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October 18, 2018 |
Webcast: CFIUS Reform and the Implications for Real Estate Transactions

On August 13, 2018, President Trump signed legislation that will significantly expand the scope of inbound foreign real estate investments subject to review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS” or “the Committee”).  The Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (“FIRRMA”) provides CFIUS with authority to review real estate transactions—including leases, sales, and concessions—involving air or maritime ports or in close proximity to sensitive U.S. government facilities.  In this CLE webcast presentation, Gibson Dunn attorneys discuss the Committee’s view of relevant national security risks and anticipated implementing regulations for such transactions. Topics to be covered: CFIUS Overview National Security Risks Associated with Real Estate Transaction FIRRMA’s Real Estate Provisions Impact on Real Estate Investments and Transactions View Slides [PDF] PANELISTS: Judith Alison Lee, a partner in our Washington, D.C. office, is Co-Chair of the firm’s International Trade Practice Group. She practices in the areas of international trade regulation, including USA Patriot Act compliance, economic sanctions and embargoes, export controls, and national security reviews (“CFIUS”). She also advises on issues relating to virtual and digital currencies, blockchain technologies and distributed cryptoledgers. Jose W. Fernandez, a partner in our New York office and Co-Chair of the firm’s Latin America Practice Group, previously served as Assistant Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs during the Obama Administration, and led the Bureau that is responsible for overseeing work on sanctions and international trade and investment policy. His practice focuses on mergers and acquisitions and finance in emerging markets in Latin America, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. Andrew A. Lance, a partner in our New York office, is Co-Head of the Real Estate Practice Group’s Hotel and Hospitality Practice. His practice focuses on real estate capital markets, transactional and finance matters, including rated commercial real estate structured financings, multistate mortgage financings, mezzanine financing, management and finance. Stephanie L. Connor, a senior associate in the Washington D.C. office, practices primarily in the areas of international trade compliance and white collar investigations. She focuses on matters before the U.S. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) and has served on secondment to the Legal and Compliance division of a Fortune 100 company. MCLE CREDIT INFORMATION: This program has been approved for credit in accordance with the requirements of the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board for a maximum of 1.50 credit hours, of which 1.50 credit hours may be applied toward the areas of professional practice requirement. This course is approved for transitional/non-transitional credit. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP certifies that this activity has been approved for MCLE credit by the State Bar of California in the amount of 1.25 hours. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP is authorized by the Solicitors Regulation Authority to provide in-house CPD training. This program is approved for CPD credit in the amount of 1.25 hours. Regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (Number 324652). Application for approval is pending with the Colorado, Texas and Virginia State Bars. Most participants should anticipate receiving their certificates of attendance via e-mail in approximately 4 to 6 weeks following the webcast. Members of the Virginia Bar should anticipate receiving the applicable certification forms in approximately 6 to 8 weeks.

October 17, 2018 |
SEC Warns Public Companies on Cyber-Fraud Controls

Click for PDF On October 16, 2018, the Securities and Exchange Commission issued a report warning public companies about the importance of internal controls to prevent cyber fraud.  The report described the SEC Division of Enforcement’s investigation of multiple public companies which had collectively lost nearly $100 million in a range of cyber-scams typically involving phony emails requesting payments to vendors or corporate executives.[1] Although these types of cyber-crimes are common, the Enforcement Division notably investigated whether the failure of the companies’ internal accounting controls to prevent unauthorized payments violated the federal securities laws.  The SEC ultimately declined to pursue enforcement actions, but nonetheless issued a report cautioning public companies about the importance of devising and maintaining a system of internal accounting controls sufficient to protect company assets. While the SEC has previously addressed the need for public companies to promptly disclose cybersecurity incidents, the new report sees the agency wading into corporate controls designed to mitigate such risks.  The report encourages companies to calibrate existing internal controls, and related personnel training, to ensure they are responsive to emerging cyber threats.  The report (issued to coincide with National Cybersecurity Awareness Month) clearly intends to warn public companies that future investigations may result in enforcement action. The Report of Investigation Section 21(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 empowers the SEC to issue a public Report of Investigation where deemed appropriate.  While SEC investigations are confidential unless and until the SEC files an enforcement action alleging that an individual or entity has violated the federal securities laws, Section 21(a) reports provide a vehicle to publicize investigative findings even where no enforcement action is pursued.  Such reports are used sparingly, perhaps every few years, typically to address emerging issues where the interpretation of the federal securities laws may be uncertain.  (For instance, recent Section 21(a) reports have addressed the treatment of digital tokens as securities and the use of social media to disseminate material corporate information.) The October 16 report details the Enforcement Division’s investigations into the internal accounting controls of nine issuers, across multiple industries, that were victims of cyber-scams. The Division identified two specific types of cyber-fraud – typically referred to as business email compromises or “BECs” – that had been perpetrated.  The first involved emails from persons claiming to be unaffiliated corporate executives, typically sent to finance personnel directing them to wire large sums of money to a foreign bank account for time-sensitive deals. These were often unsophisticated operations, textbook fakes that included urgent, secret requests, unusual foreign transactions, and spelling and grammatical errors. The second type of business email compromises were harder to detect. Perpetrators hacked real vendors’ accounts and sent invoices and requests for payments that appeared to be for otherwise legitimate transactions. As a result, issuers made payments on outstanding invoices to foreign accounts controlled by impersonators rather than their real vendors, often learning of the scam only when the legitimate vendor inquired into delinquent bills. According to the SEC, both types of frauds often succeeded, at least in part, because responsible personnel failed to understand their company’s existing cybersecurity controls or to appropriately question the veracity of the emails.  The SEC explained that the frauds themselves were not sophisticated in design or in their use of technology; rather, they relied on “weaknesses in policies and procedures and human vulnerabilities that rendered the control environment ineffective.” SEC Cyber-Fraud Guidance Cybersecurity has been a high priority for the SEC dating back several years. The SEC has pursued a number of enforcement actions against registered securities firms arising out of data breaches or deficient controls.  For example, just last month the SEC brought a settled action against a broker-dealer/investment-adviser which suffered a cyber-intrusion that had allegedly compromised the personal information of thousands of customers.  The SEC alleged that the firm had failed to comply with securities regulations governing the safeguarding of customer information, including the Identity Theft Red Flags Rule.[2] The SEC has been less aggressive in pursuing cybersecurity-related actions against public companies.  However, earlier this year, the SEC brought its first enforcement action against a public company for alleged delays in its disclosure of a large-scale data breach.[3] But such enforcement actions put the SEC in the difficult position of weighing charges against companies which are themselves victims of a crime.  The SEC has thus tried to be measured in its approach to such actions, turning to speeches and public guidance rather than a large number of enforcement actions.  (Indeed, the SEC has had to make the embarrassing disclosure that its own EDGAR online filing system had been hacked and sensitive information compromised.[4]) Hence, in February 2018, the SEC issued interpretive guidance for public companies regarding the disclosure of cybersecurity risks and incidents.[5]  Among other things, the guidance counseled the timely public disclosure of material data breaches, recognizing that such disclosures need not compromise the company’s cybersecurity efforts.  The guidance further discussed the need to maintain effective disclosure controls and procedures.  However, the February guidance did not address specific controls to prevent cyber incidents in the first place. The new Report of Investigation takes the additional step of addressing not just corporate disclosures of cyber incidents, but the procedures companies are expected to maintain in order to prevent these breaches from occurring.  The SEC noted that the internal controls provisions of the federal securities laws are not new, and based its report largely on the controls set forth in Section 13(b)(2)(B) of the Exchange Act.  But the SEC emphasized that such controls must be “attuned to this kind of cyber-related fraud, as well as the critical role training plays in implementing controls that serve their purpose and protect assets in compliance with the federal securities laws.”  The report noted that the issuers under investigation had procedures in place to authorize and process payment requests, yet were still victimized, at least in part “because the responsible personnel did not sufficiently understand the company’s existing controls or did not recognize indications in the emailed instructions that those communications lacked reliability.” The SEC concluded that public companies’ “internal accounting controls may need to be reassessed in light of emerging risks, including risks arising from cyber-related frauds” and “must calibrate their internal accounting controls to the current risk environment.” Unfortunately, the vagueness of such guidance leaves the burden on companies to determine how best to address emerging risks.  Whether a company’s controls are adequate may be judged in hindsight by the Enforcement Division; not surprisingly, companies and individuals under investigation often find the staff asserting that, if the controls did not prevent the misconduct, they were by definition inadequate.  Here, the SEC took a cautious approach in issuing a Section 21(a) report highlighting the risk rather than publicly identifying and penalizing the companies which had already been victimized by these scams. However, companies and their advisors should assume that, with this warning shot across the bow, the next investigation of a similar incident may result in more serious action.  Persons responsible for designing and maintaining the company’s internal controls should consider whether improvements (such as enhanced trainings) are warranted; having now spoken on the issue, the Enforcement Division is likely to view corporate inaction as a factor in how it assesses the company’s liability for future data breaches and cyber-frauds.    [1]   SEC Press Release (Oct. 16, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-236; the underlying report may be found at www.sec.gov/litigation/investreport/34-84429.pdf.    [2]   SEC Press Release (Sept. 16, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-213.  This enforcement action was particularly notable as the first occasion the SEC relied upon the rules requiring financial advisory firms to maintain a robust program for preventing identify theft, thus emphasizing the significance of those rules.    [3]   SEC Press Release (Apr. 24, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-71.    [4]   SEC Press Release (Oct. 2, 2017), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2017-186.    [5]   SEC Press Release (Feb. 21, 2018), available at www.sec.gov/news/press-release/2018-22; the guidance itself can be found at www.sec.gov/rules/interp/2018/33-10459.pdf.  The SEC provided in-depth guidance in this release on disclosure processes and considerations related to cybersecurity risks and incidents, and complements some of the points highlighted in the Section 21A report. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist with any questions you may have regarding these issues.  For further information, please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work in the firm’s Securities Enforcement or Privacy, Cybersecurity and Consumer Protection practice groups, or the following authors: Marc J. Fagel – San Francisco (+1 415-393-8332, mfagel@gibsondunn.com) Alexander H. Southwell – New York (+1 212-351-3981, asouthwell@gibsondunn.com) Please also feel free to contact the following practice leaders and members: Securities Enforcement Group: New York Barry R. Goldsmith – Co-Chair (+1 212-351-2440, bgoldsmith@gibsondunn.com) Mark K. Schonfeld – Co-Chair (+1 212-351-2433, mschonfeld@gibsondunn.com) Reed Brodsky (+1 212-351-5334, rbrodsky@gibsondunn.com) Joel M. Cohen (+1 212-351-2664, jcohen@gibsondunn.com) Lee G. Dunst (+1 212-351-3824, ldunst@gibsondunn.com) Laura Kathryn O’Boyle (+1 212-351-2304, loboyle@gibsondunn.com) Alexander H. Southwell (+1 212-351-3981, asouthwell@gibsondunn.com) Avi Weitzman (+1 212-351-2465, aweitzman@gibsondunn.com) Lawrence J. Zweifach (+1 212-351-2625, lzweifach@gibsondunn.com) Washington, D.C. Richard W. Grime – Co-Chair (+1 202-955-8219, rgrime@gibsondunn.com) Stephanie L. Brooker  (+1 202-887-3502, sbrooker@gibsondunn.com) Daniel P. Chung (+1 202-887-3729, dchung@gibsondunn.com) Stuart F. Delery (+1 202-887-3650, sdelery@gibsondunn.com) Patrick F. Stokes (+1 202-955-8504, pstokes@gibsondunn.com) F. Joseph Warin (+1 202-887-3609, fwarin@gibsondunn.com) San Francisco Marc J. Fagel – Co-Chair (+1 415-393-8332, mfagel@gibsondunn.com) Winston Y. Chan (+1 415-393-8362, wchan@gibsondunn.com) Thad A. Davis (+1 415-393-8251, tdavis@gibsondunn.com) Charles J. Stevens (+1 415-393-8391, cstevens@gibsondunn.com) Michael Li-Ming Wong (+1 415-393-8234, mwong@gibsondunn.com) Palo Alto Paul J. Collins (+1 650-849-5309, pcollins@gibsondunn.com) Benjamin B. 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Mark Lyon – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5307, mlyon@gibsondunn.com) Shaalu Mehra – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5282, smehra@gibsondunn.com) Karl G. Nelson – Dallas (+1 214-698-3203, knelson@gibsondunn.com) Eric D. Vandevelde – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7186, evandevelde@gibsondunn.com) Benjamin B. Wagner – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5395, bwagner@gibsondunn.com) Michael Li-Ming Wong – San Francisco/Palo Alto (+1 415-393-8333/+1 650-849-5393, mwong@gibsondunn.com) Ryan T. Bergsieker – Denver (+1 303-298-5774, rbergsieker@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

October 5, 2018 |
OFAC Issues Economic Sanctions Guidance on Digital Currencies

Click for PDF Over the last several months, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has expressed a clear interest in protecting the U.S. financial system from illicit activities in the digital currency space and has posited that transactions involving digital currencies be treated similarly to transactions involving traditional fiat currency.[1]  OFAC released Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on March 19 and June 6, 2018 that addressed the treatment of digital currencies.  In particular, the FAQs suggest that compliance obligations apply to digital currencies in the same manner as they would apply to traditional fiat currencies.[2]  Moreover, the FAQs note that OFAC may add digital currency addresses associated with blocked persons to its List of Specially Designated Nationals (SDN List) and put the onus on individuals[3] engaging in such transactions to screen and ensure that they are not dealing with banned persons.[4]  Finally, an Executive Order from President Trump and related guidance from OFAC prohibited transactions involving “petro,” a digital currency issued by the Venezuelan government to evade U.S. sanctions.[5] Through this series of FAQs, OFAC has begun to stake out its position on certain compliance obligations for digital currency transactions as well as OFAC sanctions for those who use digital currency for illicit transactions.  However, key questions still remain around the scope and application of such obligations.  We discuss OFAC’s guidance on digital currencies in more detail below. FAQ 559: Definitions of “virtual currency,” “digital currency,” “digital currency wallet,” and “digital currency address” for purposes of OFAC sanctions programs OFAC’s FAQ 559 defined “virtual currency” as “a digital representation of value that functions as (i) a medium of exchange; (ii) a unit of account; and/or (iii) a store of value; is neither issued nor guaranteed by any jurisdiction; and does not have legal tender status in any jurisdiction.”[6]  Similarly, OFAC defined the broader term, “digital currency,” which involves “sovereign cryptocurrency, virtual currency (non-fiat), and a digital representation of fiat currency.”[7]  Next, it was explained that a “digital currency wallet” is typically a software application that holds, stores, and transfers digital currency.[8]  And finally, the FAQ explained that a “digital currency address” consists of “an alphanumeric identifier that represents a potential destination for a digital currency transfer.”[9]  These definitions are used throughout OFAC’s other FAQs. FAQ 560: Compliance obligations for digital currency and traditional fiat currency In FAQ 560, OFAC indicated its view that individuals are subject to identical compliance obligations regardless of whether a transaction involves digital currency or traditional fiat currency,[10] including prohibitions on the following:  trade or other transactions with persons on OFAC’s SDN List; “unauthorized transactions prohibited by OFAC sanctions, such as dealings with blocked persons or property, or engaging in prohibited trade or investment-related transactions”; and transactions involving entities in which a blocked person has an ownership interest of 50 percent or more.[11]  These restrictions include “transactions that evade or avoid, have the purpose of evading or avoiding, cause a violation of, or attempt to violate prohibitions imposed by OFAC under various sanctions authorities.”[12]  Accordingly, OFAC warns that “persons that provide financial, material, or technological support for or to a designated person may be designated by OFAC under the relevant sanctions authority.”[13] OFAC recommends that individuals should develop a compliance solution that is tailored to each circumstance.  In particular, the FAQ states that “technology companies; administrators, exchangers, and users of digital currencies; and other payment processors should develop a tailored, risk-based compliance program, which generally should include sanctions list screening and other appropriate measures.”[14] FAQ 561: Using the SDN List to sanction the illicit use of digital currencies OFAC recognizes in FAQ 561 that there is a “growing and evolving threat posed by malicious actors using new payment mechanisms” and is determined to sanction those who use digital currency and other emerging payment systems to conduct prohibited financial transactions and evade United States sanctions.[15]  Accordingly, the FAQ explains that in order “[t]o strengthen our efforts to combat the illicit use of digital currency transactions under our existing authorities, OFAC may include as identifiers on the SDN List specific digital currency addresses associated with blocked persons” (emphasis added).[16]  This practice of using the SDN list would mirror OFAC’s current practice of adding people and governments to such list and would enable OFAC and other users to screen for digital currency addresses. FAQ 562: Identifying digital currency-related information on the SDN List In FAQ 562, OFAC recognizes that although it may add digital currency addresses to the SDN List, those address listings are not likely to be exhaustive.[17]  Consequently, OFAC states that individuals should take the necessary steps to block questionable digital currencies and file reports with OFAC if and when they identify digital currency identifiers or wallets that they believe are owned by or are “associated with[] an SDN” (emphasis added).[18] FAQ 563: Format of digital currency addresses on the SDN List OFAC explains that the structure of a digital currency address on the SDN List will include a currency’s unique alphanumeric identifier and will identify the specific digital currency to which the address corresponds (e.g., Bitcoin (BTC), Litecoin (LTC), petro (PTR), etc.).[19] FAQ 594: Querying a digital currency address using OFAC’s Sanctions List Search tool OFAC confirmed that it is not possible to query for digital currency addresses using OFAC’s Sanctions List Search Tool.[20]  Instead, FAQ 594 recommends that OFAC will use its SDN List to screen for listed digital currency addresses.[21] OFAC’s Guidance and President Trump’s Executive Order Concerning Venezuela On March 19, 2018, OFAC released a set of FAQs to deal with the situation in Venezuela at the same time President Trump issued Executive Order 13827 on “Taking Additional Steps to Address the Situation in Venezuela” (“Executive Order”).[22]  The Executive Order aimed to combat Venezuela’s attempts to use digital currencies to bypass sanctions that were implemented against it by the United States.[23]  Specifically, the Executive Order bans individuals from engaging in transactions involving “any digital currency, digital coin, or digital token that was issued by, for, or on behalf of the Government of Venezuela on or after January 9, 2018.”[24]  In February 2018, the Venezuelan government launched a digital currency known as the “petro” to try to enable the national oil company of Venezuela, Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A., to engage in transactions that were not denominated in U.S. Dollars.  OFAC’s FAQ 564 confirmed that the phrases “digital currency, digital coin, or digital token” referenced in the Executive Order include the petro and petro-gold.[25] Concluding Thoughts Through issuing a series of FAQs, OFAC has begun to stake out its position on certain compliance obligations for digital currency transactions as well as OFAC sanctions for those who use digital currency for illicit transactions.  However, key questions still remain around the scope and application of such obligations.  For example, it is unclear how broadly OFAC will apply its definitions of “virtual currency” and “digital currency” to various cryptoassets that are fundamentally unlike major cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin.  Also, under FAQ 562, it is unclear to what extent an entity is “associated” with an SDN and when parties are obligated to block questionable digital currencies and file reports with OFAC.  Further, it is unclear under FAQ 560 as to what specifically should be included within a “tailored, risk-based compliance program, which include[s] . . . sanctions list screening and other appropriate measures.” The FAQs also fail to address significant practical concerns.  For example: To what extent do parties have the technical abilities to block incoming transactions?  Are there exceptions for companies that are hacked and subsequently forced to pay ransom to an address on the SDN List?  How will OFAC address the use of private blockchain addresses?  These uncertainties highlight the complexity and evolving nature of digital currency transactions and blockchain technology and, perhaps more importantly, they suggest the need for additional guidance from OFAC. [1] See Statements & Remarks, U.S. Department of the Treasury, U.S. Department of the Treasury Under Secretary Sigal Mandelker Speech before the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association Anti-Money Laundering & Financial Crimes Conference (Feb. 13, 2018), https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-release/sm0286. [2] Office of Foreign Assets Control, Frequently Asked Questions, Questions 559-63, 594, available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/faqs/Sanctions/Pages/faq_compliance.aspx [hereinafter “OFAC FAQ”]. [3] The term “individual,” as used by OFAC in its FAQs, generally encompasses persons, parties, corporations, and other entities subject to OFAC jurisdiction. See OFAC FAQ, Question 560. [4] Id. [5] Exec. Order No. 13827, 83 Fed. Reg. 12469 (Mar. 21, 2018). [6] OFAC FAQ, Question 559. [7] Id. [8] Id. [9] Id. [10] OFAC FAQ, Question 560. [11] Id. [12] Id. [13] Id. [14] Id. [15] OFAC FAQ, Question 561. [16] Id. (emphasis added). [17] OFAC FAQ, Question 562. [18] Id. (emphasis added). [19] OFAC FAQ, Question 563. [20] OFAC FAQ, Question 594. [21] Id. [22] Exec. Order No. 13827, 83 Fed. Reg. 12469 (Mar. 21, 2018). [23] Id. [24] Id. [25] Office of Foreign Assets Control, Frequently Asked Questions, Question 564, available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/faqs/Sanctions/Pages/faq_other.aspx#venezuela. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Judith Lee and Jeffrey Steiner. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the above developments.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, the authors, or any of the following leaders and members of the firm’s International Trade or Financial Institutions practice groups: International Trade Group – United States: Judith Alison Lee – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3591, jalee@gibsondunn.com) Ronald Kirk – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Dallas (+1 214-698-3295, rkirk@gibsondunn.com) Jose W. Fernandez – New York (+1 212-351-2376, jfernandez@gibsondunn.com) Marcellus A. McRae – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7675, mmcrae@gibsondunn.com) Adam M. Smith – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3547, asmith@gibsondunn.com) Christopher T. Timura – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3690, ctimura@gibsondunn.com) Ben K. Belair – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3743, bbelair@gibsondunn.com) Courtney M. Brown – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8685, cmbrown@gibsondunn.com) Laura R. Cole – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3787, lcole@gibsondunn.com) Stephanie L. Connor – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8586, sconnor@gibsondunn.com) Helen L. Galloway – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7342, hgalloway@gibsondunn.com) William Hart – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3706, whart@gibsondunn.com) Henry C. Phillips – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8535, hphillips@gibsondunn.com) R.L. Pratt – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3785, rpratt@gibsondunn.com) Scott R. Toussaint – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5320, stoussaint@gibsondunn.com) International Trade Group – Europe: Peter Alexiadis – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 00, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) Attila Borsos – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 10, aborsos@gibsondunn.com) Patrick Doris – London (+44 (0)207 071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Penny Madden – London (+44 (0)20 7071 4226, pmadden@gibsondunn.com) Benno Schwarz – Munich (+49 89 189 33 110, bschwarz@gibsondunn.com) Michael Walther – Munich (+49 89 189 33-180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Richard W. Roeder – Munich (+49 89 189 33-160, rroeder@gibsondunn.com) Financial Institutions Group: Arthur S. Long – New York (+1 212-351-2426, along@gibsondunn.com) Jeffrey L. Steiner – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3632, jsteiner@gibsondunn.com) Carl E. Kennedy – New York (+1 212-351-3951, ckennedy@gibsondunn.com) James O. Springer – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3516, jspringer@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

