On April 23, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued General License (GL) 14 in its Ukraine/Russia sanctions program.

According to a Treasury press release, GL 14 “authorizes U.S. persons to engage in specified transactions related to winding down or maintaining business with United Company RUSAL PLC (RUSAL) and its subsidiaries until October 23, 2018. In accordance with preexisting OFAC guidance, OFAC will not impose secondary sanctions on non-U.S. persons for engaging in the same activity involving RUSAL or its subsidiaries that General License 14 authorizes U.S. persons to engage in.”

Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin said, “RUSAL has felt the impact of U.S. sanctions because of its entanglement with Oleg Deripaska, but the U.S. government is not targeting the hardworking people who depend on RUSAL and its subsidiaries.  He added, “RUSAL has approached us to petition for delisting. Given the impact on our partners and allies, we are issuing a general license extending the maintenance and wind-down period while we consider RUSAL’s petition.”

In addition to extending the time period until October 23, 2018, GL 14 also expands the existing authorization in GL 12 by authorizing (a) the disbursement of previously blocked funds for specific maintenance and winddown activities, (b) new payments to RUSAL not to be made into blocked accounts, and (c) exports from the United States to RUSAL. GL14 is still, however, subject to many of the same conditions as apply to GL 12, including (a) the transactions must relate to “operations, contracts, or other agreements” in place prior to April 6, 2018 and (b) U.S. persons utilizing the authority must file a report with OFAC within 10 days of GL 14’s conclusion.

In addition to General License 14, today OFAC also published several FAQs regarding to the general license’s authorizations and limitations, and issued an amended General License 12A (Authorizing Certain Activities Necessary to Maintenance or Wind Down of Operations) that reflects the expanded RUSAL-related authority in GL 14.

Per a press release, on April 6, “the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), in consultation with the Department of State, [ ] designated seven Russian oligarchs and 12 companies they own or control, 17 senior Russian government officials, and a state-owned Russian weapons trading company and its subsidiary, a Russian bank.”

In addition to new Ukraine/Russia-related designations, two persons were also designated pursuant to the Government of Syria authorities.

OFAC also issued the following two Ukraine-/Russia-related general licenses in connection with these designations:  General License 12 “Authorizing Certain Activities Necessary to Maintenance or Wind down of Operations or Existing Contracts”; and General License 13 “Authorizing Certain Transactions Necessary to Divest or Transfer Debt, Equity, or other Holdings in Certain Blocked Persons”.

Finally, OFAC published eight new FAQs related to its April 6 action and published one updated FAQ related to the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA).

 

On March 22, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued a final rule (“March Rule”) that (1) added 23 persons to its Entity List, (2) removed one person from the Entity List, and (3) corrected a licensing requirement inaccurately described in a previous rule related to twelve previously designated Russian entities.

(1) New Designees: The March Rule also adds twenty-three persons to the Entity List. These include: (a) 15 persons added in South Sudan for being government, parastatal, or private entities acting contrary to U.S. foreign policy interests; (b) two persons in Singapore and Pakistan added for seeking to procure U.S.-origin items for nuclear-related entities in Pakistan; and (c) five entities in Pakistan for being involved in the proliferation of unsafeguarded nuclear activities and/or assisting others in evading Entity List restrictions. For all 23 persons, BIS imposed a licensing requirement for all items subject to the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”) with a presumption of denial.

(2) Removed Designees: BIS also chose to remove one designee in the UAE and one in Ecuador based on “information received by BIS” from those entities and a review undertaken by the End-User Review Committee (“ERC”).

(3) Correction of Licensing Requirement: Finally, BIS corrected an error in a final rule published on February 16 (“February Rule”), which had added 21 entities to the Entity List.

Specifically, the February Rule had added 12 entities to the Entity List to support a parallel designation of these entities by the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) pursuant to Executive Order 13662 on its Sectoral Sanctions Identification (“SSI”) list. The February Rule had, however, inconsistently described the licensing requirements applicable to these 12 entities (the other 9 entities were designated by OFAC as Specially Designated Nationals (“SDN”) and the BIS Entity List licensing requirement was correctly described).

