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OFAC’s Expanded Sanctions Reporting Rules: Analysis and Public Comment

On June 21, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued an interim final rule (IFR) substantially revising sanctions reporting regulations. The most significant amendment was to OFAC’s rejected transactions reporting rule, which now, for the first time, applies not just to U.S. financial institutions, but also to U.S. businesses, nonprofits, and individuals. The rule also appears to apply to foreign entities owned or controlled by U.S. persons. Public comments on the IFR are due by July 22, 2019.

Bank Shareholders as Anti-Money Laundering Enforcers: Corporate Governance-AML Nexus

Two proxy advisors are urging Deutsche Bank’s shareholders to vote against directors and senior managers for AML compliance lapses. The advice is significant as it clearly connects anti-financial crime compliance to corporate governance by activating bank shareholders as powerful enforcers anti-money laundering expectations. If Deutsche’s shareholders heed the calls of proxy advisors and unseat members of the bank’s management for AML lapses, they will set a cautionary precedent for other publicly-owned banks. But even if Deutsche’s shareholders do not so vote, the proxy advice given by ISS and ECGS has communicated a clear message that bank anti-money laundering compliance is part and parcel of corporate governance and a measure of directors’ and senior officers’ overall performance.

Anti-Corruption Enforcement is Globalized

As anti-corruption standards and enforcement practices become more uniform, cooperation among enforcement authorities will increase in frequency and effectiveness. In the FCPA enforcement context and in others, authorities have imposed record-setting fines, and likely will continue to do so with greater frequency, particularly where violations are egregious, widespread, or have broad impact. In such an environment, monetary penalties for avoidable violations may no longer be absorbable as the cost of doing business. As a matter of good business practice, companies of all sizes should take steps to strengthen compliance programs appropriately for their industries, organizational structures, home obligations, and the jurisdictions in which they do business.

Banking Transparency for Sanctioned Persons

On September 7, 2018, Congresswoman Mia Love (R-UT) introduced in the House of Representatives H.R. 6751, the Banking Transparency for Sanctioned Persons Act of 2018 to “increase transparency with respect to financial services benefitting state sponsors of terrorism, human rights abusers, and corrupt officials.” This update discusses the Banking Transparency Act’s provisions and what it conveys about the current U.S. legal climate around corruption and human rights sanctions, Congress’ increasingly activist sanctions posture, and the risk management and compliance inferences that U.S. and foreign financial institutions should draw from the Banking Transparency Bill when viewed in context.

Canary in the Cobalt Mine: Glencore Corruption Probe May Not Be a One Off

The U.S. arm of Glencore, the global commodities trading and mining giant, has been served a subpoena by the U.S. Department of Justice, according to news accounts. The DOJ’s subpoena reportedly seeks documents and information pertaining Glencore’s business in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Nigeria and Venezuela to assess potential violations of U.S. anti-money laundering laws and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the principal U.S. law essentially prohibiting the bribery of foreign officials for business gain by U.S. companies and others subject to United States’ jurisdiction (broadly construed and applied).The Glencore subpoena may not be a one-off and it should be viewed– at least for risk assessment and compliance improvement purposes– as potentially part of a larger U.S. strategy to proactively target corruption and, by extension, money laundering, in Africa and Africa’s extractives industries. (The wider context is that the Trump Administration views U.S. anti-corruption, anti-money laundering and sanctions laws and their enforcement as “tools of economic diplomacy”, including to advance trade and other policy objectives).

Trump Administration Targets Chinese Dominance, Corruption in Africa

Notably, in the two pages of the NSS that are devoted to the National Security Strategy in the Africa context, none of Africa’s 54 nations are mentioned, but China is named twice. The NSS notes with concern China’s “expanding . . . economic military presence in Africa, growing from a small investor in the continent two decades ago into Africa’s largest trading partner today.” China’s methods and influence in Africa are described unflatteringly.  “Some Chinese practices,” the NSS states bluntly, “undermine Africa’s long-term development by corrupting elites, dominating extractive industries, and locking countries into unsustainable and opaque debts and commitments.”