Archive for the ‘Sudan’ Category


Jun

28

OFAC Fines AIG for Drafting Error in Global Insurance Policies


Posted by at 10:40 am on June 28, 2017
Category: Cuba SanctionsEconomic SanctionsIran SanctionsSudan

IG Employees via http://www.aig.com/about-us [Fair Use]On Monday, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced that insurance giant AIG had agreed to pay $148,698 to settle charges that it had insured 555 shipments involving Sudan, Iran and Cuba. Although some of the apparent violations involved single shipment policies to the sanctioned destinations or paying claims under global policies on shipments to those destinations, others involved simply accepting premiums under global insurance policies that were later used to cover shipments on which no claims were made to sanctioned destinations.

In November of last year, OFAC provided guidance on how global insurance policies should deal with U.S. economic sanctions

The best and most reliable approach for insuring global risks without violating U.S. sanctions law is to insert in global insurance policies an explicit exclusion for risks that would violate U.S. sanctions law. For example, the following standard exclusion clause is often used in open marine cargo policies to avoid OFAC compliance problems: “whenever coverage provided by this policy would be in violation of any U.S. economic or trade sanctions, such coverage shall be null and void.” The legal effect of this exclusion is to prevent the extension of a prohibited service (insurance or risk assumption) to sanctioned countries, entities or individuals. It essentially shifts the risk of loss for the underlying transaction back to the insured – the person more likely to have direct control over the economic activity giving rise to the contact with a sanctioned country, entity or individual. [11-16-07]

This is a sensible and reasonable policy with respect to global insurance policies. So, you must be assuming, AIG must have left the language cited above out of its global policies and that led to the fines. But you would be wrong. OFAC said this about the AIG global policies:

While a majority of the policies were issued with exclusionary clauses, most were too narrow in their scope and application to be effective.

And how were they “too narrow in their scope and application”? OFAC is not saying. Apparently, OFAC thinks it will be easier to fine other insurance companies later if it keeps secret the drafting errors in the global policies that made the exclusionary clauses in the AIG global policies “too narrow in their scope and application.” And what about those clauses other than most clauses that were too narrow?  Why was AIG being fined for shipments under policies where the exclusionary clauses were acceptable?

Worse yet, after staying mum on what was wrong with “most” of AIG’s exclusionary clauses beyond being “too narrow,” OFAC has the nerve to say this in its announcement:

This enforcement action highlights the important role that properly executed exclusionary clauses play in the global insurance industry’s efforts to comply with U.S. economic sanctions programs.

If “properly executed exclusionary clauses” are so gosh-darned important, then why on earth does OFAC refuse to give the insurance industry a single clue as to what exactly are  “properly executed exclusionary clauses” and what was wrong with “most” of the clauses in the AIG global policies? Did they leave out the word “void” from the recommended language? Did they just say “U.S. economic sanctions” instead of “U.S.economic or trade sanctions”?  How hard would it have been for the agency to say precisely and specifically what was wrong with AIG’s exclusionary clauses?  This just underscores the perception that OFAC is more interested in terrifying than regulating U.S. businesses.

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Copyright © 2017 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)

Feb

23

Federal Judge Protects Banks from Injured Sailors and Widows


Posted by at 5:15 pm on February 23, 2017
Category: OFACSanctionsSudanTerrorism Risk Insurance Act

Image viahttps://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:INTEL-COGNITIVE-Cole.jpg [Public Domain]A recent decision by a federal district court in New York prohibited sailors and their families holding a $314 million judgement against Sudan from collecting any of the judgment from funds that had been wired by a Sudanese bank to various other banks and that were then blocked under the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations.  The judgment arose from Sudan’s participation in Al Qaeda’s bombing of the U.S.S. Cole on October 12, 2000.  Instead, now that the Sudanese Sanctions have been lifted, those funds will go to the banks and not to the sailors and their families.

The decision is premised on a highly questionable reading of section 201(a) the Terrorism Risk Insurance Act. That section permits victims of terrorism to execute judgments arising from a terrorist act “against the blocked assets of that terrorist party,” including the blocked assets of “any agency or instrumentality of” that terrorist party.

