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Banking Law & Regulation

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.

Doing Business in Emerging Markets

In International Business, Sweat the “Small” Stuff

Business transactions necessarily become more complex when they involve two or more countries. Among other tasks, it is necessary to understand the content and applicability of foreign laws, retain local counsel, address conflict of law issues, and make (hopefully strategically, rather than as an afterthought) governing law and dispute resolution selections.The focus on more substance aspects of international transactions should not be exclusive.

Sanctions

Personal Remittances and Proceeds of Inheritances from Iran After U.S. Withdrawal from Iran Deal

For U.S. persons seeking to engage in permitted noncommercial, personal remittance or inheritance-related transactions, the higher risk sensitivity of some third country (and U.S.-based) financial institutions may complicate (or thwart in some cases), legal transactions. In light of this, persons seeking to engage in such legal transactions in the post-U.S. JCPOA withdrawal environment should exercise extra care in initiating and executing legal transfers with third country financial institutions.

Sanctions

Iran Sanctions Update: U.S. Withdrawal From JCPOA

The United States today unilaterally withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal (the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)). The U.S. Treasury Department and the White House have announced that those sanctions that were lifted as part of the JCPOA framework will, as expected, be re-imposed. The Office of Foreign Assets Control at Treasury (OFAC) announced today that it will institute 90-day and 180-day “wind down” periods, after which previously lifted U.S. sanctions will again take effect. For example: Starting August 7, 2018, the import to the United States of Iranian carpets and certain foodstuffs will be prohibited, as will the export and re-export to Iran of commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services. Starting on November 5, 2018, foreign financial institutions will be subject to U.S. sanctions for transactions with the Iran Central Bank and designated Iranian financial institutions.

Executive Order 13818, Global Magnitsky Sanctions Analysis

The Global Magnitsky Sanctions are extraordinary for a number of reasons. First, they are global in reach and require not jurisdictional nexus between the United States and the corrupt acts and human rights abuses they target. As to corruption, both the Global Magnitsky Act and EO 13818 define it broadly, well beyond U.S. and international frameworks that are concerned primarily or exclusively with bribery. The Global Magnitsky Sanctions also depart from U.S. and international anti-corruption frameworks by directly penalizing foreign government officials for corrupt acts.
As discussed above, EO 13818 significantly expands the scope and reach of the Global Magnitsky Act and, in doing so, employs extraordinary theories of liability, such as strict and vicarious liability on the leaders or officials of any foreign entity that engaged in covered corrupt acts. Independently and together, the provisions of EO 13818 empower the United States, and particularly the Executive Branch, to sanction a wide range of persons and conduct without meeting the due process, evidentiary, or other requirements that would apply in U.S. courts.
As indicated in a prior installment of this MassPoint series, 52 individuals and entities have so far been sanctioned under EO 13818. It remains to be seen how the Trump Administration (or subsequent administrations) will implement the Global Magnitsky Sanctions. For now, foreign persons in particular—both government and private—should familiarize themselves with the Global Magnitsky Sanctions and assess their risk for liability, particularly for facilitating corrupt acts such as by transferring the proceeds of corruption.

Banking Law & Regulation

The President’s “Personal Lawyer,” a “Hush” Payment, and a Bank Suspicious Activity Report

Following reports this week that the FBI executed search warrants at Cohen’s law offices, hotel room and home and seized “business records, emails and documents related to several topics, including a payment to” Stormy Daniels, the Wall Street Journal revisited the Cohen-linked Suspicious Activity Report, writing that First Republic Bank had “conducted its own investigation” of the Stormy Daniels transaction “after receiving the subpoena from the authorities.”

From a legal perspective, these and similar news reports are striking for the legal question that they raise: How did the existence of the Suspicious Activity Report become public? By law, banks and certain other financial institutions are required to have in place systems to detect and deter money laundering, terrorism financing and other financial crime. Banks and certain other financial institutions are required by law to file Suspicious Activity Reports with respect to certain criminal violations or where a transaction appears to have no lawful purpose, is inconsistent with a customer’s ordinary behavior and/or is in other ways suspicious (as indicated in a relevant section of the FFIEC Bank Secrecy Act manual below).