On June 8, OFAC updated its Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) Relating to the Lifting of Certain U.S. Sanctions Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). In addition to adding nine FAQs related to Foreign Entities Owned or Controlled by U.S. Persons (see, K.14 through K.22), OFAC added two FAQs, C.15 and C.16, regarding Financial and Banking Measures. Specifically, C.15 clarifies that U.S. financial institutions “can transact with, including by opening or maintaining correspondent accounts for, non-U.S., non-Iranian financial institutions that maintain correspondent banking relationships or otherwise transact with Iranian financial institutions that are not on the SDN List.” Non-U.S. financial institutions remain prohibited from routing Iran-related transactions through U.S. financial institutions or involve U.S. persons in such transactions, unless the transactions are exempt from regulation or licensed by OFAC. FAQ C.16 addresses whether or not a non-U.S., non-Iranian entity may engage in transactions with Iranian persons not on the SDN List if one or more U.S. persons serve on the non-Iranian entity’s Board of Directors or senior managers. While the presence of one or more U.S. persons on the Board of Directors or serving as a senior manager does not, according to C.16, necessarily preclude the entity from transacting with Iranian persons not on the SDN List, OFAC stresses that “U.S. persons must be walled off or “ring-fenced” from Iran-related business.” OFAC recommended that non-U.S., non-Iranian entities consider implementing broad recusal policies to wall off U.S. persons for the institution’s Iran-related business.
On June 23, OFAC announced a $107,691.30 settlement with a North Carolina-based medical device company for apparent violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560 (the Regulations). Specifically, the company violated § 560.204 of the Regulations by exporting a number of its medical products to its United Arab Emirates distributor throughout April and May 2011 with the knowledge or reason to know that the products were ultimately destined for Iran. The settlement amount reflects OFAC’s consideration of the following aggravating factors: (i) the company acted willfully by exporting products it knew or had reason to know were ultimately destined for Iran, editing its destination control statement at the request of its distributor and continuing to conduct business with its distributor after receiving confirmation that the distributor had reexported the company’s products to Iran; (ii) the company’s former CEO and International Sales Manager knew the products were ultimately destined for Iran; and (iii) the company did not have a sanctions compliance program at the time of the apparent violations. OFAC considered the following as mitigating factors when determining the settlement amount: (i) limited harm was inflicted on U.S. sanctions program objectives because OFAC likely would have granted the company a license to export the medical products to Iran, had the company sought permission to do so; (ii) the company had no prior OFAC sanctions history; (iii) the company took remedial steps, such as establishing an OFAC compliance program; and (iv) the company “cooperated with OFAC’s investigation and agreed to toll the statute of limitations for a total of 513 days.”
On May 17, OFAC amended the Burmese Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 537 by adding a general license to authorize most transactions related to U.S. persons residing in Burma that are otherwise prohibited by the Regulations, including paying rent and purchasing goods and services for personal use. In addition, the amendments add general licenses to (i) extend indefinitely General License 20, which authorizes transactions “ordinarily incident to exports to or from Burma that are otherwise prohibited involving an individual or company that is designated or otherwise blocked by OFAC’s sanctions”; and (ii) support trade-related transactions by permitting certain transactions incident to the movement of goods within Burma. OFAC also updated an existing general license to authorize most banking services involving Innwa Bank and Myawaddy Bank (two currently designated financial institutions in Burma) and terminated sanctions on Myanma Economic Bank, Myanmar Foreign Trade Bank, and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank, which, taken together, authorizes “most transactions involving all Burmese financial institutions.”
On April 15, OFAC issued new regulations to implement the Hizballah International Financing Prevention Act of 2015. The regulations authorize the Secretary of the Treasury to prohibit U.S. financial institutions from opening or maintaining correspondent or payable through accounts, or to impose strict conditions on the opening or maintenance of such accounts, for foreign financial institutions determined to knowingly: (i) facilitate significant transactions for or on behalf of Hizballah or any person whose property or interests in property are blocked due to a connection with Hizballah; (ii) engage in money laundering to carry out such transactions; or (iii) facilitate or provide significant financial services in relation to transactions described in (i) and (ii). OFAC will publish the names of foreign financial institutions sanctioned under the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations in the Federal Register, and include them in the Hizballah Financial Sanctions Regulations List, a new list maintained on OFAC’s website. The regulations took effect immediately upon issuance.
On April 14, OFAC issued the Burundi Sanctions Regulations, 31 CFR part 554 to implement the November 22, 2015 Executive Order 13712, “Blocking the Property of Certain persons Contributing to the Situation in Burundi.” OFAC issued the regulations in abbreviated form to provide immediate guidance to the public. The regulations provide limited definitional and interpretive guidance, and contain a number of licenses permitting U.S. persons to engage in activities otherwise prohibited by Executive Order 13712, including, among others, providing legal services and emergency medical services to designated persons. Persons designated pursuant to Executive Order 13712, i.e., those whose property and interests in property are blocked, are published in the Federal Register and incorporated into OFAC’s List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons with the identifier ‘[BURUNDI].’” OFAC intends to issue a more comprehensive set of regulations in the future, which may include additional interpretive and definitional guidance, as well as additional general licenses and statements of licensing policy.