On 31 January 2019, the UK’s HM Treasury published the first set of regulations (the “Regulations”) under the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 (“SAMLA”). The Regulations are due to come into force on “exit day”—29 March 2019 at 11.00pm—if the UK leaves the European Union without a deal. The UK Office of Financial Sanctions Implementation (“OFSI”) has also published new guidance on post-Brexit financial sanctions, which should be read in tandem with the Regulations. In many respects, the Regulations mirror sanctions measures currently in force in the UK under EU regulations and merely give them an independent statutory footing in the UK. But the Regulations do diverge from established EU sanctions practice in certain places and may require companies in the UK to change their sanctions compliance practices. Continue reading
This memorandum surveys economic sanctions and anti-money laundering (“AML”) developments and trends in 2018 and provides an outlook for the year ahead. These areas remained a high priority last year, with the Trump administration making major changes in U.S. sanctions policy and federal and state agencies imposing over $2.7 billion in penalties for sanctions/AML violations. We also provide some thoughts concerning compliance and risk mitigation in this challenging environment.
After a period of relative quiet on the sanctions enforcement front, the last months of 2018 saw a $1.3 billion multi-agency resolution with Société Générale S.A., a burst of enforcement actions by Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Controls (“OFAC”), and Treasury Under Secretary Sigal Mandelker’s announcement that OFAC will soon publish guidance on the “hallmarks of an effective sanctions compliance program” and incorporate these principles in future settlements. Last year also witnessed significant and constant changes to the sanctions policy landscape. In a dramatic break from the Obama administration’s policy towards Iran, President Trump withdrew the United States from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) in May 2018, and fully revoked JCPOA-era sanctions relief by November 2018, creating new sanctions risks for U.S. and non-U.S. companies across industries, generating conflict-of-law issues, and straining relations with U.S. allies. The administration also took a number of significant actions with respect to Russia/Ukraine sanctions, including designating a number of Russian “oligarchs” and their global companies and taking further steps to implement the Russian secondary sanctions regime enacted by Congress in the 2017 Countering America’s Adversaries through Sanctions Act (“CAATSA”). The administration also imposed several new sanctions against the Maduro regime in Venezuela (and recently sanctioned Venezuela’s national oil company), continued its campaign of “maximum pressure” on North Korea, implemented Global Magnitsky Act sanctions targeting human rights abuses and corruption worldwide, and established new sanctions programs targeting the Nicaraguan regime and non-U.S. interference in U.S. elections. Continue reading
U.S. Economic Sanctions Policy
Economic sanctions are coercive foreign policy tools that work by disrupting otherwise profitable commerce between the governments imposing them and their targets. In order to be effective, governments imposing sanctions must obtain the compliance of their constituents, or the sanctions will not harm their targets as intended. Complying with sanctions is costly for companies not only in terms of the commerce they disrupt, but also with respect to the investments required to prevent unintentional violations. Thus, as policy tools, economic sanctions inherently create costly compliance obligations for companies. Given that employing sanctions appears to run counter to U.S. President Donald Trump’s goal of reducing regulatory burdens on U.S. firms, it is surprising that he has heavily relied upon threatening and imposing sanctions as part of his administration’s foreign policy.
Two years into the Trump Administration, we can begin to see evidence of how this tension in President Trump’s policy preferences has affected the implementation of U.S. sanctions. Despite the fiery rhetoric directed at the targets of U.S. sanctions, our research indicates that the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (OFAC) has adopted a softer stance on sanctions enforcement during the Trump Administration than during his predecessors’ administrations. The major area in which OFAC’s recent enforcement policies have been more stringent is in punishing foreign sanctions violators. This suggests that OFAC has resolved the tension between reducing regulatory burdens on U.S. firms and President Trump’s sanctions preferences by focusing more of its attention on punishing foreign firms instead of American ones for violating sanctions. Continue reading
Over the past several years, there have been many attempts to garner greater transparency of the government’s use of nonprosecution agreements and monitorships. On three occasions the party attempting to obtain a ruling that would reign in the government’s authority over these matters has won at the district court level. In each of these instances, however, the court of appeals reversed. Continue reading
But for other more salacious political concerns, the biggest story of the last couple weeks likely would have been Mark Zuckerberg’s testimony before Congress. Zuckerberg spent two days answering hundreds of questions from lawmakers. Much of the questioning was concerned with Facebook’s protection, or alleged lack thereof, of its users’ privacy. The testimony, however, once again raises questions about how companies that engage in repeated instances of misconduct should be sanctioned. Continue reading
On December 20, 2017, President Trump issued a new Executive Order (PDF: 235 KB) (EO) targeting corruption and human rights abuses around the world.