September 25, 2018 |
U.S. Authorizes Sanctions for Election Interference

Click for PDF In a recent client alert we foreshadowed the Trump administration taking an aggressive stance on its sanctions policy in the lead-up to the U.S. midterm elections in November. In a new development, on Wednesday, September 12, 2018, President Trump signed Executive Order 13848 on Imposing Certain Sanctions in the Event of Foreign Interference in a United States Election (“E.O. 13848”). E.O. 13848 declares the threat of foreign interference in U.S. elections a national emergency and authorizes sanctions on various non-U.S. actors to address the threat of future election meddling. E.O. 13848 (i) introduces broad sanctions with respect to targeted foreign persons determined to have interfered with a U.S. election directly or indirectly; (ii) introduces a specific analysis and reporting process to identify foreign interference with U.S. elections as well as the foreign persons responsible for it; and (iii) requests recommendations for the President, including remedial measures and whether additional sanctions against targeted foreign persons may be appropriate. The issuance of E.O. 13848 should be seen against the background of ongoing discussions on alleged Russian efforts to target the United States in the 2016 election and amid fears that similar interference and discussion will impact the November midterm elections.  Specifically, E.O. 13848 references the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment—a report from the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency—which assessed that Russian activities in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election represented a significant escalation in a long history of Russian attempts to interfere in U.S. domestic politics. With E.O. 13848, President Trump acted both on the perceived threat to the U.S. electoral process and also, some might argue, in an effort to avoid proposed sanctions legislation in Congress, discussed below.  The fact that President Obama had already issued an E.O.[1] which provided for sanctions against any person found to be involved in election interference, means that, at very least, some of the provisions of this new E.O. are redundant and that President Trump wanted to emphasize that he, too, was concerned about election interference. In the E.O., President Trump explains the reason for the E.O. as follows “[a]lthough there has been no evidence of a foreign power altering the outcome or vote tabulation in any United States election, foreign powers have historically sought to exploit America’s free and open political system.  In recent years, the proliferation of digital devices and internet-based communications has created significant vulnerabilities and magnified the scope and intensity of the threat of foreign interference, as illustrated in the 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment.” While the current public discussion and pending Congressional legislation focus on Russia, the new E.O. 13848 does not.  Instead, its sanctions could target foreign persons anywhere in the world through the imposition of secondary sanctions, measures that have been developed to penalize non-U.S. persons for sanctions violations.  Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats stated that, in addition to Russia, the U.S. intelligence community is focused on the activities of China, Iran, and North Korea.[2]  So far, no foreign persons have yet been identified and targeted under the authority set forth in E.O. 13848. Post-Election Review Process Section 1 of E.O. 13848 provides for a detailed process in which the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with other U.S. government agencies, will undertake an assessment not later than 45 days of the conclusion of the election, analyzing any information indicating that a foreign government, or any person acting as an agent of or on behalf of a foreign government, has acted with the intent or purpose of interfering in that election is to be prepared.[3] This will then be followed by the preparation of a report by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security.  This report must evaluate, within 45 days of receiving the assessment, (i) the extent to which any foreign interference that targeted election infrastructure materially affected the security or integrity of that infrastructure, the tabulation of votes, or the timely transmission of election results; and (ii) if any foreign interference involved activities targeting the infrastructure of, or pertaining to, a political organization, campaign, or candidate, the extent to which such activities materially affected the security or integrity of that infrastructure, including by unauthorized access to, disclosure or threatened disclosure of, or alteration or falsification of, information or data. The report also must include recommendations regarding remedial actions to be taken by the U.S. Government, other than sanctions against targeted foreign persons. Determination of Targeted Foreign Persons Following the transmission of the assessment and the report, the Secretary of the Treasury will review the assessment and the report and, in consultation with the Secretary of State, the Attorney General, and the Secretary of Homeland Security, shall impose all appropriate sanctions against targeted foreign persons. Targeted foreign persons, according to section 2 (a) of E.O. 13848, are any foreign persons determined in the above described process: (i) to have directly or indirectly engaged in, sponsored, concealed, or otherwise been complicit in foreign interference in a United States election; (ii) to have materially assisted, sponsored, or provided financial, material, or technological support for, or goods or services to or in support of, any activity described in subsection (a)(i) of section 2 E.O. 13848 or any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order; or (iii) to be owned or controlled by, or to have acted or purported to act for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, any person whose property or interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order. Broad Sanctions against Targeted Foreign Persons The sanctions authorized by E.O. 13848 would block the U.S. property of targeted foreign persons[4] , place targeted foreign persons on the Specially Designated National and Blocked Person List and broadly prohibits dealings with or facilitating dealings of targeted foreign persons.[5]  Finally, section 6 of E.O. 13848 suspends entry into the United States of such targeted foreign persons.  Notably, E.O. 13848 does not purport to sanction the Russian banks that have been called out in almost every piece of sanctions legislation that is pending before Congress. Additional Sanctions to be Determined on a Case-by-Case Basis Also, in addition to the above sanctions, the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury, in consultation with the heads of other appropriate agencies, will jointly prepare a recommendation for the President as to whether further sanctions against foreign persons may be appropriate in response to the identified foreign interference.  The list of the possible additional sanctions is broad and includes most types of sanctions that we have seen in the past.[6] Parallel Legislative Process Several sanctions bills are currently pending in Congress, most notably the Defending Elections from Threats by Establishing Redlines (“DETER“) Act (S. 2313, H.R. 4884) Act and the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2018 (S. 3336). DETER Act The DETER Act suggests several new sanctions, yet leaves a level of executive discretion on the full scope of sanctions to implement.  Furthermore, additional sanctions would only be triggered in case there is a finding that Russia interfered in a U.S. election.  The DETER Act seeks to prevent and penalize Russia’s interference in U.S. elections by, among other measures, blocking the assets of Russian oligarchs and major Russian companies if the U.S. Director of National Intelligence determines that the Russian government, or any person acting on its behalf, “knowingly engaged in interference in a United States election.“[7]  The DETER Act was introduced in the Senate in January 2018 by Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), with Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) as a co-sponsor, and was subsequently referred to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.  Since then it has picked up a dozen additional co-sponsors, including Senators Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Susan Collins (R-ME).  In the House of Representatives, the bill was introduced in January 2018 by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) and presently has 25 co-sponsors from both parties. Notably, the proposed legislation seeks to block the U.S. assets of Rosneft, Gazprom, and Lukoil, Russian companies in the Russian defense and intelligence sectors, Russian state-owned entities, and senior Russian political figures or oligarchs upon a finding of election interference by the U.S. intelligence community.  The DETER Act would block the assets of those political figures and oligarchs previously identified by OFAC.  Section 241 of Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (“CAATSA“) required OFAC to publish a report on January 29, 2018 identifying “the most significant senior foreign political figures and oligarchs in the Russian Federation,“[8] (the “Section 241 List“).  The Treasury Department issued the report shortly before midnight on the due date, publicly naming 114 senior Russian political figures and 96 oligarchs.[9]  The report did not result in any sanctions or legal repercussions.  At the time, most observers were highly critical of the Section 241 List, claiming that it demonstrated that the Trump administration was failing to adequately address Congressional intent to punish Moscow.  Interestingly, almost all of the oligarchs designated by OFAC on April 6, 2018 originally appeared on the Section 241 List (but not all oligarchs on the Section 241 List were designated by OFAC on April 6).[10]  The bill would designate all persons on the Section 241 List.  In addition, the bill seeks to block the U.S. assets of six Russian state-owned financial institutions: (1) Sberbank, (2) VTB Bank, (3) Gazprombank, (4) Vnesheconombank, (5) Bank of Moscow, and (6) Rosselkhozbank. Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2018 Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act of 2018 (S. 3336) was introduced on August 1, 2018 by a bipartisan group of senators including Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and five bipartisan co-sponsors: Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and the late John McCain (R-AZ).  Senator Graham dubbed it the “sanctions bill from hell,” and indeed it threatens to sanction wide swaths of the Russian economy.[11] Most notably, in a new Section 237 added to CAATSA, described in Section 601 of S. 3336, the President is directed to impose sanctions against any person that “sells, leases, or provides to the Russian Federation goods, services, technology, financing, or support” of a certain amount[12] that “could directly and significantly contribute to the Russian Federation’s (1) ability to develop crude oil resources located in the Russian Federation; or (2) production of crude oil resources in the Russian Federation, including any direct and significant assistance with respect to the construction, modernization, or repair of infrastructure that would facilitate the development of crude oil resources located in the Russian Federation.” These bills propose a range of sanctions measures, including, depending on the bill, broad sanctions against seven Russian financial institutions, restrictions on Russian sovereign debt, energy sector sanctions, and other measures. If passed, the sanctions could limit the president’s discretion on sanctions policy, much as CAATSA sought to do, as we had highlighted in a last year’s client alert. Effect of Executive Order on Pending Legislation It is a possibility that the Executive Order could dissuade Congress from taking further action on Russian sanctions.  With the Executive Order enacted, legislators might be of the opinion that less room and reason are left for the pending legislation.  That seems unlikely, however, as several Senators have already criticized the Executive Order for being too weak.  Senator Chris Van Hollen, who introduced the DETER Act, characterized the executive order as a version of the DETER Act but “without teeths“.[13]  “As I look at this, it seems aimed more at deterring congressional action on the Deter Act than deterring Putin’s interference in our elections,” Senator Van Hollen said.[14]  Likewise, Senator Lindsey Graham, who introduced the Defending American Security from Kremlin Aggression Act, said: “Something is better than nothing, but I doubt it will be a substitute for legislation.“[15] It therefore remains likely that Congress will push ahead with sanctions legislation that would, side by side with E.O. 13848, result in even broader and tougher sanctions, specifically targeting Russia. Conclusion The broad scope of sanctions announced in E.O. 13848 and the generic reference to foreign persons might lead to a substantial broadening of U.S. sanctions, in both substance and reach. Considering the time frame allotted to the various steps of the assessment, review and finally potential listing of targeted foreign persons, it is possible this process might last well into 2019 before any listings actually take place. However, if reports begin to surface regarding Russian- or other country interference in the upcoming, November midterm elections, businesses should closely assess whether any determinations under the new E.O., could impact their business relationships with companies with ties to countries where the interference originates. [1]   Executive Order 13694 of April 1, 2015, as amended by Executive Order 13757 of December 28, 2016, is executive order that targets, inter alia, attacks on the IT systems with the purpose or effect of interfering with or undermining election processes and institutions.  This executive order remains in effect and President Trump could opt to use it to issue sanctions alongside those described in E.O. 13848. [2]   Chris Riotta, Trump signs executive order imposing sanctions on foreign election meddlers, Independent, (Sept. 12, 2018), available  at https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-us-election-meddling-russia-executive-order-conspiracy-dan-coats-john-bolton-a8535051.html and http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/09/12/trump-signs-executive-order-to-impose-sanctions-against-any-election-interference.html. [3]   Section 1 (f) E.O. 13848 notes that not later than 30 days following the date of this order, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Attorney General, the Secretary of Homeland Security, and the Director of National Intelligence shall develop a framework for the process that will be used to carry out their respective responsibilities pursuant to this order.  The framework, which may be classified in whole or in part, shall focus on ensuring that agencies fulfill their responsibilities pursuant to this order in a manner that maintains methodological consistency; protects law enforcement or other sensitive information and intelligence sources and methods; maintains an appropriate separation between intelligence functions and policy and legal judgments; ensures that efforts to protect electoral processes and institutions are insulated from political bias; and respects the principles of free speech and open debate. [4]   Section 5 explains that to the blocking of targeted persons’ U.S. property also prohibits (i) the making of any contribution or provision of funds, good, or services by, to, or for the benefit of such foreign targeted person; and (ii) the receiving of any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services from any such targeted foreign person. [5]   Furthermore, according to section 4 of E.O. 13848, U.S. persons are also prohibited from making donations of certain humanitarian articles such as food, clothing, and medicine to such targeted foreign persons. [6]   It includes (i) blocking and prohibiting all transactions in a person’s property and interests in property subject to United States jurisdiction; (ii) export license restrictions under any statute or regulation that requires the prior review and approval of the United States Government as a condition for the export or re-export of goods or services; (iii) prohibitions on United States financial institutions making loans or providing credit to a person; (iv) restrictions on transactions in foreign exchange in which a person has any interest; (v) prohibitions on transfers of credit or payments between financial institutions, or by, any financial institution, for the benefit of a person; (vi) prohibitions on United States persons investing in or purchasing equity or debt of a person; (vii) exclusion of a person’s alien corporate officers from the United States; (viii) imposition on a person’s alien principal executive officers of any of the sanctions described in this section; or (ix) any other measures authorized by law. [7]   H.R. 4884, Section 201 (a). [8]   CAATSA, Title II, § 241. [9]   See U.S. Dep’t of the Treasury, Report to Congress Pursuant to Section 241 of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 Regarding Senior Foreign Political Figures and Oligarchs in the Russian Federation and Russian Parastatal Entities (Unclassified) (Jan. 29, 2018), available at https://www.scribd.com/document/370313106/2018-01-29-Treasury-Caatsa-241-Final. [10]   The one exception is Igor Rotenberg.  Although Igor Rotenberg did not appear on the Section 241 List, his father and uncle were included.  According to the April 6 OFAC announcement, Igor Rotenberg acquired significant assets from his father, Arkady Rotenberg, after OFAC designated the latter in March 2014.  Specifically Arkady Rotenberg sold Igor Rotenberg 79 percent of the Russian oil and gas drilling company Gazprom Burenie.  Igor Rotenberg’s uncle, Boris Rotenberg, owns 16 percent of the company.  Like his brother Arkady Rotenberg, Boris Rotenberg was designated in March 2014. [11]   Patricia Zengerle, U.S. senators introduce Russia sanctions ‘bill from hell,’ Reuters (Aug. 2, 2018), available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-russia-sanctions/us-senators-introduce-russia-sanctions-bill-from-hell-idUSKBN1KN22Q. [12]   $1,000,000 per transaction or $5,000,000 over a 12-month period. [13]   Julian E. Barnes and Nicholas Fandos, Lawmakers Dismiss White House Push to Fight Election Interference as Too Weak, N.Y. Times, Sept. 12, 2018, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/09/12/us/politics/trump-executive-order-election-interference-senate.html. [14]   Id. [15]   Id. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Judith Alison Lee, Adam M. Smith, Richard W. Roeder, Christopher Timura, Stephanie Connor, Henry C. Phillips and R.L. Pratt. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the above developments.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, the authors, or any of the following leaders and members of the firm’s International Trade or Financial Institutions practice groups: International Trade Group – United States: Judith Alison Lee – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3591, jalee@gibsondunn.com) Ronald Kirk – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Dallas (+1 214-698-3295, rkirk@gibsondunn.com) Jose W. Fernandez – New York (+1 212-351-2376, jfernandez@gibsondunn.com) Marcellus A. McRae – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7675, mmcrae@gibsondunn.com) Adam M. Smith – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3547, asmith@gibsondunn.com) Christopher T. Timura – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3690, ctimura@gibsondunn.com) Ben K. Belair – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3743, bbelair@gibsondunn.com) Courtney M. Brown – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8685, cmbrown@gibsondunn.com) Laura R. Cole – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3787, lcole@gibsondunn.com) Stephanie L. Connor – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8586, sconnor@gibsondunn.com) Helen L. Galloway – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7342, hgalloway@gibsondunn.com) William Hart – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3706, whart@gibsondunn.com) Henry C. Phillips – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8535, hphillips@gibsondunn.com) R.L. Pratt – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3785, rpratt@gibsondunn.com) Scott R. Toussaint – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5320, stoussaint@gibsondunn.com) International Trade Group – Europe: Peter Alexiadis – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 00, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) Attila Borsos – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 10, aborsos@gibsondunn.com) Patrick Doris – London (+44 (0)207 071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Penny Madden – London (+44 (0)20 7071 4226, pmadden@gibsondunn.com) Benno Schwarz – Munich (+49 89 189 33 110, bschwarz@gibsondunn.com) Michael Walther – Munich (+49 89 189 33-180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Richard W. Roeder – Munich (+49 89 189 33-160, rroeder@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising: The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

September 13, 2018 |
Essar v. Norscot: Are The Costs Associated With Third Party Funding Recoverable?

London partner Jeffrey Sullivan is the author of “Essar v. Norscot: Are The Costs Associated With Third Party Funding Recoverable?” [PDF]  published in the September 2018 issue of Transnational Dispute Management.

August 21, 2018 |
The Trump Trade Tariffs: A Roadmap for Private Equity Executives

Click for PDF Navigating Uncertainty and Volatility for Your Portfolio Companies As the daily headlines attest, trade tariffs – both those recently implemented and those currently pending or contemplated – continue to create a dynamic and challenging business environment, including for portfolio companies of private equity sponsors. With that in mind, our International Trade and Private Equity Practice Groups have collaborated to prepare the following “roadmap” for private equity executives to help their portfolio companies identify their exposure to and mitigate the impact of tariffs on their imports and exports, and to otherwise successfully navigate these complicated conditions. We hope you find it useful. Our lawyers remain available to further assist you with respect to these matters and any related developments. The Trump Trade Tariffs: A Roadmap for Private Equity Executives (click on link) Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments.  Please contact any member of the Gibson Dunn team, the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work in the firm’s International Trade or Private Equity practice groups, or any of the following: International Trade Group: Judith Alison Lee – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3591, jalee@gibsondunn.com) R.L. Pratt – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3785, rpratt@gibsondunn.com) Private Equity Group: George P. Stamas – Washington, D.C./New York (+1 202-955-8280/+1 212-351-5300, gstamas@gibsondunn.com) Mark D. Director – Washington, D.C./New York (+1 202-955-8508/+1 212-351-5308, mdirector@gibsondunn.com) Steven R. Shoemate – New York (+1 212-351-3879, sshoemate@gibsondunn.com) Ari Lanin – Los Angeles (+1 310-552-8581, alanin@gibsondunn.com) Alexander D. Fine – Washington, D.C./New York (+1 202-955-8209/+1 212-351-5333, afine@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