Specifically, the preamble to the February Rule correctly stated that a “license is required for exports, re-exports, or transfers (in-country) of all items subject to the [Export Administration Regulations] EAR, when the exporter, re-exporter or transferor knows that the item will be used directly or indirectly in exploration for, or production of, oil or gas in Russian deep water (greater than 500 feet) or Arctic offshore locations or shale formations in Russia, or is unable to determine whether the item will be used in such projects.” That tailored requirement is consistent with the tailored licensing requirements BIS had previously imposed on entities designated by OFAC as subject to its sectoral sanctions program.

However, the February Rule also included a more general, and conflicting, entry for each of the 12 entities. Specifically, BIS had stated in its conclusion that a license was required for all items subject to the EAR for all end uses for all entities identified in the February Rule; this was a correct description of the requirements applicable to the nine designees who had been designated by OFAC as SDNs, but was too broad of a statement for the 12 designees designated by OFAC as SSIs.

The March Rule clarifies the February Rule and removes the conflict. Specifically, the March Rule confirms that the 12 entities subject to OFAC’s sectoral sanctions program (i.e., designated as SSIs) are subject only to the more limited licensing requirements related to all items subject to the EAR when used in projects specified in § 746.5 of the EAR. The broader restriction on the nine SDNs remains in place and was not modified in the March Rule.

On March 15, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated as Specially Designated Nationals (“SDNs”) 2 new persons under an existing Obama-era cyber Executive Order, and 13 new persons under new authority granted by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). This was the first time OFAC has utilized any of the multitude of CAATSA authorities to designate new SDNs.

The agency also updated nine previously sanctioned persons, adding the Cyber and/or CAATSA designations.

As background, CAATSA Section 224 requires the imposition of asset blocking sanctions on a person the President determines “knowingly engages in significant activities undermining cybersecurity” on behalf of the Government of Russia.

These actions are closely linked to the recent Mueller indictment of Russian persons for allegedly interfering with U.S. elections. All 15 defendants in that indictment have now been designated as SDNs: three of them were previously designated (but have now been re-designated under a second authority) and the 12 others were newly designated as part of this action. Specifically, the Internet Research Agency LLC is named in the indictment, as are 11 individuals linked to the company.

OFAC amended Cyber General License No. 1, “Authorizing Certain Transactions with the Federal Security Service” (GL 1), and reissued it as Cyber General License No. 1A (GL 1A). GL1A has the same net effect as GL1 insofar as it authorizes transactions, subject to certain conditions, with the Federal Security Service (a.k.a. Federalnaya Sluzhba Bezopasnosti) (a.k.a. FSB) related to certain licensing and authorization functions that the FSB performs. The only change under GL1A was to clarify that the authorization continues to apply despite the FSB’s new designation under CAATSA Section 224 (i.e., GL1A authorizes transactions otherwise prohibited by both the Cyber sanctions and Section 224).

OFAC also published four updated FAQs relating to GL 1A and one updated CAATSA-related FAQ related to this action.

Within the last month, both the United States and European Union have decided to extend the authorities underpinning some or all of their Russia-related sanctions programs.

For the United States this involved renewing the “national emergency” finding that provides the basis for each of the Russia-related Executive Orders while in the European Union this involved renewing several of the authorities that are only implemented for six or 12 months at a time.

The tables at the links below identify the relevant authority, most recent extension, and next extension deadline by jurisdiction.

For U.S. Russia-related Sanctions information, please click here.

For EU Russia-related Sanctions information, please click here.

 

 

On 13 February, the EU published an Information Note to EU business operating and/or investing in Crimea/Sevastopol.

The new version of this note includes updates about relevant regulations as well as more information about precautions to take when doing business in the region.

