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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.

Legal and Reputation Risks in Technology Supply Chains

Some Congress members are lobbying the Administration to impose human rights sanctions on Chinese officials and companies responsible for or complicit in abuses against China’s Uighur Muslim minority and other minorities. Two companies named, Dahua Technology and Hikvision, are very large, China-based global firms that produce surveillance products and systems. The bottom line is that the tech industry should take note of the development (even if no sanctions are imposed), as it foreshadows the legal and reputation risk issues they will, without doubt, face in connection with tech-enabled abuses, privacy encroachments, and other conduct by consumers of tech products and services.

Trump Administration Supercharged Global Magnitsky Corruption and Human Rights Sanctions

Beyond the parameters of the Global Magnitsky Act, EO 13818 markedly enlarges the range of sanctionable conduct and persons. The differences between the language of EO 13818 and the Global Magnitsky Act are substantive and significant. In several instances, EO 13818 expands sanctions by omitting the Act’s qualifying language, adding new bases for sanctions, and/or leaving key terms undefined. Key instances of EO 13818’s broad and/or uncertain language are discussed below.

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.

Trump Administration Targets Chinese Dominance, Corruption in Africa

Notably, in the two pages of the NSS that are devoted to the National Security Strategy in the Africa context, none of Africa’s 54 nations are mentioned, but China is named twice. The NSS notes with concern China’s “expanding . . . economic military presence in Africa, growing from a small investor in the continent two decades ago into Africa’s largest trading partner today.” China’s methods and influence in Africa are described unflatteringly.  “Some Chinese practices,” the NSS states bluntly, “undermine Africa’s long-term development by corrupting elites, dominating extractive industries, and locking countries into unsustainable and opaque debts and commitments.”

U.S. Multinationals, Dual Citizens May Have Greater Magnitsky Sanctions Exposure

The Global Magnitsky Act defines a “foreign person” as “any citizen or national of a foreign state (including any such individual who is also a citizen or national of the United States), or any entity not organized solely under the laws of the United States or existing solely in the United States.” Accordingly, under the Global Magnitsky Act, individuals who are dual (or more) nationals and companies that are organized under U.S. law(s) and foreign law(s) or exist (e.g., are present, authorized to conduct business) in the United States and one or more foreign jurisdictions, like “foreign persons” completely lacking U.S. status, are apparently subject to sanctions for committing or facilitating sanctionable corrupt acts and human rights abuses. Thus, these  “U.S. Persons,” when regarded as “foreign persons” under the Global Magnitsky Act, have additional sanctions exposure that would not apply to, for example, individuals holding only U.S. citizenship or companies organized only under U.S. law(s) and existing only in the United States.

House Bill Would Enhance U.S. States’ Iran Sanctions Authority

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.”

Sovereign Commercial Enterprises: Anti-Corruption and Confidentiality Risks

State-owned enterprises (SOEs, including sovereign wealth funds) are prominent players in international business. Given their ownership, SOEs have garnered scrutiny for their lack of transparency and heightened anti-corruption and anti-money laundering risk, as have individual SOE executives and other personnel who qualify as Politically Exposed Persons. In connection with commercial activities, SOEs are not protected in most cases by sovereign immunity. Thus, SOEs can, like their privately-owned counterparts, be subject to foreign legal processes. Given the greater scrutiny around SOEs and some of the high profile enforcement actions involving them directly or indirectly (for example, the 1MDB case), anti-corruption and other compliance, as well as good governance and risk management, are essential to avoid legal, commercial, and reputational risk and loss.