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Iran Nuclear Deal Offers Greater Opportunities for Aircraft Parts and Services Exports

The recently announced Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) negotiated between the U.S., the other permanent members of the UN Security Council (China, France, Russia, and the UK), plus Germany and the High Representative of the European Union, and Iran will offer U.S. companies expanded opportunities to export aircraft items and services to Iran, but with restrictions.

Since January 2014, under prior versions of the JCPOA and extensions of it, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has had a favorable licensing policy for spare parts to ensure the safe operation of Iranian commercial passenger aircraft and associated services and safety related inspections and repairs. This licensing policy extends to U.S. companies (including U.S.-owned or -controlled foreign entities), and parties involved in the export of U.S.-origin goods. Under this licensing policy, a specific license application can be submitted to OFAC for consideration on a case-by-case basis.

Under the JCPOA, the U.S. has agreed generally to issue licenses that will allow U.S. companies to (i) export, re-export, sell, lease or transfer to Iran commercial passenger aircraft for an exclusively civil aviation end-use; (ii) export, re-export, sell, lease or transfer to Iran spare parts and components for commercial passenger aircraft; and (iii) provide associated services, including warranty, maintenance and repair services and safety-related inspections, provided the licensed items and services are used exclusively for commercial passenger aviation.

OFAC has authority to issue both specific and general licenses. A general license is essentially a “blanket” authorization to transact business under the terms and conditions set out in the general license. A specific license is issued for a particular transaction or series of transactions. The JCPOA does not indicate whether a general license will be issued with respect to these commercial passenger aircraft items and services. Therefore, unless and until a general license is issued, U.S. parties seeking new opportunities under the JCPOA will be required to apply for a specific license from OFAC.

Nonetheless, this development provides greater certainty that opportunities to supply commercial passenger aircraft items and services to Iran will exist into the future and U.S. companies will not have to await the announcement of an extension of temporary Iran sanctions relief, as was the case before the JCPOA.

For assistance with understanding and complying with the JCPOA, Iran sanctions, other economic sanctions laws, regulations, and Executive Orders, as well as representation before OFAC in investigations, civil penalty, and voluntary self-disclosures, please contact Jon P. Yormick, Attorney and Counsellor at Law, jon@yormicklaw.com or by calling +1.866.967.6425 (Toll free in Canada & U.S.) or +1.216.269.5138 (mobile). 

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Navigating Economic Sanctions Successfully: Yormick will Present Upcoming FCIB Webinar

On April 23, international trade and business attorney, Jon Yormick, will present a webinar on Navigating Economic Sanctions Successfully for The Finance, Credit & International Business Association (FCIB). The 1-hour webinar begins at 11:00 am EST and is open to FCIB members and non-members.

In his presentation, Yormick will provide an update on the recent economic sanctions relating to events in Ukraine, discuss key U.S. economic sanctions regimes, discuss recent OFAC General Licenses and TSRA licenses that give companies certain business opportunities within the U.S. sanctions regimes for Iran and other countries subject to U.S. sanctions, and emphasize economic sanctions compliance, including lessons learned from recent OFAC and BIS civil penalty cases.

Yormick is an experienced international business and trade attorney practicing in the areas Export Controls & Economic Sanctions, Customs & International Trade, and FCPA/Anticorruption. He represents U.S. and foreign clients before the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the U.S. Department of State, Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC), the U.S. Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) on import and export laws and regulations, including the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).  His clients include those in the advanced manufacturing, advanced materials, aerospace and defense, distribution, electronics, energy, medical device, oil/gas, pharmaceuticals, professional services, steel, textiles and apparel, and transportation/logistics sectors.

For more information about FCIB visit, www.fcibglobal.com, or use this link to register for the webinar, http://bit.ly/1kWK9Q4.

An OFAC Civil Penalty Settlement Reminder that SMEs Must Perform Due Diligence and have a Compliance Program

This morning’s release from the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control is a stark reminder that export controls and economic sanctions compliance apply equally to small businesses that export.

Houston-based Stanley Drilling Equipment & Supply, Inc. agreed to pay just over $84,000 to settle a civil penalty case involving alleged violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (“ITSR”).  OFAC alleged that in 2008, the company attempted to export 4 shipments and successfully exported 2 shipments of unidentified goods from the U.S. the UAE, “with reason to know that the shipments were intended specifically for supply, transshipment, or reexportation to an oil drilling rig located in Iranian waters.”  The goods were valued at just over $93,000.

Stanley Drilling faced a base penalty amount of $156,000.  Under OFAC’s Economic Sanctions Enforcement Guidelines, it was noted that the company did not have an OFAC compliance program in place at the time of the violations; the transactions were particularly harmful to U.S. sanctions program objectives because they aided the development of Iranian petroleum resources; but the harm to OFAC sanctions program objectives was lessened since 4 of the 6 shipments were detained and did not leave the U.S.  OFAC also noted that Stanley Drilling did not have any prior OFAC violations and is a small company (a check on the World Wide Web did not reveal a company website).