August 14, 2018 |
CFIUS Reform: Our Analysis

Click on PDF On August 13, 2018, President Trump signed the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 (“FY 2019 NDAA”), an omnibus bill to authorize defense spending that includes—among other measures—legislation that will significantly expand the scope of inbound foreign investments subject to review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS” or “the Committee”).  Named for John McCain, the senior senator from Arizona who is battling brain cancer after six terms in the Senate, the FY 2019 NDAA incorporates the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (“FIRRMA”), legislation that was proposed late last year to reform the CFIUS review process, as well as the new Export Control Reform Act of 2018 (“ECRA”). CFIUS is an inter-agency committee authorized to review the national security implications of investments made by foreign companies and persons in U.S. businesses (“covered transactions”), and to block transactions or impose measures to mitigate any threats to U.S. national security.[1]  Established in 1975 and last reformed in 2007, observers have pointed to an antiquated regulatory framework that hinders the Committee’s ability to review the national security implications posed by an increasing number of Chinese investments targeting sensitive technologies in the United States.  During its consideration, FIRRMA enjoyed bipartisan congressional support and was endorsed several times in the process by the Trump administration, but encountered a fair amount of criticism from U.S. industry groups.  After months of intense negotiation between the House, Senate, and the Trump administration, the final version of the bill includes several important changes from its earlier iterations, which we described here and here. Summary of Key Changes After months of intense lobbying and negotiations, the House and Senate have agreed upon language that will expand the scope of transactions subject to CFIUS review beyond those in which a foreign company gains control of a U.S. business.  The Committee will now have the authority to review certain real estate transactions, as well as investments that impact the critical infrastructure and critical technologies sector, even if the foreign acquirer does not have control over such businesses.  Provisions that would have included certain outbound investments in the scope of covered transactions have been abandoned in favor of language requiring updated U.S. export controls to regulate “emerging” and “foundational” technologies.  Furthermore, the CFIUS review process will be reformed in several significant ways, as FIRRMA provides for mandatory short-form “light” filings and tightens the timeframe for CFIUS reviews.  Taken together, these changes represent a significant departure from the Committee’s past practice. FIRRMA includes the following reforms: Expanded Scope of Review.  FIRRMA expands the scope of transactions subject to the Committee’s review by granting CFIUS the authority to examine the national security implications of a foreign acquirer’s non-controlling investments in U.S. businesses that deal with critical infrastructure, critical technology, or the personal data of U.S. citizens.  FIRRMA also provides CFIUS with authority to review real estate transactions—including leases, sales, and concessions—involving air or maritime ports or in close proximity to sensitive U.S. government facilities.  Critically, as we discuss below, a carve out for indirect investments through investment funds may exempt certain transactions involving private equity funds from the Committee’s expanded jurisdiction.  According to Frequently Asked Questions (“FAQs”) published by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, the FIRRMA provisions which expand the scope of transactions subject to review will take effect at a later date, most likely after the publication of implementing regulations.[2] Extended Formal Timeline.  Effective immediately, FIRRMA extends the Committee’s initial review period from 30 to 45 days, and authorizes CFIUS to extend the subsequent 45-day investigation phase by 15 days “in extraordinary circumstances” (the Senate draft had proposed a 30 day extension period).  Although these measures provide for longer formal review times, other changes to the review process will eliminate much of the uncertainty with regard to the timing of a CFIUS review, and could ultimately cut down on the duration of the Committee’s deliberations.  According to the Treasury Department FAQs, notices that were accepted on or before the effective date of FIRRMA will remain subject to a 30-day review period. “Light” Filings.  In lieu of the lengthy notice that is currently required in voluntary CFIUS filings, new  “light” filings may now be submitted for certain transactions instead of the lengthy voluntary notices that are currently required.  FIRRMA makes filing with the Committee mandatory in certain circumstances, but provides the Committee the authority to set the precise criteria.  The streamlined “light” filing review process will go live on the earlier of 18 months after FIRRMA’s enactment or 30 days after the publication of implementing regulations.  Notably, FIRRMA authorizes the Committee to conduct pilot programs to implement the new review procedure for 18 months after the enactment of the bill. Filing Fee.  FIRRMA also imposes a filing fee, but again authorizes the Committee to shape this requirement in its implementing regulations. Expanded Scope of Transactions Subject to CFIUS Review 1.      Real Estate Transactions The Committee has focused on the national security risks associated with foreign real estate transactions in close proximity to sensitive U.S. government installations or military bases, but until now it did not have the authority to address transactions that did not involve the acquisition of an existing U.S. business, including leases or concessions.  FIRRMA effectively codifies the Committee’s standard practice of examining the proximity of a physical property to any sensitive military or U.S. government facility, as well as key U.S. air or maritime ports, but it also provides the Committee with the authority to examine a wider array of real estate transactions.  However, FIRRMA also gives the Committee the authority to prescribe regulations that limit or clarify the scope of this expanded jurisdiction over real estate transactions.  For example, the Committee is empowered to narrow the types of “foreign persons” that are required to seek the Committee’s approval. Specifically, FIRRMA authorizes CFIUS to review the purchase or lease by, or concessions to, a foreign company of U.S. real estate that is: “located within or will function as part of, an air or maritime port;” “in close proximity to a U.S. military installation or another facility or property of the United States government that is sensitive for reasons relating to national security;” “could reasonably provide the foreign person the ability to collect intelligence on activities being conducted at such an installation, facility or property;” “could otherwise expose national security activities at such an installation, facility, or property to the risk of foreign surveillance;” and “meets such other criteria as the Committee prescribes by regulation, except that such criteria may not expand the categories of real estate to which this clause applies ….” At first glance, these provisions provide a drastic expansion of the Committee’s authority over a foreign person’s non-controlling investments in U.S. real estate.  However, FIRRMA gives the Committee significant leeway to propose regulations that would limit the scope of real estate transactions subject to review.  First, the bill exempts the purchase of any “single housing unit” as well as real estate in “urbanized areas” as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau, except as otherwise prescribed by the Committee in regulations in consultation with the Defense Department.  Second, FIRRMA specifies that the Committee shall prescribe regulations to ensure that the term “close proximity” “refers only to a distance or distances within which the purchase, lease or concession of real estate could pose a national security risk” in connection to a U.S. government facility.  Third, FIRRMA allows for the further narrowing of the scope of this provision by granting the Committee authority to prescribe regulations that further define the term “foreign person” for purposes of such transactions. This last limitation is perhaps the most important.  As written, the Committee would appear to have jurisdiction over any real estate transaction that falls within the categories specified above, even if the foreign person is only a passive, minority investor.  FIRRMA grants the Committee the authority to limit the transactions subject to its review by providing that it “shall specify criteria to limit the application of such clauses to the investments of certain categories of foreign persons,” and that such criteria shall take into consideration “how a foreign person is connected to a foreign country or foreign government, and whether the connection may affect the national security of the United States.”  We expect such guidance to consider the extent to which foreign persons from countries with a heightened security risk—in particular, China—would have control or physical access to such properties. 2.      Critical Infrastructure, Critical Technologies and Sensitive Data FIRRMA will also expand the scope of transactions subject to the Committee’s review to include—subject to further implementing regulations—“any other investment” by a foreign person in an unaffiliated U.S. business or “change in the rights that a foreign person has” with regard to any U.S. business that: owns, operates, manufacturers, supplies or services critical infrastructure; produces, designs, tests, manufacturers, fabricates or develops one or more critical technologies; or maintains or collects sensitive personal data of United States citizens that may be exploited in a matter that threatens national security. The type of non-controlling “other investments” that trigger the Committee’s review includes several types of non-passive investments.  Such investments subject to CFIUS jurisdiction include those which afford a foreign person “access to any material non-public technical information in the possession” of the U.S. business; “membership or observer rights” or “the right to nominate an individual” to the board of directors or equivalent governing body of the U.S. business; and “any involvement, other than through voting of shares, in substantive decision-making” of the U.S. business with regard to: the use, development, acquisition, safekeeping, or release of sensitive personal data of United States citizens maintained or collected” by the U.S. business; the use, development, acquisition or release of critical technologies, or the management, operation, manufacture or supply of critical infrastructure. Again, FIRRMA grants CFIUS the authority to limit this expanded scope in several important ways.  First, the definition of the term “material nonpublic technical information” is subject to further regulations prescribed by the Committee, and is limited to information not available in the public domain that “provides knowledge, know-how, or understanding … of the design, location, or operation of critical infrastructure” or “is necessary to design, fabricate, develop, test, produce or manufacture crucial technologies, including processes, techniques or methods.”  FIRRMA excludes financial information regarding the performance of a U.S. business from the definition of material nonpublic technical information.  Second, FIRRMA grants the Committee the authority to prescribe regulations providing guidance on the types of transactions that are considered to be “other investment” for purposes of this provision. Moreover, FIRRMA delegates authority to the Committee to prescribe regulations that limit the types of investments in critical infrastructure that are subject to review to include “the subset of critical infrastructure that is likely to be of importance to the national security of the United States,” including an enumeration of specific types and examples. As with real estate transactions, FIRRMA limits the scope of these provisions by granting the Committee the authority to prescribe regulations that further define the term “foreign person” for purposes of such transactions.  The extent to which this provision evolved in the negotiation process is also noteworthy.  The final language replaces provisions of the Senate draft that would have exempted transactions from certain U.S. allies or those with parallel procedures to review foreign investment.  The final version of the bill also eliminated heightened scrutiny for transactions involving countries of “special concern.”  Instead, the FIRRMA expresses the “sense of Congress” that the Committee may consider the involvement of such countries when assessing the national security risks of a proposed transaction. FIRRMA also subjects to CFIUS review any “other transaction, transfer, agreement, or arrangement, the structure of which is designed or intended to evade or circumvent” the Committee’s review. 3.      A Private Equity Exception: Indirect Investments Through Investment Funds An express carve-out for indirect foreign investment through certain investment funds may prevent many transactions by private equity funds from falling into the Committee’s expanded jurisdiction.  Specifically, FIRRMA clarifies that an indirect investment by a foreign person in the types of U.S. businesses described above through an investment fund shall not trigger CFIUS review under certain circumstances, including where: the fund is managed exclusively by a U.S. general partner, managing member, or equivalent; the advisory board does not control the fund’s investment decisions or the investment decisions of the general partner, managing member, or equivalent; and the foreign person does not otherwise have the ability to control the fund or access to material nonpublic technical information as a result of its participation on the advisory board or committee. In this regard, if the foreign person is a limited partner and the fund is “managed exclusively” by U.S. persons, provided that the advisory board authority is limited accordingly, indirect investments by foreign persons through such funds will not be subject to CFIUS’ expanded jurisdiction over non-controlling “other investments,” as described above. 4.      Streamlined Review Process and Mandatory, “Light” Filings FIRRMA also seeks to streamline the CFIUS review process—a notoriously onerous procedure.  Under current practice, most CFIUS reviews commence when the parties to a transaction submit a joint voluntary notice, a lengthy filing that must include detailed information about the transaction, the acquiring and target entities, the nature of the target entity’s products, and the acquiring entity’s plans to alter or change the target’s business moving forward.[3] In practice, parties are expected to submit a “draft” notice to CFIUS prior to the commencement of the official 30-day review period, which provides the Committee and the parties with an opportunity to identify and resolve concerns before the official clock starts ticking.  In recent years, this informal review process has added a degree of unpredictability in terms of timing, as the “pre-filing” phase can consume several weeks.  FIRRMA requires that the Committee must respond to the draft pre-filing of a notice within 10 days, effectively closing a loophole CFIUS often used to manage its workflow and extend the transaction review period. The current CFIUS review process includes a 30-day initial review of a notified transaction, potentially followed by a 45-day investigation period, for a possible total of 75 days.  In certain circumstances, CFIUS may also refer a transaction to the President for decision, which must be made within 15 days.[4]  As the volume of transactions before the Committee has increased, it has become more common for CFIUS to ask parties to refile notices at the end of the official 75-day review period, thereby restarting the clock.  This has added a significant degree of uncertainty to the CFIUS review, compelling some parties to abandon deals or not to file at all. To address these timing issues, the bill extends the initial review period from 30 to 45 days, and authorizes CFIUS to extend the subsequent 45-day investigation phase by 15 days “in extraordinary circumstances” (the Senate draft had proposed a 30 day extension period).  The combination of these measures may allow longer official review times, but will eliminate much of the uncertainty associated with the timing of the process.  Critically, these new timeframes are effective immediately. In lieu of the lengthy voluntary notice required in the current CFIUS review process, FIRRMA authorizes parties to submit short form “declarations”—not to exceed 5 pages in length—at least 45 days prior to the completion of a transaction.  FIRRMA requires the Committee to respond to a declaration within 30 days of receipt by approving the transaction, requesting that the parties file a full written notice, or initiating a further review. FIRRMA generally authorizes CFIUS to prescribe regulations specifying the types of transactions for which such declarations will be required.  The bill also requires the submission of declarations for transactions by which a foreign entity in which a foreign government has a substantial interest acquires a substantial interest in U.S. critical infrastructure or critical technology companies.  This “mandatory filing” requirement is a significant departure from past practice, where all CFIUS filings were voluntary.  However, CFIUS is authorized not only to define “substantial interest,” thereby limiting the transactions that are subject to this requirement, but also to waive the declaration filing requirement if the investment is not directed by a foreign government or the foreign buyer has historically cooperated with CFIUS.  This provision could be used to ease the regulatory burden on a number of state-owned financial institutions, such as state-owned pension plans and investment funds, that are not controlled by a foreign government. In contrast to the updated procedures for the full review and investigation process, the declaration review process will not be effective immediately, but will go live on the earlier of 18 months after FIRRMA’s enactment or 30 days after the Secretary of the Treasury determines that the Committee has the regulations, organizational structure, personnel and other resources necessary to administer the new procedure.  FIRRMA authorizes the Committee to conduct pilot programs to implement the new review procedure for 18 months after the enactment of the bill. 5.      Filing Fees Prior to the passage of FIRRMA, there were no filing fees associated with submitting a transaction for CFIUS review.  The new legislation provides for the imposition of such fees.  The House version capped CFIUS fees at the lesser of one percent of the value of the transaction or $300,000 (adjusted for inflation).  The Senate version provided a list of criteria for CFIUS to consider when determining the fee, and would have allowed for the imposition of an additional fee when requested to prioritize the handling of filings.  The final version of FIRRMA retains the House caps and authorizes the Committee to set the fee based on certain enumerated criteria.  Fees will only be assessed for transactions requiring a written notice, not the shorter declarations. 6.      Regulation of Outbound Technology Transfers Through Export Controls The inclusion of the ECRA in the NDAA is a remarkable development in several ways.  First, the modernization of the United States’ primary authority for U.S. export controls on non-military items, the Export Administration Act of 1979 (“EAA”), has been an achievement just out of reach for Congress for decades.  Second, the ECRA grants the President authority to regulate and enforce export controls in several new ways, and specialists at the Department of Commerce will be busy for many months (and likely years) drafting regulations to implement these authorities.  Third, and most relevant to technology transfers, the inclusion of the ECRA in the NDAA is an acknowledgement by Congress that the export licensing process administered by the Department of Commerce Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) is likely to be a better way to implement at least some of the policy objectives that motivated earlier iterations of FIRRMA. a.      Controls on Exports of Emerging and Foundational Technologies The ECRA replaces one of the most controversial provisions included in earlier versions of FIRRMA, which sought to include outbound investments—such as joint ventures or licensing agreements—in the list of covered transactions subject to CFIUS review.  As originally drafted, the CFIUS reform legislation would have subjected to CFIUS review any contribution (other than through an ordinary customer relationship) by a U.S. critical technology company of both intellectual property and associated support to a foreign person through any type of arrangement.  In its final form, the ECRA will require the President to establish, in coordination with the Secretaries of Commerce, Defense, Energy, and State, a “regular, ongoing interagency process to identify emerging and foundational technologies” that are essential to national security but not are not “critical technologies” subject to CFIUS review. In an effort to close gaps in the existing export controls regimes that do not restrict the transfer of such emerging or foundational technologies, the NDAA adopts the language of an earlier Senate draft requiring the Secretary of Commerce to establish controls on the export, re-export, or in-country transfer of such technology, including requirements for licenses or other authorizations. With several notable exceptions, Congress generally stops short of specifying how the Secretary of Commerce should establish such controls.  First, the bill requires exporters to obtain a license before exporting any emerging and foundational technologies to countries subject to an arms embargo, such as China. Second, the bill directs the Secretary of Commerce to not place additional licensing requirements on several types of transactions.  These include: The sale or license of a finished item and the provision of associated technology if the U.S. party to the transaction generally makes the finished item and associated technology available to its customers, distributors, and resellers; The sale or license to a customer of a product and the provision of integration services or similar services if the U.S. party generally makes such services available to its customers; The transfer of equipment and the provision of associated technology to operate the equipment if the transfer could not result in the foreign person using the equipment to produce critical technologies; The procurement by the U.S. party of goods or services, including manufacturing services, from a foreign person that is party to the transaction, if the foreign person has no rights to exploit any technology contributed by the U.S. person other than to supply the procured goods or services; and Any contribution and associated support by a U.S. person that is a party to the transaction to an industry organization related to a standard or specification, whether in development or declared, including any license or commitment to license intellectual property in compliance with the rules of any standards organization. Third, for several transaction types, the bill now shifts to the Department of Commerce the obligation to gather and consider the kinds of information on foreign ownership that would normally be included in CFIUS submissions.  If a proposed transaction involves joint venture, joint development agreement, or similar collaborative arrangement, the bill suggests that the Secretary of Commerce “require the applicant to identify, in addition to any foreign person participating in the arrangement, any foreign person with significant ownership interest in a foreign person participating in the arrangement.”[5] For those exporters operating in sectors that are identified as involving foundational or emerging technologies, such requirements could significantly increase the diligence they will need to conduct on counterparties, and at least some counterparties are likely to walk away from proposed transactions to avoid having to provide sensitive information regarding their ownership.  In addition, the new information gathered on foreign person participation and ownership is likely to lead Commerce to block transactions by denying license applications. b.         Addition of Defense Industrial Base Policy Considerations to Export Control Regulation and Licensing The ECRA also introduces two new policy considerations to the mix of policies the Department of Commerce is obligated to consider in its regulation of exports.  Historically, the EAA required the Department of Commerce to restrict the export of goods or technology that would significantly contribute to the military potential of other countries and to limit export controls to only those items that were militarily critical goods and technologies.[6]  Through these and other expressed policy objectives, Congress sought to promote export activity and to restrict it only when necessary.  In the ECRA, Congress introduces two new policy considerations that arguably shift U.S. export policy toward a more protectionist stance.  First, Congress directs the Secretary of Commerce to regulate exports so as to help preserve the qualitative military superiority of the United States.  Second, Congress directs the Secretary to regulate exports in ways that build and maintain the U.S. defense industrial base.[7] Congress provides the Secretary with specific direction on how to implement these new policy mandates.  In particular, the Secretary is to create a licensing procedure that will enable it to gather information to assess the impact of a proposed export on the U.S. defense industrial base.  To inform this assessment, the Secretary is to require applicants to provide information that would enable Commerce to determine whether the purpose or effect of the export would be to allow for the production of items relevant for the defense industrial base outside of the United States.[8]  ECRA further directs the Secretary to deny license applications when the proposed export would have a “significant negative impact” on the defense industrial base of the U.S. The Secretary can determine a proposed export would have a “significant negative impact” if it meets any one of three criteria: Whether the export would have the effect of reducing the availability or production of an item in the United States that is likely to be required by the Department of Defense (“DoD”) or other Federal department or agency for the advancement of national security; Whether the export would lead to a reduction in the production of an item in the United States that is the result of research and development carried out, or funded by the DoD or other Federal department or agency, or a federally funded research and development center; and Whether the export would lead to a reduction in the employment of U.S. persons whose knowledge and skills are necessary for the continued production in the U.S. of an item that is likely to be acquired by the DoD or other Federal department or agency for the advancement of national security.[9] These criteria are familiar ones to CFIUS and to CFIUS practitioners but are less so for many of those charged with administering the Department of Commerce’s export controls, and even lesser still for the many companies that rely on BIS export licensing to conduct business.  While it is unclear how BIS will specifically implement these new policy and licensing directives, we predict it will be difficult for many license applicants to gather and present the kind of information BIS will need to make its licensing determinations.  We also believe that the introduction of these defense industrial base considerations could make it more difficult for companies to obtain authorization to export their technologies generally. Final Thought Critically, most of the substantial changes mandated by FIRRMA will not take effect until the Committee has issued new regulations.  As a result, the true impact of the legislation will not be clear for some time.      [1]   CFIUS operates pursuant to section 721 of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended by the Foreign Investment and National Security Act of 2007 (FINSA) (section 721) and as implemented by Executive Order 11858, as amended, and regulations at 31 C.F.R. Part 800.    [2]   U.S. Dep’t of the Treasury, FIRRMA FAQs, (Aug. 13, 2018) available at https://home.treasury.gov/sites/default/files/2018-08/FIRRMA-FAQs-8-13-18-v2-CLEAN.pdf.    [3]   31 C.F.R. §§ 800.401(a)-(b), 800.402(c).    [4]   31 C.F.R. § 800.506.    [5]   ECRA § 1758(a)(3)(C).    [6]   Export Administration Act of 1979, § §  3(2)(A) and 5(d).    [7]   ECRA, Section 1752(2)(B) and (C).    [8]   ECRA, Section 1756(d)(1) and (2).    [9]   ECRA, Section 1756(d)(3)(A)-(C).   The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in the preparation of this client update:  Judith Lee, Jose Fernandez, Christopher Timura, Stephanie L. Connor and R.L. Pratt. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the above developments.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, the authors, or any of the following leaders and members of the firm’s International Trade Group: United States: Judith Alison Lee – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3591, jalee@gibsondunn.com) Ronald Kirk – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Dallas (+1 214-698-3295, rkirk@gibsondunn.com) Jose W. Fernandez – New York (+1 212-351-2376, jfernandez@gibsondunn.com) Marcellus A. McRae – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7675, mmcrae@gibsondunn.com) Adam M. Smith – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3547, asmith@gibsondunn.com) Christopher T. Timura – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3690, ctimura@gibsondunn.com) Ben K. Belair – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3743, bbelair@gibsondunn.com) Courtney M. Brown – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8685, cmbrown@gibsondunn.com) Laura R. Cole – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3787, lcole@gibsondunn.com) Stephanie L. Connor – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8586, sconnor@gibsondunn.com) Helen L. Galloway – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7342, hgalloway@gibsondunn.com) William Hart – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3706, whart@gibsondunn.com) Henry C. Phillips – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8535, hphillips@gibsondunn.com) R.L. Pratt – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3785, rpratt@gibsondunn.com) Scott R. Toussaint – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5320, stoussaint@gibsondunn.com) Europe: Peter Alexiadis – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 00, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) Attila Borsos – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 10, aborsos@gibsondunn.com) Patrick Doris – London (+44 (0)207 071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Penny Madden – London (+44 (0)20 7071 4226, pmadden@gibsondunn.com) Benno Schwarz – Munich (+49 89 189 33 110, bschwarz@gibsondunn.com) Michael Walther – Munich (+49 89 189 33-180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Richard W. Roeder – Munich (+49 89 189 33-160, rroeder@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

August 9, 2018 |
The “New” Iran E.O. and the “New” EU Blocking Statute – Navigating the Divide for International Business