At issue were funds transferred by El Nilein Bank.  The bank was an instrumentality of the Sudanese government when the funds were blocked, which is why they were blocked in the first place, but not at the time the plaintiff sought to attach the assets. The court held that the TRIA did not apply because El Nilein was not an agency of the Sudanese government at the time the plaintiffs attempted to attach the funds and because the blocked funds, under New York law, were the property of the blocking bank and not El Nilein.

Oddly, the court reached these conclusions without even citing the definition of “blocked assets” in section 201(d)(2) of the TRIA, a definition which would seem to mandate the exact opposite conclusion.

The term “blocked asset” means— (A) any asset seized or frozen by the United States under section 5(b) of the Trading With the Enemy Act (50 U.S.C. App. 5(b)) or under sections 202 and 203 of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (50 U.S.C. 1701; 1702)

As readers of this blog know well, OFAC takes the position that assets can be frozen under IEEPA even if they are not legally owned by the blocked party and are legally owned by another party. It is sufficient that the blocked person have some interest, direct or indirect, including a contingent interest. So an asset can be a “blocked asset” of a party even if it is not the property of that party.   Moreover, under the court’s analysis, a wire blocked by an intermediate bank can never be levied against under TRIA unless the intermediate bank was itself a blocked party — an absurd result that Congress never could have intended.

This definition of “blocked asset” also is inconsistent with the Court’s idea that the blocked assets could not be seized because Nilein Bank was not an agency of Sudan at the time the plaintiffs sought to attach the blocked assets. The definition is, significantly, in the past tense. As a result, under this definition and under OFAC rules, the wires did not become unblocked when Nilein Bank was allegedly privatized. The blocked funds did not cease being the “blocked assets” of an agency of Sudan because of that privatization; they would only cease to be such blocked assets when they were unblocked. Nor is their any conceivable reason why Congress would want to create, as the Court did, a class of blocked assets of unblocked parties that are somehow exempt from the TRIA.

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Copyright © 2017 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)

Nov

29

Why It’s Called The Hill Rag


Posted by at 8:46 pm on November 29, 2016
Category: OFACSudan

The Hill Front Page via https://www.facebook.com/TheHill/photos/a.445406209086.230191.7533944086/10150235234964087/?type=1&theater [Fair Use]

The Washington political gossip sheet officially called The Hill, but more commonly known as “The Hill Rag,” wanders into the world of OFAC regulations and, no big surprise, gets it wrong.   The occasion for the Hill Rag’s regulatory blunder is a blurb on the representation by a DC firm of the government of Sudan in federal court litigation

[The firm] is working for the Republic of the Sudan on “several litigation matters pending before [U.S.] federal courts.” … Because of U.S. sanctions on Sudan, [the firm] must obtain a license from the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) to work on the contract. OFAC approves some activities that would be otherwise prohibited by sanctions, including legal services.

Er, no. Section 538.505 of the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations provides that law firms may provide legal services without a specific license to the Government of Sudan when “made a party to domestic U.S. legal, arbitration, or administrative proceedings.” It also covers suits where Sudan is the plaintiff and which are filed to protect property interests subject to U.S. jurisdiction. These two provisions cover just about any federal court law suit involving Sudan.

The only thing that requires a specific license in these two instances is the receipt of fees by the law firm for the services provided. But licenses are not required, as The Hill says, for all legal services.

I guess the Hill Rag reporters could not find anybody in DC who could talk to them about OFAC or show them how to use The Google.

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Copyright © 2016 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)

Apr

7

Save the Fokkers


Posted by at 11:40 pm on April 7, 2016
Category: Burma SanctionsCriminal PenaltiesEconomic SanctionsGeneralIran SanctionsSudan

Fokker Services Building in Hoofddorp via http://www.fokker.com/sites/default/files/styles/carousel_innovations/public/media/Images/Services/Contact_Fokker_Services_Location_Hoofddorp_637x286.jpg?itok=NYP0cc2k [Fair Use]