On the last page, it provides links to further information on the implementation of restrictive measures in the following documents:

  • Guidelines on implementation and evaluation of restrictive measures, see here
  • Best Practices for effective implementation of restrictive measures, see here
  • Guidelines on the implementation of the prohibition on making indirectly available of funds and economic resources and the notions of ownership and control, see here
  • Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ), click here
  • EU sanctions map, see here

The Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA) was signed into law by President Trump on August 2, 2017. This put in motion several deadlines, three of which are due next Monday, January 29, 2018.

Based on past experience, the Trump administration may not meet these deadlines. Nonetheless, it is clear that the impact of these sanctions will be felt differently by different sectors of the U.S. economy. This is an opportunity for industries to participate in a dialogue with State and the key sanctions architects to seek ways to mitigate the disruption of any sanctions while preserving their intended effect on Russian interests.

Section Title Action
231 Imposition Of Sanctions With Respect To Persons Engaging In Transactions With The Intelligence Or Defense Sectors Of The Government Of The Russian Federation. 231(a) states, “The President shall impose five or more of the sanctions described in section 235 with respect to a person the President determines knowingly, on or after such date of enactment, engages in a significant transaction with a person that is part of, or operates for or on behalf of, the defense or intelligence sectors of the Government of the Russian Federation, including the Main Intelligence Agency of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation or the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation.”

 

Section Title/Responsible Agency Summary
241 Report On Oligarchs And Parastatal Entities Of The Russian Federation.

This report is to be submitted by the Secretary of the Treasury in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of State.

241(a)(1) – (a)(5) describe the required elements of the report:

·         The identification and assessment of senior foreign political figures and oligarchs in the Russian Federation;

·         An assessment of Russian parastatal entities;

·         The exposure of key U.S. economic sectors to these entities;

·         The likely effects of imposing debt and equity restrictions on parastatal entities, as well as adding them to Treasury’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN); and

·         The potential impacts of imposing secondary sanctions on persons or entities identified in this report.

 

Section Title/Responsible Agency Summary
243 Report On Illicit Finance Relating To The Russian Federation.

This report is to be submitted by the Secretary of the Treasury in consultation with the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of State.

243(a) states this report will describe “in detail the potential effects of expanding sanctions under Directive 1 (as amended), dated September 12, 2014, issued by the Office of Foreign Assets Control under Executive Order No. 13662 (79 Fed. Reg. 16169; relating to blocking property of additional persons contributing to the situation in Ukraine), or any successor directive, to include sovereign debt and the full range of derivative products.”

 

In December 2017, the Government of Venezuela announced the adoption of a new digital currency called Petro—backed by Venezuelan oil resources—in what it described as an attempt to avoid the impact of U.S. Financial Sanctions. On January 19, OFAC published a new Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) offering its view that the proposed currency may be exposed to U.S. sanctions.

As previously reported by Crowell, on August 24, 2017, President Trump issued Executive Order (E.O.) 13808, prohibiting U.S. persons from dealing in new debt (of certain maturities)bonds (previously issued ones other than those identified by general license), and all new securities with the Government of Venezuela, and entities it owns or controls, including Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) (but generally excluding CITGO Holdings Inc.).

According to OFAC, investing in the Petro could infringe these requirements.

Specifically, while OFAC offers very little insight into the structure of the Petro, the FAQ states that the new digital currency would carry rights to receive commodities in specified quantities at a later date. The new FAQ explains that a digital currency with these characteristics “would appear to be an extension of credit” to the Venezuelan Government, and therefore, U.S. persons engaging in transactions involving the Petro “may be exposed to U.S. sanctions risk.” The E.O. defines “new debt” broadly, including extension of credit. The FAQ makes no reference to the duration of any investment, but appears to assume that any investment would be for a maturity in excess of that permitted under U.S. sanctions.

