Archive for the ‘Treasury Dept’ Category

Treasury/OFAC Announces Settlement Agreement With IPSA International Services, Inc.

Monday, October 16th, 2017 by Danielle McClellan

2017/10/16

(Source: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/OFAC-Recent-Actions.aspx)

IPSA International Services, Inc. of Phoenix, Arizona agreed to settle its potential civil liability for 72 apparent violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560 (ITSR). The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced IPSA’s settlement of $259,200 on August 7, 2017. The apparent violations include, on 44 separate occasions, IPSA’s importation of Iranian-origin services into the United States in apparent violation of § 560.201 of the ITSR, and on 28 separate occasions, IPSA’s engagement in transactions or dealings related to Iranian-origin services by approving and facilitating its foreign subsidiaries’ payments to providers of Iranian-origin services in apparent violation of §§ 560.206 and 560.208 of the ITSR.  OFAC concluded that IPSA did not voluntarily disclose these apparent violations, and that the apparent violations constitute a non-egregious case.

OFAC’s web notice is included below.

ENFORCEMENT INFORMATION FOR AUGUST 10, 2017

Information concerning the civil penalties process can be found in the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations governing each sanctions program; the Reporting, Procedures, and Penalties Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 501; and the Economic Sanctions Enforcement Guidelines, 31 C.F.R. part 501, app. A. These references, as well as recent final civil penalties and enforcement information, can be found on OFAC’s website.

ENTITIES – 31 CFR 501.805(d)(1)(i)

IPSA International Services, Inc. Settles Potential Civil Liability for Apparent Violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations: IPSA International Services, Inc. (IPSA), Phoenix, Arizona, has agreed to pay $259,200 to settle its potential civil liability for 72 apparent violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560 (ITSR). [FN/1] The apparent violations involve, on 44 separate occasions, IPSA’s importation of Iranian-origin services into the United States in apparent violation of § 560.201 of the ITSR, and on 28 separate occasions, IPSA’s engagement in transactions or dealings related to Iranian-origin services by approving and facilitating its foreign subsidiaries’ payments to providers of Iranian- origin services in apparent violation of §§ 560.206 and 560.208 of the ITSR.

OFAC determined that IPSA did not voluntarily disclose the apparent violations, and that the apparent violations constitute a non-egregious case. The total transaction value of the apparent violations was $290,784. The statutory maximum civil penalty amount in this case was $18,000,000, and the base civil penalty amount was $720,000.

IPSA is a global business investigative and regulatory risk mitigation firm that provides due diligence services for various countries and their citizenship by investment programs. In March 2012, IPSA entered into an engagement letter and fee agreement with a third country with respect to its citizenship by investment program (“Contract No. 1”). In October 2012, IPSA’s subsidiary in Vancouver, Canada (“IPSA Canada”) entered into a similar contract with a government-owned financial institution in a separate third country (“Contract No. 2”). While the majority of the applicants to both of these programs were nationals from countries not subject to OFAC sanctions, some were Iranian nationals. Since most of the information about Iranian applicants could not be checked or verified by sources outside Iran, IPSA Canada and IPSA’s subsidiary in Dubai, United Arab Emirates subsequently hired subcontractors to conduct the necessary due diligence in Iran, and those subcontractors in turn hired third parties to validate information that could only be obtained or verified within Iran. Although it was IPSA’s foreign subsidiaries that managed and performed both Contract No. 1 and Contract No. 2, with regard to Contract No. 1, IPSA appears to have imported Iranian-origin services into the United States because the foreign subsidiaries conducted the due diligence in Iran on behalf of and for the benefit of IPSA. With regard to Contract No. 2, IPSA also appears to have engaged in transactions or dealings related to Iranian-origin services and facilitated the foreign subsidiaries’ engagement in such transactions or dealings because IPSA reviewed, approved, and initiated the foreign subsidiaries’ payments to providers of the Iranian-origin services.