The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit just reversed the decision of a lower federal district court which tossed out the deferred prosecution agreement between the Department of Justice and Fokker Services B.V.  Fokker had admitted, in a voluntary disclosure to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), that  it had obtained U.S. origin aircraft parts which it then re-exported to Iran, Sudan and Burma without the required licenses. This blog has previously criticized both the highly unusual decision of the DoJ to turn a voluntary disclosure to OFAC into a criminal prosecution and the district court’s decision to toss aside the DPA as too lenient, apparently in the belief that Iran was somehow involved in the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

The Court of Appeals decision, which restores the DPA and reverses the lower court, is based simply on its interpretation of the Speedy Trial Act. Because a DPA starts the Speedy Trial Act’s seventy-day clock running, the Act provides, in 18 U.S.C. § 3161(h)(2), that a DPA can turn off this clock “with the approval of the court.” Otherwise, of course, the defendant could escape prosecution after seventy days, despite provisions of the DPA that prosecution would be avoided only upon good behavior by the defendant during a longer period, typically one to three years.

The Court of Appeals held that this requirement of approval did not give the district court the authority to question the leniency of the DPA, the charges brought by the government or the parties prosecuted under those charges. Rather the court reviewing a DPA is limited to determining if the DPA is

geared to enabling the defendant to demonstrate compliance with the law, and is not instead a pretext intended merely to evade the Speedy Trial Act’s time constraint.

The only other authority of the lower court, according to the Court of Appeals, would be to reject “illegal or unethical provisions” of the DPA, noting that the District Court had not argued that anything in the DPA was either illegal or unethical.

The Court of Appeals opinion is, thus, good news and bad news. The bad news is that a court can’t refuse to approve a DPA on the grounds that it was unfair for the government to turn a voluntary disclosure to an administrative agency into a criminal prosecution. The good news is that if the exporter does agree to a DPA, it can have a high degree of certainty that the district court cannot condition approval of the DPA on the insertion of more onerous provisions.

Photo Credit: Fokker Services Building in Hoofddorp via Fokker http://bit.ly/23bmktC [Fair Use] [cropped]

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Copyright © 2016 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)

Feb

4

Don’t Just Stand There Doing Nothing, People Will Think You’re a Supervisor!


Posted by at 9:46 pm on February 4, 2016
Category: OFACSudan

Meroe (49) by joepyrek [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Flickr https://https://flic.kr/p/dD4ue9 [cropped]The Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced today that it had issued a “notice of violation” (but no fine) to Johnson and Johnson (Middle East), Inc. (“JJME”), a New Jersey Corporation, in connection with five shipments by Johnson and Johnson (Egypt) S.A.E. (“JJE”) to Sudan in violation of the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations. No description was given of the shipped goods other than that they were worth $227,818.

Not surprisingly, the violation involved “facilitation” by JJME of the shipments by JJE to Sudan in violation of section 538.206 of the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations. OFAC did not detail how JJME facilitated the shipments other than by saying that it did so by “coordinating and supervising” those shipments. It’s hard to discern exactly what is meant by “coordinating” a shipment and perhaps some things that might be called “coordination” might also be facilitation.

But the use of the word “supervising” is a bit odd. The Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, in section 538.407, provide the only clarification in all of OFAC’s regulations of the meaning of the slippery term “facilitation.” That section says:

Activity of a purely clerical or reporting nature that does not further trade or financial transactions with Sudan or the Government of Sudan is not considered prohibited facilitation. For example, reporting on the results of a subsidiary’s trade with Sudan is not prohibited, while financing or insuring that trade or warranting the quality of goods sold by a subsidiary to the Government of Sudan constitutes prohibited facilitation.

Supervising the shipments could simply be keeping track of the shipments and perhaps reporting their progress, and that would fall clearly on the side of reporting the trade with Sudan, which is not facilitation according to this definition. Who among us has not been “supervised” by someone sitting on a sofa while we perform some task? And how did that ever “facilitate” that task?

It’s no secret that OFAC has consciously tried to leave the scope of facilitation vague in order to have exporters over-regulate themselves out of fear of transgression and the attendant punishment. By suggesting that supervising is somehow facilitating it contributes to this regulatory ambiguity. If OFAC truly wanted to provide guidance on what it means by facilitation, it would would have described exactly what JJME did with respect to the shipments rather than fall back on vague terms that might not really even describe facilitation as anyone understands it.

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Copyright © 2016 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.
(No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)