Since its announcement, the Petro has been subject to controversy. The Venezuelan Government alleges that the new currency is intended to ease the deep economic recession in the country. However, commentators have expressed concern that the new Petro not only faces risks of corruption, but also is likely to have its own challenges under Venezuelan law. For instance, Article 3 of Venezuela’s Hydrocarbons Law establishes that oil reserves are part of the public domain, and as such, are not transferable. In early January, Venezuela’s Legislature rejected the issuance of the Petro, on the argument that it is illegal and unconstitutional. President Maduro, however, recently announced that the Petro is set to launch, ignoring the Legislature’s powers.

The Petro is also being closely watched by observers in Russia. Having been subject to financial sanctions that closely resemble those in force against Venezuela since July 2014, Russia recently announced it is considering following Venezuela’s steps and adopting a cryptocurrency it has also stated is intended to limit the impact of U.S. Sanctions.

Depending on how that currency is structured, OFAC’s FAQ on the Petro may give some insight into how it would view a similar effort undertaken by Russia.

For more details on Venezuela’s Financial Sanctions, please see Crowell’s Client Alerts from September and November 2017.

The U.S. Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published new guidance in October related to the implementation of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA). As we have previously summarized, the new law is divided into three parts: Title I-Sanctions with Respect to Iran; Title II-Sanctions with Respect to the Russian Federation and Combating Terrorism and Illicit Financing; and Title III-Sanctions with Respect to North Korea.

Although guidance is pending on Title III, OFAC has now published FAQs or updated FAQs on Titles I and II as follows.

Guidance on Title I / Iran Sanctions Developments

On October 13, in accordance with Section 105 of CAATSA, OFAC imposed sanctions on the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) applicable under global terrorism Executive Order 13224. On October 31, OFAC amended its Global Terrorism Sanctions Regulations to block the property and interests in property of foreign persons identified by OFAC as officials, agents, or affiliates of the IRGC.

As OFAC FAQs 533 and 534 explain, although the IRGC was previously sanctioned by OFAC under other programs, the new designation does not allow for certain exemptions related to personal communications, humanitarian donations, information or information materials, and travel, which were previously available.

Guidance on Title II / Russia Sanctions Guidance

OFAC and the State Department have also now published substantial guidance related to implementation of the various Russia-related sanctions. The following table summarizes the recent changes, issued at three separate times in the last six weeks (September 29, October 27, and October 31):

 

Section of CAATSA

Topic

Agency

Guidance / Regulations Issued

Section 223

Modification of sectoral sanctions

OFAC

Amended FAQs Nos. 370, 394-95, 405, 408-10, 415, & 419

Published Modified Directive 1
Published Modified Directive 2
Published Modified Directive 4

Sectoral sanctions related to railways and mining / metals

OFAC

Published New FAQ No. 539

Section 225

Secondary sanctions related to special Russian crude oil projects

State

Published New Guidance and FAQ

Section 226

Secondary sanctions on FFIs related to financing transactions with sanctioned persons and related to special crude oil projects

OFAC

Published New FAQs Nos. 541-543

Section 228

Primary sanctions related to foreign sanctions evaders and serious human rights abusers in the Russian Federation

OFAC

Published New FAQs Nos. 544-546

Section 231

Secondary sanctions related to Russian defense or intelligence sector

State

Published New Guidance and FAQs

Published List of Persons Operating in Russian Defense or Intelligence Sectors

Section 232

Secondary sanctions related to Russian energy export pipelines

State

Published New Guidance

Section 233

Secondary sanctions related to unjust privatization of Russian state-owned assets

OFAC

Published New FAQ No. 540

The guidance represents a continuation of OFAC’s recent trend of issuing guidance at the same time as implementing regulatory changes, but taken together with the State Department’s guidance, arguably represents the most substantial guidance ever issued by the two agencies in advance of implementation of newly enacted Congressional legislation.

For more details regarding the contents of the guidance, or with respect to any questions it raises, please contact one of the professionals listed below.

For more information, contact: Jeff Snyder, Carlton Greene, Cari Stinebower, Chris Monahan, Dj Wolff

On August 2, President Trump signed into law the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (CAATSA), which imposes new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea.