Click for PDF On August 6, 2018, President Donald Trump issued a new executive order (the “New Iran E.O.”) authorizing the re-imposition of certain Iran-related sanctions.[1] As previously announced on May 8, 2018, and discussed in detail by Gibson Dunn here, the Trump administration opted to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the “JCPOA”)—and re-impose U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on the Iranian regime over the course of several months. The re-imposition of sanctions was subject to 90- and 180-day “wind-down” periods, the first of which expired on August 6, 2018. Accordingly, the New Iran E.O. authorizes the roll-back of certain types of sanctions relief provided under the JCPOA by terminating several Obama-era executive orders and formally effectuates the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA. In the words of President Trump, from here on out anyone doing business with Iran “will NOT be doing business with the United States.”[2] Simultaneous with the New Iran E.O., as foreshadowed in our May 21, 2018 client alert, the EU enacted Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/1100 (the “Re-imposed Iran Sanctions Blocking Regulation”), which supplements Council Regulation (EC) No 2271/96 (as amended, the “EU Blocking Statute”).  The combined effect of the EU Blocking Statute and the Re-imposed Iran Sanctions Blocking Regulation is to prohibit compliance by EU entities with U.S. sanctions on Iran which have been re-imposed following the U.S. withdrawal from the JCPOA.  The EU matched President Trump’s strident language with one senior EU official stating that “if EU companies abide by U.S. . . . sanctions they will, in turn, be sanctioned by the EU.”[3] These two actions appear to place multinational companies in an impossible bind between the inconsistent demands (and rhetoric) of powerful regulators. However, depending upon how Washington and EU Member States choose actually to implement their respective authorities this bind may prove navigable. As we have discussed in May and July of this year, the sanctions relief the United States offered under the JCPOA was limited. The “primary sanctions” that limit U.S. companies and persons from engaging with Iran have on the whole never been lifted. The principal sanctions relief provided by the United States have been of “secondary sanctions” that focus on non-U.S. companies’ transactions with Iran. These measures are designed to force non-U.S. firms to choose to either engage with Iran or the United States. In most cases, pursuant to the August 6 announcements these measures have or soon will return to the level they were prior to the implementation of JCPOA in January 2016. In some cases, the new regulations will broaden the scope of those sanctions to levels beyond those that existed prior to the JCPOA. In both the U.S. and European cases the language of the new regulations is broad and the statements from political leaders absolute. However, much as it was prior to the JCPOA the true impact of the U.S. sanctions and the EU counter-measures will be a function of the political and diplomatic appetite regulators on both sides of the Atlantic have for actually enforcing these measures. All of the sanctions and counter-sanctions are in large part discretionary. In pre-JCPOA times, the Obama Administration had similarly broad authorities to impose “secondary sanctions” on companies around the world for transactions with Iran – however, with the Administration’s clear goal of compelling Iran to the negotiating table and its concern about maintaining core diplomatic alliances, the Obama Administration actually imposed such sanctions only very sparingly. Similarly, the EU’s Blocking Statute has been in place in some form for nearly twenty years. In that time the EU and its member states – concerned about maintaining its relationships with Washington and not wanting to impose a lose-lose choice on its major corporations – have actually enforced these rules infrequently. The question going forward is whether the Trump Administration, the EU, and its various Member States will more forcefully and consistently enforce these discretionary and contradictory authorities. Early indications are that despite the language of the new regulations and the rhetoric of senior officials, there may be more flexibility on both sides of the Atlantic than it may seem. This does not remove the challenges from multinational companies eager to avoid angering either European or U.S. regulators, but it may provide a way forward. Background to the New Iran E.O. The publication of the New Iran E.O. is the latest in a series of steps the Trump administration has taken to fulfill President Trump’s campaign promise to withdraw from the JCPOA and re-impose sanctions on Iran. Following the administration’s announcement on May 8, 2018 that the U.S. would abandon the JCPOA, OFAC issued guidance indicating that the administration would allow certain activities authorized under the JCPOA to continue for specified “wind-down” periods, rather than immediately re-impose sanctions.[4] Further to this guidance, on June 27, 2018, OFAC announced that it was terminating authorizations issued pursuant to the JCPOA that had permitted limited engagement by U.S. persons and their foreign subsidiaries to undertake certain Iran-related activities.[5] As we noted in prior guidance, these authorizations were replaced with limited licenses permitting only the wind-down of previously permissible activities. The issuance of the New Iran E.O. marks the termination of the first wind-down period provided by these earlier actions. Pursuant to its provisions, OFAC is authorized to begin re-imposing the first tranche of secondary sanctions on or after August 7, 2018. In addition, as of August 7, 2018, the authorizations issued on June 28, 2018 permitting U.S. persons to wind-down their participation in contingent contracts for Iranian commercial passenger aviation and transactions involving Iranian-origin foodstuffs and carpets have been terminated.[6]U.S. persons are again prohibited from engaging in these activities. U.S. Sanctions Authorized for Re-imposition The New Iran E.O. authorizes the re-imposition of secondary sanctions previously rolled back under the JCPOA. This is a uniquely omnibus Executive Order and includes the framework for the reimposed sanctions that were reinstated as of August 7 as well as those that will be reinstated as of November 5. Applicable exceptions and conditions to these sanctions are also incorporated in the E.O. Sections of the New Iran E.O. implement provisions of various Iran-related legislation passed by Congress and revoke other executive orders from which the relevant sanctions-related provisions have been incorporated. In this regard, the New Iran E.O. attempts to consolidate the relevant secondary sanctions authorities into a single legal source, creating an unusually comprehensive executive order. The secondary sanctions available for imposition for these activities and for those sanctionable activities undertaken on or after November 5 include three general types of sanctions to be discretionarily imposed against entities for different activities and behaviors. First, the Order provides for blocking sanctions, such as those imposed against persons placed on the List of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocking Persons (the “SDN List”). Second, the Order provides for correspondent and payable-through account sanctions which prohibit or restrict U.S. banks from opening or maintaining U.S. accounts for designated foreign financial institutions, effectively cutting these foreign banks off from the U.S. financial system (and in some cases ostracizing them from U.S. dollar-based trade in general). Finally, the Order provides for menu-based sanctions permitting OFAC to select from several sanctions—from visa limitations to blocking sanctions—to impose against designated entities. Sanctions Applicable on or after August 7, 2018 The New Iran E.O. authorizes the imposition of secondary sanctions against foreign persons engaged in the activities described below on or after August 7, 2018: Blocking sanctions on non-U.S. persons who materially assist, sponsor, or provide support for or goods or services in support of the purchase or acquisition of U.S. dollars or precious metals by the Government of Iran;[7] Correspondent and payable-through account sanctions on foreign financial institutions that engage in significant transactions related to the purchase or sale of Iranian rials, or the maintenance of significant funds or accounts outside the territory of Iran denominated in the Iranian rial;[8] Menu-based sanctions on non-U.S. persons who knowingly engage in: significant transactions to provide significant goods or services to Iran’s automotive sector;[9] the sale, supply, or transfer to or from Iran of certain materials, including graphite, raw, or semi-finished metals such as aluminum and steel, coal, and software for integrating industrial processes;[10]or the purchase, subscription to, or facilitation of the issuance of Iranian sovereign debt;[11] Correspondent and payable-through account sanctions on foreign financial institutions that conduct or facilitate significant transactions related to the provision of significant goods or services to Iran’s automotive sector.[12]  Depending upon the seriousness of the conduct these sanctions could prohibit the opening of such accounts, strictly condition the maintenance of such accounts, or even require that such accounts be closed. Sanctions Applicable on or after November 5, 2018 The New Iran E.O. also authorizes the imposition of several types of secondary sanctions against foreign persons who engage in the activities described below on or after November 5, 2018: Blocking sanctions on non-U.S. persons who materially assist, sponsor, or provide support for or goods or services in support of: the National Iranian Oil Company (“NIOC”), Naftiran Intertrade Company (“NICO”), or the Central Bank of Iran;[13] Iranian SDNs;[14]or any other person included on the SDN List pursuant to Section 1(a) of the New Iran E.O. or Executive Order 13599 (i.e., the Government of Iran and certain Iranian financial entities);[15] Blocking sanctions on non-U.S. persons who: are part of the Iranian energy, shipping, or shipbuilding sectors;[16] operate Iranian ports;[17]or provide significant support to or goods or service in support of persons that are part of Iran’s energy, shipping, or shipbuilding sectors; Iranian port operators; or Iranian SDNs (excluding certain Iranian financial institutions);[18] Menu-based sanctions on non-U.S. persons who: knowingly engage in significant transactions in Iranian petroleum, petroleum products, or petrochemical products;[19] are successors, subsidiaries, parents, or affiliates of persons who have knowingly engaged in significant transactions in Iranian petroleum, petroleum products, or petrochemical products or in Iran’s automotive sector;[20] provide underwriting services, insurance, or reinsurance for sanctionable activities with or involving Iran;[21]or provide specialized financial messaging services to the Central Bank of Iran;[22] Correspondent and payable-through account sanctions on foreign financial institutions that conduct or facilitate significant transactions on behalf of Iranian SDNs or other SDNs (as described above);[23] with NIOC or NICO;[24]or for transactions in Iranian petroleum, petroleum products, or petrochemical products.[25] As above, depending upon the seriousness of the conduct these correspondent and payable-through account sanctions could prohibit the opening of such accounts, strictly condition the maintenance of such accounts, or even require that such accounts be closed. On November 5, in addition to the imposition of these sanctions provided in the New Iran E.O., OFAC will again prohibit non-U.S. entities owned or controlled by U.S. persons (e.g., foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies) from generally engaging in business operations in and with respect to Iran. As we have noted in prior guidance, on June 28, 2018, OFAC revoked General License H, which permitted such activity, and replaced it with narrower authorizations permitting only the wind-down of the previously authorized transactions.  This wind-down authority expires on November 5, 2018. Broader Scope of Sanctions Authorities with Continued Discretion and Exemptions Included among the provisions described above are new or expanded sanctions authorities. OFAC indicates that these changes are designed to provide “greater consistency in the administration of Iran-related sanctions.”[26] The broadened scope of these provisions is also consistent with the Trump administration’s promise to impose the “strongest sanctions in history” on Iran and indicates that the administration may go beyond the comparatively narrower application of these authorities by the Obama administration.[27] Specifically, new authorities, listed above, allow the imposition of blocking sanctions or correspondent and payable-through account sanctions on foreign persons engaging on or after November 5 in transactions with persons sanctioned under the New Iran E.O.[28] Other sections of the E.O. expand the menu of sanctions available for imposition against persons designated for engaging in transactions involving Iranian petroleum, petroleum products, or petrochemical products. Potential sanctions now include, among other restrictions, blocking sanctions and visa restrictions on the executive officers of entities sanctioned for engaging in such transactions.[29] The New Iran E.O. also expands the restrictions applicable to U.S.-owned or –controlled foreign entities. Among other applicable restrictions, such entities are also prohibited from engaging in transactions with persons blocked for providing material support to Iranian SDNs or for being part of Iran’s energy, shipping, or shipbuilding sectors or an Iranian port operator.[30]As noted above, U.S.-owned or –controlled foreign entities continue to be generally permitted to wind-down their business operations with or involving Iran, notwithstanding these new restrictions. Importantly, these expanded sanctions authorities and the broad re-authorization of secondary sanctions provided in the New Iran E.O. do not immediately result in the designation of additional persons or otherwise necessarily expand the sanctions imposed. As we have seen in the context of the secondary sanctions authorized in the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (“CAATSA”), expansive secondary sanctions authorities that are not imposed may have limited direct impact. Moreover, lost in the midst of the rhetoric and the regulations is that the Trump Administration appears willing to continue certain, arguably forgiving policies and exemptions that the Obama Administration supported. The Administration could have, but did not, revoke certain exemptions that shaped Obama-era policy. For instance, according to the terms of the New Iran E.O., the sanctions listed above targeting transactions in Iranian petroleum and petroleum products will not apply to entities in countries that the President determines have “significantly reduced their Iranian crude oil imports.”[31] The Trump Administration had initially stated that the Administration would only apply this exception if countries eliminated their Iranian oil imports.[32] However, officials later indicated that the U.S. government may work on a “case-by-case” basis with certain countries committed to reducing their imports from Iran and may consider whether to grant this exception.[33] Other exceptions, including for transactions related to the Shah Deniz gas field (which is partly owned by the Government of Iran) and for transactions involving the export of agricultural commodities, food, medicine, or medical devices to Iran, continue to apply.[34]  Additionally, General License D-1 – which allows for the export of certain telecommunications goods and services to Iran remains in force, as does General License J – which permits temporary visits to Iran by U.S.-origin aircraft (thus allowing international carriers to continue flying to Iran). The Trump Administration has even kept some of the even more explicitly lenient regulatory interpretations that the Obama team had. For instance, OFAC FAQ 613 notes that despite the secondary sanctions on Iran’s automotive sector, the shipment by non-U.S. parties of after-market parts for use in maintaining finished cars (rather than building new cars) would not generally be viewed as prohibited.[35] Moreover, OFAC FAQ 315 provides that rather than shutting down the entire Iranian port sector (and thus eliminating all shipments to the country) by imposing sanctions on any non-U.S. person who calls at an Iranian port, “to the extent that a shipping company transacts with port operators in Iran” that are not sanctioned, the payment of “routine fees” and the loading and unloading of cargo would not generally be prohibited.[36]  Neither of these allowances were required by legislation. Despite this flexibility – which will be very helpful to certain industries active in the implicated sectors (such as telecommunications, auto parts, airlines, and shipping) – it is important to remember that these exceptions are on the margin. In the main, the secondary sanctions in the New Iran E.O. were issued by an Administration eager to robustly and clearly fulfill a key campaign pledge in an election year and an Administration that appears comfortable engaging in unilateral action even at the cost of potentially weakening relationships with key allies. Administration officials have already signaled plans for strict enforcement[37] and the broadening of the sanctions authorities described above may be the first steps towards doing so. The European Response Almost immediately after President Trump announced his intention to withdraw from the JCPOA on May 8, 2018, the European Union and senior leaders in several major EU Member States announced their intention to remain compliant with the JCPOA and to reinvigorate the “EU Blocking Statute” so as to continue to promote the sanctions relief that the bloc views as central to the JCPOA. While some Member States moved to update their domestic legislation in this regard prior to the end of the first wind-down period, the EU had not formalized any changes until August 7. The EU Blocking Statute was designed as a counter-measure to what the EU considers to be the unlawful effects of third-country (primarily, but not exclusively, U.S.) extra-territorial sanctions on “EU operators.”  Its purpose is first and foremost to protect EU operators engaging in international trade, in a manner wholly compliant with EU law, but in breach of sanctions imposed by other countries.  At a political level, it is also designed to display the EU’s disapproval of sanctions regimes implemented by third countries which the EU considers to be abusive or unreasonable.  The EU Blocking Statute sets out a series of requirements relating to offending overseas sanctions (explained below), and then lists the overseas sanctions regimes to which it applies in an Annex. The Re-imposed Iran Sanctions Blocking Regulation is accompanied by an Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/1101 (the “Implementing Regulation”), relating to the process for EU operators to apply for authorization from the European Commission to comply with Blocked U.S. Sanctions (as defined below).  The European Commission has also prepared a Guidance Note Questions and Answers: adoption of update of the Blocking Statute (the “Guidance”) to help EU operators understand these various instruments. The EU Blocking Statute applies to a wide range of actors including: any natural person being a resident in the EU and a national of an EU Member State; any legal person incorporated within the EU; any national of an EU Member State established outside the EU and any shipping company established outside the EU and controlled by nationals of an EU member state, if their vessels are registered in that EU member state in accordance with its legislation; any other natural person being a resident in the EU, unless that person is in the country of which he is a national; and any other natural person within the EU, including its territorial waters and air space and in any aircraft or on any vessel under the jurisdiction or control of an EU member state, acting in a professional capacity.[38] The EU’s guidance note emphasizes that when EU subsidiaries of U.S. companies are formed in accordance with the law of an EU Member State and have their registered office, central administration or principal place of business within the EU they are subject to the EU Blocking Statute. However, branches of U.S. companies in the EU are not subject to the EU Blocking Statute. From Rhetoric and Regulation… The EU Blocking Statute prohibits EU operators from complying with a set of specific extra-territorial laws or any decisions, rulings or awards based on those laws.[39]  The laws are explicitly listed and include six different U.S. sanctions laws and one set of U.S. regulations (OFAC’s Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations). The EU Blocking Statute applies to all EU operators from August 7, 2018 and does not allow for any grandfathering of pre-existing contracts or agreements. Notably, the EU Guidance indicates that EU operators are prohibited from even requesting a license from the United States to maintain compliance with U.S. sanctions. Requesting such permission—without first gaining authorization from the EU or a competent authority in a Member State to do so— is tantamount to complying with U.S. sanctions.[40] In addition to prohibiting compliance with the various U.S. laws and regulations, the EU Blocking Statute requires EU operators to report to the European Commission within 30 days of any circumstances arising from the extraterritorial laws that affect their economic or financial interests. [40a] The EU Blocking Statute also holds that any decision rendered in the United States or elsewhere made due to the extraterritorial measures cannot be implemented in the European Union. [40b] This means, for instance, that any court decision made in light of the extraterritorial measures cannot be executed in the European Union, presumably even under existing mutual recognition agreements. Finally, the EU Blocking Statute allows EU operators to recover damages arising from the application of the extraterritorial measures. Though it is unclear how this would work in practice, it appears to allow an EU operator to exercise a private right of action and to be indemnified by companies that do comply with the U.S. laws if in so doing those companies injure the EU operator. For instance, if a European company has a contract to provide certain goods to Iran the European company is not allowed to break that contract due to their desire to comply with U.S. sanctions. However, if some of those goods are derived in part from other companies that have decided to comply with U.S. measures and to cease supplying any material destined for Iran the European company may be compelled to cease its transactions with Iran. In such case the Iranian company could sue the European company for breach of contract – the European operator could in turn sue its supplier for the damages caused due to the supplier’s compliance with the extra-territorial U.S. sanctions. Similarly, this provision allows Member States to sue companies who comply with the U.S. rules to the detriment of an EU operator (which has been done once before under the existing EU Blocking Statute). [40c] …To Reality As noted in our May 21, 2018 client alert , the competent authorities of the EU Member States are responsible for the implementation at national level of the EU Blocking Statute, including the adoption and implementation in national legal orders of penalties for possible breaches.  Such penalties are laid down in national legislation and vary by Member State. The United Kingdom has in place a law, the Extraterritorial US Legislation (Sanctions against Cuba, Iran and Libya) (Protection of Trading Interests) Order 1996, which broadly makes compliance with Blocked U.S. Sanctions a criminal offence. That Order does not provide for custodial sentences, but it does provide for a potentially unlimited fine. Certain other Member States have also opted for the creation of criminal offences, including Ireland, the Netherlands and Sweden. Other Member States, including Germany, Italy and Spain, have devised administrative penalties for non-compliance.  Meanwhile some Member States, including France, Belgium and Luxembourg, do not appear ever to have even implemented the EU Blocking Statute, notwithstanding the obligation on them as a matter of general EU law to prescribe penalties for breach of EU law which are effective, proportionate and dissuasive. Despite the breadth of the EU Blocking Statute language, the enforcement language and posture noted above, and the absolute nature of some of the rhetoric emanating from Brussels and certain Member State capitals as indicated by the lack of universal implementation of the existing EU Blocking Statute by Member States there has clearly been uneven application of existing rules.  We expect the same going forward with the updated EU Blocking Statute. Additionally, the EU Blocking Statute appears to include sufficient flexibility to provide multinational companies a potential path to navigate between Washington and Brussels.  (This is even before assessing the potentially low likelihood of enforcement.  We recognize that given the political and diplomatic environment in 2018 the past’s limited enforcement environment may not be prologue). In this regard, there are two key flexibilities written into the EU regulations. First, the Guidance allows EU operators to request authorization to comply with U.S. sanctions if not doing so would cause “serious harm to their interests or the interests of the European Union.” [40d] The European Commission has an existing template for making such a request which includes thirteen potential criteria that applicants can call upon when making their application.[41]These include whether there exists “a substantial connecting link” between the EU operator and the United States, whether not complying with U.S. measures could have “adverse effect on the conduct of [a company’s] economic activity,” or whether the “applicant’s activity would be rendered excessively difficult due to a loss of essential inputs or resources, which cannot be reasonably replaced.” Given the centrality of the U.S. financial system, and in some cases U.S. supply chains, many European companies could likely be able to make such claims. Under Article 3(2) and 3(3) of the Implementing Regulation, EU operators requesting an authorization must, at a minimum, explain with which provisions of the Blocked U.S. Sanctions they wish to be authorized to comply, and the acts they would be required to carry out.  EU operators seeking an authorization must also demonstrate how non-compliance with the Blocked U.S. Sanctions would cause serious damage to their interests or to the interests of the EU.  While potentially broad, it is uncertain what standard Brussels or the Member States will use in assessing whether to grant such authorizations. The second element of flexibility in the EU Blocking Statute is that EU operators will not be forced to continue business with Iran. Rather, the Guidance notes that EU operators are still free to conduct their business as they see fit – including “whether to engage or not in an economic sector on the basis of their assessment of the economic situation.”[42]  As such, we expect to see an increasing number of European firms to cease engaging in Iran, following in the wake of dozens of major European companies and financial institutions who have already announced their departure (and an even larger number who chose never to enter even under the JCPOA). This is a key flexibility as there are many reasons—apart from sanctions—that could cause a company in the prudent exercise of its fiduciary duties to decide to suspend Iranian operations and remain compliant with the EU Blocking Statute.  Indeed there is significant momentum behind European companies leaving Iran or otherwise indicating their plans to limit engagement.  Notably, this activity has included not just major private European companies leaving or announcing their intention to do so, but also actions by publicly-owned firms and even regulators.  For instance, the President of the European Investment Bank (an institution owned by the EU’s Member States) has publicly stated that the institution’s global operations would be put at risk if it continued its Iranian activities in light of U.S. sanctions.[43]  Though the EIB’s President has not indicated what this means for the EIB’s future Iran-related business it suggests a potential way out of engaging in Iran consistent with the EU regulations. Similarly – though not formally related to the new EU measures – the German Bundesbank recently quietly decided to revise its terms and conditions on cash withdrawals applicable to German financial institutions to include a provision that allowed the Bundesbank to reject a request from Tehran to withdraw EUR 300 million in cash from the German-regulated Europäisch-Iranische Handelsbank, an Iranian-owned bank based in Hamburg, Germany. The Bundesbank’s terms and conditions now inter alia state that such transactions could be refused in cases in which the transaction would threaten the Bundesbank’s relationships with other central banks or financial institutions in third countries. [44]  The principal “third country” in question is likely the United States. Next Steps and the Way Ahead We expect that the next steps in either enhancing sanctions on Iran (from the U.S. side) or protecting trade with Iran (from the EU side) will be regulatory. In line with past practices we think it possible that U.S. regulators will provide further guidance in the form of FAQs or even General Licenses to calibrate their policies. EU regulators, and Member States could do the same.  Actual enforcement on either side of the Atlantic is likely to be slow in coming. The Trump Administration has followed the Obama Administration’s playbook and sent senior officials to major foreign companies and countries thought to be the most likely source of non-compliance with U.S. measures. In the Obama era such outreach led to significant compliance enhancements in the companies and countries visited and thereby reduced the Obama Administration’s need to actually impose extra-territorial measures (secondary sanctions). In the current circumstance, the diplomatic situation for the United States is more uncertain. European governments, stung by the Administration’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and the continuing trade war, will clearly be unwilling to publicly go along with U.S. measures even if European companies choose to comply (either explicitly or implicitly in order to stay compliant with the EU Blocking Statute). The Turkish government, still smarting from recent U.S. sanctions unrelated to Iran imposed on their Ministers of Justice and Interior[45] (and the recent Iran sanctions-related conviction in U.S. federal court of a senior bank executive from Turkey’s Halk Bank[46]) may also prove less willing to assist. Moreover, while the UAE may be more able and willing to tamp down the traditional flows to Iran out of Dubai than was the case during the Bush and Obama Administrations, major Iranian oil importers such as India and China remain potential wildcards. Provided they receive substantial reduction exemptions to allow continued purchase of Iranian crude, we assess that other major Iranian oil importers such as South Korea, Japan, and Taiwan will likely on the whole opt to comply with U.S. measures.  Seoul, Tokyo, and Taipei would be unlikely to risk angering Washington given their broader needs for U.S. support in the region and their financial institutions will be similarly loathe to alienate their U.S. partners and risk their access to the American market and the U.S. dollar. There is much that remains unknown about the way ahead. The Trump Administration has not clearly articulated its goals with respect to the reimposed sanctions and in the lead up to the U.S. midterm elections in November could decide to become even more aggressive so as to gain support from its base. Similarly, as the Iranian government deals with the reimposed sanctions alongside mounting domestic protests it may also lash out aggressively, perhaps going as far as fulfilling its pledge to block the Straits of Hormuz or otherwise interfere with global trade or other core regional security interests. If either of these external factors come to bear, the situation would quickly become more challenging and the sanctions realities faced by global companies and governments could change radically.     [1] Executive Order, “Reimposing Certain Sanctions with Respect to Iran,” (Aug. 6, 2017), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/08062018_iran_eo.pdf. [2] Babak Dehghanpisheh and Peter Graff, “Trump Says Firms doing Business in Iran to be Barred from U.S as Sanctions Hit,” Reuters (Aug. 7, 2018), available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear/trump-says-firms-doing-business-in-iran-to-be-barred-from-us-as-sanctions-hit-idUSKBN1KS13I. [3] Nathalie Tocci, Aide to Federica Mogherini, quoted in Jacqueline Thomsen, “EU Issues Warning to European Companies that Comply with new U.S. Sanctions on Iran,” The Hill, (Aug. 7, 2018), available at http://thehill.com/policy/international/europe/400704-eu-threatens-to-sanction-european-companies-that-comply-with-new. [4] Press Release, White House, Remarks by President Trump on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (May 8, 2018), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarkspresident-trump-joint-comprehensive-plan-action; U.S. Dep’t of Treasury, Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Re-Imposition of Sanctions Pursuant to the May 8, 2018 National Security Presidential Memorandum Relating to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) (May 8, 2018). [5] U.S. Dep’t of the Treasury, Revocation of JCPOA-Related General Licenses; Amendment of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations; Publication of Updated FAQs (Jun. 27, 2018), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20180627.aspx. [6] 31 C.F.R. §§ 560.534-356. [7] Section 1(a)(i). [8] Section 6. [9] Section 3(a)(i). [10] Section 5. [11] Id. [12] Section 2(a)(i). [13] Section 1(a)(ii). [14] Section 1(a)(iii). [15] Id. [16] Section 1(a)(iv). [17] Id. [18] Id. [19] Section 3(a)(ii)-(iii). [20] Section 3(a)(iv)-(vi). [21] Section 5. [22] Id. This provision refers to the electronic messaging provided principally by the SWIFT inter-bank messaging system. [23] Section 2(a)(ii). [24] Section 2(a)(iii). [25] Section 2(a)(iv)-(v). [26] OFAC FAQ No. 601. [27] See, e.g., Press Release, U.S. Dep’t. of State, After the Iran Deal: A New Iran Strategy (May 21, 2018), available at https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2018/05/282301.htm. [28] Including, inter alia, persons sanctioned for engaging in transactions involving U.S. bank notes or precious metals, NIOC, NICO, the Central Bank of Iran, Iran’s energy, shipping, or shipbuilding sectors, Iranian port operators, or Iranian SDNs. See OFAC FAQ 601 for a complete list. [29] Sections 4(e) and 5(a)(vii). [30] Section 8(a). [31] Sections 2(c)(i) and 3(b)(i) [32] Special Briefing, U.S. Dep’t. of State, Senior State Department Official on U.S. Efforts to Discuss the Re-Imposition of Sanctions on Iran With Partners Around The World (Jun. 26, 2018), available at https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/06/283512.htm. [33] Brian Hook, Director of Policy Planning, U.S. State Department, Press Briefing, July 2, 2018. [34] See, e.g., Section 2(d)-(e) [35] OFAC FAQ No. 613. [36] OFAC FAQ No. 315. [37] See, e.g., Press Release, U.S. Dep’t. of State, After the Iran Deal: A New Iran Strategy (May 21, 2018), available at https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2018/05/282301.htm. [38] We note that the scope of the EU Blocking Statute slightly differs from EU financial and economic sanctions, specifically as in that “business done in part or in whole in the EU” is not automatically covered. [39] The listed extra-territorial legislation are the: National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 1993, Title XVII “Cuban Democracy Act 1992”, sections 1704 and 1706; Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996; Iran Sanctions Act of 1996; Iran Freedom and Counter-Proliferation Act of 2012; National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012; Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act of 2012; and the Iran Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (31 CFR Part 560). [40] Guidance Note – Questions and Answers: Adoption of Update of the EU Blocking Statute (2018/C 277I/03) (hereinafter “Guidance Note”), Question 23. [40a] Article 2, paragraph 1 of the EU Blocking Statute [40b] Article 4 of the EU Blocking Statute [40c] In 2007, Austria brought charges for breach of Regulation (EC) 2271/96 against an Austrian bank, at the time the fifth-largest Austrian bank. The charges were based on the Austrian Federal Law on the Punishment of Offences against the Provisions of EC Regulation (EC) No 2271/96. The bank had closed the accounts of 100 Cuban nationals. Having Cuban clients would have prevented the acquisition of the bank by a U.S. investor at a time when U.S. Cuban sanctions made it illegal for U.S. companies to deal with Cuba. Following a public uproar, and after U.S. authorities agreed to grant the bank an exemption, the bank reinstated the accounts held by Cuban nationals. The acquisition of the bank went ahead as planned and the investigation against the bank for breach of Regulation (EC) 2271/96 was discontinued, available online at https://www.bmeia.gv.at/en/the-ministry/press/announcements/2007/foreign-ministry-ceases-investigations-against-bawag-bank/, last checked August 9, 2018. [40d] Article 5, paragraph 2 of the EU Blocking Statute [41] Template for Applications for Authorisations under Article 5 paragraph 2 of Council Regulation (EC) No 2271/96 protecting against the effects of the extra-territorial application of legislation adopted by a third country, and actions based thereon or resulting thereon (‘Regulation’). [42] Guidance Note, Question 5. [43] Robin Emmott and Alissa de Carbonnel, “European Investment Bank Casts Doubt on EU Plan to Salvage Nuclear Deal,” Reuters, (July 18, 2018), available at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-eu/european-investment-bank-casts-doubt-on-eu-plan-to-salvage-nuclear-deal-idUSKBN1K81BD. [44] Claire Jones and Guy Chazan, “Bundesbank Rule Change hits €300m Iran Bank Transfer,” Financial Times, (August 6, 2018). [45] Adam Goldman and Gardiner Harris, “U.S. Imposes Sanctions on Turkish Officials over Detained American Pastor,” N.Y. Times (Aug. 1, 2018). [46] Benjamin Weiser, “Turkish Banker in Iran Sanctions-Busting Case Sentenced to 21 Months,” N.Y. Times (May 16, 2018).   The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in the preparation of this client update: Adam Smith, Judith Lee, R.L. Pratt, Richard Roeder, Patrick Doris, Christopher Timura, Stephanie Connor, and Peter Alexiadis. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the above developments.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, the authors, or any of the following leaders and members of the firm’s International Trade Group: United States: Judith Alison Lee – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3591, jalee@gibsondunn.com) Ronald Kirk – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Dallas (+1 214-698-3295, rkirk@gibsondunn.com) Jose W. Fernandez – New York (+1 212-351-2376, jfernandez@gibsondunn.com) Marcellus A. McRae – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7675, mmcrae@gibsondunn.com) Adam M. Smith – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3547, asmith@gibsondunn.com) Christopher T. Timura – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3690, ctimura@gibsondunn.com) Ben K. Belair – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3743, bbelair@gibsondunn.com) Courtney M. Brown – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8685, cmbrown@gibsondunn.com) Laura R. Cole – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3787, lcole@gibsondunn.com) Stephanie L. Connor – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8586, sconnor@gibsondunn.com) Helen L. Galloway – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7342, hgalloway@gibsondunn.com) William Hart – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3706, whart@gibsondunn.com) Henry C. Phillips – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8535, hphillips@gibsondunn.com) R.L. Pratt – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3785, rpratt@gibsondunn.com) Scott R. Toussaint – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5320, stoussaint@gibsondunn.com) Europe: Peter Alexiadis – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 00, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) Attila Borsos – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 10, aborsos@gibsondunn.com) Patrick Doris – London (+44 (0)207 071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Penny Madden – London (+44 (0)20 7071 4226, pmadden@gibsondunn.com) Benno Schwarz – Munich (+49 89 189 33 110, bschwarz@gibsondunn.com) Michael Walther – Munich (+49 89 189 33-180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Richard W. Roeder – Munich (+49 89 189 33-160, rroeder@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

