OFAC Settles with Illinois-based Company for Alleged Violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations

On September 13, OFAC announced a $4,320,000 settlement with an Illinois-based company to resolve allegations that it violated the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR), 31 C.F.R. part 560. From approximately May 5, 2009 to March 2, 2012, OFAC alleges that on 48 occasions the company shipped seeds to consignees located in Europe or the Middle East with the knowledge or reason to know that the seeds were ultimately destined for Iran distributors. The settlement amount reflects OFAC’s consideration of the following aggravating factors: (i) the company acted willfully by engaging in conduct it knew to be prohibited; (ii) the company acted recklessly by ignoring its OFAC compliance responsibilities; (iii) the company’s employees, including mid-level management, had “contemporaneous knowledge” that the seeds were ultimately destined for Iran, and for almost eight months after the Director of Finance learned of OFAC’s investigation, it continued sales to its Iranian distributors; (iv) the company’s conduct resulted in providing $770,000 in economic benefit to Iran; (v) the company failed to cooperate with OFAC at the start of the investigation, providing information that was inaccurate, misleading, or incomplete; and (vi) the company is a subdivision of a commercially sophisticated, international corporation. Mitigating factors considered when determining the settlement amount include, but are not limited to, the company’s lack of sanctions history with OFAC for five years before the first of the alleged 48 violations and the remedial steps the company took to ensure future compliance with OFAC sanctions.

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Obama Administration Issues Executive Order Terminating Côte d’Ivoire Sanctions Programs

On September 14, the White House issued an Executive Order titled “Termination of Emergency with Respect to the Situation in or in Relation to Côte d’Ivoire.” The Executive Order terminates the Côte d’Ivoire-related sanctions program. Accordingly, OFAC updated its SDN List to indicate the removal of the sanctions against the country established under the United Nations Security Council’s Resolution 2284. The Executive Order is effective immediately.

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OFAC Publishes Burma-Related FAQ

On September 14, President Obama announced his intent to lift certain sanctions against Burma and to designate it as a least-developed beneficiary developing country for the purposes of the Generalized System of Preferences program, a status that would allow imported products from Burma to enjoy lower tariffs and preferential treatment. Accordingly, OFAC published new FAQ 480 to address the President’s announcement regarding the policy change with respect to Burma. The policy change will take effect when the President issues a new Executive Order and, at that time, OFAC “will formally remove the Burmese Sanctions Regulations from the Code of Federal Regulations and take other administrative actions as necessary.”

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OFAC Imposes Civil Penalty for the Export of Orthodontic Supplies to Iran

On September 7, OFAC announced a $43,200 settlement with an Oregon-based manufacturing company for alleged violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR), 31 C.F.R. part 560. Specifically, OFAC alleges that the company violated §§ 560.204 and 560.206 of the ITSR between April 2008 and July 2010 by exporting orthodontic supplies, with a collective value of $59,886, to Germany, United Arab Emirates, and/or Lebanon with the knowledge or reason to know that the supplies 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; (ii) the company’s management knew or had reason to know that the products were destined for Iran; and (iii) the company failed to implement a compliance program until June 2008. Mitigating factors considered when determining the settlement amount include (i) the fact that alleged violations did not “result in great economic or other benefit conferred on Iran” because the transactions were generally consistent with OFAC’s licensing policy; (ii) the company’s lack of sanctions history with OFAC for five years before the first of the seven alleged violations; (iii) the company’s cooperation with OFAC by agreeing to toll the statute of limitations; (iv) the company’s development of an economic sanctions compliance procedure in June 2008 and the subsequent draft of a written compliance policy; and (v) the company’s lack of “commercial sophistication in conducting international sales at the time of the alleged violations.”

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Treasury Issues Joint AML/BSA Fact Sheet

On August 30, the Department of the Treasury, along with the OCC, FDIC, Federal Reserve and NCUA, issued a joint fact sheet on foreign correspondent banking. The fact sheet provides a summary of the agencies’ (i) expectations for BSA/AML and OFAC risk management at U.S. depository institutions; (ii) risk-based approach to the supervisory examination process; and (iii) use of enforcement as an “extension of the supervisory process.” As highlighted in a corresponding blog post, the fact sheet explains that about “95% of BSA/OFAC compliance deficiencies identified by the [Federal Banking Agencies], FinCEN, and OFAC are corrected by the institution’s management without the need for any enforcement action or penalty.” The fact sheet notes that, under existing regulations there is no general requirement for depository institutions to conduct due diligence on an individual customer of a foreign financial institution (FFI). But it also notes that “[i]n determining the appropriate level of due diligence necessary for an FFI relationship, U.S. depository institutions should consider the extent to which information related to the FFI’s markets and types of customers is necessary to assess the risks posed by the relationship, satisfy the institution’s obligations to detect and report suspicious activity, and comply with U.S. economic sanctions. This may require U.S. depository institutions to request additional information concerning the activity underlying the FFI’s transactions in accordance with the suspicious activity reporting rules and sanctions compliance obligations.”

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