The EO implements last year’s Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (the Global Magnitsky Act), which authorized the president to impose sanctions against human rights abusers and those who facilitate government corruption. The US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), which will administer the EO, also added 15 individuals and 37 entities to its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List). Continue reading
“Corporate criminal law . . . operates firmly in a deterrence mode.” The ultimate goal of that deterrence is prevention. But recent evidence suggests that deterrence—and in particular, the corporate fine (the favorite tool of deterrence theorists)—is not particularly good at the job. For a host of structural and practical reasons, corporate fines do not influence corporate behavior as we might have hoped. In a forthcoming article, Clockwork Corporations: A Character Theory of Corporate Punishment, I propose abolishing the corporate fine and offer an alternative framework for structuring corporate punishment. The proposal expands on a strategy prosecutors already employ, albeit imperfectly, as part of corporate deferred prosecution agreements: mandating corporate reform. On this new approach, such government-directed reform would be the exclusive means of corporate punishment, and judges and judge-appointed monitors, rather than prosecutors, would be in the driver’s seat. This “character” theory of punishing corporations could beat deterrence theory at its own game by preventing more corporate crime. Continue reading
By Ian Ramsay and Miranda Webster
The following post provides an overview of the key findings from our research on the enforcement outcomes of the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) for the five-year period from 1 July 2011 to 30 June 2016. The full journal article can be accessed here.
ASIC is Australia’s corporate, markets, financial services and consumer credit regulator. This government organization regulates Australian companies, financial markets, financial services organisations and professionals who deal and advise in investments, superannuation, insurance, deposit taking and credit. ASIC dedicates a significant amount of resources (around 70%) to surveillance and enforcement activity, reflecting its view that enforcement is an important part of its regulatory role. Continue reading
The following is the third post in a series of three on recent SEC enforcement. The full report can be accessed here. A note of caution to the readers: the SEC does not share enforcement data. All three posts are based on a database of SEC enforcement actions I have put together along with several research assistants, covering the period between 2007 and 2017. The data was collected by hand, and reviewed at least once. Entries were compared with SEC releases and reports, but the chance of error remains.
The Dodd-Frank Act authorized the SEC to bring almost any enforcement action in an administrative proceeding. Before Dodd-Frank, the SEC could secure civil fines against registered broker-dealers and investment advisers in administrative proceedings, but had to sue in court non-registered firms and individuals, including public companies and executives charged with accounting fraud, as well as traders charged with insider trading violations. After the Dodd-Frank amendment, save for a few remedies that can only be obtained in court, the SEC can choose the forum in which it prosecutes enforcement actions. Continue reading
The following is the second post in a series of three on recent SEC enforcement. The full report can be accessed here. A note of caution to the readers: the SEC does not share enforcement data. All three posts are based on a database of SEC enforcement actions I have put together along with several research assistants, covering the period between 2007 and 2017. The data was collected by hand, and reviewed at least once. Entries were compared with SEC releases and reports, but the chance of error remains.
I. Enforcement Against Entities
The first post observed that enforcement against individual defendants remained largely unchanged in the second half of the 2017 fiscal year. Enforcement against entities, on the other hand, has changed quite substantially. Fewer entities were targeted in actions brought in the second half of FY 2017: 34% of defendants (165 of 488) in standalone actions in the second half were entities, compared with 47% (201 of 427) in the first half of the year. Continue reading