The settlement amount reflects OFAC’s consideration of the following facts and circumstances, pursuant to the General Factors under OFAC’s Economic Sanctions Enforcement Guidelines, 31 C.F.R. part 501, app. A. OFAC considered the following to be aggravating factors: (1) IPSA failed to exercise a minimal degree of caution or care when it imported background investigation services of Iranian origin into the United States and when it reviewed, approved, and initiated its foreign subsidiaries’ payments to providers of Iranian-origin services, and the frequency and duration of the apparent violations constitute a pattern or practice of conduct; (2) at least one of IPSA’s senior management knew or had reason to know that it was importing and/or engaging in transactions or dealings related to services of Iranian origin; (3) the transactions giving rise to the apparent violations resulted in economic benefits to Iran, and the conduct underlying the apparent violations is not eligible for OFAC authorization under existing licensing policy [FN/2]; (4) IPSA is a commercially sophisticated company operating internationally with experience in U.S. sanctions; and (5) IPSA’s OFAC compliance program was ineffective in that it did not recognize or react to the risks presented by engaging in transactions that involved Iranian-origin background investigation services.

OFAC considered the following to be mitigating factors: (1) IPSA has no prior OFAC sanctions history in the five years preceding the earliest date of the transactions giving rise to the apparent violations; (2) IPSA undertook significant remedial measures by taking swift action to cease the prohibited activities, conducting an investigation to discover the causes and extent of the apparent violations, and adopting new internal controls and procedures to prevent reoccurrence of the apparent violations; and (3) IPSA substantially cooperated with OFAC’s investigation by conducting an internal look-back investigation for potential sanctions violations and submitting an investigation report to OFAC without receiving an administrative subpoena, promptly providing detailed additional information and documentation in a well-organized manner in response to OFAC’s multiple requests for information, and entering into a statute of limitations tolling agreement.

For more information regarding OFAC regulations, please go here.

Treasury Fingers Countries Enforcing the Arab League Boycott of Israel

Monday, October 16th, 2017 by Danielle McClellan

2017/10/16

Editorial By: John Black

Note:  I love this list.  It gives me a chance to say tertiary.   As my career winds down its things like this that I will miss.

N.B.:  I don’t remember ever seeing anybody write an editorial piece about Treasury publishing this list, probably for good reason.  If I don’t do this now, nobody ever will. 

Once again the Treasury Department has published its list of countries that more or less enforce certain aspects of the Arab League Boycott of Israel. Or, as Treasury clearly states, they are countries “which may require participation in, or cooperation with, an international boycott (within the meaning of section 999(b)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986).”

You see, way back whenever, the US Congress decided it doesn’t like US persons cooperating with the secondary and tertiary elements of the Arab Boycott of Israel so it told the Treasury Department to put something in the tax code so that US person who illegally cooperate can’t claim foreign tax credits. Congress also told the Commerce Department to put something in its export control regulations so the Commerce rules make such cooperation illegal without telling anybody which countries it applies to.

You see, Congress and the US Government don’t want to have actual rules that say Arab League Boycott of Israel to make it clear that US person can’t cooperate with the unmentionable boycott on the unmentionable close ally of the United States.  Because, what the wizards* in Washington figured out is, if they don’t write little known rules that ban cooperation with the “Arab Boycott of Israel,” nobody will know that US foreign policy in many ways has long favored Israel over the Arab League.

(*Sorry, I did not mean to disparage indirectly the Washington Wizards NBA basketball team but this raises an important issue.  Years ago the Washington Bullets NBA team decided to change their name to the Washington Wizards. I always knew that they dropped the Bullets name to reduce violent crime in the capital city (how is that working?)  But, after wondering for years why the Washington team chose “Wizards,” I just now realized it is because most of the people in Congress and the US Government are wizards—either, if you are old like me, the type of wizards who wear pointy hats and robes with stars on them and have a magic wand or, if you are not old, those in Harry Potter movies; or, if you ask Congress, the type of wizards who are generally highly adept at what they do.  Now that’s another life knowledge breakthrough thanks to export regs.)

Treasury noted that this list is “based on currently available information,” which, I personally found to be a great relief because if the list had been based on only information available prior to 1975, it would have looked quite different.  And who knows what the list would have looked like if it were based on information that is not currently available—We could have ended up with Mexico and China on the list, seriously.

FYI, this paragraph contains information that is important:  Treasury listed these countries:

  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Yemen

The Commerce Department traditionally does not publish a similar list of countries for its antiboycott rules in Part 760 of the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”).  EAR 760 prohibits a US person from cooperating with (or agreeing to do so) the secondary and tertiary elements of the Arab League boycott of Israel.  Instead of ever mentioning the Arab League or Israel, Commerce and the EAR brandish the terms “boycotting countries” and “boycotted countries” to adeptly hide the US pro-Israel foreign policy bias.

