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Hostility Toward Iran Nuclear Deal May Have Chilling Effect on Legal Transactions Under U.S. Sanctions

The prospect of increasingly hostile policy and legal actions toward Iran may be enough to thwart or make more difficult Iran-related transactions that are (and might remain) legal. Parties planning to engage in such legal Iran-related transactions should take note and, if appropriate, action ahead of any changes in law or adjustments in Iran-related risk-assessments by banks and individual and commercial parties.
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OFAC DIRECTIVE 1 AS AMENDED SEPTEMBER 29, 2017

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.
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Banks, Credit Unions and Other Financial Insitutions as Deputized Law Enforcement

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.
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FinCEN Expands Geographic Targeting Orders to Include Funds Transfers and Hawaii Real Estate

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.
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House Bill Would Establish National Strategy for Combating Terrorism Financing

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.”
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Do State Regulators Like the NYDFS Have Authority to Enforce OFAC Sanctions?

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.
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International Trade & Business

AML/CFT, Sanctions, Anti-Corruption Regulatory Counseling and Compliance MassPoint works with banks, other businesses, charitable organizations and other non-profits, and individuals to navigate and comply with U.S. laws and regulations and international standards in the following areas. Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Counter-Terrorism Financing…

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U.S. Senators Raise National Security Concerns About Foreign Investment in U.S. Real Estate

On May 17, 2017, U.S. Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Claire McCaskill (D-MO), and Sherrod Brown (D-OH)—respectively ranking members of the Senate Finance; Homeland Security and Government Affairs; and Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committees of the U.S. Senate—asked the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review the approach taken by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) to foreign investment in U.S. real estate and to "assess whether and how CFIUS addresses the full range of national security challenges such transactions may pose." (The Senators' letter to the GAO is below). Specifically, the Senators have asked the GAO to examine a number of issues aimed at assessing the extent to which applicable regulations and the CFIUS process capture real estate transactions, the percentage of foreign acquisitions of U.S. real estate that have "filed" for CFIUS review, and the information and processes used by CFIUS to assess national security issues raised by foreign acquisitions of U.S. real estate.
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Congressional Hearing on Terrorism Financing Probes Bank Secrecy Act Data Effectiveness, Potential BSA Amendments

On April 27, 2017, I attended a Congressional hearing on “Safeguarding the Financial System from Terrorist Financing,” held by the House Committee on Financial Services’ Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance (the “Subcommittee”). The sole witness was Mr. Jamal El-Hindi, Acting Director of the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a bureau of the U.S. Department of the Treasury charged with protecting the financial system from money laundering, terrorism financing and other illicit activities. The hearing’s purposes were to examine the methods and efficacy of FinCEN data collection, processing and information sharing and whether the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and USA PATRIOT Act should be amended to improve FinCEN’s anti-money laundering (AML) and counter-terrorism financing (CFT) capacities and performance. In this brief MassPoint update, I highlight BSA data collection and usage numbers and some of the questions and issues that appeared to be of particular interest and/or concern to Congress members in attendance, taking into account the nature and frequency of the questions asked, the tone of questions, and related requests for additional or clarifying information from FinCEN.
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