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Fatema Merchant is a partner in the Governmental and White Collar Defense and Corporate Investigations Practice Groups in the firm's Washington, D.C. office.

As we close out a wild year for international trade regulation,[1] after hearing much talk about outbound investment review mechanisms, we may see a final dramatic change before the ball drops. Since the summer, we have talked here about potential outbound investment reviews (reverse CFIUS? SUIFC?). And while there have been reports of potential action by both Congress and the Biden Administration on outbound investment, it is all the more possible to see executive action before a new Congress takes seat.

Continue Reading Will We Ring in the New Year with Outbound Investment Restrictions?

On November 28, 2022, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $362,158.70 settlement agreement with Payward, Inc. (Kraken), an online virtual currency exchange, in connection with 826 apparent violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations. This enforcement action highlights the OFAC compliance risks for virtual currency platforms and comes on the heels of the Bittrex settlement which we discussed here. Again, it is critical to assess your risks and take steps to make sure you’re addressing them with smart compliance and screening measures.

Continue Reading OFAC Continues Focus on Virtual Currency Industry with Announced Settlement with Payward, Inc.

On Monday, October 24, 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced charges against two alleged Chinese intelligence officers for bribing and stealing documents to obstruct the criminal investigation of, reportedly, Huawei (while the complaint does not name Huawei, it is the company according to multiple reports).

Continue Reading Bribes, Bitcoin and Obstruction: DOJ Announces Charges Against Chinese Agents for Trying to Impede Investigation of Huawei

Settlement Agreement with Bittrex, Inc.

Today, on October 11, 2022, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $24,280,829.20 settlement agreement with Bittrex, Inc., an online virtual currency exchange and hosted wallet service provider, in connection with 116,421 apparent violations of multiple sanctions programs. This enforcement action highlights the OFAC compliance risks for virtual currency platforms. So, assess your risks and take steps to make sure you’re addressing them with smart compliance and screening measures.

Continue Reading OFAC Announces Hefty Settlement with Virtual Currency Exchange / Hosted Wallet Services Provider

On September 30, 2022, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published compliance guidance for instant payment systems. The guide highlights the need for emerging payment technology companies to assess their sanctions risks and implement compliance programs that mitigate those risks. Specifically, the guidance: (i) reaffirms that financial institutions should take a risk-based approach to managing sanctions risks; (ii) highlights key factors that may be relevant in determining that risk-based approach; (iii) encourages the development and deployment of innovative sanctions compliance approaches and technologies to address identified risks; and (iv) encourages developers of instant payment systems to incorporate sanctions compliance considerations as they develop new payment technologies.

Continue Reading OFAC Issues Sanctions Compliance Guidance for Instant Payment Systems

After Mahsa Amini was killed in the custody of “Gasht-e-Ershad” or Iran’s Guidance Patrol, commonly referred to as Iran’s morality police, following an arrest for placement of her hijab, protests have erupted throughout Iran over women’s rights and Iran’s authoritarian regime more generally. Iran’s police and other security forces are retaliating severely against protestors. In response to these human rights abuses, on September 22, the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned Iran’s morality police and senior leaders of Iran’s security organizations for the violence against protesters.

Continue Reading Technology to Iran: OFAC Lifts Certain Iran Sanctions In Response to Protests in Iran

On September 16, 2022, the U.S. Commerce Department released its final rule regarding antidumping and countervailing duty (AD/CVD) circumvention inquiries on solar cells and modules from Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam. The rule implements President Biden’s June 6, 2022, Proclamation 10414, (which we discuss here) declaring an emergency with respect to the U.S. energy market, and temporarily waives the collection of AD/CVD duties for certain cells and modules subject to the AD/CVD anticircumvention inquiry initiated by Commerce in April 2022.

Continue Reading Commerce Department Adds Guardrails Against Stockpiling of Certain Solar Cells and Modules During Temporary Waiver of AD/CVD Duties

On September 16, the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) released a report on the Role of Law Enforcement in Detecting, Investigating, and Prosecuting Criminal Activity Related to Digital Assets pursuant to President Biden’s Executive Order on Ensuring Responsible Development of Digital Assets (the “E.O.”). In its press release, the DOJ also announced the Criminal Division’s launch of the nationwide Digital Asset Coordinators Network (“DAC”) composed of designated federal prosecutors from U.S. Attorneys’ Offices nationwide to act as a go-to source for legal and technical matters relating to prosecutions of crimes involving digital assets.

Continue Reading DOJ Issues Report on Efforts to Combat Digital Asset Criminal Activity and Announces Designated Prosecutors to Support

On September 15, President Biden signed the first-ever Executive Order (E.O.) on CFIUS – the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States. While the E.O. does not substantively change CFIUS’s jurisdiction or the legal process, the Biden Administration provides some explicit guidance on certain national security priorities and factors for CFIUS to consider when evaluating transactions – focusing in on protecting U.S. technological advantage, supply chain resiliency, and sensitive data from U.S. adversaries. No doubt, the E.O. will impact certain cross-border transactions and investments as CFIUS develops strategies to incorporate the E.O. into practice and align national security priorities with other national security tools.

Continue Reading First-Ever Executive Order on CFIUS Highlights Biden’s National Security Priorities

The U.S. photovoltaic (PV) industry, solar module suppliers, manufacturers, and renewable energy developers are facing new regulatory challenges with the implementation of new legislation which has a significant impact on such imports. Among the most significant is the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, Pub. L. No. 117-78, 135 Stat. 1525 (2021) (“UFLPA”), whose provisions became fully effective on June 21, 2022.

Continue Reading Is the U.S. solar industry ready to prove its panels aren’t made with Uyghur forced labor?

On April 29, 2022, the UK introduced new measures to prevent the provision of internet services to or for the benefit of designated persons.[1] These measures apply to the whole territory of the UK and to conduct by UK persons where that conduct is wholly or partly outside the UK. The designated entities or individuals (“Designated Persons”) can be found on the regularly updated UK Sanctions List with the tag “Internet Sanctions List”. To date, only V-Novosti and Rossiya Segodnya are designated under those authorities.

Continue Reading Introduction of internet-related Russia trade sanctions in the UK