On April 1, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended two of its pre-existing Ukraine-Russia-related General Licenses.
First, General License 12B (GL12B) replaces and supersedes General License 12A in its entirety. GL12B authorizes the listed entities to access blocked accounts for purposes of “maintenance or wind-down activities.” Previously, while GL12/GL12A had permitted maintenance or wind-down activities, it had required all payments to or for the benefit of the 12 designated entities to be made to a blocked account (this requirement was relaxed for RUSAL only in General License 14); in practice, therefore, the listed entities found it very difficult to engage in even licensed activity because most of their funds were blocked.
GL12B aims to remedy this by continuing to require U.S. Persons to make payments into blocked accounts, but authorizing the designated entities to now access those funds for “maintenance or wind down activities.” All of the other conditions on GL12/GL12A—including the 12:01 AM (East Coast) on June 5 expiration date—remain in place.
Second, OFAC issued General License 13A, which replaces and supersedes General License 13 in its entirety. General License 13A makes four general changes to General License 13:
(1) extends the authorization to three subsidiaries of the listed entities—Irkutskenergo, GAZ Auto Plant, and Rusal Capital Designated Activity Company—(previously, the divestment authorization applied only to (a) EN+ Group PLC, (b) GAZ Group, and (c) United Company RUSAL PLC and not to their subsidiaries);
(2) clarifies that U.S. persons can undertake certain “intermediate” purchases of debt/equity if those are necessary to divestment (i.e., purchases of securities to close out a short position);
(3) clarifies the authorization extends to purchases of securities by designated persons made prior to April 6, but which have not settled due to sanctions; and
(4) extends the authorization through 12:01 AM (East Coast) on June 6, 2018 (previously it was the same time on May 6, 2018).
OFAC issued three new Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) to explain the changes. The first two FAQs (#583-584) simply reiterate the changes summarized above. The only relevant new FAQ (No. 585) reiterates the bright line 50 percent rule, noting that U.S. Persons are “generally” not prohibited from engaging in a transaction with a non-U.S. company if one or more SDNs hold less than 50 percent aggregate interest.
This interpretation is consistent with existing guidance, but was likely re-issued to affirm the existing position as a result of the number of non-U.S. companies in which the new SDNs hold a minority interest (e.g., Renova Group’s 48 percent interest in Sulzer Group and its smaller interests in dozens of other entities).