Persons List engaged in actions that have reportedly contributed to “advancing Russia’s malign activities,” including (i) profiting from “Russia's destabilizing activities”; (ii) election meddling; (iii) undermining U.S. cybersecurity; (iv) engaging in weapons proliferation; (v) continuing to occupy Crimea; (vi) instigating violence in eastern Ukraine; and (vii) providing military equipment and support for the Government of Syria's continued attacks against Syrian citizens. Pursuant to OFAC’s sanctions, all property or interests in property of the designated persons along with any other entity owned 50 percent or more by one or more designated persons that is within U.S. jurisdiction are blocked, and U.S. persons are “generally prohibited” from participating in transactions with these individuals and entities. Additionally, “non-U.S. persons could face sanctions for knowingly facilitating significant transactions for or on behalf of the individuals or entities blocked today.”

    The same day, OFAC issued two Ukraine-/Russia-related general licenses to “minimize immediate disruptions to U.S. persons, partners, and allies.” General License 12 authorizes through June 5 certain activities necessary to “wind down” operations, contracts, or agreements in effect prior to April 6 involving specified blocked persons. General License 13 authorizes through May 7 divestiture transactions with certain blocked persons to a non-U.S. person, as well as the facilitation of transfers of debt, equity, or other holdings involving listed blocked persons by a non-U.S. person to another non-U.S. person. OFAC also released eight new FAQs related to this action and published one updated FAQ related to CAATSA.

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

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  • OFAC expands Russian sanctions in connection with election interference and cyber attacks

    Financial Crimes

    On March 15, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced its decision to sanction an additional five entities and 19 individuals, pursuant to Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA) and Executive Order 13694 (E.O. 13694). The CAATSA sanctions target “cyber actors” who carried out cyber attacks on behalf of the Russian government, while E.O. 13694 designations target entities and individuals who interfered with the 2016 U.S. election. Pursuant to OFAC’s sanctions, all property or 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 individuals and entities. As part of the announcement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that “Treasury intends to impose additional CAATSA sanctions, informed by our intelligence community, to hold Russian government officials and oligarchs accountable for their destabilizing activities by severing their access to the U.S. financial system.”

    The same day, OFAC amended General License No. 1, “Authorizing Certain Transactions with the Federal Security Service” and reissued it as “Cyber General License No. 1A” (GL 1A). OFAC also published four updated FAQs relating to the agency’s sanctions and GL 1A and CAATSA.

    Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Russian sanctions.

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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.

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  • OFAC further expands sanctions in connection with Ukrainian conflict

    Financial Crimes

    On January 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced its decision to sanction an additional 21 individuals and nine entities, pursuant to four executive orders (see Executive Orders 13660, 13661, 13662, and 13685), in connection with the United States’ support of Ukraine’s “sovereignty and territorial integrity” and opposition to Russia’s occupation of Crimea. Among other things, the financial sanctions target Russian government officials, Russian business executives, and Ukrainian separatist leaders involved with Russia’s occupation as part of efforts to hold responsible individuals accountable. Also sanctioned are nine technology, construction, and shipping firms supporting Russia’s occupation. As part of the announcement, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that “[t]he U.S. government is committed to maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine and to targeting those who attempt to undermine the Minsk agreements.” He further indicated that “[t]hose who provide goods, services, or material support to individuals and entities sanctioned by the United States for their activities in Ukraine are engaging in behavior that could expose them to U.S. sanctions.” 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.”

    Visit here for additional InfoBytes coverage on Russian and Ukrainian sanctions.

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  • OFAC Issues License and Guidance on Amended Ukrainian/Russian Sanctions

    Financial Crimes

    On November 28, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released General License 1B to address amendments made to Directives 1 and 2 (Directives) of its Ukrainian/Russian-related Sectoral Sanctions. The amendments were made in accordance with the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA). (See previous InfoBytes coverage on Directives here.) The Directives prohibit U.S. persons from dealings in certain equity and debt of persons determined by OFAC to be part of the Russian financial and energy sectors. According to a Treasury press release, General License 1B addresses the decrease in the maturity dates of debt transactions prohibited by Directive 1 from 30 days to 14 days, and the decrease in the maturity dates of debt transactions prohibited by Directive 2 from 90 days to 60 days. General License 1B authorizes transactions by U.S. persons, wherever located, and transactions within the United States that involve derivative products whose value is linked to an underlying asset that constitutes prohibited debt issued by person subject to Directives 1, 2 or 3 of the Sectoral Sanctions, including those issued on or after November 28 that have the reduced maturity dates targeted by CAATSA. OFAC also released updated FAQs to answer questions related to the Ukrainian-/Russian-related amended directives. 