Notably, OFAC found that Stanley Drilling “did not appear to have actual knowledge that the drilling rig was destined for or located in Iranian waters,” but it “had reason to know these facts” because the information was publicly available at the time of the transactions.  In other words, Stanley Drilling failed to perform the necessary due diligence to make these export sales.  It did not follow the “Know Your Customer” mantra.  As the settlement also points out, despite being a small company, an exporter really must have an OFAC compliance program.  Rather obviously, this would be a particularly good practice to follow for companies selling oil/gas equipment to customers in the Middle East.

This penalty settlement clearly shows that small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs) simply cannot believe that U.S. export controls and economic sanctions do not apply to them or that their export sales will “fly under the radar” of government agencies.  They must perform due diligence early in the sales process, at the time of shipment, and even post-sale to avoid even unintentional violations.  To further mitigate the risk of violations, a written export compliance program, including OFAC compliance, is not just a best practice, but truly a necessity.

For assistance with understanding and complying with export controls and economic sanctions laws, regulations, and Executive Orders, as well as representation before BIS and OFAC in investigations, civil penalty, and voluntary self-disclosures, please contact Jon P. Yormick, Attorney and Counsellor at Law, jon@yormicklaw.com  or by calling +1.866.967.6425 (Toll free in Canada & U.S.), +1.216.928.3474, or Skype at jon.yormick.

U.S. and Non-U.S. Parties Beware (Again): Latest U.S. Sanctions on Iran go into Effect 1 July 2013

The Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012 (IFCA) and Executive Order (EO) 13645 become effective on 1 July 2013. IFCA was signed into law on 2 January 2013, as a part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2013 and authorizes broad sanctions aimed at Iran’s energy, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors, the sale and supply of precious and certain other metals, graphite, coal, and industrial software, and targets providing insurance and other financial services to sanctioned Iranian parties.  EO 13645 was signed on 3 June 2013 and implements and expands upon IFCA, significantly targeting Iran’s automotive sector.  IFCA marks the fourth U.S. Iran sanctions statute to go into effect since 2010, while EO 13645 is the sixth Iran-focused EO since 2012.

This latest round of U.S. sanctions again applies extraterritorially, reaching non-U.S. parties (including trading companies) that do business with Iranian-owned entities.  They are, in effect, “secondary sanctions.”  In general, IFCA presents sanctions liability exposure for “any person” (including entities) knowingly providing support or selling, supplying, or transferring to or from Iran significant goods or services to Iran’s energy, shipping, and shipbuilding sectors or port operations.  Similarly, IFCA sanctions can be imposed against “any person” that sells, supplies, or transfers, directly or indirectly, to or from Iran precious metals, graphite, aluminum, steel, and coal (all if used in certain ways), and software used for integrating industrial processes.  Financial institutions facilitating final transactions and insurance underwriting, relating to such activities, are likewise sanctionable.  IFCA also poses sanctions risk for “any person” knowingly providing support to any Iranian party on the Specially Designated National (SDN) List maintained by the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).

Certain exceptions apply to IFCA, most notably for the sale of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, medical devices, and providing humanitarian assistance to the Iranian people.

EO 13645 presents additional significant sanctions risks for foreign parties.  The EO expands the reach of U.S. sanctions to the Iranian automotive industry so that sanctions can be imposed against “any person” that sells, supplies, or transfers significant goods or services to Iran’s automotive sector, including goods used to manufacture or assemble trucks, cars, motorcycles and other vehicles in Iran.  In addition, financial institutions that conduct or facilitate any significant transactions related to the purchase or sale of Iranian Rials or maintaining significant accounts denominated in Iranian Rials, are subject to sanction.

To assist U.S. and foreign parties understand and comply with this latest round of U.S. sanctions against certain Iranian sectors, OFAC has added Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) as guidance, http://1.usa.gov/128MxDA.

For assistance with understanding and complying with IFCA, EO 13645, other Iran sanctions laws, regulations, and Executive Orders, and other economic sanctions regimes, as well as representation before BIS and OFAC in investigations, civil penalty, and voluntary self-disclosures, please contact Jon P. Yormick, Attorney and Counsellor at Law, jon@yormicklaw.com  or by calling +1.866.967.6425 (Toll free in Canada & U.S.), +1.216.928.3474, or Skype at jon.yormick.

A Tale of Two Recent OFAC Settlements

In recent weeks, the Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced civil liability settlements with two U.S. companies.  Both cases involved alleged violations of the Iranian Transactions Regulations (the “ITR”), but one case was viewed as egregious, while the other was non-egregious.  Both cases offer insight as to activities and factors weighed by OFAC in concluding civil settlements for violations of the ITR.

