America's economic and financial heft facilitates the extraterritorial reach of U.S. sanctions and other law. For example, global transactions denominated in U.S. dollars and processed through the U.S. financial system create a jurisdictional nexus between the United States and foreign parties, property, and events.
The Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) today sanctioned Malaysia-based Mahan Travel and Tourism Sdn Bhd ("Mahan Travel") pursuant to Executive Order 13,224. Rather then information should be taken as a prompt to other travel agencies or vendors that directly or indirectly “act for or on behalf of Mahan Air” to disassociate from the airline. Such other travel agencies or vendors should, at minimum, review and understand today’s Mahan Travel action, assess their sanctions and related risk (legal, commercial, etc.) and take defensive compliance steps that are appropriate to their sanctions/legal exposure and commercial position. The broader takeaway from today’s OFAC action against Mahan Travel is that it reinforces the fact that U.S. sanctions and other laws are global in reach. Non-U.S. parties should take note of their potential exposure to U.S. sanctions or other legal enforcement actions.
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.
As discussed in an earlier MassPoint Business Update on OFAC Directive 1, it was expected that OFAC would issue, by November 28, 2017, a general license authorizing derivative transactions in prohibited debt and equity (see table below), consistent with the debt maturity limitations imposed by CAATSA. General License 1B does not authorize primary transactions by U.S. persons (wherever located) or in the United States in assets subject to the prohibitions of Directives 1, 2, or 3.
The Wolfsberg Group, a group of thirteen global banks, on October 15, 2017 announced its issuance of a “comprehensively” updated Correspondent Banking Due Diligence Questionnaire (the “CBDDQ”). The CBDDQ responds to FATF Recommendation 13 on Correspondent Banking and is the international correspondent banking standard on which the Wolfsberg Group members have “settled“, “committed to being early adopters of,” and plan to support “with FAQ’s and additional awareness raising materials.”
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 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 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.”