On July 23, 2021, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced a settlement agreement with online money transmitter Payoneer Inc. (“Payoneer” or the “company”) for processing online transactions on behalf of persons in sanctioned jurisdictions and persons on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (“SDN”) List. The case is the latest in a string of OFAC
On July 13, 2021, the U.S. Departments of Commerce, State, Treasury, Commerce and Homeland Security and the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative issued an updated Advisory on supply-chain risks for U.S. businesses whose business activities may be implicated by human rights concerns related to forced labor in and outside of Xinjiang, China.
Yesterday, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) of the U.S. Department of Commerce added 14 companies based in China and 20 companies located elsewhere to the U.S. Entity List. According to BIS, the Chinese companies are involved in China’s “campaign of repression, mass detention and high-technology surveillance” against Uyghur and other minorities in Xinjiang. …
Yesterday, the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) sanctioned several Belarusian individuals and entities, including the State Security Committee of the Republic of Belarus (the Belarusian KGB), in response to the Lukashenka regime’s escalating violence and repression. (The full list of changes to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) and Blocked Persons List is available…
Last week, the U.S. Department of Commerce removed the United Arab Emirates (“UAE”) from its list of countries boycotting Israel in response to the formal termination of the UAE’s participation in the Arab League boycott of Israel.
Under Commerce’s updated rules, a request for information, action, or agreement from the UAE made after August 16,…
Today, President Biden issued an Executive Order expanding U.S. restrictions on dealings in the publicly traded securities of Chinese companies. Today’s move amends Executive Order 13959 to prohibit U.S. persons from buying or selling the publicly traded securities of listed companies operating in (1) the surveillance technology sector or (2) the defense and related material sector of the Chinese economy. E.O. 13959 was previously limited to companies affiliated with the Chinese military.
The amended order reflects a growing emphasis on human rights and “democratic values” in U.S. sanctions policy related to China. The White House fact sheet announcing today’s amendment indicated that the Order is intended to prevent the flow of U.S. capital to companies that develop or use surveillance technology to facilitate repression or serious human rights abuse in and outside of China, including technology used to surveil religious or ethnic minorities. Other recent moves, including those in response to Chinese government policies in the Xinjiang region and Hong Kong, have similar human rights policy motivations. The administration may cite to security and adherence to democratic values in imposing future sanctions.
Below, we summarize the key features of the new restrictions and guidance issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”).
The amended E.O. initially applies to the 59 Chinese companies listed in the annex to the E.O. The companies are also included on OFAC’s new “Non-SDN Chinese Military-Industrial Complex Companies List” (“NS-CMIC List”), which replaces the previous “Communist Chinese Military Company” (“CCMC”) list. The NS-CMIC List includes a number of new Chinese companies that did not appear in the prior CCMC list and excludes a handful of companies that were on the prior list. (A table summarizing the list changes is below the break.) Notably, the NS-CMIC List captures companies operating in the defense sector, subsidiaries and affiliates of companies on the CCMC list, and two companies operating in the surveillance technology sector.
The Biden administration indicated that it expects to add additional parties to the NS-CIMC List in the future.
As in the original E.O. 13959, the prohibition on purchasing and selling publicly traded securities also applies to derivatives and securities designed to provide investment exposure to such securities, including ADRs, GDRs, ETFs, index funds, and mutual funds. Restrictions apply regardless of the CMIC securities’ share of the underlying index fund, ETF, or derivative. The amended E.O. defines “securities” as those specified in Section 3(a)(10) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.
The amended E.O.’s prohibitions come into effect on August 2, 2021 for the 59 companies currently on the NS-CMIC List, and U.S. persons are permitted to divest holdings in those securities until June 3, 2022. The amended E.O. also provides for a 365-day divestment period for CMICs that are designated in the future.
Guidance for U.S. financial service companies and investors
OFAC guidance issued today explains how the agency will apply the new E.O. to broker-dealers, market intermediates, and other market participants. In particular:
- U.S. financial service companies that provide clearing, execution, settlement, and related services can continue to deal in CMIC securities so long as they do not facilitate prohibited transactions by U.S. persons.
- Securities exchanges operated by U.S. persons, along with market makers, market intermediaries and other participants, are not prohibited from effecting U.S. persons’ divesture of publicly traded securities in the listed CMICs during the wind-down period.
- U.S. persons employed by non-U.S. entities are not prohibited from facilitating purchases or sales related to a CMIC security on behalf of their non-U.S. employer or providing investment management or similar services to a non-U.S. person.
- U.S. financial service companies can rely on “information available to them in the ordinary course of business” in conducting due diligence on whether an underlying purchase or sale is prohibited under the amended E.O
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Our team is actively monitoring developments in this area, please contact us with questions on how the new rules may apply to your business.
Yesterday, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced sanctions against three prominent Bulgarian individuals and 64 related companies for corruption. The designations are the largest action in the history of Executive Order 13818, which implements the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and authorizes sanctions on parties that engage in significant corruption or human…
The Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) recently tightened sanctions on Belarus by revoking and replacing General License 2G with General License 2H. General License 2H now requires U.S. persons to wind down transactions involving the following Belarusian Specially Designated Nationals and their subsidiaries by June 3, 2021:
- Belarusian Oil Trade House
- Belneftekhim USA,
Last week, three U.S. agencies – the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), the U.S. Department of Commerce (“Commerce”), and the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) – announced the global resolution of apparent U.S. sanctions violations by SAP SE (“SAP”), a German software company.
The settlement agreements with OFAC and Commerce, and the non-prosecution agreement…
Today, the United States announced new sanctions on Russia in response to a widespread hacking campaign targeting the United States, alleged interference in U.S. elections, and other “malign” actions carried out by the Russian government. Today’s actions include sanctions on transactions in the primary market for Russian sovereign debt, Russian technology firms, parties involved…