Export Controls and Sanctions

Yesterday, the President issued a new Executive Order (E.O.) prohibiting certain financial transactions involving the Venezuelan government, including Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA), the state-owned oil company.  Under the new rules, persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction are prohibited from engaging in transactions related to:

(i) the purchase of any debt owed to the Government

As part of the ongoing Export Control Reform initiative, the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (“DDTC”) and Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) has issued proposed rules that would move certain items currently controlled on the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (“ITAR”) to the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”).  The proposed rules would move some items

Today, the EC announced that it is moving forward with a package of measures to blunt the impact of renewed U.S. sanctions on Iran following the U.S. exit from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA).  Included in those measures is the planned activation of the EU blocking statute, which would bar EU companies from complying with the extraterritorial effects of U.S. sanctions requirements on Iran.  The statute is also intended to insulate EU companies from certain U.S. sanctions penalties.  Implementation of blocking statutes can create a situation in which companies must decide which country’s law they are going to violate – if they cannot find an approach that avoids the conflict.      
Continue Reading

On Tuesday President Trump announced that the United States will exit the multilateral Iran nuclear deal and fully re-impose sanctions on Iran. After the announcement, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the agency responsible for administering most U.S. sanctions, issued a statement and guidance on the re-imposition of U.S. sanctions. This announcement reflects a major change in U.S. policy towards Iran and will have far-reaching implications for companies that re-entered the Iranian market following the 2016 nuclear deal.

U.S. and non-U.S. companies should formulate carefully considered wind down and exit strategies to ensure compliance with applicable U.S. rules and to avoid secondary sanctions risks.

Background

In January 2016, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) between the United States, Iran, and other countries was formally implemented, lifting many sanctions on Iran in exchange for restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program. Under the JCPOA, the United States waived most secondary sanctions on Iran, including those targeting non-U.S. companies for doing business that involved Iran’s energy, finance, and other sectors. OFAC also removed a large number of Iranian parties associated with the Government of Iran from the List of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN List), allowing non-U.S. companies to conduct transactions with those parties without being subject to secondary sanctions. Foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies were also authorized under OFAC’s General License H to conduct most commercial business involving Iran. These changes allowed non-U.S. companies and foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies to re-enter the Iranian market in compliance with U.S. law and without the threat of U.S. secondary sanctions penalties.
Continue Reading

On April 15, 2018, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued an Order relating to Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation and ZTE Kangxun Telecommunications Ltd. (collectively, ZTE) that suspends the export privileges of ZTE for a period of seven years, until March 13, 2025.  Pursuant to the Order, ZTE may not, directly or indirectly, participate

Despite the fact that export controls on dual-use goods derive from international agreements such as the Wassenaar Arrangement, significant differences can be seen as controls are implemented by different countries. The same is true in the European Union notwithstanding the fact that the EU’s dual-use regulation (Council Regulation (EC) No. 428/2009) is binding on its 28 Member States.  Accordingly, while Regulation 428/2009 exempts telecom and information security equipment with encryption where there is limited cryptography functionality and/or products are mass-marketed and cannot be readily changed (the “Cryptography Note”), the exact scope of the exemptions is determined by each Member State.
Continue Reading

Penalties for violations of sanctions rules administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) ticked up again yesterday.  Most violations of OFAC’s rules now face statutory penalties of $295,141 or twice the value of the underlying transaction.  Penalties for violations of OFAC’s narcotics trafficking regulations are now set at $1,466,485, with penalties for violations of other OFAC regulations ranging from $13,333 to $86,976.
Continue Reading

The President signed a new Executive Order today making it unlawful to engage in transactions involving digital currency issued by the Venezuelan government.  The Executive Order makes official prior guidance from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which stated that dealings related to Venezuelan digital currency would likely be prohibited under existing sanctions.

Last

Yesterday, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) blacklisted 14 new Russian individuals and the Internet Research Agency as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) for their role interfering with the 2016 U.S. presidential election.  While limited in scope, the new designations are the first use of authority under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act