The Morning After: Waking up to Brexit and Its Impact on Your Business

On the morning of June 24, 2016, we woke up to a headline that had been much discussed, but still added a jolt to many people’s morning coffee: Britain to Leave the European Union.

The first response, almost inevitably, was fear and confusion. Global markets dropped precipitously (as did the Pound Sterling and the Euro) until the Bank of England spoke up to reassure investors, and even then the exchanges appeared jittery. Nevertheless, after bolting from bed in the first shocking instant, we propose a calmer moment to reflect on the new reality. Over breakfast (English breakfast tea with that, perhaps?), we may carefully examine how Brexit will impact global business.

To begin, we have taken that moment to analyze the implications of the UK’s separation from the European Union in the realm of sanctions, export controls, and foreign investment in the United States. We address those implications in the four questions below. Continue Reading

Are You Within Reach of Anti-Money Laundering Enforcement? The Tentacles of Money Laundering Schemes Affect Real Estate Investors Worldwide

The U.S. Treasury Department has signaled the latest focus of its enforcement: real estate ventures with ties to money laundering schemes. Individual real estate investors and companies involved in luxury real estate, real estate development or investment, property management, and escrow or mortgage services around the globe should heed Treasury’s warnings.

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Buying Russian Bonds: Risky Business or Safe Bet?

In late May, The Russian Federation issued its first sovereign bond since the Ukraine crisis in 2014. The sole organizer of the bond is VTB Capital, an arm of VTB Bank, Russia’s second largest financial institution. Both VTB Capital and VTB Bank are subject to sectoral sanctions.

According to published reports, the 10-year bond is being offered at yields of 4.65-4.9 percent. Russia’s goal was to raise $3 billion to help with its budget deficit caused by weak oil prices. Reportedly, the bond generated $7 billion of demand, though the Russian finance ministry announced only $1.75 billion in sales. Foreign investors constituted more than 70% of the bond purchasers. According to media reports, large global banks declined to participate, partly due to sanctions compliance risks. But as we will see, the compliance risks aren’t very clear. We will examine the exact risks and evaluate the question of why banks might be over-complying.

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Flying the Too-Friendly Skies? Europe Opens Routes for Sanctioned Iran Airline

On June 20, 2016, you will be able to take a non-stop flight from Tehran to Paris . . . but you probably shouldn’t.

According to its website, the Iranian airline Mahan Air will add the City of Lights to the list of European destinations it is already serving, including Athens, Copenhagen, and Dusseldorf. What makes the current and proposed Mahan routes interesting to regulatory experts (read: nerds) is that Mahan Air is on the U.S. Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. According to the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Mahan Air has moved troops and equipment for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps and has provided support and transport to the Assad regime in Syria.

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In Wake of Panama Papers Scandal Obama Calls for Stricter Bank Regulations, Tax Rules

In a news conference today President Obama addressed rules and proposed regulations announced Thursday intended to help the U.S. fight tax evasion and other crimes connected to anonymous offshore companies and accounts.  The announcements come after a month of intense review by the administration following the first release of the so-called Panama Papers, millions of documents stolen or leaked from Panamanian law firm Mossack, Fonseca.  The papers have revealed a who’s who of international politicians, business leaders, sports figures and celebrities involved with financial transactions accomplished through anonymous shell corporations.

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New Business Opportunities in Iran! But Who Will Be Your Banker? Non-U.S. Banks Hesitant to Process Lawful Iran Transactions…and for Good Reason

Highlights:

  • Sanctions relief presents new business opportunities with Iran
  • Most U.S. companies are still prohibited from Iran business, but the U.S. government is encouraging lawful business by non-U.S. companies
  • The line between permitted and prohibited financial transactions by non-U.S. banks is not clear
  • Careful advice of counsel is critical

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Hotels and Hospitality in Cuba: OFAC and Obama Paving the Way

With more flights, relaxing regulations, a historic presidential trip to Cuba, and news of hospitality services expanding into Cuba, the pathway into Cuba for hotels and hospitality companies seems smooth.  But businesses should look out for the potential hurdles and compliance risks.  Don’t fret – we can help you welcome your guests.

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The Day of North Korea Sanctions: the UN Imposes the Toughest North Korea Sanctions Yet While OFAC and State Designate More North Korean Entities

After weeks of negotiations and a Putin-backed delay, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2270 on March 2, 2016, imposing new sanctions against North Korea. According to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, the resolution imposes the strongest set of UN sanctions in over two decades. This article provides a summary of the new UN North Korea sanctions followed by an overview of the most recent developments in North Korea sanctions under US law.

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EU-US Privacy Shield: Brace Yourself . . . or Maybe Not

On February 29, 2016, the European Commission and United States released the terms of the much-anticipated renewed framework for the transfer, sharing, and processing of European individuals’ data to the United States. The framework replaces the “Safe Harbour” mechanism, which enabled U.S. to transfer data from the EU to the United States by self-certifying that their practices ensured an adequate level of protection for personal data under the EU Data Protection Directive. In October, the “Safe Harbour” framework was declared invalid by the European Court of Justice in the Schrems decision covered earlier in this blog. Continue Reading

EU-US Privacy Shield: Still Awaiting Certainty

Privacy activists across Europe raised their data protection banner following the announcement by EU Commissioner for Justice, Consumers and Gender Equality Věra Jourová on Tuesday 2 February 2016 that a political agreement had been reached between the EU and the US on a new framework for handling transatlantic data flows. This does not bode well, especially because the exact content of the new agreement which will replace the “Safe Harbour” mechanism is still unknown. We will expand on the indications provided by the Commissioner on some of the negotiated protection mechanisms. More importantly, we will highlight the risks that over 4.000 companies, mainly US tech companies, still face and the measures they should put in place to ensure compliance with EU data protection rules. Continue Reading

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