OFAC

You may not have heard of the Office of Export Enforcement (OEE), but if you or your subsidiary are doing business abroad, you should take note. Last month, the OEE, which is part of the Department of Commerce’s Bureau for Industry and Security (BIS), raided the U.S. headquarters of a company whose European subsidiary is suspected of violating U.S. export control and sanctions laws. (more…)

On March 7, we learned that Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation (ZTE) concluded 3 settlement agreements that could result in penalties as high as $1.2 billion for its violations of U.S. sanctions and export controls laws. Although the amount of the fines results from particularly egregious conduct on the part of ZTE to conceal its violations even during the period of investigation,  the case highlights three valuable lessons for all exporters. This is especially true given Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross’s pronouncement that the case signals the new Administration will be “aggressively enforcing strong trade policies with the dual purpose of protecting American national security and protecting American workers.” (more…)

If you are a foreign company that wants access to the U.S. financial markets, make sure you  understand the U.S. Iran Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR). Administered by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the ITSR, unlike other sanctions programs, contain secondary sanctions that apply to non-U.S. persons for wholly non-U.S. conduct that may occur entirely outside U.S. jurisdiction. Even if you are not doing business with Iran, several companies and individuals, many of whom are not Iranian, have been listed under the sanctions program, including 25 more added earlier this month. (more…)

In the final weeks of December, President Obama amended sanctions to both the Iran and Russia programs. These changes further relaxed sanctions on Iran while they tightened sanctions on Russia (see our client advisory). Yet, just three days from the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump, exporters are no doubt wondering what the new president will do with regard to these changes and other sanctions relief that has come to pass under the Obama administration. (more…)

Sanctions against Cuba continue to lift. Effective this week, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) have relaxed controls in several areas of trade and commerce with Cuba, including loosening restrictions on exporting to and importing from Cuba, carving out new allowances for U.S. persons entering into contingent contracts with Cubans, and opening new opportunities for American entrepreneurs in the civil aviation, construction, and health sectors. Among the changes is also a provision that will allow Americans to travel to Cuba to attend professional meetings and conferences related to tourism. (more…)

Further weakening secondary sanctions, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has issued a new license to allow non-U.S. persons to fly some U.S. aircraft to Iran for temporary  sojourn. While General License J only applies to fixed-wing airplanes and imposes a number of conditions that must be met in order for non U.S.-persons to fly to Iran, the new license may mark the start of new opportunities for the civil aviation industry in Iran. (more…)

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has issued a voluntary disclosure guidance for export violations. The guidance takes effect July 22 and its intent is to make Commerce’s enforcement more in line with that of the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). Specifically, the new guidance introduces the OFAC concept of a “base penalty amount.” Like OFAC base penalties, the BIS base penalties will be determined by whether the violation was egregious and whether it was voluntarily disclosed. Once a base penalty amount is determined, the amount can move downward or upward based on mitigating and aggravating factors. (more…)

On March 16, 2016, in what could be the final set of amendments  to the Cuban Assets Control Regulations (CACR) under the Obama Administration, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published a Final Rule that further facilitates travel to Cuba, authorizes additional types of financial transactions, and allows companies to have a greater business presence on the island.  As expected, Wednesday’s changes represent yet another small step towards normalization that builds upon past rounds of regulatory amendments implemented on January 16, June 15, and September 21, 2015, and January 27, 2016. (more…)