On September 9, 2022, the U.S. Department of the Treasury issued preliminary guidance (Preliminary Guidance) providing the initial outline of a long-anticipated price cap on Russian-origin crude oil and petroleum products (Price Cap), taking effect December 5, 2022 and February 5, 2023, respectively.[1]  The Price Cap is expected to be implemented by “a coalition of countries including the G7 and the EU” and follows an earlier statement of intent issued September 2, 2022 by G7 finance ministers.[2]
Continue Reading U.S. Treasury Department Issues Preliminary Guidance on Russian Oil Price Cap and Services Ban

In a recent opinion, U.S. Magistrate Judge Zia M. Faruqui of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia held that there is probable cause to find that a U.S. citizen-defendant violated U.S. sanctions by funneling cryptocurrency to a payments platform that the defendant operated in a “comprehensively sanctioned country.”
Continue Reading U.S. Federal Judge Finds Probable Cause for Conspiracy to Violate U.S. Sanctions and to Defraud the United States in First Published Opinion Discussing U.S. Sanctions Violations Involving Use of Cryptocurrency

U.S. federal and state authorities recently announced actions that are designed to give effect to economic measures taken against Russia and hold accountable those who violate U.S. laws.  These developments suggest that U.S. authorities’ focus on enforcing U.S. sanctions and export controls, anticorruption and anti-money laundering laws, and the growing scrutiny of cryptocurrency, will continue.  They also point to further coordination and cooperation between authorities in the U.S. and other jurisdictions in investigating and prosecuting violations of their respective laws.
Continue Reading Authorities in U.S. Take Steps to Strengthen Enforcement of U.S. Measures Against Russia

On October 15, 2021, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) issued “Sanctions Compliance Guidance for the Virtual Currency Industry” (the “Guidance”).  The Guidance follows recent guidance and advisory letters directed to the virtual currency industry relating to the risk of facilitating ransomware payments[1] and is OFAC’s most comprehensive virtual currency-specific advisory to date.  In particular, the Guidance directly addresses some simpler interpretive questions, discusses sanctions compliance programs and “best practices,” and provides hints about OFAC’s enforcement priorities going forward.
Continue Reading OFAC Issues Sanctions Guidance to Virtual Currency Industry

The “Supplemental Arrangement Concerning Mutual Enforcement of Arbitral Awards between the Mainland and the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region” was signed on November 27, 2020 and entered into force partially on the same day and partially on May 19, 2021.

Significantly, the Supplemental Arrangement modifies and expands the existing “Arrangement Concerning Mutual Enforcement of Arbitral

While large financial institutions have traditionally been hesitant to enter new areas of financial products, particularly virtual assets, many more banks and companies have expressed interest in virtual currencies as cryptocurrency has become increasingly mainstream.  Given the use of such services by terrorist groups, it is important for banks and other financial institutions to consider evolving dynamics in this area.  On the one hand, one of the widely described benefits of virtual currency is the transparency and public nature of transactions since they are typically recorded in a publicly accessible blockchain, which could facilitate policing and enforcement against illicit activity.  At the same time, the relevant legal framework for combating terrorist funding creates potential areas of liability, including, in particular under the Anti-Terrorism Act (“ATA”) and the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act (“JASTA”).  These considerations are important for companies and banks that provide services related to virtual currency, but also are relevant to any company that could be the target of ransomware attacks since attackers may be sanctioned entities or have ties to terrorism and as a matter of practice demand that the ransom payment be made in virtual currency.

Continue Reading Cryptocurrency and Other New Forms of Financial Technology: Potential Terrorist Financing Concerns and Liability

On February 18, 2021, the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $507,375 settlement with BitPay, Inc. (BitPay), a payment processor for merchants accepting digital currency as payment for goods and services, for 2,102 apparent violations of multiple sanctions programs between 2013 and 2018.[1] The settlement highlights that financial service providers facilitating digital currency transactions must not only establish sanctions compliance programs to screen their own customers but also must monitor third-party non-customer transaction information.
Continue Reading OFAC Settles with Digital Currency Payment Processor for Sanctions Violations

As part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2021 (the “NDAA”), Congress has passed the most significant U.S. anti-money laundering (“AML”) legislation since the USA PATRIOT Act of 2001, the “Anti-Money Laundering Act of 2020” (“AMLA 2020”).

Although President Trump has threatened to veto the NDAA, the majorities supporting the legislation would be sufficient

In the wake of one of the largest reported medical ransomware attacks in U.S. history,[1] the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) issued last week a pair of advisories to assist in efforts to combat the increasing threat of ransomware attacks and related sanctions and anti-money laundering (AML) compliance issues.[2]  Like our blog post last month on the same topic, the advisories highlight the importance of considering the legal risks relating to ransomware payments and confirm that OFAC may pursue enforcement actions against ransomware payments that violate U.S. sanctions.[3]
Continue Reading OFAC and FinCEN Issue Advisories on Cyber Ransom Payments

Last month, reports surfaced that fitness technology company Garmin may have made a multimillion dollar payment in response to a ransomware attack with reported links to Evil Corp, a Russian hacking group subject to U.S. sanctions.  This incident and other recent reports of ransomware attacks against large companies highlights that companies should consider potential civil and criminal liability under U.S. sanctions laws when responding to ransomware attacks.
Continue Reading Ransomware and Sanctions Compliance: Considerations for Responses to Attacks