July 12, 2018 |
Developments in the Defense of Financial Institutions

To Disclose or Not to Disclose: Analyzing the Consequences of Voluntary Self-Disclosure for Financial Institutions Click for PDF One of the most frequently discussed white collar issues of late has been the benefits of voluntarily self-disclosing to the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) allegations of misconduct involving a corporation.  This is the beginning of periodic analyses of white collar issues unique to financial institutions, and in this issue we examine whether and to what extent a financial institution can expect a benefit from DOJ for a voluntary self-disclosure (“VSD”), especially with regard to money laundering or Bank Secrecy Act violations.  Although the public discourse regarding VSDs tends to suggest that there are benefits to be gained, a close examination of the issue specifically with respect to financial institutions shows that the benefits that will confer in this area, if any, are neither easy to anticipate nor to quantify.  A full consideration of whether to make a VSD to DOJ should include a host of factors beyond the quantifiable benefit, ranging from the likelihood of independent enforcer discovery; to the severity, duration, and evidentiary support for a potential violation; and to the expectations of prudential regulators and any associated licensing or regulatory consequences, as well as other factors. VSD decisions arise in many contexts, including in matters involving the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”), sanctions enforcement, and the Bank Secrecy Act (“BSA”).  In certain situations, the benefits of voluntary self-disclosure prior to a criminal enforcement action can be substantial.  Prosecutors have at times responded to a VSD by reducing charges and penalties, offering deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, and entering into more favorable consent decrees and settlements.[1]  However, as Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein stated in recent remarks, enforcement policies meant to encourage corporate disclosures “do[] not provide a guarantee” that disclosures will yield a favorable result in all cases.[2]  The outcome of a prosecution following a VSD is situation-specific, and, as such, the process should not be entered into without careful consideration of the costs and benefits. In the context of Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering regulation (“BSA/AML”), VSDs present an uncertain set of tradeoffs.  The BSA and its implementing  regulations already require most U.S. financial institutions subject to the requirements of the BSA[3] to file suspicious activity reports (“SARs”) with the U.S. government when the institution knows, suspects or has reason to suspect that a transaction by, through or to it involves money laundering, BSA violations or other illegal activity.[4]  Guidance from DOJ encourages voluntary self-disclosure, and at least one recent non-prosecution agreement entered with the Department has listed self-disclosure as a consideration in setting the terms of a settlement agreement.[5]  Over the past three years, however, no BSA/AML criminal resolution has explicitly given an institution credit for voluntarily disclosing potential misconduct.  During this same period, DOJ began messaging an expanded focus on VSDs in the context of FCPA violations, announced the FCPA Pilot Project, and ultimately made permanent in the U.S. Attorney’s Manual the potential benefits of a VSD for FCPA violations. This alert addresses some of the considerations that financial institutions weigh when deciding whether to voluntarily self-disclose potential BSA/AML violations to criminal enforcement authorities.  In discussing these considerations, we review guidance provided by DOJ and the regulatory enforcement agencies, and analyze recent BSA/AML criminal resolutions, as well as FCPA violations involving similar defendants. Guidance from the Department of Justice – Conflicting Signals DOJ guidance documents describe the Department’s general approach to VSDs, but, until recently, they left unanswered many questions dealing specifically with self-disclosure by financial institutions.  The Department’s high-level approach to general voluntary self-disclosure is outlined in the United States Attorney Manual (“USAM”).  Starting from the principle that “[c]ooperation is a mitigating factor” that can allow a corporation to avoid particularly harsh penalties, the USAM instructs prosecutors that they “may consider a corporation’s timely and voluntary disclosure” when deciding whether and how to pursue corporate liability.[6] In the FCPA context, a self-disclosure is deemed to be voluntary—and thus potentially qualifying a company for mitigation credit—if (1) the company discloses the relevant evidence of misconduct prior to an imminent threat of disclosure or government investigation; (2) the company reports the conduct to DOJ and relevant regulatory agencies “within a reasonably prompt time after becoming aware of the offense”; and (3) the company discloses all relevant facts known to it, including all relevant facts about the individual wrongdoers involved.[7] DOJ has not yet offered specific instruction, however, on how prosecutors should treat voluntary self-disclosure in the BSA/AML context and, unlike other areas of enforcement, no formal self-disclosure program currently exists for financial institutions seeking to obtain mitigation credit in the money laundering context.  Indeed, the only guidance document to mention VSDs and financial institutions—issued by DOJ’s National Security Division in 2016[8]—specifically exempted financial institutions from the VSD benefits offered to other corporate actors in the export control and sanctions context, citing the “unique reporting obligations” imposed on financial institutions “under their applicable statutory and regulatory regimes.”[9] Despite this lack of guidance, the recent adoption of DOJ’s FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy may provide insight on how prosecutors could treat voluntary disclosures by financial institutions moving forward.  Enacted in the fall of 2017, the Corporate Enforcement Policy arose from DOJ’s 2016 FCPA Pilot Program, which was created to provide improved guidance and certainty to companies facing DOJ enforcement actions, while incentivizing self-disclosure, cooperation, and remediation.[10]  One year later, based on the success of the program, many of its aspects were codified in the USAM.[11]  Specifically, the new policy creates a presumption that entities that voluntarily disclose potential misconduct and fully cooperate with any subsequent government investigation will receive a declination, absent aggravating circumstances.[12]  In early 2018, Acting Assistant Attorney General John Cronan announced that the Corporate Enforcement Policy would serve as non-binding guidance for corporate investigations beyond the FCPA context.[13] This expanded consideration of VSDs beyond the FCPA space was on display in March 2018, when, after an investigation by DOJ’s Securities and Financial Fraud Unit, the Department publicly announced that it had opted not to prosecute a financial institution in connection with the bank’s alleged front-running of certain foreign exchange transactions.[14]  DOJ’s Securities and Financial Fraud Unit specifically noted that DOJ’s decision to close its investigation without filing charges resulted, in part, from “timely, voluntary self-disclosure” of the alleged misconduct,[15] a sentiment echoed by Cronan in subsequent remarks at an American Bar Association white collar conference regarding the reasons for the declination.[16]  Cronan further commented that “[w]hen a company discovers misconduct, quickly raises its hand and tells us about it, that says something. . . . It shows the company is taking misconduct seriously . . . and we are rewarding those good decisions.”[17] Other Agency Guidance Guidance issued by other enforcement agencies similarly may offer clues as to how financial institutions can utilize VSDs to more successfully navigate a criminal enforcement action. In the context of export and import control, companies that self-disclose to the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control (“OFAC”) can benefit in two primary ways.  First, OFAC may be less likely to initiate an enforcement proceeding following a VSD, as OFAC considers a party’s decision to cooperate when determining whether to initiate a civil enforcement proceeding.[18]  Second, if OFAC decides it is appropriate to bring an enforcement action, companies that self-disclose receive a fifty-percent reduction in the base penalty they face, as detailed in the below-base-penalty matrix published in OFAC guidance:[19] As depicted by the chart, in the absence of a VSD, the base penalty for egregious violations[20] is the applicable statutory maximum penalty for the violation.[21]  In non-egregious cases, the base penalty is calculated based on the revenue derived from the violative transaction, capped at $295,141.[22]  When the apparent violation is voluntarily disclosed, however, OFAC has made clear that in non-egregious cases, the penalty will be one-half of the transaction value, capped at $147,571 per violation.[23]  This is applicable except in circumstances where the maximum penalty for the apparent violation is less than $295,141, in which case the base amount of the penalty shall be capped at one-half the statutory maximum penalty applicable to the violation.[24]  In an egregious case, if the apparent violation is self-disclosed, the base amount of the penalty will be one-half of the applicable statutory maximum penalty.[25] Other agencies tasked with overseeing the enforcement of financial regulations also have issued guidance encouraging voluntary disclosures.  Although the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) has not provided guidance on how it credits voluntary disclosures,[26] guidance issued by the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (“FFIEC”), consisting of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (“OCC”), the Federal Reserve, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (“FDIC”), the Office of Thrift Supervision (“OTS”), and the National Credit Union Administration (“NCUA”), has made clear that, in determining the amount and appropriateness of a penalty to be assessed against a financial institution in connection with various types of violations, the agencies will consider “voluntary disclosure of the violation.”[27] In 2016, the OCC published a revised Policies and Procedures Manual to ensure this and other factors are considered and to “enhance the consistency” of its enforcement decisions.[28]  That guidance includes a matrix with several factors, one of which is “concealment.”[29]  In the event that a financial institution self-discloses, they are not penalized for concealment.  Thus, while not directly reducing potential financial exposure, a VSD ensures that a financial institution is not further penalized for the potential violation. It is also worth noting that, unlike DOJ, these regulators do not appear to draw distinctions regarding the type of offense at issue (i.e., FCPA versus BSA versus sanctions violations).  Moreover, financial institutions contemplating not disclosing potential misconduct need to consider whether the nature of the potential misconduct at issue goes to the financial institution’s safety and soundness, adequacy of capital, or other issues of interest to prudential regulators such as the Federal Reserve, OCC, and FDIC.  To the extent such prudential concerns are implicated, a financial institution may be required to disclose the underlying evidence of misconduct and may face penalties for failing to do so. The Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) also has indicated that it will consider VSDs as a factor in its enforcement actions under the federal securities laws.  In a 2001 report (the “Seaboard Report”), the SEC confirmed that, as part of its evaluation of proper enforcement actions, it would consider whether “the company voluntarily disclose[d] information [its] staff did not directly request and otherwise might not have uncovered.”[30]  The SEC noted that self-policing could result in reduced penalties based on how much the SEC credited self-reporting—from “the extraordinary step of taking no enforcement action to bringing reduced charges, seeking lighter sanctions, or including mitigating language in documents . . . use[d] to announce and resolve enforcement actions.”[31]  In 2010, the SEC formalized its cooperation program, identifying self-policing, self-reporting, and remediation and cooperation as the primary factors it would consider in determining the appropriate disposition of an enforcement action.[32]  In 2015, the former Director of the SEC’s Division of Enforcement, reaffirmed the importance of self-reporting to the SEC’s enforcement decisions, stating that previous cases “should send the message loud and clear that the SEC will reward self-reporting and cooperation with significant benefits.”[33]  As of mid-2016, the SEC had signed over 103 cooperation agreements, six non-prosecution agreements, and deferred nine prosecutions since the inception of the cooperation program.[34] Finally, like its federal counterparts, the New York Department of Financial Services (“NYDFS”) has previously signaled, at least in the context of export and import sanctions, that “[i]t is vital that companies continue to self-report violations,”[35] and warned that “those that do not [self-report] run the risk of even more severe consequences.”[36]  The NYDFS has not directly spoken to money laundering enforcement, but financial institutions considering disclosures to New York state authorities should keep this statement in mind.  Similar to the considerations an institution might face when dealing with federal regulators, to the extent DFS prudential concerns are implicated, a financial institution may be required to disclose the underlying evidence of misconduct and face penalties for failing to do so. Recent BSA/AML and FCPA Resolutions Even against this backdrop, over the last few years, voluntary self-disclosure has not appeared to play a significant role in the resolution of criminal enforcement proceedings arising from alleged BSA/AML violations.  Since 2015, DOJ, in conjunction with other enforcement agencies, has resolved BSA/AML charges against twelve financial institutions.[37]  In eleven of those cases, the final documentation of the resolution—the settlement agreements and press releases accompanying the settlement documents—make no mention of voluntary self-disclosure.  Even in the FCPA context, where DOJ has sought to provide greater certainty and transparency concerning the benefits of voluntary disclosure, there is a scant track record of financial institutions making voluntary disclosures in connection with FCPA resolutions.  Since 2015, DOJ has announced FCPA enforcement actions with six financial institutions.  The Justice Department did not credit any of them with voluntarily self-disclosing the conduct.[38] Although recent resolutions have not granted credit for VSDs, financial entities facing enforcement actions should consider how such a disclosure might affect the nature of a potential investigation and the ultimate disposition of an enforcement action.  It is worth noting that in the one recent BSA/AML resolution with a financial institution in which voluntary self-disclosure was referenced—DOJ’s 2017 resolution with Banamex USA—it was in the course of explaining why the financial institution did not receive disclosure credit.  In other words, there is no example of a criminal enforcement action commending a financial institution for a VSD, or of an agency softening the enforcement measures as a result of a VSD.[39]  The fact that the Banamex USA resolution affirmatively explains why the defendant did not receive VSD credit may imply that this type of credit may be available to financial institution defendants when they do make adequate VSDs. Furthermore, over the same time period, prosecutors have credited financial institutions for other forms of cooperation.  For example, in 2015, the Department of Justice deferred prosecution of CommerceWest Bank officials for a BSA charge arising from their willful failure to file a SAR, in part because of the bank’s “willingness to acknowledge and accept responsibility for its actions” and “extensive cooperation with [DOJ’s] investigation.”[40]  Similarly, a 2015 non-prosecution agreement with Ripple Labs Inc. credited the financial institution with, among other factors, “extensive cooperation with the Government.”[41]  These favorable dispositions signal that the government is willing to grant mitigation credit for cooperation, even when financial institutions are not credited with making VSDs. Other Relevant Considerations Relating to VSDs As discussed above, the government’s position regarding the value of VSDs and their effect on the ultimate resolution of a case vary based on the agency and the legal and regulatory regime(s) involved.  Given the lack of clear guidance from FinCEN about how it credits VSDs and the fact that BSA/AML resolutions tend not to explicitly reference a company’s decision to disclose as a relevant consideration, navigating the decision of whether to self-report to DOJ is itself a fraught one.  Beyond the threshold question of whether or not to self-disclose to DOJ, financial institutions faced with potential BSA/AML liability should be mindful of a number of other considerations, always with an eye on avoiding the specter of a full-blown criminal investigation and trying to minimize institutional liability to the extent possible. Likelihood of Discovery:  A financial institution deciding whether to self-disclose to DOJ must contemplate the possibility that the government will be tipped off by other means, including by the prudential regulators, and will investigate the potential misconduct anyway, without the financial institution gaining the benefits available for bringing a case to the government’s attention and potentially before the financial institution has had the opportunity to develop a remediation plan.  Financial institutions that plan to forego self-disclosure of possible misconduct will have to guard against both whistleblower disclosures and the possibility that other institutions aware of the potential misconduct will file a Suspicious Activity Report implicating the financial institution. Timing of Disclosure:  Even after a financial institution has decided to self-report to DOJ, it will have to think through the implications of when a disclosure is made.  A financial institution could decide to promptly disclose to maximize cooperation credit, but risks reporting without developing the understanding of the underlying facts that an internal investigation would provide.  Additionally, a prompt disclosure to DOJ may be met with a deconfliction request, in which the government asks that the company refrain from interviewing its employees until the government has had a chance to do so.  This may slow down the company’s investigation and impede its ability to take prompt and decisive remedial actions, including those related to personnel decisions.  On the other hand, waiting until after the internal investigation has concluded (or at least reached an advanced stage) presents the risk of the government finding out first in the interim.  The financial institution also will have to decide whether to wait longer to report to the government having already designed and begun to implement a remediation plan or to disclose while the remediation plan is still being developed. Selective or Sequential Disclosures:  Given the number of agencies with jurisdiction over the financial industry and the overlaps between their respective spheres of authority, financial institutions contemplating self-disclosure will often have to decide how much to disclose, whether to both prudential regulators and DOJ, and in what order.  In some cases, a financial institution potentially facing both regulatory and criminal liability may be well-advised to engage civil regulators first in the hope that, if DOJ does get involved, they will stand down and piggy-back on a global resolution with other regulators rather than seeking more serious penalties.  Indeed, DOJ prosecutors are required to consider the adequacy of non-criminal alternatives – such as civil or regulatory enforcement actions – in determining whether to initiate a criminal enforcement action.[42]  For example, the non-prosecution agreement DOJ entered in May 2017 with Banamex recognized that Citigroup, Banamex’s parent, was already in the process of winding down Banamex USA’s banking operations pursuant to a 2015 resolution with the California Department of Business Oversight and FDIC and was operating under ongoing consent orders with the Federal Reserve and OCC relating to BSA/AML compliance; consequently, DOJ sought only forfeiture rather than an additional monetary penalty.[43]  Of course, any decision to selectively disclose must be balanced carefully against the practical reality that banking regulators will, in certain instances, notify DOJ of potential criminal violations whether self-disclosed or identified in the examination process.  Whether that communication will occur often is influenced by factors such as the history of cooperation between the institutions or the relationships of those involved.  Nevertheless, the timing and nature of any referral by a regulator to DOJ might nullify any benefit from a selective or sequential disclosure. Conclusion In this inaugural Developments in the Defense of Financial Institutions Client Alert, we addressed whether and to what extent a financial institution should anticipate receiving a benefit when approaching the pivotal decision of whether to voluntarily self-disclose potential BSA/AML violations to DOJ.  We hope this publication serves as a helpful primer on this issue, and look forward to addressing other topics that raise unique issues for financial institutions in this rapidly-evolving area in future editions.    [1]   U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Guidance Regarding Voluntary Self-Disclosures, Cooperation, and Remediation in Export Control and Sanctions Investigations Involving Business Organizations (Oct. 2, 2016), https://www.justice.gov/nsd/file/902491/download.    [2]   Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Att’y Gen., Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein Delivers Remarks at the 34th International Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (Nov. 29, 2017), https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/deputy-attorney-general-rosenstein-delivers-remarks-34th-international-conference-foreign.    [3]   Throughout this alert, we use the term “financial institution” as it is defined in the Bank Secrecy Act.  “Financial institution” refers to banks, credit unions, registered stock brokers or dealers, currency exchanges, insurance companies, casinos, and other financial and banking-related entities.  See 31 U.S.C. § 5312(a)(2) (2012).  These institutions should be particularly attuned to the role that voluntary disclosures can play in the disposition of a criminal enforcement action.    [4]   See, e.g., 31 CFR § 1020.320 (FinCEN SAR requirements for banks); 12 C.F.R. § 21.11 (SAR requirements  for national banks).    [5]   See Non-Prosecution Agreement with Banamex USA, U.S. Dep’t of Justice (May 18, 2017), https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/967871/download (noting that “the Company did not receive voluntary self-disclosure credit because neither it nor Citigroup voluntarily and timely disclosed to the Office the conduct described in the Statement of Facts”).    [6]   U.S. Dep’t of Justice, U.S. Attorneys’ Manual § 9-28.700 (2017).    [7]   For a definition of self-disclosure in the sanctions space, see U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Guidance Regarding Voluntary Self-Disclosures, Cooperation, and Remediation in Export Control and Sanctions Investigations Involving Business Organizations (Oct. 2, 2016), https://www.justice.gov/nsd/file/902491/download.  For a definition in the FCPA context, see U.S. Dep’t of Justice, U.S. Attorneys’ Manual § 9-47.120 (2017).    [8]   U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Guidance Regarding Voluntary Self-Disclosures, Cooperation, and Remediation in Export Control and Sanctions Investigations Involving Business Organizations, at 4 n.7 (Oct. 2, 2016), https://www.justice.gov/nsd/file/902491/download.  Gibson Dunn’s 2016 Year-End Sanctions Update contains a more in-depth discussion of this DOJ guidance.    [9]   Id. at 2 n.3 [10]   Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Criminal Division Launches New FCPA Pilot Program (Apr. 5, 2016), https://www.justice.gov/archives/opa/blog/criminal-division-launches-new-fcpa-pilot-program.  For a more in-depth discussion of the original Pilot Program, see Gibson Dunn’s 2016 Mid-Year FCPA Update, and for a detailed description of the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy, see our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update.  For discussion regarding specific declinations under the Pilot Program, in which self-disclosure played a significant role, see our 2016 Year-End FCPA Update and 2017 Mid-Year FCPA Update. [11]   Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Att’y Gen., Deputy Attorney General Rosenstein Delivers Remarks at the 34th International Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (Nov. 29, 2017), https://www.justice.gov/opa/speech/deputy-attorney-general-rosenstein-delivers-remarks-34th-international-conference-foreign (announcing that the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy would be incorporated into the USAM); U.S. Dep’t of Justice, U.S. Attorneys’ Manual § 9-47.120 (2017). [12]   Id. [13]   Jody Godoy, DOJ Expands Leniency Beyond FCPA, Lets Barclays Off, Law360 (Mar. 1, 2018), https://www.law360.com/articles/1017798/doj-expands-leniency-beyond-fcpa-lets-barclays-off. [14]   U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Letter to Alexander Willscher and Joel Green Regarding Investigation of Barclays PLC (Feb. 28, 2018), https://www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/file/1039791/download. [15]   Id. [16]   Tom Schoenberg, Barclays Won’t Face Criminal Case for Hewlett-Packard Trades, Bloomberg (Mar. 1, 2018), https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-01/barclays-won-t-face-criminal-case-over-hewlett-packard-trades. [17]   Id. [18]   31 C.F.R. Pt. 501, app. A, § III.G.1 (2018). [19]   Id. § V.B.1.a.iv (2018). [20]   OFAC has established a two-track approach to penalty assessment, based on whether violations are “egregious” or “non-egregious.”  Egregious violations are identified based on analysis of several factors set forth in OFAC guidelines, including, among others: whether a violation was willful; whether the entity had actual knowledge of the violation, or should have had reason to know of it; harm caused to sanctions program objectives; and the individual characteristics of the entity involved. [21]   31 C.F.R. Pt. 501, app. A, § V.B.2.a.iv (2018). [22]   Id. § V.B.2.a.ii (2018). [23]   Id. § V.B.2.a.i (2018). [24]   Id. [25]   Id. § V.B.2.a.iii (2018). [26]   Robert B. Serino, FinCEN’s Lack of Policies and Procedures for Assessing Civil Money Penalties in Need of Reform, Am. Bar Ass’n (July 2016), https://www.americanbar.org/publications/blt/2016/07/07_serino.html.  It is worth noting, however, that there are certain circumstances in which FinCEN imposes a continuing duty to disclose, such as when there has been a failure to timely file a SAR (31 C.F.R. § 1020.320(b)(3)); failure to timely file a Currency Transaction Report (31 C.F.R. § 1010.306); and failure to timely register as a money-services business (31 C.F.R. § 1022.380(b)(3)).  In circumstances in which a financial institution identifies that it has not complied with these regulatory requirements and files belatedly, the decision whether to self-disclose to DOJ is impacted by the fact that the late filing will often be evident to FinCEN. [27]   Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council: Assessment of Civil Money Penalties, 63 FR 30226-02, 1998 WL 280287 (June 3, 1998). [28]   Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, Policies and Procedures Manual, PPM 5000-7 (Rev.) (Feb. 26, 2016), https://www.occ.gov/news-issuances/bulletins/2016/bulletin-2016-5a.pdf. [29]   Id. at 15-17. [30]   U.S. Secs. & Exch. Comm’n, Report of Investigation Pursuant to Section 21(a) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 and Commission Statement on the Relationship of Cooperation to Agency Enforcement Decisions, Release No. 44969 (Oct. 23, 2001), https://www.sec.gov/litigation/investreport/34-44969.htm. [31]   Id. [32]   U.S. Secs. & Exch. Comm’n, Enforcement Cooperation Program, https://www.sec.gov/spotlight/enforcement-cooperation-initiative.shtml (last modified Sept. 20, 2016). [33]   Andrew Ceresney, Director, SEC Division of Enforcement, ACI’s 32nd FCPA Conference Keynote Address (Nov. 17, 2015), https://www.sec.gov/news/speech/ceresney-fcpa-keynote-11-17-15.html. [34]   Juniad A. Zubairi & Brooke E. Conner, Is SEC Cooperation Credit Worthwhile?, Law360 (Aug. 30, 2016), https://www.law360.com/articles/833392. [35]   Press Release, N.Y. Dep’t Fin. Servs., Governor Cuomo Announced Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ to Pay $250 Million to State for Violations of New York Banking Law Involving Transactions with Iran and Other Regimes (June 20, 2013), https://www.dfs.ny.gov/about/press/pr1306201.htm. [36]   Id. [37]   Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, U.S. Gold Refinery Pleads Guilty to Charge of Failure to Maintain Adequate Anti-Money Laundering Program (Mar. 16, 2018), https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdfl/pr/us-gold-refinery-pleads-guilty-charge-failure-maintain-adequate-anti-money-laundering; Deferred Prosecution Agreement with U.S. Bancorp, U.S. Dep’t of Justice (Feb. 12, 2018), https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdny/press-release/file/1035081/download; Plea Agreement with Rabobank, National Association, U.S. Dep’t of Justice (Feb. 7, 2018), https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1032101/download; Non-Prosecution Agreement with Banamex USA, U.S. Dep’t of Justice (May 18, 2017), https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/967871/download; Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Western Union Admits Anti-Money Laundering and Consumer Fraud Violations, Forfeits $586 Million in Settlement with Justice Department and Federal Trade Commission (Jan. 19, 2017), https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/western-union-admits-anti-money-laundering-and-consumer-fraud-violations-forfeits-586-million; Non-Prosecution Agreement Between CG Technology, LP and the United States Attorneys’ Offices for the Eastern District of New York and the District of Nevada, U.S. Dep’t of Justice (Oct. 3, 2016), https://www.gibsondunn.com/wp-content/uploads/documents/publications/CG-Technology-dba-Cantor-Gaming-NPA.PDF; Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Normandie Casino Operator Agrees to Plead Guilty to Federal Felony Charges of Violating Anti-Money Laundering Statutes (Jan. 22, 2016), https://www.justice.gov/usao-cdca/pr/normandie-casino-operator-agrees-plead-guilty-federal-felony-charges-violating-anti; Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Hong Kong Entertainment (Overseas) Investments, Ltd, D/B/A Tinian Dynasty Hotel & Casino Enters into Agreement with the United States to Resolve Bank Secrecy Act Liability (July 23, 2015), https://www.justice.gov/usao-gu/pr/hong-kong-entertainment-overseas-investments-ltd-dba-tinian-dynasty-hotel-casino-enters; Deferred Prosecution Agreement with Bank of Mingo, U.S. Dep’t of Justice (May 20, 2015), https://www.gibsondunn.com/wp-content/uploads/documents/publications/Bank-of-Mingo-NPA.pdf; Settlement Agreement with Ripple Labs Inc., U.S. Dep’t of Justice (May 5, 2015), https://www.justice.gov/file/421626/download; Deferred Prosecution Agreement with Commerzbank AG, U.S. Dep’t of Justice (Mar. 12, 2015), https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opa/press-releases/attachments/2015/03/12/commerzbank_deferred_prosecution_agreement_1.pdf; Deferred Prosecution Agreement with CommerceWest Bank, U.S. Dep’t of Justice (Mar. 10, 2015) https://www.justice.gov/file/348996/download. [38]   Deferred Prosecution Agreement with Société Générale S.A., U.S. Dep’t of Justice (June 5, 2018), https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1068521/download; Non-Prosecution Agreement with Legg Mason, Inc., U.S. Dep’t of Justice (June 4, 2018), https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1068036/download; Non-Prosecution Agreement with Credit Suisse (Hong Kong) Limited, U.S. Dep’t of Justice (May 24, 2018), https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/1077881/download; Deferred Prosecution Agreement with Och-Ziff Capital Management Group, LLC, U.S. Dep’t of Justice (Sept. 29, 2016), https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/899306/download; Non-Prosecution Agreement with JPMorgan Securities (Asia Pacific) Ltd, U.S. Dep’t of Justice (Nov. 17, 2016), https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/911206/download; Non-Prosecution Agreement with Las Vegas Sands Corp., U.S. Dep’t of Justice (Jan. 17, 2017), https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/929836/download. [39]   See Non-Prosecution Agreement with Banamex USA, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, at 2 (May 18, 2017), https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/967871/download (explaining that Banamex “did not receive voluntary disclosure credit because neither it nor [its parent company] Citigroup voluntarily and timely disclosed to [DOJ’s Money Laundering and Asset Recover Section] the conduct described in the Statement of Facts”) (emphasis added). [40]   Deferred Prosecution Agreement Between United States and CommerceWest Bank, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, at 2-3 (Mar. 9, 2015), https://www.justice.gov/file/348996/download. [41]   Settlement Agreement Between United States and Ripple Labs Inc., U.S. Dep’t of Justice (May 5, 2015), https://www.justice.gov/file/421626/download; see also Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Ripple Labs Inc. Resolves Criminal Investigation (May 5, 2015), https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/ripple-labs-inc-resolves-criminal-investigation. [42]   See U.S. Attorney’s Manual 9-28.1200 (recommending the analysis of civil or regulatory alternatives). [43]   Non-Prosecution Agreement Between U.S. Dep’t of Justice, Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section and Banamex USA at 2 (May 18, 2017), https://www.justice.gov/opa/press-release/file/967871/download. The following Gibson Dunn attorneys assisted in preparing this client update:  F. Joseph Warin, M. Kendall Day, Stephanie L. Brooker, Adam M. Smith, Linda Noonan, Elissa N. Baur, Stephanie L. Connor, Alexander R. Moss, and Jaclyn M. Neely. Gibson Dunn has deep experience with issues relating to the defense of financial institutions, and we have recently increased our financial institutions defense and anti-money laundering capabilities with the addition to our partnership of M. Kendall Day.  Kendall joined Gibson Dunn in May 2018, having spent 15 years as a white collar prosecutor, most recently as an Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General, the highest level of career official in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division.  For his last three years at DOJ, Kendall exercised nationwide supervisory authority over every Bank Secrecy Act and money-laundering charge, deferred prosecution agreement and non-prosecution agreement involving every type of financial institution. Kendall joined Stephanie Brooker, a former Director of the Enforcement Division at the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) and a former federal prosecutor and Chief of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, who serves as Co-Chair of the Financial Institutions Practice Group and a member of White Collar Defense and Investigations Practice Group.  Kendall and Stephanie practice with a Gibson Dunn network of more than 50 former federal prosecutors in domestic and international offices around the globe. For assistance navigating white collar or regulatory enforcement issues involving financial institutions, please contact any Gibson Dunn attorney with whom you usually work, or any of the following leaders and members of the firm’s White Collar Defense and Investigations or Financial Institutions practice groups: Washington, D.C. F. 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Welch (+852 2214 3716, owelch@gibsondunn.com) São Paulo Lisa A. Alfaro (+55 (11) 3521-7160, lalfaro@gibsondunn.com) Fernando Almeida (+55 (11) 3521-7095, falmeida@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

