Since President Biden took office and put his national security team in place, we have wondered about the future of the Iran Nuclear Deal. In the past weeks, the Biden Administration has taken formal steps to possibly restore the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (i.e., JCPOA or Iran Nuclear Deal).
Continue Reading JCPO-Wait-A-Minute: How New Talks Between the U.S. and Iran Could Revive the Iran Nuclear Deal

Picture your company being hauled into U.S. court to defend litigation for your Cuba business that is lawful in your home country. That is the scenario that the Trump administration and Cuba hawks in Congress are aiming to arrange. The Trump administration is preparing to part the practice of past presidents to allow U.S. persons to sue non-U.S., non-Cuban companies for doing business in Cuba, dealing in property seized by the Cuban government since the 1959 revolution.
Continue Reading The New Suits of Havana: How Non-U.S. Companies May Soon Be Sued for Their Business in Cuba

Happy new year everyone. The government is shut down, but there has already been a flurry of activity in 2019 on the economic sanctions and embargoes front. Here is a summary of where we stand on various sanctions regimes.

Russia. On January 10, 2019, the Trump administration defended its decision to ease U.S. sanctions against companies connected to the Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska. In 2017, the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (CAATSA) passed Congress overwhelmingly and was signed into law by President Trump. As we blogged here and here, CAATSA codified strict Russia sanctions. It also allows Congress to block any termination of sanctions by the Executive. In December 2018, the Treasury department announced that it would lift sanctions on three of Deripaska’s companies: EN+ group, Rusal, and JSC EuroSibEnergo. Though Deripaska would continue to be subject to sanctions personally, Secretary Mnuchin reportedly told members of Congress in a briefing that the three companies had committed to “significantly diminish Deripaska’s ownership and sever his control.” Many lawmakers left the briefing unimpressed, and expressed concern that lifting sanctions would result in a tremendous financial benefit to Deripaska, whose designation by Treasury for sanctions last year reads like a mafia indictment. For now, it is unlikely that Congress is united enough to use its CAATSA powers to maintain the sanctions in the face of the Administration’s decision to lift them. But it is clear that Congressional Democrats intend to exercise their oversight powers when it comes to sanctions (or lack thereof) against Russia.
Continue Reading New Year Sanctions Roundup: Where Do We Stand?

I spent last week in Seoul talking to clients about the latest changes to U.S. trade and sanctions policy (as South Korea is one of Iran’s largest trading partners, it is understandable that some concerns have arisen there in May). Interestingly, a topic that came up often was how to reenter the North Korean market. The people with whom I spoke, in industries ranging from financial, to manufacturing, to technology, to legal, were sanguine on the possibility of a détente and the resulting opportunities for investment, growth, and profit in a reopened North Korea.
Continue Reading Your Way-Too-Early Guide to North Korean Investment: Big Opportunities, Big Risks, and the Regulatory Guidance to Identify Both

A lot of us in the sanctions compliance world were wondering whether and when OFAC would issue official guidance on its application of sanctions in the digital currency world. On March 18, OFAC issued five FAQs related to virtual currency. Those FAQs convey two important messages:

(1) OFAC sanctions regulations apply to virtual currency transactions just as they apply to “fiat” currency (here’s looking at you dark web crypto-user); and

(2) OFAC will use its existing authority to respond to the growing threat posed by the use of emerging payment systems by malicious actors, including adding digital currency addresses that are associated with blocked persons to the SDN List.

While the first point – that OFAC compliance obligations apply to virtual currency transactions – is not groundbreaking news, the second point is more interesting. Our key takeaway from the FAQs is: OFAC is clearly thinking about how it will enforce its regulations on virtual currency transactions and digital currency operators, so you should too.
Continue Reading Digital Cops and Cyber Robbers: OFAC Guidance on Crypto Currency

Since the U.S. Government determined that Russia interfered in the 2016 election[1], movement around Russia sanctions policy has been vigorous, if not unidirectional. In 2016, the United States implemented twice sanctions against Russia: In September, dozens of individuals and entities were sanctioned with regards to Russian operations in Crimea. In December, President Obama expelled 35 Russian intelligence agents from the U.S. and imposed sanctions on two major intelligence services, as a response to those interferences from Russia. In 2017, concerned that the new Administration might roll back certain sanctions on Russia, Congress overwhelmingly passed the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act, codifying and adding to sanctions on Russia already in place (which we reported on here).

In January, we anticipated two more moves mandated under CAATSA: 1) the publication of a List of Senior Political Figures and Oligarchs in the Russian Federation and 2) sanctions against entities and individuals that had conducted significant transactions with the defense and intelligence sectors in Russia. It appears that one was a feint and the other, a flop.
Continue Reading Lurches, Leaps, Feints, and Flops: Movements Without Motion in Russian Sanctions Policy

The other day I spoke to a colleague at the U.S. Department of the Treasury who works in the Office of Investment Security and said, “I heard CFIUS filings were going to break last year’s record total.” He just laughed. He said the OIS received one hundred and seventy-some filings in 2016, the most they had ever received in a year.

This year, only in November, they were over 225 submissions!

Of course, all of this was just talk and should not be relied on for statistical analysis. But it gives you a good idea of the flood of CFIUS filings that the Committee is now tasked with reviewing. While my contact was sanguine on the possibility of adding some new folks soon to his office soon, he noted that the OIS staff – whom he called the best of the best – has not yet been increased to meet the surge in demand.

So what does this mean for your inbound investment into the United States? We explore that question and provide a few tips below. In addition to a present snapshot of CFIUS, we have a look at the future of CFIUS as a proposed Senate bill aims to increase scrutiny on foreign investment.
Continue Reading The Waiting Game: When, Why, and How to File with CFIUS in a New Era of Investment Scrutiny

The Trump Administration has made good on its promise to cut back on the liberalized Cuban policy implemented by the Obama Administration with a new regime that introduces new travel restrictions as well as broad prohibitions on “direct financial transactions” between persons subject to the jurisdiction of the United States and parties on a new Cuban Restricted List (CRL) that has been published by the State Department.
Continue Reading Retrenchment on Cuban Sanctions; The Search for a Middle Ground

On September 11, 2017, the UN Security Council unanimously imposed new sanctions on North Korea. The move came only days after Pyongyang launched an underground nuclear test that may have been the detonation of a hydrogen bomb. The American Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, announced the new sanctions by declaring that “today, we are saying the world will never accept a nuclear armed North Korea.”
Continue Reading North Korea Sanctions Continue to Intensify

On July 27, 2017, the U.S. Congress sent to President Trump’s desk a bill that imposes new financial sanctions against Russia, Iran, and North Korea. It appears nearly certain that the president will sign that bill, now called the “Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act” (CAATSA). Edit: President Trump signed the bill on August 2, 2017.
Continue Reading In the Chaos of (Trade) War, Where Does Your Company Find Peace?