A reasonable person might assume that since the Commerce and Treasury rules have the same objective and are implemented by the same US Government, the Commerce Department considers its rules are applicable to the same countries as Treasury.

Editorial Note: I am not saying that the EAR rules are limited to the list of countries Treasury published. I am merely pointing out what a reasonable person might assume.

Useful Information:  In any event, when you do a risk based assessment of your EAR compliance issues and, based on that, decide how to allocate your limited compliance resources, it may be cost-effective to focus your EAR antiboycott rules compliance on the countries on the Treasury list.  And while you are doing risk assessments and deciding how to cost-effectively allocate your limited resources for EAR compliance, you may decide to allocate only a small portion of your total EAR compliance resources to compliance with the EAR antiboycott rules.  That is because antiboycott EAR fines are frequently well under $100k.  I recommend you allocate most of your EAR compliance resources to focus on compliance with the standard EAR export controls where it is not unusual for Commerce (along with OFAC) to impose fines of hundreds of millions of dollars, or in the case of ZTE, $1 billion and membership on an export denial list.

Federal Register: https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2017-08-02/pdf/2017-16290.pdf

Publication of New Cuba-Related Frequently Asked Questions

Tuesday, August 9th, 2016 by Danielle McClellan

2016/08/09

(Source: OFAC)

On July 8, 2016, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) updated its Frequently Asked Questions regarding Cuba to issue two new FAQs (#43 and #50) regarding the use of the U.S. dollar in certain transactions.

For more information on this specific action, please visit this page.

Treasury Releases List of Boycotted Countries

Wednesday, July 16th, 2014 by Brooke Driver

2014/07/16

By: Brooke Driver

The Department of Treasury released the most current list of countries which require or may require participation in, or cooperation with, an international boycott, which includes:

• Iraq
• Kuwait
• Lebanon
• Libya
• Qatar
• Saudi Arabia
• Syria
• United Arab Emirates
• Yemen

This list relates to the US antiboycott provisions in the IRS tax code that prohibit US persons in the US and abroad from complying with the Arab League boycott of Israel. While the Commerce Department does not publish a similar list for its antiboycott rules in the Export Administration Regulations, this Treasury list is certainly a clear indicator of where companies should focus their limited compliance resources when it comes to the EAR antiboycott rules.

Treasury Department Releases Foreign Sanctions Evaders List

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 by Brooke Driver

2014/03/13

By: Brooke Driver

On February 6, the Treasury Department released its new Foreign Sanctions Evaders List, which you should incorporate into your screening process for selecting potential international clients and associates. The list identifies foreign individuals and entities that have either violated, attempted to violate, conspired to violate or caused a violation of U.S. economic and financial sanctions on Syria or Iran or facilitated deceptive transactions for or on behalf of persons subject to such sanctions. Individuals and entities included on the list are prohibited from working with U.S. commercial or financial systems. Likewise, U.S. persons or companies are forbidden to directly or indirectly enter into business relations with any of the listed parties unless OFAC grants permission or the transaction is exempt under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act.

To view the list, click here: http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/SDN-List/Pages/fse_list.aspx.

Treasury Identifies Countries Requiring Cooperation With an International Boycott

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 by Danielle McClellan

By: John Black

Once again the Treasury Department has identified the countries cooperating with an international boycott that raises issues related to claiming foreign tax credits under the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), specifically section 999(a)(3) of the IRS Code of 1986. The countries are:

  • Iraq
  • Kuwait
  • Lebanon
  • Libya
  • Qatar
  • Saudi Arabia
  • Syria
  • United Arab Emirates
  • Yemen

The IRS antiboycott rules come into play in many of the same situations in which the antiboycott provisions in Part 760 of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) come into play. While the Commerce Department does not publish a list of countries for its EAR Part 760 antiboycott rules, as a practical matter the IRS list certainly represents many of the highest risk countries for EAR purposes so it is a good starting point for the focus of your EAR antiboycott compliance program. For EAR compliance purposes, US persons should also be aware that certain other Moslem countries cooperate with the Arab League boycott of Israel and present antiboycott compliance issues. These other countries include Bangladesh, Malaysia, Indonesia and Pakistan.