July 12, 2018 |
The Politics of Brexit for those Outside the UK

Click for PDF Following the widely reported Cabinet meeting at Chequers, the Prime Minister’s country residence, on Friday 6 June 2018, the UK Government has now published its “White Paper” setting out its negotiating position with the EU.  A copy of the White Paper can be found here. The long-delayed White Paper centres around a free trade area for goods, based on a common rulebook.  The ancillary customs arrangement plan, in which the UK would collects tariffs on behalf of the EU, would then “enable the UK to control its own tariffs for trade with the rest of the world”.  However, the Government’s previous “mutual recognition plan” for financial services has been abandoned; instead the White Paper proposes a looser partnership under the framework of the EU’s existing equivalence regime. The responses to the White Paper encapsulate the difficulties of this process.  Eurosceptics remain unhappy that the Government’s position is far too close to a “Soft Brexit” and have threatened to rebel against the proposed customs scheme; Remainers are upset that services (which represent 79% of the UK’s GDP) are excluded. The full detail of the 98-page White Paper is less important at this stage than the negotiating dynamics.  Assuming both the UK and the EU want a deal, which is likely to be the case, M&A practitioners will be familiar with the concept that the stronger party, here the EU, will want to push the weaker party, the UK, as close to the edge as possible without tipping them over.  In that sense the UK has, perhaps inadvertently, somewhat strengthened its negotiating position – albeit in a fragile way. The rules of the UK political game In the UK the principle of separation of powers is strong as far as the independence of the judiciary is concerned.  In January 2017 the UK Supreme Court decided that the Prime Minister could not trigger the Brexit process without the authority of an express Act of Parliament. However, unlike the United States and other presidential systems, there is virtually no separation of powers between legislature and executive.  Government ministers are always also members of Parliament (both upper and lower houses).  The government of the day is dependent on maintaining the confidence of the House of Commons – and will normally be drawn from the political party with the largest number of seats in the House of Commons.  The Prime Minister will be the person who is the leader of that party. The governing Conservative Party today holds the largest number of seats in the House of Commons, but does not have an overall majority.  The Conservative Government is reliant on a “confidence and supply” agreement with the Northern Ireland Democratic Unionist Party (“DUP”) to give it a working majority. Maintaining an open land border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland is crucial to maintaining the Good Friday Agreement – which underpins the Irish peace process.  Maintaining an open border between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK is of fundamental importance to the unionist parties in Northern Ireland – not least the DUP.  Thus, the management of the flow of goods and people across the Irish land border, and between Northern Ireland and the UK, have become critical issues in the Brexit debate and negotiations.  The White Paper’s proposed free trade area for goods would avoid friction at the border. Parliament will have a vote on the final Brexit deal, but if the Government loses that vote then it will almost certainly fall and a General Election will follow – more on this below. In addition, if the Prime Minister does not continue to have the support of her party, she would cease to be leader and be replaced.  Providing the Conservative Party continued to maintain its effective majority in the House of Commons, there would not necessarily be a general election on a change in prime minister (as happened when Margaret Thatcher was replaced by John Major in 1990) The position of the UK Government The UK Cabinet had four prominent campaigners for Brexit: David Davis (Secretary for Exiting the EU), Boris Johnson (Foreign Secretary), Michael Gove (Environment and Agriculture Secretary) and Liam Fox (Secretary for International Trade).  David Davis and Boris Johnson have both resigned in protest after the Chequers meeting but, so far, Michael Gove and Liam Fox have stayed in the Cabinet.  To that extent, at least for the moment, the Brexit camp has been split and although the Leave activists are unhappy, they are now weaker and more divided for the reasons described below. The Prime Minister can face a personal vote of confidence if 48 Conservative MPs demand such a vote.  However, she can only be removed if at least 159 of the 316 Conservative MPs then vote against her.  It is currently unlikely that this will happen (although the balance may well change once Brexit has happened – and in the lead up to a general election).  Although more than 48 Conservative MPs would in principle be willing to call a vote of confidence, it is believed that they would not win the subsequent vote to remove her.  If by chance that did happen, then Conservative MPs would select two of their members, who would be put to a vote of Conservative activists.  It is likely that at least one of them would be a strong Leaver, and would win the activists’ vote. The position in Parliament The current view on the maths is as follows: The Conservatives and DUP have 326 MPs out of a total of 650.  It is thought that somewhere between 60 and 80 Conservative MPs might vote against a “Soft Brexit” as currently proposed – and one has to assume it will become softer as negotiations with the EU continue.  The opposition Labour party is equally split.  The Labour leadership of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell are likely to vote against any Brexit deal in order to bring the Government down, irrespective of whether that would lead to the UK crashing out of the EU with no deal.  However it is thought that sufficient opposition MPs would side with the Government in order to vote a “Soft Brexit” through the House of Commons. Once the final position is resolved, whether a “Soft Brexit” or no deal, it is likely that there will be a leadership challenge against Mrs May from within the Conservative Party. The position of the EU So far the EU have been relatively restrained in their public comments, on the basis that they have been waiting to see the detail of the White Paper. The EU has stated on many occasions that the UK cannot “pick and choose” between those parts of the EU Single Market that it likes, and those it does not.  For this reason, the proposals in the White Paper (which do not embrace all of the requirements of the Single Market), are unlikely to be welcomed by the EU.  It is highly likely that the EU will push back on the UK position to some degree, but it is a dangerous game for all sides to risk a “no deal” outcome.  Absent agreement on an extension the UK will leave the EU at 11 pm on 29 March 2019, but any deal will need to be agreed by late autumn 2018 so national parliaments in the EU and UK have time to vote on it. Finally Whatever happens with the EU the further political risk is the possibility that the Conservatives will be punished in any future General Election – allowing the left wing Jeremy Corbyn into power. It is very hard to quantify this risk.  In a recent poll Jeremy Corbyn edged slightly ahead of Theresa May as a preferred Prime Minister, although “Don’t Knows” had a clear majority. This client alert was prepared by London partners Charlie Geffen and Nicholas Aleksander and of counsel Anne MacPherson. We have a working group in London (led by Nicholas Aleksander, Patrick Doris, Charlie Geffen, Ali Nikpay and Selina Sagayam) addressing Brexit related issues.  Please feel free to contact any member of the working group or any of the other lawyers mentioned below. Ali Nikpay – Antitrust ANikpay@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4273 Charlie Geffen – Corporate CGeffen@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4225 Nicholas Aleksander – Tax NAleksander@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4232 Philip Rocher – Litigation PRocher@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4202 Jeffrey M. Trinklein – Tax JTrinklein@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4224 Patrick Doris – Litigation; Data Protection PDoris@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4276 Alan Samson – Real Estate ASamson@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4222 Penny Madden QC – Arbitration PMadden@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4226 Selina Sagayam – Corporate SSagayam@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4263 Thomas M. Budd – Finance TBudd@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4234 James A. Cox – Employment; Data Protection JCox@gibsondunn.com Tel: 020 7071 4250 Gregory A. Campbell – Restructuring GCampbell@gibsondunn.com Tel:  020 7071 4236 © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, 333 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90071 Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