While President Trump noted his view that the legislation was “significantly flawed”, its passage represents the successful culmination of months of Congressional negotiations and its provisions will have an immediate and material impact, particularly on companies undertaking transactions in Russia.

CAATSA represents, in effect, the combination of three separate pieces of legislation imposing new sanctions on Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Each piece of the legislation contains a series of new restrictions, but several key highlights are summarized below:

  • Russia: New Primary Sanction Authorities: CAATSA provides the President with new authorities to sanction (1) persons knowingly engaging in significant activities undermining cybersecurity on behalf of the Russian Government; (2) non-U.S. persons who evade existing Russia-related sanctions; (3) non-U.S. persons responsible for, complicit in, or otherwise directing, the commission of serious human rights abuses in Russia; and (4) non-U.S. persons who provide significant support that materially contributes to the ability of the Government of Syria to acquire chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons, ballistic missiles, or other similar items (e.g., those on the U.S. Munitions List). The Legislation does not itself designate any persons
  • Russia: Sectoral Sanctions – Reduced Payment Terms and New Sectors: The Legislation modifies existing restrictions by reducing permissible maturity periods under Directive 1 and Directive 2 (from 30 and 90 days to 14 and 60 days, respectively) and expanding the territorial scope of Directive 4 to certain types of oil exploration and production activities globally, not just in Russia. Second, it also authorizes the expansion of sectoral sanctions to state-owned enterprises in Russia’s mining, metals, and railway sectors.
  • Russia: Secondary Sanctions on Defense, Intelligence, and Export Pipelines Sectors: The Legislation imposes several new mandatory and discretionary “secondary” sanctions. These include (1) mandatory secondary sanctions on persons conducting “significant” transactions with Russia’s defense or intelligence sectors (or persons operating in that sector); (2) discretionary secondary sanctions on non-U.S. persons undertaking an investment or providing goods, services, or support for the construction of Russian energy export pipelines; (3) mandatory secondary sanctions on persons making an investment in excess of certain thresholds in the privatization of Russian state-owned assets in a way that unjustly benefits Russian officials or their families; and (4) modifies, to make mandatory, existing secondary sanctions on non-U.S. persons undertaking significant transactions in support of exploration or production of oil from shale, arctic offshore, or deep-water locations in Russia.
  • Russia: Codification of Existing Sanctions: The Legislation also codifies all of the existing Executive Orders on Russia (both those related to Ukraine and to Cyber activities) as well as the existing designations as of August 2, 2017. While the President retains discretion to relax the provisions, the Legislation requires that he provide advance notice and written justification for any such relaxations, and then allow Congress at least 30 days to potentially object to the relaxation.
  • North Korea: The Legislation imposes a series of new designation authorities for the President, which broadly relate to persons that are in violation of existing U.S. and United Nations sanctions on North Korea. CAATSA also imposes new obligations on U.S. financial institutions to cut-off correspondent account access for non-U.S. financial institutions that might indirectly be benefiting North Korea. Finally, it calls on the administration to consider re-designating North Korea as a state sponsor of terrorism.
  • Iran: Similarly, the Iran-related aspects of the Legislation primarily focuses on providing the President with a series of new designation-related authorities that focus on Iran’s non-nuclear related activities (e.g., ballistic missile testing, support to terrorism, and enforcing arms embargoes).
  • National Strategy To Combat Terrorism Finance: Finally, the Legislation calls for the development of a national strategy to combat terrorism finance and it opens the opportunity for private sector engagement in the development of that strategy.

CAATSA’s passage has already provoked immediate responses from not only its targets – Russia has requested the removal of several hundred U.S. diplomatic personnel and threatened additional retaliation while Iran has accused the United States of violating the nuclear deal – but U.S. allies, including Germany and Austria who have called CAATSA’s provisions “unacceptable” and indicate they will not “tolerate” sanctions being imposed on their companies pursuant to its provisions.

For more information, contact: Jeffrey Snyder, Cari Stinebower, Carlton Greene, Dj Wolff, J.J. Saulino