For the actual Federal Register notice go to http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2012-11-16/html/2012-27737.htm

Illegal Stripping at Standard Chartered Bank Nets $327 Million for OFAC+ Violations

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 by Danielle McClellan

2013/01/17

By: John Black

(Editor’s Note: That is perhaps one of the most attention grabbing export control headlines ever.)

On December 10, 2012 the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the US Treasury Department announced a $132 million settlement agreement with Standard Chartered Bank (SCB) to settle alleged violations of US trade embargoes and sanctions. The $132 million OFAC settlement is part of a combined global settlement of $327 million with federal and local government partners. The settlement is related to alleged violations by the London and Dubai offices of SCB of a number of U.S trade embargoes and sanctions programs, including those relating to Iran, Burma, Libya and Sudan and the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations.

“Today’s settlement is the result of an exhaustive interagency investigation into Standard Chartered Bank’s attempts to violate U.S. sanctions programs through the ‘stripping’ from payment messages of critical information,” said OFAC Director Adam J. Szubin. “We remain committed to working with our partners in the regulatory and law enforcement community to ensure that the U.S. financial systems are protected from the risks associated with this type of illicit financial behavior.”

According to OFAC, from 2001 to 2007, SCB’s London head office and its Dubai branch engaged in stripping practices that interfered with the implementation of U.S. economic sanctions by financial institutions in the United States, including SCB’s New York branch. In London, those practices included omitting or removing references to US-sanctioned locations or entities from payment messages sent to U.S. financial institutions. SCB replaced the names of ordering customers on payment messages with special characters, effectively obscuring the true originator and sanctioned party in the transaction; and forwarding payment messages to US financial institutions that falsely referenced SCB as the ordering institution. In Dubai, the practices included sending payment messages to or through the United States without references to locations or entities that the US banks would have spotted as creating US sanctions issues. As a result, millions of dollars of payments were routed through U.S. banks for or on behalf of sanctioned parties in apparent violation of U.S. sanctions.

In addition, SCB’s New York branch settled charges related to eight apparent violations of the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations (FNKSR).

Under the settlement agreement, SCB is required to put in place and maintain policies and procedures to minimize the risk of the recurrence of such conduct in the future. SCB is also required to provide OFAC with copies of submissions to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System (Board of Governors) relating to the OFAC compliance review that it will be conducting as part of its settlement with the Board of Governors.

Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd. Pays $8 Million for OFAC Violations

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 by Danielle McClellan

2013/01/17

By: John Black

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the US Treasury Department announced on December 12, 2012 that the Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, Ltd. (“BTMU”), Tokyo, Japan, agreed to pay $8,571,634 to settle apparent violations of US embargoes and sanctions on Burma, Iran, Sudan, Cuba, and persons involved in the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The violations occurred between April 3, 2006, and March 16, 2007.

According to OFAC, BTMU’s Tokyo operations concealed the involvement of countries or persons subject to U.S. sanctions in transactions that BTMU processed through financial institutions in the United States. Pursuant to written operational instructions utilized in a Tokyo operations center, BTMU employees engaged in stripping activities, which means they systematically deleted or omitted from payment messages any information referencing U.S. sanctions targets that would cause the funds to be blocked or rejected, prior to sending the transactions through the United States. These activities are similar to the so-called stripping activities for which many of the largest European banks have agreed to pay over $2 billion combined penalties to the US Government in the past.

According to OFAC, using its stripping practices, BTMU processed at least 97 funds transfers, with an aggregate value of approximately $5,898,943, through BTMU’s New York branch or other banks in the United States, in apparent violation of OFAC regulations. In 2007, BTMU’s senior management learned of these practices, it took the textbook correct actions: It began an internal review of historical transaction data and made a voluntary self-disclosure to OFAC.

OFAC said that it decided on the settlement amount based on its General Factors under OFAC’s Economic Sanctions Enforcement Guidelines in its regulations at 31 CFR Part 501, app. A. OFAC said these are the key factors that determined the amount of the penalty:

  • BTMU’s conduct concealed the involvement of U.S. sanctions targets and displayed reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions;
  • The general manager of the Operations Center in Tokyo knew or had reason to know that procedures had been implemented instructing employees to manipulate payment instructions;
  • BTMU’s conduct conferred a substantial economic benefit to targets of OFAC sanctions;
  • BTMU is a large, commercially sophisticated financial institution;
  • BTMU has undertaken significant remediation to improve its OFAC compliance policies and procedures;
  • BTMU substantially cooperated with OFAC’s investigation, including providing detailed and organized information regarding the apparent violations, and entering into a tolling agreement with OFAC; and
  • BTMU has no history of prior OFAC violations.