July 9, 2018 |
2018 Mid-Year FCPA Update

Click for PDF The steady clip of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) prosecutions set in 2017 has continued apace into the first half of 2018, largely quieting any questions of enforcement of this important statute under the current Administration.  Although this update captures developments through June 30, the enforcers did not have a reprieve for the July 4th holiday, because they announced two corporate enforcement actions in the first week of the month.  From our perspective, all signs point to business as usual at the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) and Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”), the two regulators charged with enforcing the FCPA. This client update provides an overview of the FCPA as well as domestic and international anti-corruption enforcement, litigation, and policy developments from the first half of 2018. FCPA OVERVIEW The FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions make it illegal to corruptly offer or provide money or anything else of value to officials of foreign governments, foreign political parties, or public international organizations with the intent to obtain or retain business.  These provisions apply to “issuers,” “domestic concerns,” and those acting on behalf of issuers and domestic concerns, as well as to “any person” who acts while in the territory of the United States.  The term “issuer” covers any business entity that is registered under 15 U.S.C. § 78l or that is required to file reports under 15 U.S.C. § 78o(d).  In this context, foreign issuers whose American Depository Receipts (“ADRs”) are listed on a U.S. exchange are “issuers” for purposes of the FCPA.  The term “domestic concern” is even broader and includes any U.S. citizen, national, or resident, as well as any business entity that is organized under the laws of a U.S. state or that has its principal place of business in the United States. In addition to the anti-bribery provisions, the FCPA also has “accounting provisions” that apply to issuers and those acting on their behalf.  First, there is the books-and-records provision, which requires issuers to make and keep accurate books, records, and accounts that, in reasonable detail, accurately and fairly reflect the issuer’s transactions and disposition of assets.  Second, the FCPA’s internal controls provision requires that issuers devise and maintain reasonable internal accounting controls aimed at preventing and detecting FCPA violations.  Prosecutors and regulators frequently invoke these latter two sections when they cannot establish the elements for an anti-bribery prosecution or as a mechanism for compromise in settlement negotiations.  Because there is no requirement that a false record or deficient control be linked to an improper payment, even a payment that does not constitute a violation of the anti-bribery provisions can lead to prosecution under the accounting provisions if inaccurately recorded or attributable to an internal controls deficiency. FCPA ENFORCEMENT STATISTICS The following table and graph detail the number of FCPA enforcement actions initiated by DOJ and the SEC during each of the past 10 years. 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018 (as of 7/06) DOJ SEC DOJ SEC DOJ SEC DOJ SEC DOJ SEC DOJ SEC DOJ SEC DOJ SEC DOJ SEC DOJ SEC 26 14 48 26 23 25 11 12 19 8 17 9 10 10 21 32 29 10 11 6 2018 MID-YEAR FCPA ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS The first half of 2018 saw a diverse mix of FCPA enforcement activity, from relatively modest to very large financial penalties, the first-ever coordinated U.S.-French bribery resolution, and numerous criminal prosecutions of individual defendants, particularly for non-FCPA charges arising out of foreign corruption investigations. Corporate FCPA Enforcement Actions There have been 11 corporate FCPA enforcement actions in 2018 to date. Elbit Imaging Ltd. The year’s first corporate FCPA enforcement action involved an aggressive interpretation of the FCPA’s accounting provisions resulting in a relatively modest financial penalty.  On March 9, 2018, Israeli-based holding company and issuer Elbit Imaging settled an SEC-only cease-and-desist proceeding for alleged FCPA books-and-records and internal controls violations.  According to the SEC’s order, between 2007 and 2012 Elbit and an indirect subsidiary paid $27 million to two consultants and one sales agent in connection with real estate projects in Romania and the United States.  Without making direct allegations, the SEC intimated corruption in the Romanian projects by asserting that the two consultants were engaged without any due diligence to facilitate government approvals and were paid significant sums of money without any evidence of work performed.  In connection with the U.S. project, the SEC again asserted that the sales agent was retained without due diligence and paid significant sums of money without evidence of work performed, but in this case concluded that the majority of those funds were embezzled by Elbit’s then-CEO. Without admitting or denying the allegations, Elbit consented to the cease-and-desist proceeding and agreed to pay a $500,000 civil penalty.  The SEC acknowledged Elbit’s self-reporting to U.S. and Romanian authorities, as well as the fact that Elbit is in the process of winding down its operations as factors in setting the modest penalty and lack of any post-resolution monitoring or reporting obligations.  This resolution marks the lowest monetary assessment in a corporate FCPA enforcement action since June 2016 (Nortek, Inc., covered in our 2016 Mid-Year FCPA Update, in which the company paid just more than $320,000 in disgorgement and prejudgment interest). Transport Logistics International, Inc. The first criminal corporate FCPA resolution of 2018 stems from an investigation that we have been following for several years.  On March 12, 2018, Maryland transportation company Transport Logistics International (“TLI”) reached a deferred prosecution agreement with DOJ arising from an alleged scheme to make more than $1.7 million in corrupt payments to an official of JSC Techsnabexport (“TENEX”)—a Russian state-owned supplier of uranium and uranium enrichment services—in return for directing sole-source uranium transportation contracts to the company.  We first reported on this in our 2015 Year-End FCPA Update in connection with guilty pleas by former TLI Co-President Daren Condrey, wife Carol Condrey, TENEX official Vadim Mikerin, and businessman Boris Rubizhevsky.  Rounding out the charges, on January 10, 2018 the other former TLI Co-President Mark Lambert was indicted on 11 counts of FCPA, wire fraud, and money laundering charges. To resolve the charges of conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, TLI entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to pay a $2 million criminal penalty, as well as self-report to DOJ on the state of its compliance program over the three-year term of the agreement.  Notably, the $2 million penalty represents a significant departure from the DOJ-calculated fine of $21.4 million, based upon an inability-to-pay analysis by an independent accounting firm hired by DOJ that confirmed TLI’s representation that a penalty greater than $2 million would jeopardize the continued viability of the company.  After a significant colloquy with government and company counsel concerning whether DOJ was being unduly lenient in deferring prosecution, the Honorable Theodore Chuang of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland approved of the resolution.  Trial in the case against remaining defendant Lambert is currently set for April 2019. Kinross Gold Corporation On March 26, 2018, the SEC announced a settled cease-and-desist order against Canadian gold mining company Kinross Gold for alleged violations of the FCPA’s accounting provisions.  According to the charging document, in 2010, Kinross acquired two subsidiaries that operated mines in Mauritania and Ghana but, despite due diligence identifying a lack of anti-corruption compliance controls, was slow to implement such controls.  Kinross further allegedly failed to respond to multiple internal audits flagging the inadequate controls, and payments continued to be made to vendors and consultants, often in connection with government interactions, without appropriate efforts to ensure that the funds were not used for improper payments.  Notably, however, the SEC did not allege any specific corrupt payments made by or on behalf of Kinross. Without admitting or denying the allegations, Kinross agreed to pay a $950,000 penalty to resolve the charges.  The SEC’s order does not allege that the company realized profits tied to the misconduct and therefore did not order disgorgement.  The SEC acknowledged Kinross’s remedial efforts, which the company will continue to self-report to the SEC on for one year.  Kinross has stated that DOJ has closed its investigation without taking any enforcement action. The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation On April 23, 2018, the business intelligence company Dun & Bradstreet agreed to settle FCPA accounting charges arising from allegations of improper payments to acquire confidential data in China.  According to the SEC, between 2006 and 2012 two Chinese subsidiaries made payments to Chinese officials and third parties to obtain non-public information that was not subject to lawful disclosure under Chinese law.  One of the subsidiaries and several of its officers were prosecuted and convicted in China for the unlawful procurement of this data. Without admitting or denying the allegations, Dun & Bradstreet consented to the entry of a cease-and-desist order and agreed to disgorge $6.08 million of profits, plus $1.14 million in prejudgment interest, and pay a $2 million civil penalty.  The SEC’s order did not impose ongoing reporting requirements on Dun & Bradstreet and credited the company’s self-disclosure, which occurred after local police conducted a raid at one of the subsidiaries.  Among other remedial actions, Dun & Bradstreet shuttered one of the subsidiaries.  Citing the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy, DOJ issued a public letter declining to prosecute Dun & Bradstreet in light of the SEC resolution and other factors. Panasonic Corporation On April 30, 2018, the SEC and DOJ announced the first joint FCPA resolution of 2018, with Japanese electronics company Panasonic and its California-based subsidiary Panasonic Avionics Corporation (“PAC”), respectively.  PAC designs and distributes in-flight entertainment systems and communications services to airlines worldwide.  According to the charging documents, PAC agreed to provide a post-retirement consultancy position to an official at a state-owned airline as PAC was negotiating agreements with the state-owned airline worth more than $700 million.  PAC allegedly paid the official $875,000 for little to no work.  Separately, PAC also allegedly failed to follow its own third-party due diligence protocols in Asia, including by concealing the retention of agents who did not pass screening by employing them as sub-agents to a single qualified agent. To resolve a one-count criminal information charging PAC with causing the falsification of Panasonic’s books and records, PAC entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with DOJ and agreed to pay a $137.4 million criminal fine, a 20% discount from the bottom of the applicable Guidelines range based on the company’s cooperation but failure to voluntarily disclose.  To resolve civil FCPA anti-bribery and accounting violations, as well as allegations that it fraudulently overstated its income in a separate revenue recognition scheme, Panasonic consented to an SEC cease-and-desist order and agreed to pay $143.2 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest.  Together, the parent and subsidiary agreed to pay combined criminal and regulatory penalties of more than $280 million. In addition to the monetary penalties, PAC agreed to engage an independent compliance monitor for a period of two years to be followed by one year of self-reporting.  In addition to traditional monitor requirements, such as demonstrated FCPA expertise, the deferred prosecution agreement includes an additional proviso to the list of qualifications for monitor selection—diversity—stating that “[m]onitor selections shall be made in keeping with the Department’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.” Société Générale S.A. /Legg Mason, Inc. Closing out the first half of 2018 corporate enforcement in a big way, on June 4, 2018 DOJ announced two separate but related FCPA enforcement actions with French financial services company Société Générale (“SocGen”) and Maryland-based investment management firm Legg Mason, Inc.  Both resolutions stem from SocGen’s payment of more than $90 million to a Libyan intermediary, while allegedly knowing that the intermediary was using a portion of those payments to bribe Libyan government officials in connection with $3.66 billion in investments placed by Libyan state-owned banks with SocGen.  A number of those investments were managed by a subsidiary of Legg Mason. To settle the criminal FCPA bribery and conspiracy charges, SocGen entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and had a subsidiary plead guilty.  SocGen also simultaneously resolved unrelated criminal fraud charges of rigging LIBOR rates.  Further, in the first U.S.-French coordinated resolution in a foreign bribery case, SocGen also reached a parallel resolution with the Parquet National Financier (“PNF”) in Paris.  After netting out offsets between the bribery resolutions, SocGen agreed to pay $292.78 million to DOJ and $292.78 million to French authorities, in addition to $275 million to resolve DOJ’s LIBOR-related allegations.  Adding $475 million paid to the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission in the LIBOR case, the total price tag well exceeds $1.3 billion. Legg Mason had a somewhat lesser role in the alleged corruption scheme, reflected in the fact that it was permitted to enter into a non-prosecution agreement with DOJ with a $64.2 million price tag.  Nearly half of the DOJ resolution amount is subject to a potential credit “against disgorgement paid to other law enforcement authorities within the first year of the [non-prosecution] agreement,” a seeming anticipatory nod to a forthcoming FCPA resolution with the SEC. Both companies will self-report to DOJ over the course of the three-year term of their respective agreements.  Neither was required to retain a compliance monitor, although the principal reasoning for lack of monitor in the SocGen case appears to be that the bank will be subject to ongoing monitoring by France’s L’Agence Française Anticorruption. Beam Suntory Inc. Trailing into the second half of 2018, on July 2, 2018 the SEC announced an FCPA resolution with Chicago-based spirits producer Beam Suntory relating to allegations of improper payments to government officials in India.  According to the SEC, from 2006 through 2012 senior executives at Beam India directed efforts by third parties to make improper payments to increase sales, process license and label registrations, obtain better positioning on store shelves, and facilitate distribution.  The allegations include an interesting cameo by the SEC’s 2011 FCPA resolution with Beam competitor Diageo plc (covered in our 2011 Year-End FCPA Update).  The SEC alleged that after the Diageo enforcement action was announced, Beam sent an in-house lawyer to India to investigate whether similar conduct was occurring at Beam India and to implement additional FCPA training.  This review led to a series of investigations culminating in a voluntary disclosure to the SEC. Without admitting or denying the allegations, Beam consented to the entry of a cease-and-desist order to resolve FCPA accounting provision charges and agreed to disgorge $5.26 million of profits, plus $917,498 in prejudgment interest, and pay a $2 million civil penalty.  The SEC’s order did not impose ongoing reporting requirements on Beam and acknowledged the company’s voluntary self-disclosure, cooperation with the SEC’s investigation, and the remedial actions taken by the company, including ceasing operations at Beam India until Beam was satisfied it could operate in a compliant manner.  Beam has announced that it is continuing to cooperate in a DOJ investigation. Credit Suisse Group AG Further trailing into the second half of 2018, on July 5 DOJ and the SEC announced the second joint FCPA resolution of 2018 with Swiss-based financial services provider and issuer Credit Suisse.  According to the charging documents, between 2007 and 2013 Credit Suisse’s Hong Kong subsidiary hired more than 100 employees at the request of Chinese government officials.  These so-called “relationship hires” were allegedly made to encourage the referring officials to direct business to Credit Suisse and despite the fact that, in many cases, these applicants did not possess the technical skills and qualifications of those not referred by foreign officials. To resolve the criminal investigation, Credit Suisse’s Hong Kong subsidiary entered into a non-prosecution agreement and agreed to pay a criminal penalty of just over $47 million.  Notably, Credit Suisse received only a 15% discount from the bottom of the Guidelines range (rather than the maximum 25% available under the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy for non-voluntary disclosures) because its cooperation was, allegedly, “reactive and not proactive” and “because it failed to sufficiently discipline employees who were involved in the misconduct.”  Credit Suisse will self-report on the status of its compliance program over the three-year term of the agreement. To resolve the SEC investigation, the parent company consented to a cease-and-desist proceeding alleging violations of the FCPA’s anti-bribery and internal controls provisions and agreed to pay nearly $25 million in disgorgement plus more than $4.8 million in prejudgment interest.  This brings the total monetary resolution to nearly $77 million. Prior examples of so-called “princeling” FCPA resolutions include JPMorgan Chase & Co. (covered in our 2016 Year-End FCPA Update), Qualcomm, Inc. (covered in our 2016 Mid-Year FCPA Update), and Bank of New York Mellon Corp. (covered in our 2015 Year-End FCPA Update). Individual FCPA and FCPA-Related Enforcement Actions The number of FCPA prosecutions of individual defendants during the first half of 2018 was a relatively modest half dozen, including the indictment of former TLI Co-President Mark Lambert discussed above.  But that number masks the true extent of FCPA-related enforcement as DOJ brought twice that many prosecutions in money laundering and wire fraud actions arising out of FCPA investigations.  In large part, these non-FCPA charges are a result of DOJ pursuing the foreign official recipients of bribe payments, who cannot be charged under the FCPA but can be charged with criminal offenses (including money laundering) associated with the receipt of those bribes. FCPA-Related Charges in Och-Ziff Case In our 2017 Mid-Year FCPA Update, we covered civil FCPA charges filed by the SEC against former Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC executive Michael L. Cohen.  On January 3, 2018, a criminal indictment was unsealed charging Cohen with 10 counts of investment adviser fraud, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, false statements, and conspiracy.  According to the indictment, Cohen violated his fiduciary duties to a charitable foundation client by failing to disclose his personal interest in investments he promoted relating to an African mining operation and then engaged in obstructive acts to cover up the transaction after the SEC began investigating. Cohen has pleaded not guilty to all charges.  No trial date has been set. Additional FCPA and FCPA-Related Charges in PDVSA Case We have been reporting on DOJ’s investigation of a corrupt pay-to-play scheme involving Venezuela’s state-owned energy company, Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (“PDVSA”), since our 2015 Year-End FCPA Update.  On February 12, 2018, DOJ unsealed and announced charges against five new defendants for their alleged participation in the scheme:  Luis Carolos De Leon Perez, Nervis Gerardo Villalobos Cardenas, Cesar David Rincon Godoy, Rafael Ernesto Reiter Munoz, and Alejandro Isturiz Chiesa.  All five defendants are charged with money laundering; De Leon and Villalobos are additionally charged with FCPA conspiracy. According to the indictment, in 2011 PDVSA found itself in significant financial distress relating to the sharp reduction in global oil prices.  Knowing that the agency would be unable to pay all of its vendors, the five defendants (the three non-FCPA defendants with PDVSA and the two FCPA defendants as brokers) concocted a scheme to solicit PDVSA vendors to obtain preferential treatment in payment only if they agreed to kickback 10% of the payments to the defendants. Four of the five defendants were arrested in Spain in October 2017, whereas Isturiz remains at large.  Cesar Rincon was extradited from Spain in early February and, on April 19, 2018, pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering conspiracy and was ordered to forfeit $7 million, pending a summer sentencing date.  De Leon, a U.S. citizen, has been extradited to the United States and has pleaded not guilty, although pre-trial filings suggest that a plea agreement may be in the works.  Villalobos and Reiter remain in Spanish custody pending extradition proceedings. These charges bring to 15 the number of defendants charged (publicly) in the wide-ranging PDVSA corruption investigation.  With Cesar Rincon, 11 of the 15 have now pleaded guilty. Additional FCPA Charges in U.N. Bribery Case We have been reporting on FCPA and non-FCPA charges associated with a scheme to bribe U.N. ambassadors to influence, among other things, the development of a U.N.-sponsored conference center in Macau, since our 2015 Year-End FCPA Update.  On April 4, 2018, Julia Vivi Wang, a former media executive who promoted U.N. development goals, pleaded guilty to three counts of FCPA bribery, conspiracy, and tax evasion in connection with her role in the scheme.  Wang was originally charged in March 2016, but a superseding charging document was filed in 2018.  Wang’s sentencing has been set for September 5, 2018. Additional FCPA and FCPA-Related Charges in Petroecuador Case In our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update, we reported on the money laundering indictment of Marcelo Reyes Lopez, a former executive of Ecuadorian state-owned oil company Petroecuador.  Lopez pleaded guilty on April 11, 2018 to money laundering conspiracy in connection with his alleged receipt of bribes. On March 28, 2018, another former Petroecuador executive, Arturo Escobar Dominguez, likewise pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.  Then, on April 19, 2018, a grand jury in the Southern District of Florida returned an indictment charging two additional defendants:  Frank Roberto Chatburn Ripalda and Jose Larrea.  Chatburn is charged with FCPA bribery, money laundering, and conspiracy in connection with his alleged payment of $3.27 million in bribes to Petroecuador officials to obtain $27.8 million in contracts for his company.  Larrea is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with the scheme.  Chatburn has yet to be arraigned, and Larrea has pleaded not guilty with a current trial date of August 2018. New FCPA and FCPA-Related Charges in Setar Case In April 2018, charges against a former Florida telecommunications company executive, Lawrence W. Parker, Jr., and a former official of the Aruban state-owned telecommunications company Servicio di Telecomunicacion di Aruba N.V. (“Setar”), Egbert Yvan Ferdinand Koolman, were unsealed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida.  According to the charging documents, Koolman accepted $1.3 million in bribes from Parker and others, for several years, in exchange for providing confidential information concerning Setar business opportunities.  Parker was charged with one count of FCPA conspiracy and Koolman with one count of money laundering conspiracy. Both Parker and Koolman have pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to 35 and 36 months in prison, in addition to $700,000 and $1.3 million in restitution, respectively. New FCPA-Related Charge in HISS Case In our 2015 Mid-Year FCPA Update, we covered DOJ’s civil action to forfeit nine New Orleans properties—worth approximately $1.5 million—filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana.  On April 27, 2018, a grand jury sitting in the same district returned an indictment criminally charging Carlos Alberto Zelaya Rojas, the nominal owner of those properties, with 12 counts of money laundering and other offenses associated with the impediment of the civil forfeiture proceedings.  According to the indictment, Zelaya is the brother of the former Executive Director of the Honduran Institute of Social Security (“HISS”).  The brother, who according to press reports was criminally charged in Honduras, allegedly received millions of dollars in bribes from two Honduran businessmen.  Zelaya then assisted with the laundering of at least $1.3 million of those bribe payments, including through the purchase of the nine properties. On June 27, 2018, Zelaya pleaded guilty to a single count of money laundering conspiracy and has been detained pending an October sentencing date.  As part of this plea, Zelaya consented to the forfeiture of the nine properties. Additional FCPA-Related Charges in Rolls-Royce Case In our 2017 Mid-Year FCPA Update, we covered the multi-jurisdictional resolution of criminal bribery charges against UK engineering company Rolls-Royce.  The corporate charges were then supplemented by FCPA and FCPA-related charges against five individual defendants as reported in our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update.  On May 24, 2018, DOJ announced a superseding indictment that charged two new defendants—Vitaly Leshkov and Azat Martirossian—with money laundering charges associated with the Rolls-Royce bribery scheme. According to the indictment, Leshkov and Martirossian were employees of a technical advisor to a state-owned joint venture between the governments of China and Kazakhstan, formed to transport natural gas between the two nations.  In this capacity, they allegedly “had the ability to exert influence over decisions” by the state-owned joint venture and accordingly qualified as foreign officials even though they had no official government positions.  They then participated in a scheme to solicit bribes on behalf of employees of the state-owned joint venture from employees of Rolls-Royce. Neither Martirossian nor Leshkov have made a physical appearance in U.S. court to answer the charges.  Nevertheless, Martirossian already has moved to dismiss the indictment as described immediately below. 2018 MID-YEAR CHECK-IN ON FCPA ENFORCEMENT LITIGATION Martirossian Motion to Dismiss As just described, Azat Martirossian was indicted on May 24, 2018 on money laundering charges associated with the alleged Rolls-Royce bribery scheme in China and Kazakhstan.  Although Martirossian reportedly remains in China and has yet to make a physical appearance in U.S. court, he very quickly filed a motion to dismiss the indictment on the grounds that it insufficiently alleges a U.S. nexus.  The motion also contests the “aggressive theory” that Martirossian qualifies as a “foreign official” under the FCPA based on his work as a technical advisor to a state-owned entity. DOJ’s initial response briefly contests Martirossian’s arguments on the merits, but focuses more on DOJ’s contention that the motion should be held in abeyance until Martirossian submits himself to the jurisdiction of the Court pursuant to the fugitive disentitlement doctrine.  The motion remains pending before Chief Judge Edmund A. Sargus of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. Ho Motion to Dismiss We reported in our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update on the December 2017 indictment of Chi Ping Patrick Ho, the head of a Chinese non-governmental organization that holds “special consultative status” at the United Nations, on FCPA and money laundering charges associated with his alleged role in corruption schemes involving Chad and Uganda.  After pleading not guilty earlier this year, on April 16 Ho filed a motion to dismiss certain of the counts.  Ho argues, among other things, that the indictment inconsistently charges him with violating both 15 U.S.C. § 78dd-2, which applies to “domestic concerns,” and § 78dd-3, which applies to persons who act within U.S. territory in furtherance of a bribe.  Ho additionally contends that the money laundering charges fail because they cannot be based on wires sent from one foreign jurisdiction to another foreign jurisdiction—here Hong Kong to Dubai and Uganda—with no U.S. nexus other than the fact that they passed through a New York bank account.  DOJ, as one would expect, opposed the motion, which remains pending before the Honorable Loretta A. Preska of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  Denial of Ng Seng’s Motion for New Trial / Sentencing We covered in our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update the conviction after trial of Macau billionaire Ng Lap Seng on FCPA, federal programs bribery, and money laundering charges associated with his role in a scheme to pay more than $1 million in bribes to two U.N. officials in connection with, among other things, a plan to build a U.N.-sponsored conference center in Macau.  Seng subsequently filed a Rule 33 motion for a new trial, arguing that DOJ introduced a new theory of liability at trial, constituting an amendment of or prejudicial variance from the indictment, as well as that the Government’s key witness, cooperating defendant Francis Lorenzo, committed perjury at trial, which DOJ failed adequately to investigate and correct. On May 9, 2018, the Honorable Vernon S. Broderick of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York denied the motion.  In a lengthy opinion, steeped in the facts of the four-week trial, the Court found that there was no constructive amendment of or prejudicial variance from the superseding indictment based on the evidence adduced at trial, and further that Seng failed to meet his burden of establishing perjury by Lorenzo, and that even if there had been perjury it was not material to the jury’s verdict. Judge Broderick subsequently sentenced Seng to 48 months in prison and ordered approximately $1.8 million in forfeiture and restitution.  Seng has appealed to the Second Circuit, which in an early ruling denied Seng’s motion for bail pending appeal but ordered his appeal to be expedited. In the same case, on February 28, 2018, Judge Broderick sentenced Seng’s co-defendant and former assistant, Jeff Yin, to 7 months in prison and nearly $62,000 in restitution for his tax evasion conviction. Motion to Intervene in Och-Ziff Sentencing Proceedings As reported in our 2016 Year-End FCPA Update, New York-based hedge fund Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC, together with its investment advisor subsidiary, reached a coordinated FCPA resolution with DOJ and the SEC in September 2016, pursuant to which the entities agreed to pay just over $412 million in total.  After several adjournments of the sentencing hearing, on February 20, 2018 a self-styled victim of Och-Ziff’s alleged corruption, Africo Resources Limited, filed a letter with the Court asserting that it is entitled to a share of the proceeds collected by DOJ pursuant to the Mandatory Victim Restitution Act.  Och-Ziff, represented by Gibson Dunn, has filed a submission disputing Africo Resources’ claims.  The Honorable Nicholas G. Garaufis of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York has yet to rule. SEC Proceedings Against Och-Ziff Defendants Stayed As reported in our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update, former Och-Ziff executive Michael Cohen and analyst Vanja Baros filed motions to dismiss the civil FCPA proceedings brought against them by the SEC.  After those motions were fully briefed and argued, but pending ruling, DOJ unsealed an indictment that charged Cohen criminally as discussed above. On February 9, 2018, DOJ filed a motion to intervene and stay the SEC civil suit on the grounds that the facts of the civil cases overlap substantially with the criminal case, even though the indictment does not allege FCPA violations.  Cohen and Baros did not object to a stay of the SEC case, but requested that the Court rule on their pending motions to dismiss first.  On May 11, 2018, the Honorable Nicholas G. Garaufis granted DOJ’s motion to stay discovery in the SEC’s case, but denied the request to stay ruling on the motions to dismiss.  A decision on those motions remains pending. Khoury’s Motion to Unseal Indictment We reported in our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update on the unorthodox motion filed by Samir Khoury to unseal an indictment against him that may or may not exist.  Khoury, a former consultant named in prior FCPA corporate resolutions as “LNG Consultant,” contends that it is likely that there is an indictment pending against him under seal since approximately 2009, waiting for him to travel to the United States or another country with an extradition treaty.  Khoury asserts that the indictment should be unsealed and then dismissed given the prejudicial effect of the passage of time. Oral argument on the motion was heard before the Honorable Keith P. Ellison of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas on March 22, 2018.  At the hearing, Khoury’s counsel presented argument that 12 potential defense witnesses have died since 2009, and that Khoury has been unable to open bank accounts in his native Lebanon and has lost business opportunities because of his perceived affiliation with the Bonny Island scheme.  In response, attorneys for DOJ refused to acknowledge whether Khoury had or had not been indicted, but indicated that if an indictment did exist it could hold the indictment under seal indefinitely. On June 11, 2018, Judge Ellison issued a Memorandum Opinion and Order.  He first pushed aside DOJ’s “issue preclusion” arguments that decisions from several years prior resolve this matter, holding that the three years that has passed since that litigation represent a changed circumstance warranting another look.  Similarly, the Court rejected DOJ’s “fugitive disentitlement” argument, holding that Khoury is not a fugitive because he did not abscond from the United States but rather has at all relevant times been living in his native Lebanon.  Judge Ellison gave DOJ 20 days to submit to the Court, in camera, any evidence it “wishes to adduce in opposition to Mr. Khoury’s Motion to Unseal.” DOJ filed a sealed pleading on July 2, 2018.  The next day, Khoury filed a motion to unseal any portion of that pleading that was beyond the contours of what the Court permitted.  This motion, as well as the underlying motion to unseal and dismiss, remain pending. Guilty Plea in Vietnamese Skyscraper Case In our 2017 Mid-Year FCPA Update, we reported on the indictment of New Jersey real estate broker Joo Hyun Bahn in connection with a feigned plot to bribe an official of the sovereign wealth fund of a Middle Eastern country (subsequently identified as Qatar) to induce the official to cause the fund to purchase a skyscraper in Hanoi.  The alleged agent of the sovereign wealth fund subsequently admitted that the bribery plot was a sham and that he pocketed the bribe payment. On January 5, 2018, Bahn pleaded guilty to one count of FCPA conspiracy and one count of violating the FCPA in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.  His sentencing is scheduled for September 6, 2018 before the Honorable Edgardo Ramos. Guilty Plea in Siemens Case As reported in our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update, former Siemens executive Eberhard Reichert was extradited to the United States, following his arrest in Croatia, to face a December 2011 indictment charging him and seven others in relation to their alleged roles in a scheme to bribe Argentine officials in connection with a $1 billion contract to create national identity cards. On March 15, 2018, Reichert pleaded guilty in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York to one count of conspiring to violate the anti-bribery, internal controls, and books-and-records provisions of the FCPA and to commit wire fraud.  Reichert awaits a sentencing date before the Honorable Denise L. Cote. 2018 MID-YEAR FCPA-RELATED DEVELOPMENTS In addition to the enforcement activity covered above, the first six months of 2018 saw DOJ issue important guidance on how it will administer criminal enforcement, as well as a Supreme Court decision with significant ramifications for FCPA whistleblowers. DOJ Announces “Piling On” Policy On May 9, 2018, Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein introduced a new DOJ “Policy on Coordination of Corporate Resolution Penalties.”  Announcing the policy at a New York City Bar event, Rosenstein said that it attempts to discourage “piling on” by different enforcement authorities punishing the same company for the same conduct. Incorporated in Sections 1-12.100 and 9-28.1200 of the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, the new policy directs federal prosecutors to “consider the totality of fines, penalties, and/or forfeiture imposed by all Department components as well as other law enforcement agencies and regulators in an effort to achieve an equitable result.”  The policy has four key components: First, prosecutors may not use the specter of criminal prosecution as leverage in negotiating a civil settlement; Second, if multiple DOJ components are investigating the same company for the same conduct, they should coordinate to avoid duplicative penalties; Third, DOJ should coordinate with and consider fines, penalties, and/or forfeiture paid to other federal, state, local, or foreign enforcement authorities investigating the same company for the same conduct; and Fourth, the policy sets forth factors DOJ should consider in determining whether multiple penalties are appropriate, including the egregiousness of wrongdoing, statutory requirements, the risk of delay in achieving resolution, and the adequacy and timeliness of a company’s disclosures to and cooperation with DOJ. In our view, the policy largely reflects pre-existing DOJ practice in the FCPA arena, where DOJ routinely coordinates resolutions with the SEC and, increasingly, participates in cross-border resolutions by, among other things, crediting a company’s payments to foreign enforcement authorities in calculating the U.S. criminal fine.  We covered this latter phenomenon in our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update. Supreme Court Decision Resolves Dispute Over Who is a “Whistleblower” On February 21, 2018, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held in Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Somers that the anti-retaliation provision of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act covers only those who report an alleged violation of the federal securities laws to the SEC.  The Court’s decision reversed a Ninth Circuit ruling that Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliation provision also covers employees who report such issues internally without reporting them to the SEC.  Although the statutory definition of a “whistleblower” as “any individual who provides . . . information relating to a violation of the securities laws to the [SEC], in a manner established . . . by the [SEC],” appeared to be clear to all nine justices, this issue had sharply divided the lower courts in recent years. The holding in Digital Realty has been interpreted by some as a harbinger of future potential whistleblowers bypassing internal reporting channels and going directly to the SEC to ensure they are protected.  Although we agree that the Court’s decision could affect the decision-making calculus of a would-be whistleblower, studies routinely show that the vast majority of employees report their concerns internally first, and that they report externally only after they feel their concerns have not been adequately addressed.  We are not certain that this phenomenon will change, at least dramatically, and we thus advise our clients and friends that it is more important now than ever for companies to scrutinize their internal policies and procedures to ensure that they encourage internal reporting, protect those who do, and robustly investigate the concerns expressed.  For more on the Supreme Court’s decision, please see our Client Alert, “Supreme Court Says Whistleblowers Must Report to the SEC Before Suing for Retaliation Under Dodd-Frank.” 2018 MID-YEAR KLEPTOCRACY FORFEITURE ACTIONS We continue to follow DOJ’s Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, spearheaded by DOJ’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section.  The initiative uses civil forfeiture actions to freeze, recover, and, in some cases, repatriate the proceeds of foreign corruption.  The first half of 2018 saw continued coordination between attorneys from MLARs and DOJ’s FCPA Unit, as they have been frequently appearing in one another’s enforcement actions, working hand-in-glove across section lines.  As stated by then-Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General (now Gibson Dunn partner) M. Kendall Day in his February 6, 2018 testimony before the Senate Committee on the Judiciary, “One of the most effective ways to deter criminals . . . is to follow the criminals’ money, expose their activity and prevent their networks from benefitting from the enormous power of [the U.S.] economy and financial system.” In our 2016 and 2017 Year-End FCPA Updates, we reported on DOJ’s massive civil forfeiture action seeking to recover more than $1 billion in assets associated with Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (“1MDB”).  In February 2018, a 300-foot superyacht allegedly bought with money stolen from 1MDB was impounded on behalf of U.S. authorities off the coast of Bali.  DOJ seeks to bring the yacht to the United States where it can be taken into U.S. government custody and sold.  In March, Hollywood production company Red Granite Pictures (the company that produced The Wolf of Wall Street) agreed to pay $60 million to resolve a civil lawsuit stemming from the DOJ’s investigation.  