On February 11, 2020, Judge Stanton of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York denied Dresser-Rand Company’s (Dresser Rand) motion for summary judgment in a suit to collect on a promissory note issued by Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (PdVSA).  The Court’s decision turned on a finding that payment by PdVSA was legally impossible under U.S. sanctions.  That finding was based on incomplete briefing by the parties and appears seriously flawed given the licenses and guidance provided by the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).  We discuss the decision and the U.S. sanctions regime as applied to the promissory note below.

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On January 13, 2020, the U.S. Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) released final regulations (the “Final Regulations”) implementing the updates to the foreign investment review process of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) contained in the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act of 2018 (“

Update: On January 16, 2020, OFAC announced a 90-day wind-down period for persons engaged in transactions that could be sanctioned under Executive Order 13902 with respect to the construction, mining, manufacturing, and textiles sectors of the Iranian economy.  Parties should wind down any sanctionable dealings in those sectors before April 9, 2020.  Consistent with previous wind-down periods, OFAC noted that parties entering into new business during this period may be sanctioned.
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On the evening of December 9, 2019, a U.S. congressional conference committee released the compromise version of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 (“NDAA 2020” or “Defense Bill”).  NDAA 2020, which will be voted upon without further amendment and is virtually certain to be enacted into law, contains provisions that would authorize new secondary sanctions relating to the Nord Stream 2 and TurkStream projects, Syria, and North Korea.
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Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce published for comment proposed regulations that would create sweeping authority to oversee, and potentially require the removal of, purchases of foreign telecommunications and IT technology linked to “foreign adversaries” by persons in the United States and U.S. companies overseas.  The draft regulations on “Securing the Information and Communications

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security has issued a rule, effective immediately, lowering the permissible level of de minimis U.S.-origin content in goods to be exported to Cuba.  Items manufactured outside the United States now may have no more than 10% U.S.-origin content (reduced from 25%) if they are to

On October 23, 2019, the Trump Administration rescinded the designation of Turkish officials and ministries.  The Executive Order remains in force, and so authority to re-impose sanctions remains.

On October 14, President Trump issued Executive Order 13894, styled “Blocking Property and Suspending Entry of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Syria.”  Under this order, OFAC designated the Turkish Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources, the Turkish Ministry of Defense, and the Ministers of the Interior, Energy and Natural Resources, and Defense for blocking sanctions.  This prohibits not only transactions with the relevant ministries and ministers (including in their official capacities) but any state-owned enterprise in which a 50% or greater interest held through those ministries.  OFAC also issued three general licenses providing a 30-day wind-down period for existing contracts with the sanctioned ministries or entities and permitting official U.S. government functions and certain international organization activities to continue, and OFAC has indicated that it is prepared to issue specific or general licenses to ensure that Turkey is still able to meet its energy needs.
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U.S. authorities take an expansive view of their jurisdiction when it comes to sanctions. They cannot, however, directly restrict persons outside U.S. jurisdiction from dealing with sanctioned persons. They therefore exert pressure on persons outside U.S. jurisdiction by threatening to designate them as sanctioned persons if they engage in certain activities contrary to U.S. sanctions policy (“Target Activities”). Sanctions imposed in such circumstances are known as ‘secondary sanctions’, and were the topic of the September 2019 judgment of the High Court of England and Wales in Lamesa Investments v. Cynergy Bank. In a ruling that will surprise many, the Court found that the risk of incurring secondary sanctions could be invoked by a party seeking to be excused from its contractual obligations under an illegality clause. While the Court’s interpretation of secondary sanctions appears questionable in several respects, parties will nonetheless need to take it into account when drafting contractual provisions.
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In the case of Ministry of Defence and Support for Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran v International Military Services Ltd [2019] EWHC 1994 (Comm), the High Court examined in detail the effect of the EU sanctions regime against Iran in the context of the enforcement of arbitral awards.

The High Court found

On August 5, 2019, the U.S. Administration imposed blocking sanctions on the Government of Venezuela (“GOV”) under a new executive order. Although named individual officials, the Central Bank of Venezuela, and Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. (“PdVSA”) were already blocked entities under U.S. sanctions, now all Venezuelan government entities and state-owned enterprises are blocked entities.

Unless