China and Australia Conclude Landmark Free Trade Agreement Negotiations

Summary

On November 17, 2014, China and Australia completed their negotiations for a China-Australia Free Trade Agreement (“ChAFTA”) by signing a Declaration of Intent which contained the essential elements of the free trade deal and commits both countries to draft the legal text of the agreement for signature at a later date.  This agreement ends almost a decade of free trade negotiations between China and Australia.  The ChAFTA is significant because it will initially lower and ultimately eliminate tariffs on a wide range of exports between the two countries boosting bilateral trade between the world’s second largest economy and a significant U.S. free trade partner in Asia.

Continue Reading

Round Two: Prosecutors Reopen Bank Settlements

With our political system suffering from a growing chasm down party lines, our public servants seem to be increasingly vulnerable to public pressure.  Politicians scramble to fight for whatever cause du jour will garner them the most support.  And lately, no political act is guaranteed to please Main Street quite so much as blaming the U.S. banking system for the country’s woes.  (It is not just the government attacking the banks; as we reported here, Arab Bank of Jordan is currently facing penalties after a jury of its peers decided the bank was liable for seemingly attenuated violations of the Anti-Terrorism Act.)

Continue Reading

ECR Episode XI: Rewriting the Guide to the Galaxy – Satellites Passed to Commerce Control

Glancing through the fictional but fascinating Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (Rsch. Ford Prefect; Pub. Megadodo Publications), one might recognize that the assertions therein are a bit confusing. Similarly, one might become confused when reviewing another, less whimsical, guide to the galaxy: the revised United States Munitions List Category XV – Spacecraft and Related Articles.

On November 10, 2014 Export Control Reform revisions will go into effect reshaping the USML category that has covered communications satellites for nearly 20 years. If you are responsible for complying with satellite export controls, we offer the same profound and pithy advice one finds right on the cover of the Hitchhiker’s Guide, “Don’t Panic.”

Continue Reading

Take the Mansion, But Leave the Thriller Jacket: DOJ Settles with Equatorial Guinea Veep for $30 Million in Assets Bought With Corrupt Proceeds

On October 10, 2014, the U.S. Department of Justice announced a civil settlement with Teodoro (“Teddy”) Nguema Obiang, Vice President of Equatorial Guinea and eldest son of the country’s current President, under the DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative. Through a combination of forfeiture and divestment, Obiang agreed to turn over $30 million in U.S.-based assets purchased in a “corruption-fueled spending spree,” according to the DOJ. Those assets include a Malibu mansion, Ferrari, and $1 million for life-size Michael Jackson statues Obiang had expatriated from the United States to Equatorial Guinea. He gets to keep a Gulfstream jet and most of his other Michael Jackson paraphernalia, however, including the red leather jacket MJ wore in “Thriller” and the white crystal-covered glove from the king of pop’s “Bad” tour. The settlement dollar-value represents less than half of what the DOJ sought; Obiang managed to send a bulk of his U.S.-based assets outside the United States, including several luxury cars. But the case still represents significant progress in the U.S. government’s anti-corruption efforts, particularly because this action was brought against an official still in power, and most of the settlement amount will be used for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea.

Continue Reading

Bulletin: Commerce Department Statistics on the First Year of Export Control Reform

Here is a summary of export data for the first year after the initial implementation of ECR:

  • There have been over 61,000 shipments of 600 series items since October 2013.
  • The 600 series exports are valued at approximately $2.1 billion.
  • The top 600 series ECCNs exported are:

Continue Reading

Beyond the Checklist: Seven Keys to Effective Trade Due Diligence

Anti-corruption due diligence can be vexing even in the best of conditions; it is often made more complicated by time and business pressures that arise in the context of a merger or acquisition or an urgent sales opportunity.  Anti-corruption compliance is always fact-intensive, and due diligence is no exception, requiring many judgment calls about what issues to prioritize and how to deploy limited resources.  This article aims to provide a basic outline of seven key steps to consider in anti-corruption due diligence.

Continue Reading

ECR Episode IX: The Export Control Reform Turns One – What are Your Plans for the Big Celebration?

The Year Mark

Apparently, it is now fashionable among my peers to host elaborate parties in honor of the first birthdays of their children. I have attended a number of these fêtes, and been impressed to just what lengths the parents will go to celebrate twelve months of growth and achievement for a Guest of Honor who will almost certainly not recall the event. However, we at the Global Trade Law Blog are nothing if not fashionable (thanks to our firm’s Fashion and Apparel blog – your move, “white shoe” firms) and are not to be left out of the latest trend.  As such, we are throwing our own birthday party, celebrating the first anniversary of Export Control Reform.

Continue Reading

Accounts and Accountability: Arab Bank Found Liable for Transactions Under the Anti-Terrorism Act

On September 22, 2014, a Brooklyn jury found Arab Bank, Jordan’s largest lender, guilty of violating the U.S. Anti-Terrorism Act for providing financial services to individuals and entities linked to Hamas. Hamas is currently designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and is listed on the Specially Designated Nationals List that OFAC maintains. Plaintiffs, victims and family members of victims of terrorist attacks, alleged that Arab Bank customers included members of Hamas and also a charitable organization, Saudi Committee, that sent payments to family members of Hamas suicide bombers. But not all of the individuals were on the SDN list, and neither was Saudi Committee.

Continue Reading

New U.S. Restrictions on Russia: OFAC Guidance and Industry-Specific Sanctions

OFAC Expands the 50 Percent Rule

Last month, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released new guidance related to entities owned or controlled by persons designated as a Specially Designated National (SDN) on OFAC’s SDN list.  Although the guidance leaves intact the current meaning “50 percent rule,” the rule will now allow OFAC to take a far broader approach in determining when the 50 percent rule applies.

Continue Reading

Who’s a “Foreign Official”? Supreme Court Could Clarify Key FCPA Term

On August 14, 2014, Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez filed a Petition for a writ of certiorari in the U.S. Supreme Court seeking clarification of a key term in the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.  Among other arguments, Esquenazi and Rodriguez (the “Petitioners”) state that the FCPA “leaves open the pivotal question of who qualifies as a ‘foreign official’” because the law does not define what it means to be an “instrumentality” of a foreign government.  The Department of Justice has waived its right to respond to the Petition, possibly signaling that the government believes the issue does not warrant the Court’s review.  Last week, the Washington Legal Foundation and the Independence Institute, a pro-business policy group and think-tank respectively, filed a friend-of-the-court brief in support of the Petition, arguing that the case is of exceptional importance to the business community.

Continue Reading

LexBlog