On November 21, 2023, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced its largest settlement in history with the virtual currency exchange Binance. This almost-billion dollar settlement is a part of a larger comprehensive settlement with the Department of Justice, FinCEN, and the CFTC, totaling over $4 billion. OFAC found that Binance had allowed 1.6 million transactions in violation of multiple sanctions regimes while Binance’s C-Suite was complicit. Binance’s blunders that led to this enforcement action highlight the importance of management commitment to compliance programs.[1]Continue Reading Binance’s Paper Compliance Program Crumples Under OFAC Scrutiny in Largest OFAC Settlement in History

On March 31, 2023, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $72,230.32 settlement agreement with Uphold HQ Inc. (Uphold), a global multi-asset digital trading platform, in connection with 152 apparent violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, and Executive Order (E.O.) 13884. OFAC continues to focus on the virtual currency ecosystem which we have discussed here (Kraken) and here (Bittrex). This settlement provides another look at important compliance considerations for companies operating in the digital asset industry and a few practical tips.Continue Reading OFAC Finds Digital Assets Trading Platform in Violation of Sanctions

On March 2, 2023, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco delivered remarks to the ABA’s National Institute on White Collar Crime. Unsurprisingly, her remarks focused heavily on inspiring a culture of compliance – including highlighting the DOJ’s new policy to incentivize companies to self-report criminal activity (which our Organizational Integrity Group discusses here). But, her remarks also emphasized an emerging priority for DOJ enforcement: the intersection of corporate crime and national security.Continue Reading “Sanctions Are The New FCPA”: DOJ Increases Focus on Sanctions and Export Control Enforcement

Background

On January 5, 2023, President Biden signed into law S. 1294, the “Protecting American Intellectual Property Act of 2022”. The Act requires the president to report to Congress and impose sanctions on any foreign person or entity the president identifies that has committed or “provided significant financial, material, or technological support” for the significant theft of trade secrets that are “reasonably likely to result in or has materially contributed to a significant threat to the national security, foreign policy, or economic health or financial stability of the United States.”Continue Reading Potential Sanctions for Alleged Intellectual Property Theft on the Horizon?

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.

Today, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) officially moved Myanmar onto the agency’s blacklist, where it joins Iran and North Korea, the only other two listed countries. It is likely that the United States and other countries will take the FATF designation as grounds to impose financial sanctions on the country, likely focusing on its central bank and financial institutions.Continue Reading Myanmar Sanctions – A Last Resort Against a Non-Cooperating Country

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

Updated as of April 12, 2022

It has now been more than 40 days since the start of Putin’s brutal invasion of Ukraine. Today, following the recent revelations of the atrocities committed in Bucha, Ukraine by Russian armed forces, the United States – in coordination with the G7 and the EU – imposed new sanctions on Russia (see here). The sweeping new sanctions seek to further restrict Russia’s access to dollars and put economic pressure on Putin to end the war. The sanctions include a ban on all new investment in Russia as well as designations of Russia’s largest financial institutions (i.e., Sberbank and Alfa Bank), critical state-owned enterprises, and Russian government officials and their family members, including Putin’s children.Continue Reading U.S. and Allies Impose Additional Severe Costs on Russia for Atrocities in Ukraine

The recent comprehensive economic sanctions by the U.S. and other nations against Russia has propelled the crypto community onto the geo-political stage in a major way. As with other forms of payment and methods of money transmission, cryptocurrency and cryptocurrency exchanges are at risk for exploitation by criminal actors, including those attempting to evade economic sanctions. Several attributes of cryptocurrencies that are usually touted in favor of the technology—pseudonymity, decentralization, digitalization—are now giving government officials, regulators, and lawmakers cause for concern in the sanctions climate. In response, leaders in the crypto community are voicing support of sanctions compliance, and citing aspects of the technology—traceability, immutability, visibility—in reassurance of it. As discussed below, there are several steps that crypto platforms can take to further efforts in blocking and detecting sanctions evasion activity on their platforms.
Continue Reading Crypto and Russia Sanctions: A Primer and Survival Guide For Crypto Companies

Updated as of March 9, 2022

Key Takeaways of OFAC (Treasury), BIS (Commerce), and State Actions

  • Major Russian Banks Blocked from the U.S. Financial System


Continue Reading Russian Risk: Transactions with Russian Banks and Exports to Russia Create Greatest Exposure Under New U.S. Ukraine-Related Sanctions