Article Highlights:

  • Non-U.S. banks can do business with Iran and continue their relationships with U.S. banks.
  • Non-U.S. companies may use proceeds from Iran transactions more freely, including in the United States.
  • OFAC draws a clearer line with respect to the use of Iran-related funds.

After the Iran nuclear agreement, as non-U.S. companies entered into newly-permitted business in Iran, they faced the difficult question of where they could put the money from their Iran business. U.S. law still prohibits U.S. persons (including U.S. banks) from conducting most business with Iran. Among other rules, OFAC regulations and guidance provided that “Iran-related” funds could not transit the U.S. financial system. But the guidance did not state clearly what constituted “Iran-related” funds. For that reason, foreign financial institutions (FFIs) hesitated, even feared, to process Iran-related transactions because of the risks of sending Iran-related funds into the U.S. financial system in violation of U.S. sanctions. However, a new clarification in the OFAC guidance could change all of that (and change it in the way we proposed right here in this blog[1]).


Continue Reading Those Three Little Words: OFAC’s Subtle Language Shift Could Create Sweeping Change on Iran Investment

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.


Continue Reading Buying Russian Bonds: Risky Business or Safe Bet?

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


Continue Reading 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

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 Round Two: Prosecutors Reopen Bank Settlements