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Department of Treasury CAATSA Russia Ukraine

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  • OFAC Amends Sanctions on Russia’s Financial and Energy Sectors

    Financial Crimes

    On September 29, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended Directive 1 and Directive 2 of its Ukrainian-/Russian-related Sectoral Sanctions, as required by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (H.R. 3364), which was signed into law by President Trump in August. (See previous InfoBytes summary here.) As amended, Directive 1 prohibits U.S. persons from all dealings in equity issued on or after July 16, 2014, of persons determined by OFAC to be part of the Russian financial services sector. Directive 1 also prohibits U.S. persons from dealing in the following debt of such persons: (i) debt of over 90 days maturity issued on or after July 16, 2014, but prior to September 12, 2014; (ii) debt of over 30 days maturity issued on or after September 12, 2014, but before November 28, 2017; and (iii) debt of over 14 days maturity issued on or after November 28, 2017. As amended, Directive 2 prohibits U.S. persons from all dealings in the following debt of persons identified by OFAC to be part of the Russian energy sector: (i) all debt of over 90 days maturity issued on or after July 16, , but before November 28, 2017; and (ii) all debt of over 60 days maturity issued on or after November 28, 2017. OFAC also released updated FAQs to answer questions related to the amended directives.

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  • President Trump’s Executive Order Imposes New Sanctions Against North Korea

    Financial Crimes

    On September 21, President Trump announced the issuance of new sanctions targeting individuals, companies, and financial institutions that finance or facilitate trade with North Korea, in addition to tightening trade restrictions. The Executive Order approves broad limitations on any foreign financial institution that knowingly conducts “significant” transactions involving North Korea. This includes transactions that “originate from, are destined for, or pass through a foreign bank account that has been determined by the Secretary of the Treasury to be owned or controlled by a North Korean person, or to have been used to transfer funds in which any North Korean person has an interest.” These funds “are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in.” The restrictions also prohibit dealing with persons involved in North Korea’s “construction, energy, financial services, fishing, information technology, manufacturing, medical, mining, textiles, or transportation industries,” and further authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to restrict U.S.-based correspondent and payable-through accounts.

    These sanctions are in addition to those previously passed by President Trump in August. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) Separately, as previously covered in InfoBytes, last month the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions against certain Chinese and Russian entities and individuals, among others, for allegedly aiding North Korea’s efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

    In response to President Trump’s latest sanctions, OFAC released updates to its FAQs concerning the additional sanctions. OFAC also issued General License 10 concerning the authorization restrictions to certain vessels and aircraft, and General License 3-A, which addresses permitted “normal service charges.”

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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.

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  • President Trump Signs Into Law New Sanctions Against North Korea, Iran, and Russia

    Federal Issues

    On August 2, President Trump signed into law a bipartisan bill placing new sanctions on Iran, Russia, and North Korea. The House passed the sanctions by a vote of 419-3, while the Senate cleared it 98-2. The Countering America's Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (H.R. 3364) is comprised of three bills:

    • Korean Interdiction and Modernization of Sanctions Act. The sanctions modify and increase President Trump’s authority to impose sanctions on persons in violation of certain United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding North Korea. Specifically, U.S. financial institutions shall not “knowingly, directly or indirectly,” facilitate or maintain correspondent accounts with North Korean or other foreign financial institutions that provide services to North Korea, or execute a transfer of funds or property “that materially contributes to any violation of an applicable United National Security Council resolution.” A foreign government that provides to or receives from North Korea a defense article or service is prohibited from receiving certain types of U.S. foreign assistance. The sanctions concern: (i) shipping and cargo restrictions; (ii) cooperation between North Korea and Iran pertaining to the countries’ weapon programs; (iii) forced labor and trafficking victims, including goods produced by forced labor; and (iv) foreign persons that employ North Korean forced laborers. Furthermore, the Secretary of State is directed to submit a determination regarding whether North Korea meets the criteria for designation as a state sponsor of terrorism no later than 90 days after the Act has been enacted.
    • Countering Iran's Destabilizing Activities Act of 2017. The sanctions—intended to deter Iranian activities and threats affecting the U.S. and key allies—include: (i) assessments of Iran’s conventional force capabilities such as its ballistic missile or weapons of mass destruction programs; (ii) prohibitions on the sale or transfer of military equipment and sanctions against Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and any affiliated foreign persons; (iii) programs to be undertaken by the U.S. and other foreign governments to counter destabilizing activities; and (iv) prohibitions on any activity that provides “financial, material, technological, or other support for goods or services in support” of the identified programs or persons. The sanctions also block any property or interests in property of any designated person “if such property and interests in property are in the [U.S.], come within the [U.S.], or are or come within the possession or control of a [U.S.] person.” The law allows President Trump to impose sanctions against persons committing human rights violations against Iranian citizens, and also grants him the ability to “temporarily waive the imposition or continuation of sanctions under specified circumstances.”
    • Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act of 2017. Under the new sanctions, notwithstanding sanctions passed under President Obama’s administration, Congress will review President Trump’s proposed actions to terminate or waive sanctions with respect to Russia and determine whether the actions will or will not “significantly alter [U.S.] foreign policy with regard to the Russian federation.” Additionally, the President may, at his discretion, waive specified cyber- and Ukraine-related sanctions if submitted to the appropriate congressional committees and “is in the vital national security interests of the [U.S.].” The sanctions concern the following: (i) cybersecurity; (ii) crude oil projects; (iii) Russian and foreign financial institutions; (iv) corruption; (v) human rights abuses; (vi) evasion of sanctions; (vii) transactions with Russian intelligence or defense sectors; (viii) pipeline developments; (ix) privatization of state-owned assets by the Russian federation; and (v) arms and related material transfers to Syria. The sanctions further detail financial transaction loan and credit restrictions between U.S. and international financial institutions and sanctioned persons—including directives related to financing new debt—and place prohibitions on sanctioned financial institutions. Among other things, the sanctions direct the development of a national strategy for combating the financing of terrorism and other types of illicit financing.

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  • OFAC Assesses $2 Million Penalty Against International Oil and Gas Company for Violations of Ukraine-Related Sanctions

    Financial Crimes

    On July 20, the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) announced a $2 million civil money penalty assessed against an international oil and gas company, including two of its U.S. subsidiaries, for alleged violations of OFAC’s Ukraine-Related sanctions regulations. OFAC claims that, in May 2014, the company impermissibly dealt in services of a senior official of the Government of the Russian Federation who had been placed on the List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDNs) by signing eight legal documents related to oil and gas projects in Russia with the individual. Although the company claimed that it believed such actions were permissible, OFAC noted that the “plain language of the Ukraine-Related Sanctions” clearly indicates otherwise. In particular, OFAC stated that the sanctions blocked “any property and interests in property, and prohibited any dealing in any property and interests in property, of a person so designated.” In addition, the sanctions expressly forbid U.S. persons from “any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such person,” and, according to OFAC, do not differentiate between an individual’s “personal” and “professional” capacity—a distinction the company tried to make.

    Thus, concluded OFAC, information available at the time of the alleged violations “clearly put [the company] on notice that OFAC would consider executing documents with an SDN to violate the prohibitions in the Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations.” The $2 million penalty was the largest that OFAC could impose under statute. OFAC imposed the penalty based on the following factors: (i) the company did not voluntarily self-disclose the violations; (ii) the company demonstrated reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements by disregarding clear warning signs; (iii) the company’s senior-most executives knew of the official’s status as an SDN when it executed the legal documents; (iv) the company caused significant harm to the sanctions program by dealing with a senior official of the Russian Federation; and (v) the company is a sophisticated and experienced oil company that has global operations and routinely deals in goods, services and technology subject to U.S. economic sanctions and export controls.

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