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Senate Bill Seeks Sanctions in Khashoggi Case, End to Yemen War

The Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act of 2018 seeks further sanctions for those responsible for the death of Jamal Khashoggi, including at the highest levels of the Saudi establishment, and an end to the war in Yemen. The Act adds a chapter to the unfolding story of Congress’ increasing sanctions activism, stemming from a lack of faith that the Trump Administration will enforce sanctions with fidelity to law and national policy.

USMCA Borrows From Secondary Sanctions Playbook to Freeze Out “Non-Market” Nations

The recently published text of the United States-Mexico-Canada trade agreement (USMCA) includes a peculiar provision that confers on each of the parties the right to terminate the USMCA if any of the other parties enters into a “free trade agreement” (FTA) with a country determined by any of the USMCA countries to be a “non-market” economy. Insofar as the USMCA requires the parties to choose between maintaining the trilateral trade agreement or entering into an FTA with a non-market economy country, the USMCA imports the premise that underlies U.S. secondary sanctions.

Russia Summit Could Spur Congressional Activism on Sanctions, Trade

The meeting in Helsinki between the U.S. and Russian presidents has (as presumably everyone knows) sparked strong reactions in the United States, particularly in response to the U.S. President’s performance. Beyond the politics of the moment and its aftermath, the Helsinki meeting could have legal consequences, should Congress move to insert itself, beyond its standard law-making and oversight role, in sanctions and trade matters. And not just with respect to Russia. There are a number of ways that Congress can play a greater role in sanctions and trade. Such Congressional involvement, if it materializes, would likely be designed to constrain the President, such as by restricting his ability to lift, not impose or modify sanctions through Executive action.

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.

United States Sanctions Malaysia Agent of Iranian Airline

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.

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).

ZTE: Was the Export Ban the Right Penalty?

The sentiments expressed by Senator Rubio and others reflect commercial, competition, policy, and strategic concerns held by business, policy makers, defense and national security officials, and others about China and Chinese firms like ZTE and Huawei. But when raised in the context of and as a justification for a specific legal enforcement action, the sentiments blur the lines between what should primarily be an enforcement based on facts and applicable laws, rather than an instrument for advancing wider policy objectives that are not specifically advanced by the laws applicable to the conduct for which ZTE was penalized. And, while Secretary Ross’ stated rationale to impose the harsher penalty to change ZTE’s behavior may have been sound, the recommendation of the career professionals with expertise in sanctions and export controls enforcement should, perhaps, have carried the day. Secretary Ross’ description of the process leading to the export ban and the mess that has followed it give more reason to ask whether, in the first place, the export ban was the appropriate remedy as a matter of applicable laws and the objectives served by them.