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?

The Prohibitions

On May 8, 2018, the United States withdrew from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and reimposed all pre-JCPOA sanctions against Iran. We provide a detailed discussion of the reimposition in our article linked here (and linked here is our prediction, a year earlier, that it would happen). After a prescribed wind-down period, all U.S. sanctions on Iran are now in force. Effectively, U.S. sanctions on Iran now return to their pre-2016 levels, including secondary sanctions on non-U.S. companies transacting with the Government of Iran and many of Iran’s industries and financial institutions.
Continue Reading CLIENT ALERT: Iran Sanctions Are Back On: Can Business Continue?

A double agent. Nerve gas. Violations of international law. The recently imposed sanctions on Russia have all the makings of a James Bond movie but, unfortunately, those sanctions may cause some less-than-entertaining headaches for your business.

Why These Sanctions

On August 8, the U.S. State Department notified Congress it would impose new sanctions on Russia based on the U.S. Government’s determination that the Russian Government has used chemical and biological weapons in violation of international law. That determination was made under the Chemical and Biological Weapons Control and Warfare Elimination Act of 1991 (“CBW”) after the Russian government’s use of the “Novichok” nerve agent in an attempt to assassinate UK citizen (and double agent to Russia and the UK) Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia Skripal.
Continue Reading The Latest U.S. Sanctions on Russia

Imagine telling your company’s Board of Directors that the company will have to knowingly violate the law. Further, you might note, the American Law Institute’s Principles of Corporate Governance state that, with very limited exceptions, a director who knowingly causes the corporation to disobey the law violates his duty of care. The protections of the Business Judgement Rule may not be available to a board member who, charged with navigating the Scylla and Charybdis of a conflict of laws, steers right into the shoals of noncompliance.

Beginning August 6, that will be the situation facing the thousands of companies that are subject to U.S. sanctions on Iran and to EU regulations blocking those sanctions. While it appears to be a stark choice, some nuances to the regulations may make navigating the narrow straights of the conflict of laws a less Odyssean and more practically manageable.
Continue Reading Stuck in the Middle With You: EU Blocking Statutes, Iran Sanctions, and the Thousands of Businesses Caught In Between

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

Key Points

1. All sanctions on Iran that were in place before January 2016 will be re-imposed no later than November, 4 2018.

2. Secondary sanctions that penalize non-U.S. persons doing business with Iran will be reinstated.

3. General License H, allowing non-U.S. subsidiaries of U.S. companies to do business in Iran, will be revoked.

4. In some cases, companies may take payments or repayments for sales, loans, or credits to Iran after November 4, 2018
Continue Reading Client Alert: Iran Sanctions Return

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 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

HERE WE ANSWER A FEW OF THE QUESTIONS THAT YOU MAY HAVE

What does decertification mean?

For the time being, decertification is a solely U.S. issue. Under the Iran nuclear agreement (known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA), Iran agreed to limits on its nuclear program in exchange for relief from U.S. and UN sanctions. Soon after the JCPOA was signed, the U.S. Congress passed the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act (INARA). That law requires the president to certify to Congress every 90 days that Iran is meeting the terms of the nuclear agreement and that continuing to waive sanctions on Iran is vital to the security interests of the United States. Today, he decertified Iran under INARA on the grounds that continuing to waive sanctions is not in the national security interests of the United States.
Continue Reading Today, President Trump Decertified the Iran Deal and Announced Tougher Sanctions on Iran