OFAC determined that BTMU’s violations constitute an “egregious case” despite the BTMU internal investigation, voluntary disclosure, and clean record. Obviously, the fact that these violations were the result of intentional actions to evade the rules, as opposed to an oversight or misunderstanding of the rules, weighed heavily in OFAC’s decision to impose a significant penalty for this egregious case.

US Publishes Rules to Prohibit Foreign Subsidiaries of US Companies from Doing Business with Iran

Thursday, January 17th, 2013 by Danielle McClellan

2013/01/17

By: John Black

As we described in past issues, on December 26, 2012, the United States published a Federal Register notice to revise the Iranian Transaction and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR) to prohibit foreign-based subsidiaries of US companies from being involved in most activities with Iran. The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) in the US Treasury Department revised the ITSR to implement elements of the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012 and multiple executive orders.

One of the key changes is that a new section 560.215 was added to the ITSR to prohibit entities owned or controlled by a United States person and established or maintained outside the United States from “knowingly” engaging in activities in which US persons have long been prohibited from engaging. These entities outside the United States, let’s call them foreign subsidiaries, are “owned or controlled by a US person if the US person:

  • Holds a 50 percent or greater equity interest by vote or value in the entity;
  • Holds a majority of seats on the board of directors of the entity; or
  • Otherwise controls the actions, policies, or personnel decisions of the entity.

Now, foreign subsidiaries, like US persons, are prohibited from knowingly engaging in any transaction directly or indirectly with Government of Iran or any person subject to the jurisdiction of Iran (for example, any entity located in Iran). “Knowingly” means having actual knowledge or reason to know. If you combine “reason to know” with engaging “indirectly” in an activity, you have a broad prohibition that could create huge compliance challenges for large and complex organizations.

There are two key exemptions from this new prohibition on foreign subsidiaries. The first applies to certain activities related to the natural gas pipeline from the Shah Deniz natural gas field in Azerbaijan’s sector of the Caspian Sea to Turkey and Europe (and related pipeline projects). The second exemption applies to authorized intelligence activities of the US Government, which frees up the US CIA and its affiliates from having to file voluntary disclosures for actions in Iran.

The ITSR includes a “winding down” general license provision that gives foreign subsidiaries a short time period to end their activities involving Iran. ITSR 560.555 authorizes activities normally incident to winding down newly prohibited activities through March 8, 2013 as long as no US persons are involved in those activities.

On a related point, section 4 of an October 9, 2012 Executive Order says that the penalties for a foreign subsidiaries violations may be assessed against the owning/controlling US company but the penalties will not be applied if the US person divests or terminates its business with the entity by February 6, 2013.

When the US Government imposed its trade embargo on Iran back in the mid-1990’s it intentionally allowed foreign subsidiaries to do business with Iran as long as the US parent company was not involved. Not only are those days gone, but now US persons face the difficult, and in some cases nearly impossible, task of ending their foreign subsidiaries activities in Iran or ending their ownership/control of the foreign subsidiary. Good luck will be needed for this impossible task, even for those companies who began ending their Iran activities long before these new rules entered into force.

For the complete Federal Register notice go to http://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/fr77_75845.pdf

Treasury Lists Countries Requiring Cooperation With an International Boycott

Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 by Holly Thorne

2012/01/03

By: Holly Thorne

The Department of the Treasury published a current list of countries which require or may require participation in, or cooperation with, an international boycott (within the meaning of section 999(b)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986).  The purpose of this list is to provide guidance regarding compliance with the antiboycott compliance aspects of the US tax code.  While this advice is not technically specific to the antiboycott provisions in Part 760 of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), it certainly is a reasonable basis for a company to use when it decides how to allocate its compliance resources for compliance with the EAR antiboycott rules.

Treasury identified the following countries that “require or may require participation in, or cooperation with, an international boycott (within the meaning of section 999(b)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986),” e.g., the Arab boycott of Israel:

– Kuwait

– Lebanon

– Libya

– Qatar

– Saudi Arabia

– Syria

– United Arab Emirates

– Yemen

Iraq is not included in this list, but its status with respect to future lists remains under review by the Department of the Treasury.