As required by the Countering Russian Influence in Europe and Eurasia Act of 2017 (CRIEEA), the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on September 29, 2017 amended and reissued OFAC Directive 1 (Directive 1). As amended, Directive 1 continues to prohibit certain “new” debt, equity, and related transactions involving entities subject to U.S. Sectoral Sanctions targeting Russia’s financial services sector. This Business Update discusses the background to and mechanics of Directive 1 as amended and reissued.
The logic and law enforcement value of imposing anti-financial crime obligations on financial intermediaries are clear. Nevertheless, a reassessment is now appropriate, particularly given (1) increasing legal and regulatory demands on financial intermediaries; (2) the exclusion, through “derisking,” from the financial system of small and medium businesses (SMEs), nonprofit organizations, money services businesses (MSBs), and correspondent relationship-dependent banks; and, (3) overarching questions as to whether the financial and administrative costs of compliance within the current legal framework—generally or at specific points—yield commensurate law enforcement benefits without unduly harming the legitimate interests of individuals, businesses and other financial system stakeholders.
MassPoint’s Founder and Principal, Hdeel Abdelhady, discussed the legal significance and potential commercial implications of the NYDFS’ enforcement action against Habib Bank at a time of correspondent banking derisking.
On August 22, 2017, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued revised Geographic Targeting Orders (GTOs) designed to combat money laundering and related financial crimes in select U.S. residential real estate markets. The GTOs further expand the scope of GTOs issued in January 2016, expanded in July 2016, and renewed in February 2017. In tandem with the August GTOs, FinCEN issued an Advisory to Financial Institutions and Real Estate Firms and Professionals (the “Advisory”) and FAQs.
On July 26, 2017, a bill was introduced in the House that would bolster U.S. states’ authority to impose sanctions on parties that engage in certain business with or in Iran. The State Sanctions Against Iranian Terrorism Act, H.R. 3425, would “amend the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 to secure the authority of State and local governments to adopt and enforce measures restricting investment in business enterprises in Iran, and for other purposes.”
On July 20, 2017, Representative Ted Budd (R-NC) introduced in the House of Representatives H.R. 3321, the “National Strategy for Combating Terrorist, Underground, and Other Illicit Financing Act.” The purpose of H.R. 3321 is to “require the establishment of a national strategy for combating the financing of terrorism and related financial crimes, and for other purposes.” As summarized by the House Financial Services Committee, which will meet to markup the bill on July 25, 2017, H.R. 3321 would among other measures “require the President, acting through the Treasury Secretary, to develop and publish a whole-of-government strategy to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.”
The stated purpose of the World Bank Accountability Act of 2017 is to “increase accountability, combat corruption, and strengthen management effectiveness at the World Bank.” Among other measures, H.R. 3326 would, as summarized by the Financial Services Committee, “withhold a portion of future appropriations for the World Bank until the Treasury Department reports that the World Bank has undertaken reforms to fight corruption, strengthen management accountability, and undermine violent extremism.” In addition, the World Bank Accountability Act of 2017 would “authorize the Trump Administration’s request for reduced funding to the Bank’s International Development Association.”
The U.S. House of Representatives Financial Services Committee (the “FSC“) Terrorism and Illicit Finance Subcommittee will on July 18, 2017 hold a hearing entitled “Managing Terrorism Financing Risk in Remittances and Money Transfers.” The FSC memorandum to all of its members states that the “hearing will explore the terrorist and illicit financing risks that are inherent in any form of asset transfer whether through formal banking channels, MSBs, other legitimate remittance networks, or through informal and unregulated value-transfer systems.”
the enforcement of OFAC-administered sanctions by a state agency—even against banks by a banking regulator operating in a dual banking system—raises fundamental constitutional and other legal questions. Chief among them is the overarching question of whether U.S. states have authority to directly or effectively enforce OFAC-administered sanctions, particularly independently and prior to enforcement by competent federal authorities—namely OFAC. This question and some of the legal issues and policy and practical considerations appertaining to it are discussed in detail in a forthcoming publication. This document provides a summary preview of some of the key legal issues discussed in that publication. Additional summary previews may be provided separately.
Ahead of the upcoming G20 meeting, the Financial Stability Board (FSB) published today, July 4, 2017, a progress report on efforts to address the withdrawal of correspondent banking relationships (derisking) and its action plan to assess and address derisking. Among the areas of concern and action items identified by the FSB are remittances and building the capacity of affected respondent bank jurisdictions to effectively identify and counter money laundering, terrorism finance, and other illicit financial activities. Importantly, the FSB has stated that its efforts will focus not just on legislation and rule-making in respondent jurisdictions, but also on the capacity of those jurisdictions to implement and enforce stronger AML/CFT and other anti-financial crime rules.