In mid-January OFAC announced that Dal-Tech Devices, Inc., of Boca Raton, Florida, agreed to pay $10,000 to settle its potential civil liability for apparent violations of the ITR.  Dal-Tech distributes microwave radio frequency devices.  While under prior ownership and management, the company apparently violated the ITR by selling and exporting radio frequency measurement devices (“RF devices”) to Austria, knowing the products were ultimately destined for Iran.  The total value of the shipment was under $3,500.  When the company learned the shipment had been returned from Austria without delivery, it re-exported the same RF devices to Slovenia for transshipment to Iran.   The OFAC announcement explains the civil settlement coincides with a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (the “DPA”) between Dal-Tech and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware.  Dal-Tech did not voluntarily disclose the apparent violations to OFAC.  The alleged violations constitute an egregious case.

Dal-Tech faced a base penalty of $500,000 for its apparent violations.  The relative minimal settlement resulted from OFAC’s consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case, assessed pursuant to the General Factors under OFAC’s Economic Sanctions Enforcement Guidelines.  Specifically, OFAC considered the following facts and circumstances: the criminal charges set forth in the DPA reflect knowing and willful conduct by an employee that is attributable to the company; Dal-Tech’s prior management at least had reason to know that the company’s goods were ultimately destined for Iran; Dal-Tech has not been the subject of any prior OFAC enforcement action; Dal-Tech lacked a sanctions compliance program at the time of the apparent violations; pursuant to the DPA, the company will implement a compliance program that includes sanctions and export compliance training of all employees; the settlement with OFAC is part of a comprehensive settlement with other federal law enforcement agencies; and the enforcement response is proportionate to the nature of the violations, given the totality of the circumstances.  Clearly, the factors considered were a combination of positive and negative factors.  The nature of the goods involved and repeated efforts to complete the sale via transshipment appear to have caused this case to be egregious.

On February 1, OFAC then announced that Offshore Marine Laboratories (“OML”), of Gardena, California, agreed to pay $97,695 to settle potential civil liability for alleged violations of the ITR and Executive Order 13382, “Blocking Property of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators and Their Supporters” (“EO 13382”).  Despite the more substantial settlement amount, this was a non-egregious case.

It was alleged that between July 2007 and July 17, 2008, OML exported eight shipments of spare parts and supplies to a company in the UAE.  The goods were intended for an offshore oil drilling rig located in Iranian waters.   OFAC explained the rig owner and operator were located in Iran, and five of the shipments occurred after the rig owner’s property and interests in property were blocked pursuant to EO 13382.  That Executive Order was signed in 2005 by President Bush and is aimed at freezing the assets of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters. Importantly, EO 13382 prohibits all transactions between those designated under it and any U.S. person and freezes any assets the designees may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

Similar to the Dal-Tech case, OML did not voluntarily disclose this matter to OFAC.  OML faced a base penalty in the amount $167,000 for its alleged violations.  OFAC considered the following facts and circumstances in this case to reach the settlement with OML: OML harmed sanctions program objectives because the transactions aided the development of Iranian petroleum resources; OML had no OFAC compliance program in place at the time of the alleged violations; OML has no history of prior OFAC violations; OML demonstrated substantial cooperation with OFAC throughout the investigation, including entering into a statute of limitations tolling agreement; and OML took remedial measures by implementing an OFAC compliance program.

When comparing the facts and circumstances considered by OFAC in each case, it is understandable why Dal-Tech was an egregious case.  The seeming disparity in the settlement amounts of an egregious versus non-egregious case appears to be explained by the parallel criminal case in Dal-Tech.

The DPA details how an initial arrest and conviction of an Iranian national arms dealer and search of his laptop uncovered emails with a former Dal-Tech employee regarding the attempted shipments of RF devices.  None of the shipments reached Iran because it was part of an undercover investigation by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (“ICE”).  A search of the laptop uncovered thousands of emails with hundreds of U.S. companies.  The DPA also details the cooperation and significant remedial measures that Dal-Tech will undertake, including ongoing cooperation with investigators who, no doubt, are interested in learning the full scope of the arms dealer’s efforts to procure U.S. military equipment for Iran.

The Dal-Tech case provides insight on how those seeking to procure goods for Iran will contact hundreds of U.S. companies in an effort to find someone within a company willing to make a sale.  Companies of all sizes and in all sectors must have internal controls and robust export compliance measures in place to avoid the potential to become involved in those illicit efforts.  The OML case additionally shows that a robust export compliance program that screens potential transactions early can avoid even non-egregious export and economic sanctions violations that are financially costly to companies and cause reputational harm.