Red Granite was co-founded by the stepson of the Malaysian prime minister, and DOJ alleged that three of Red Granite’s productions were funded with money stolen from 1MDB. 2018 MID-YEAR FCPA-RELATED PRIVATE CIVIL LITIGATION We continue to observe that although the FCPA does not provide for a private right of action, various causes of action are employed by civil litigants in connection with losses allegedly associated with FCPA-related conduct.  A selection of matters with developments in the first half of 2018 follows. Shareholder Lawsuits Centrais Electricas Brasileiras S.A. (“Eletrobras”):  On May 2, 2018, Eletrobras entered into a $14.75 million settlement agreement with shareholders to resolve claims that the government-controlled utility made misrepresentations in its public filings regarding the company’s financials and internal controls in connection with a bid-rigging scheme for service and engineering contracts.  In a press release, Eletrobras stated that it made no admission of wrongdoing or misconduct, but entered into the agreement for the best interests of its shareholders.  A hearing on the proposed settlement is scheduled before the Honorable John G. Koeltl of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York on July 17, 2018. Cobalt International Energy, Inc.:  On April 5, 2018, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of Texas approved a Chapter 11 plan by Cobalt on the heels of a consolidated class action against the exploration and production company for material misrepresentations regarding an alleged bribery scheme involving Angolan officials and the true potential of the company’s Angolan wells.  In June 2017, the Honorable Nancy F. Atlas certified a class of investors who purchased the company’s securities between March 2011 and November 2014.  In February 2018, the plaintiffs voluntarily dismissed the class action without prejudice because of the bankruptcy proceedings. Embraer S.A.:  On March 30, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York dismissed a class action lawsuit against Brazilian-based aircraft manufacturer Embraer, which had contended that Embraer made false statements in its securities filings pertinent to its 2016 FCPA resolution.  In dismissing the suit, the Honorable Richard M. Berman explained that a company’s filings need not constitute a wholesale “confession” and that companies “do not have a duty to disclose uncharged, unadjudicated wrongdoing.”  The Court found that Embraer properly disclosed that it might have to pay fines or incur sanctions as a result of the investigation, that the company’s financial statements were accurate, and that because Embraer’s code of ethics was “inherently aspirational,” an undisclosed breach of the code was not actionable under the securities laws. Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. – Petrobras:  On June 4, 2018, the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York held a final settlement hearing for a securities class action brought against Brazil’s state oil company Petrobras.  As previously reported in our 2017 Mid-Year FCPA Update, the class action plaintiffs—purchasers of Petrobras securities in the United States—alleged that Petrobras made materially false and misleading statements about its earnings and assets as part of a far-reaching money laundering and bribery scheme in Brazil.  The settlement, which does not involve any admission of wrongdoing or misconduct by Petrobras and, in fact, includes an express denial of liability, resolves these claims for a total of $2.95 billion paid by Petrobras plus an additional $50 million paid by its external auditor, PricewaterhouseCoopers Auditores Independentes (“PwC Brazil”).  In a series of opinions and orders from June 25 to July 2, 2018, the Honorable Jed S. Rakoff approved of the settlement, but reduced counsel fees for the plaintiffs by nearly $100 million, to just over $200 million total. Civil Fraud / RICO Actions Bermuda As reported in our 2017 Mid-Year FCPA Update, the Government of Bermuda filed a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (“RICO”) lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts against Lahey Clinic, Inc., alleging that, for nearly two decades, the defendants conspired with Dr. Ewart Brown—the former Premier of Bermuda, a member of Bermuda’s Parliament, and the owner of two private health clinics in Bermuda—to receive preferential treatment.  On March 8, 2018, the Honorable Indira Talwani granted Lahey’s motion to dismiss, finding the Government of Bermuda had failed to demonstrate that it had suffered an injury to its U.S.-held business or property as a result of the alleged schemes. EIG Global Energy Partners Litigation In our 2017 Mid-Year FCPA Update we covered the civil fraud lawsuit against Petrobras filed by various investment funds, including EIG Global Energy Partners, alleging the funds lost their investment in an offshore drilling project known as “Sete” as a result of the Operation Car Wash scandal.  On March 30, 2017, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia largely denied Petrobras’s motion to dismiss, finding in relevant part that Petrobras was not immune from civil lawsuit under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (“FSIA”) because the suit concerned Petrobras’s commercial activities having a “direct effect” in the United States.  Petrobras took an interlocutory appeal of the FSIA ruling. On July 3, 2018, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit affirmed the judgment of the district court in a 2-1 decision authored by the Honorable Karen L. Henderson.  “Although a foreign state is presumptively immune from the jurisdiction of United States courts,” the Court held that the “direct-effect” exception to the FSIA applied on the facts as alleged by EIG in its complaint, while at the same time acknowledging that other “third-party lenders might have also injured EIG” and that the “locus” of the tort was foreign.  The Honorable David B. Sentelle filed a dissenting opinion in which he concluded that the requisite “direct effect” on U.S. commerce had not been established sufficiently to divest Petrobras of its presumptive right to immunity from suit in the U.S. courts. This is not the only RICO litigation initiated by EIG arising out of its failed Brazilian investment.  As summarized in our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update, in December 2017 Keppel Offshore & Marine Ltd. paid more than $422 million in penalties for its alleged bribery scheme with Brazilian government officials, including officials at Petrobras.  On February 6, 2018, EIG funds that had invested with Keppel filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York seeking more than $660 million in damages for alleged RICO violations.  Plaintiffs allege that Keppel did not disclose its scheme to bribe Brazilian officials to secure contracts for the Sete project, and, after being discovered, the bribery scheme effectively wiped out EIG’s $221 million investment.  EIG has since amended its complaint to add additional predicate acts, and a briefing schedule for the motion to dismiss has been issued by the Honorable Paul G. Gardephe. Harvest Natural Resources On February 16, 2018, a recently-defunct Texas-based energy company, Harvest Natural Resources, Inc., filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas against various individuals and entities affiliated with the Venezuelan government and Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA.  The complaint alleges that, because Harvest refused to pay four separate bribes to Venezuelan officials in the pay-to-play scheme resulting in criminal prosecutions as described above, the Venezuelan government wrongfully refused to approve the sale of Harvest’s energy assets, forcing Harvest to sell the assets to a different buyer at a loss of approximately $470 million.  The complaint further alleges that by requiring bribes to approve sales, Venezuela tainted the market and made it impossible for law-abiding companies to conduct business within the country.  The complaint claims that the defendants violated both the RICO and antitrust laws. On April 30, 2018, the defendants moved to dismiss the suit for failure to state a claim.  On May 11, 2018 Chief Judge Lee H. Rosenthal granted Harvest’s motion for jurisdictional discovery to test defendants’ jurisdictional ties and contacts. Setar On March 3, 2017, Setar, N.V., filed a civil suit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida against several individuals and entities, including Lawrence W. Parker, Jr. and former Setar official Egbert Yvan Ferdinand Koolman, who as discussed above pleaded guilty to one count of FCPA conspiracy and one count of money laundering conspiracy, respectively.  In relevant part, an amended complaint filed in February 2018 alleges that Koolman orchestrated a years-long scheme to steal more than $15 million from Setar through kickbacks and other improper means.  According to Setar’s amended complaint, when the Panama Papers (covered in our 2016 Mid-Year FCPA Update) became public and linked Koolman to a British Virgin Islands company, this led to an internal investigation that resulted in Koolman’s termination and the identification of the scheme.  Various motions to dismiss have been filed, and the proceedings are ongoing. FCPA-Related FOIA Litigation 100Reporters LLC We have been covering for several years the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) lawsuit filed by media organization 100Reporters against DOJ in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.  100Reporters sought records relating to DOJ’s 2008 FCPA resolution with Siemens AG and the monitorship reports prepared by Dr. Theo Waigel and his U.S. counsel, F. Joseph Warin of Gibson Dunn. As discussed in our 2017 Mid-Year FCPA Update, on March 31, 2017, the Honorable Rudolph Contreras granted defendants’ motions for summary judgment, in part, and denied in its entirety 100Reporters’ cross-motion for summary judgment.  The Court accepted Gibson Dunn’s position on behalf of Dr. Waigel that the “consultant corollary” to the deliberative process privilege may extend to communications between a government agency and an independent monitor and thereby shield information from disclosure under FOIA Exemption 5—the first time a court has applied the consultant corollary to a compliance monitor.  Judge Contreras denied summary judgment on these grounds because DOJ did not specifically identify the deliberative process at issue with respect to each type of documents withheld by DOJ, and left the door open for defendants to submit further affidavits to support this argument.  The Court also ordered DOJ to submit a copy of one monitorship work plan and one monitorship report for in camera review to assess whether any of the withheld materials could be segregated from non-exempt material. In response to the Court’s order, DOJ submitted two new declarations from DOJ personnel involved in the monitorship, an amended chronology of events supporting the deliberative process privilege, and the materials required for in camera review.  DOJ and 100Reporters filed renewed cross-motions for summary judgment. On June 18, 2018, the Court granted in part and denied in part both sets of cross-motions for summary judgment.  Judge Contreras scrutinized the materials submitted by DOJ and held that DOJ’s Exemption 4 withholdings were overbroad and although DOJ had justified withholding certain information under Exemption 5, those withholdings also were overbroad.  Ultimately, the Court determined that certain materials should be produced to 100Reporters; however, the Court determined that DOJ properly withheld the monitorship reports themselves (aside from a single, brief “best practices” subsection of each report), as well as draft work plans, presentations by the Monitor to DOJ, and correspondence among the Monitor, monitorship team, and DOJ.  Thus, the core monitorship materials, including the monitorship reports, will be withheld.  Judge Contreras ordered DOJ to reexamine its withholdings and redactions in light of the Court’s guidance and disclose the newly identified non-exempt information to 100Reporters. Monitor Candidates As covered in our 2016 Year-End and 2017 Mid-Year FCPA Updates, GIR Just Anti-Corruption journalist Dylan Tokar filed a December 2016 FOIA lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia seeking disclosure of the names of corporate compliance monitor candidates submitted by 15 companies that settled FCPA charges through agreements that contained a monitorship requirement, as well as information regarding the DOJ committee tasked with evaluating and selecting such candidates.  In 2017, DOJ provided the identity of some of the firms associated with the monitorship candidates and certain information about the DOJ committee—but withheld the names of the candidates who were not selected, citing privacy concerns reflected in FOIA Exemptions 6 and 7(C).  When DOJ refused to answer a second request for the candidate names, the parties cross-moved for summary judgment. On March 29, 2018, the Honorable Rudolph Contreras granted GIR Just Anti-Corruption‘s motion for summary judgment.  The Court rejected DOJ’s contention that the FOIA request would not lead to enhanced public understanding of the monitor selection process, instead concluding that GIR Just Anti-Corruption “sufficiently demonstrated that the public interest will be significantly served by the release of these names.”  The Court also rejected DOJ’s argument that its refusal to disclose the names of monitorship candidates fell under FOIA exemption 7(C), which traditionally shields individuals from the stigma of being associated with an ongoing investigation.  The Court denied the majority of DOJ’s cross-motion for summary judgment with the exception of granting DOJ’s argument regarding redaction of information relating to efforts by one of the companies to enhance its compliance program on trade secrets grounds.  DOJ released the names to GIR Just Anti-Corruption in June 2018. 2018 MID-YEAR INTERNATIONAL ANTI-CORRUPTION DEVELOPMENTS World Bank Integrity Vice Presidency Expands Consideration of Monitor Candidates In March 2018, the World Bank—through Integrity Vice Presidency (“INT”) head Pascale Hélène Dubois—changed course regarding those it will allow to serve as a compliance monitor for companies sanctioned by the World Bank.  Ms. Dubois explained in a written response to GIR Just Anti-Corruption that the World Bank now will consider representatives of law firms with concurrent cases before INT, so long as the individuals proposed as monitors are not currently advising on those cases.  By revising the prior approach of informally disqualifying candidates from firms that had faced INT as adversaries in sanctions proceedings, the World Bank has broadened the pool of potential candidates. Also in March, the World Bank Office of Suspension and Debarment (“OSD”) released a 10-year update of metrics regarding OSD’s role in World Bank enforcement.  The report illustrates the depth and breadth of efforts by the World Bank to ensure that those who participate in projects financed with World Bank funds play by World Bank rules, but also shows the difficulty of successfully challenging INT allegations of misconduct:  historically, OSD has agreed with the preliminary determinations of INT—agreeing in 96% of cases that INT had presented sufficient evidence for at least one claim set forth, and in 62% of cases that INT had presented sufficient evidence for all claims set forth. Europe United Kingdom As we reported in our 2017 Year-End United Kingdom White Collar Crime Update, last year six individuals were charged by the UK Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) in connection with investigations of Unaoil.  The first half of 2018 brought additional developments in this investigation.  On May 22, 2018, the SFO announced charges against Basil Al Jarah (Unaoil’s Iraq partner) and Ziad Akle (Unaoil’s territory manager for Iraq) for conspiracy to pay alleged bribes to secure a $733 million contract to build two oil pipelines in Iraq.  And on June 26, 2018, the SFO announced charges against Unaoil Monaco SAM and Unaoil Ltd.  Unaoil Ltd was charged in connection with the same oil pipeline project, while Unaoil Monaco SAM was charged with conspiracy to make corrupt payments to secure the award of contracts for SBM Offshore.  Unaoil has been summoned to appear at the Westminster magistrates court in London on July 18, 2018. In other enforcement developments, following a three-day trial in the High Court in London, in March 2018 the SFO secured recovery of £4.4 million from two senior Chad diplomats to the United States who received bribes from Canadian oil and gas company Griffiths Energy International in exchange for securing oil development rights.  This is the first time that money was returned overseas in a civil recovery case.  As reported in our 2013 Year-End FCPA Update, on January 22, 2013 Griffiths entered a guilty plea in Canada and paid a CAD $10.35 million fine in connection with the alleged bribery. Look for much more on UK white collar developments in our forthcoming 2018 Mid-Year United Kingdom White Collar Crime Update, to be released on July 16, 2018. France As discussed above, in June 2018 SocGen entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with DOJ and reached a parallel settlement with the French PNF in the first coordinated enforcement action by DOJ and French authorities in an overseas anti-corruption case.  SocGen will also be subject to ongoing monitoring by the L’Agence Française Anticorruption. In two decisions this year, France’s Supreme Court—the Cour de Cassation—limited the use of “international double jeopardy” as a viable defense to criminal prosecution.  French law provides that a criminal conviction in another country will preclude prosecution in France if no act related to the conduct took place in France.  But in March 2018, the French Court ruled that the Swiss company Vitol could be prosecuted for charges related to its involvement in the U.N. Oil-for-Food Program, despite having entered a guilty plea for grand larceny in New York based on the same facts.  The case spent more than five years in French courts before the Supreme Court ruled that the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, to which France is a signatory, prevents double jeopardy on similar charges for “unique facts” and applies “only in cases where both proceedings were initiated in the territory of the same State.”  The decision thus appears to end the protection against prosecution in France for the same conduct that had given rise to proceedings in the United States. The 2018 Vitol decision resembled another recent ruling in which the French Supreme Court overturned a lower court’s refusal to hear the case against British-Israeli lawyer Jeffrey Tesler, who pleaded guilty in the United States to charges of bribing Nigerian officials.  As we reported in our 2017 Mid-Year FCPA Update, the Paris Court of Appeals had previously held that the prosecution of Tesler was precluded by his 2011 plea agreement entered in U.S. court, suggesting that the U.S. plea was essentially involuntary and precluded him from fairly defending himself in France.  On January 17, 2018, the French Supreme Court reversed that ruling, noting that Tesler had not been deprived of his right to a fair trial because his appearance in French courts was not dictated by the terms of the U.S. plea agreement.  Furthermore, because some of the corrupt acts had been committed in France, the U.S. plea deal did not preclude French prosecution. Germany In February 2018, the German unit of French aerospace multinational Airbus SE agreed to pay $99 million to resolve a six-year bribery investigation by German prosecutors into a 2003 deal to sell fighter jets to Austria.  Although prosecutors conceded that they had identified no evidence that bribes were used to secure the 2003 contract, they accused Airbus management of supervisory negligence in allowing employees to make large payments linked to the deal for “unclear purposes.”  Airbus continues to face ongoing litigation in Austria, where the Austrian government is seeking more than $1 billion in damages from Airbus in connection with the 2003 deal. Russia One of Russia’s semiautonomous republics, Dagestan, has become embroiled in a major corruption scandal, with the arrest of numerous high-ranking local government officials, including the acting prime minister, his two deputies, and the mayor of Makhachkala (Dagestan’s capital).  In Moscow, Alexander Drymanov, a high-level official within Russia’s Investigative Committee (“IC”) known to be very close to Alexander Bastrykin, the head of the IC, resigned from his position in early June.  His resignation has been widely linked to allegations that Drymanov and other IC officers accepted bribes from the ringleader of a prominent criminal syndicate to ensure the release of a member of this syndicate.  Additionally, in March 2018, Drymanov’s former deputy told federal investigators of payments he had made in exchange for favorable treatment from Drymanov.  Drymanov has characterized his departure as retirement; however, news reports suggest his removal is part of a coordinated attack against Bastrykin by other law enforcement agencies, such as the General Prosecutor’s Office and the FSB (the KGB’s successor). Ukraine Ukraine’s parliament passed a bill to establish an anti-corruption court on June 7, 2018, which President Petro Poroshenko signed into law four days later.  This court will become the fourth anti-corruption institution launched in Ukraine since 2014, following the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine (“NABU”), the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office (“SAPO”), and the National Agency on Corruption Prevention (“NAZK”).  There is hope that the new court will address one of the NABU’s key complaints:  that, despite investigations into and arrests of corrupt officials, these efforts are being wasted due to corrupt judges who help the officials escape justice.  The newly passed law creates certain mechanisms intended to ensure that the anti-corruption court’s judges remain impartial and do not become beholden to political or financial influence.  Most notably, candidates for appointment to this court are subject to vetting by and interviews with a panel of six international experts.  If three of the six raise concerns about a nominee’s integrity or background, they may vote to block the candidacy, which result can be reversed only following further deliberations and a repeat vote. Despite the generally positive reaction to this piece of legislation, commentators have voiced concerns over one provision added to the bill at the last moment, whereby regular courts will retain jurisdiction over ongoing corruption cases, and any resulting appeals also will be heard in courts of general jurisdiction, rather than the appellate branch of the anti-corruption court.  Anti-corruption activists have expressed outrage at the furtive way in which this provision became part of the law—it was absent from the version of the law read to members of parliament prior to their vote—and have suggested its purpose is to enable the acquittal of certain indicted individuals, already on (or awaiting) trial, by courts of general jurisdiction. The Americas Argentina A federal magistrate in Argentina has charged former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her children with money laundering and ordered millions in assets seized.  In another enforcement proceeding, the Anticorruption Office is seeking a prison sentence of five-and-a-half years, along with permanent disqualification from public office, against ex-Vice President and former Minister of Finance Amado Boudou after his conviction for “passive bribery” and “transactions incompatible with the exercise of public functions.”  The sentencing follows a trial concerning Boudou’s purchase of 70% of a then-bankrupt government contractor and his subsequent actions to have the bankruptcy lifted so that the contractor could again participate in federal government contracts. As covered in our Key 2017 Developments in Latin American Anti-Corruption Enforcement client alert, Argentina has passed sweeping new anti-corruption legislation under which legal entities are strictly liable for crimes such as bribery, extortion, or illicit enrichment of public officials that are committed, directly or indirectly, in their name, interest, or benefit.  Punishment for violating the law may result in one or a combination of criminal fines, suspension of state benefits, debarment, and dissolution.  To be exempt from penalties and administrative responsibility under the new law, legal entities must be able to demonstrate that they reported the wrongdoing as a result of a proper internal investigation; implemented a compliance program prior to commission of the act in question; and returned the benefit that was wrongfully obtained.  Companies facing possible sanctions may mitigate their punishment by cooperating in an active investigation.  Such cooperation includes disclosing accurate, actionable information that sheds further light on potential wrongdoing, recovery of assets, or identification of individual offenders. Articles 22 and 23 of the new law outline requirements for compliance or “integrity” programs.  The programs should be designed to prevent, detect, and correct irregularities and illicit acts taken by the corporation, its representatives, or third parties that confer a benefit to the company.  To receive exemption from any penalties under the law, companies must create internal compliance reporting methods and develop procedures to investigate reports.  The law requires that the compliance or integrity program contain at least (1) a code of conduct; (2) rules and procedures to prevent illicit acts in the course of bidding for administrative contracts, or in any other interaction with the public sector; and (3) periodic training programs for directors, administrators, and staff. Brazil Despite facing economic and political uncertainty, Brazil remains a driving force in global anti-corruption efforts.  Brazilian law enforcement entities across the country increasingly are cooperating with each other, as well as with dozens of foreign enforcement authorities.  Operation Lava Jato (Car Wash), now in its fifth year, continues to accumulate convictions related to a vast corruption scheme that exploited contracts with Brazil’s state-owned oil company, Petrobras.  So far, prosecutors have charged approximately 400 individuals and obtained more than 200 convictions on charges including corruption, money laundering, and abuse of the international financial system.  Building on its previous efforts, the Car Wash Task Force has initiated four new phases of Car Wash in 2018, many of which dig deeper into allegations that came to light in previous phases. We discussed in our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update the conviction of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on corruption and money laundering charges.  Despite his conviction, Lula remained the front-runner for Brazil’s October 2018 presidential election.  In April 2018, however, Lula was ordered to turn himself in and begin serving his 12-year prison sentence.  Now in prison and with little hope of successfully appealing his conviction, it is unlikely Lula will be eligible to run for the presidency. Brazilian authorities also have expanded Operation Carne Fraca (“Weak Flesh”), which covers allegations of bribery in the Brazilian meatpacking industry to evade food safety inspections.  After launching the investigation in 2017, authorities carried out a third investigative phase in March 2018.  The new phase focused on Brazilian food processing giant BRF, with police arresting former BRF CEO Pedro de Andrade Faria, former BRF Vice President of Global Operations Helio dos Santos, and other executives.  Meanwhile, authorities have continued to investigate Brazilian meatpacking company JBS and its parent company, J & F Investimentos.  Its former executives and part owners Joesley and Wesley Batista—who were targets of earlier phases of Weak Flesh, as reported in our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update, and had been in prison since 2017—were released from prison after their prison sentences were commuted to house arrest in February 2018.  In May 2018, Brazilian authorities again arrested Joesley Batista, charging him with corruption, money laundering, and obstruction of justice.  Additional charges are expected, particularly as additional Brazilian law enforcement entities join the investigations. Canada In February 2018, Public Services and Procurement Canada (“PSPC”), the division of the Canadian government responsible for internal administration, announced that it would introduce legislation to adopt the use of deferred prosecution agreements as a new tool to penalize corporate wrongdoing.  The proposed program, known as the Remediation Agreement Regime, is intended to encourage companies to voluntarily disclose potential misconduct by offering a potential alternative to criminal conviction and debarment.  Legislation to adopt the Regime was introduced in March 2018.  Under the proposed bill, “remediation agreements” would be subject to prosecutorial discretion and, as in the United Kingdom, would require judicial approval and oversight.  Notably, only certain economic crimes—bribery, fraud, insider trading, and books-and-records violations, among others—would be eligible for deferred prosecution under the current draft of the bill. In addition to proposing the adoption of deferred prosecution agreements, PSPC in March further announced it would work to enhance the government-wide “Integrity Regime” debarment program.  Under the current program, companies convicted of certain white collar offenses are banned from bidding on government contracts for a period of 10 years, which can be reduced to a five-year ban in certain circumstances.  According to a March 2018 press release, enhancements to the program will include increasing the number of triggers that can lead to debarment, as well as introducing greater flexibility in debarment decisions.  A detailed description of the Integrity Regime’s new provisions will be included in a revised Ineligibility and Suspension Policy to be published on November 15, 2018.  The enhanced program will come into effect on January 1, 2019. Colombia As reported in our 2017 Mid-Year FCPA Update, former National Director of Anti-Corruption for Colombia’s Office of the Attorney General Luis Gustavo Moreno Rivera was charged in U.S. federal court with conspiracy to commit money laundering and related charges in June 2017.  On May 18, 2018, Moreno was extradited from Bogotá to Miami on charges stemming from an alleged bribery scheme.  Moreno and his purported middleman, Colombian attorney Leonardo Luis Pinilla Gomez, are accused of receiving a $10,000 bribe in a Miami mall bathroom in exchange for confidential information, including witness statements, from Moreno’s corruption investigation of former Córdoba governor Alejandro Lyons Muskus.  The exchange allegedly was a down payment for a $132,000 deal, in which Moreno agreed to discredit a witness in a case against Lyons before the IRS.  Recorded conversations purportedly capture Moreno and Pinilla discussing Moreno’s ability to control and obstruct the investigation.  Moreno and Pinilla were arraigned in Miami in late May and face wire fraud and money laundering-related charges. In August 2018, Colombia will hold a public referendum allowing citizens to vote on seven proposals aimed at combating graft and corruption.  The referendum will include provisions amending prison sentences and imposing lifelong bans on government employment for individuals found guilty of corruption, lower salaries for legislators and senior government officials, terms limits for holding office in public companies, and greater transparency in the bidding processes for government contracts. Guatemala Corruption investigations in Guatemala continued to face obstacles in early 2018.  As noted in our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update, President Jimmy Morales attempted to expel from Guatemala Iván Velásquez, a Colombian prosecutor and head of the International Commission Against Impunity (known by its Spanish acronym “CICIG”), on August 27, 2017.  CICIG is a U.N. commission created in 2006 to investigate corruption in the Guatemalan government.  The attempted expulsion came after Velásquez and Guatemalan Attorney General Thelma Aldana announced an investigation into Morales for illegal campaign financing.  Though the Guatemalan Supreme Court blocked the expulsion and other attempts to prevent investigations into Morales, CICIG remains embattled. In March 2018, the Guatemalan government removed 11 national police investigators from CICIG, disrupting the investigation into Morales and other high-ranking government officials.  Additionally, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio has placed $6 million in U.S. aid to CICIG, which represents a third of its annual budget, on hold, citing suspected manipulation of CICIG by Russian bank VTB to politically persecute a Russian family.  Rubio’s concerns stem from CICIG’s involvement in the criminal conviction of the Bitkov family, Russian nationals found guilty of purchasing false Guatemalan passports and entering Guatemala illegally after the state-owned Russian bank targeted their paper business. Despite these challenges, CICIG has moved forward with other investigations.  In February, former President Álvaro Colom and nine members of his cabinet were arrested.  Among them is Juan Alberto Fuentes Knight, a former finance minister and current chairman of Oxfam International.  The investigation concerns a $35 million deal for a public bus system in Guatemala City.  Prosecutors allege that nearly a third of the funding was spent on equipment that went unused. Honduras The Organization of American States Mission to Support the Fight Against Corruption and Impunity in Honduras (known by its Spanish-language acronym, “MACCIH”) has faced a number of setbacks over the past six months.  In December 2017, MACCIH and the Public Ministry (national prosecutors) indicted five outgoing members of the Honduran Congress for misappropriating public funds in a case known as Red de Diputados.  Around the time of the announcement, then-Spokesman and Head of MACCIH Juan Jiménez Mayor said that between 60 and 140 additional legislators were under investigation as part of the corruption probe.  Shortly thereafter, Congress passed a law blocking MACCIH from assisting the Public Ministry, and ordering the Tribunal Superior de Cuentas (“TSC”)—a government body dominated by ruling party stalwarts—to engage in an audit of the funds that Congress members have received since 2006.  The new measure shields members of Congress from legal action until the TSC concludes its investigation, which may take several years.  Citing the new law, the judge overseeing the Red de Diputados case released the five indicted congresspersons and postponed their trial.  On February 15, 2018, MACCIH’s director, Jiménez Mayor, announced in an open letter that he was resigning from the organization as a result of the challenges of working with the Honduran government and a lack of support from OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro Lemes. In late May 2018, the Honduran Supreme Court partially invalidated an agreement that created the Fiscal Unit Against Impunity and Corruption (“UFECIC”), the entity within the Public Ministry that worked with MACCIH.  The controversial ruling came in response to a legal challenge to MACCIH brought by three individuals accused by prosecutors and MACCIH of embezzling money in connection with the Red de Diputados case.  The plaintiffs argued that MACCIH should be declared unconstitutional because it violated Honduras’ sovereignty and the independence of its governmental organizations.  Though the court rejected that argument, it determined that the UFECIC, by serving as MACCIH’s investigative arm, impermissibly delegated constitutional functions to MACCIH and thus should be invalidated.  The Supreme Court’s decision followed lobbying by members of Honduras’s Congress—many of whom were being investigated by MACCIH—to invalidate the entire anti-corruption mission.  The opinion has been criticized by anti-corruption advocates. Mexico On May 18, 2018, the Mexican government published new requirements for companies wishing to contract with Petróleos Mexicanos (“PEMEX”), the Mexican state-owned oil company and a subject of numerous FCPA enforcement actions.  The new rules require parties contracting with PEMEX to have compliance programs designed to prevent and detect any instances of corruption.  The compliance program must remain in force for the duration of the contract with PEMEX and PEMEX has the power to verify the program.  The newly published regulations do not specify requirements for the compliance program, though one guidepost may be the Mexican Ministry of Public Administration’s Model Program for Company Integrity in the recently passed General Law of Administrative Responsibility (“GLAR”).  As discussed in our Key 2017 Developments in Latin American Corruption Enforcement client alert, the Model Program calls for clearly written anti-corruption policies and procedures, training, and avenues for reporting potential misconduct. In October 2017, Santiago Nieto was fired from his post as Special Prosecutor for Electoral Crimes.  Nieto claimed that his firing was politically motivated to halt his investigation into whether funds solicited by Emilio Lozoya Austin—CEO of PEMEX—were used to finance President Enrique Peña Nieto’s 2012 campaign.  This May, the Mexican government initiated an investigation against Lozoya, which remains ongoing.  Lozoya is alleged to have requested and received millions of dollars of improper payments from the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.  Nevertheless, the Mexican government has thus far not pursued further investigations into whether government officials accepted bribes from Odebrecht.  In April, Mexico issued administrative sanctions against Odebrecht, barring the company from doing business in the country for at least two years and three months.  The Mexican government also has fined Odebrecht $30 million. Peru Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski resigned on March 21, 2018, the day before a scheduled congressional impeachment vote.  As reported in our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update, Kuczynski has been the subject of an investigation involving former Odebrecht CEO Marcelo Odebrecht‘s alleged payment of $29 million in bribes to Peruvian officials, including Kuczynski and former presidents Ollanta Humala and Alejandro Toledo.  Kuczsynski’s resignation followed quickly after surreptitiously recorded videos purported to show his colleagues, including Peruvian congressman Kenji Fujimori, bribing opponents with public contracts in exchange for voting against his impeachment in the 2018 vote.  Martín Vizcarra, the Vice-President, assumed the Peruvian presidency in Kuczynski’s place and will serve out his term through 2021. On June 10, 2018, Peruvian prosecutors formally opened an investigation into Kuczynski, Toledo, and former president Alan García for allegedly accepting bribes from Odebrecht.  The three former Peruvian Presidents are suspected of promising construction contracts in exchange for undeclared campaign contributions.  Humala already was under investigation for similar allegations; he and his wife were arrested in July 2017 but were released in May 2018 because no formal charges had yet been filed against them.  Toledo, who has been living in the United States, continues to fight extradition to Peru. Asia Bangladesh Bangladesh’s former two-term Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia, was sentenced to a five-year prison term in February 2018.  Zia had been convicted of embezzling donations meant for an orphanage trust established during her term as Prime Minister.  In March 2018, a Bangladeshi court granted bail to Zia, prompting hopes that she could participate in a December general election.  Despite a decision by the  Bangladeshi Supreme Court upholding a lower court’s decision to grant Zia bail, Zia remains imprisoned as her bail related to other charges has been denied.  Zia faces more than 30 separate inquiries into allegations of violence and corruption. China China’s anti-corruption campaign continues to be a priority as Xi Jinping moves into his second term.  Following the nationwide pilot scheme of the National Supervisory System rolled out in November 2017, in March 2018 the National People’s Congress (“NPC”) passed the Supervision Law of the People’s Republic of China (“PRC Supervision Law”) and at the same time amended the Chinese Constitution.  This provided legal and constitutional foundation for the National Supervisory System.  Supervisory Commissions at national and local levels are a new organ of the state and have jurisdiction to investigate corruption by all public servants in China, including those who are not party members.  Supervisory commissions have broad investigative powers to conduct interviews and interrogations, carry out inquiries and searches, freeze assets, obtain, seal/block and seize properties, records and evidence, conduct inquests, inspections and forensic examinations, and to detain individuals under a new mechanism known as “Liu Zhi.”  The 2018 NPC also approved a wide ranging reorganization of the Ministries under the State Council.  This means that enforcement of commercial bribery offenses under the Anti-Unfair Competition Law will now be carried out by the new State Administration for Market Regulation and its local counterparts. The first half of 2018 has also seen prosecution and sentencing of a number of high-profile individuals for corruption offenses.  Most notably in May 2018, Sun Zhengcai, a former member of the Politburo, was sentenced to life for bribery.  Sun had served as party chief of Chongqing, succeeding Bo Xilai who was sentenced to life imprisonment for corruption offenses in 2013.  He is the first serving member of the Politburo to be targeted by the campaign.  Xiang Junbo, the former Chairman of China’s now-defunct insurance regulator and the highest-ranking finance official snared in China’s anti-corruption campaign, has pleaded guilty to taking bribes and is awaiting sentencing. India In February 2018, the Central Bureau of Investigation (“CBI”) registered a case against executives of the Indian subsidiary of U.S.-based engineering and construction firm CDM Smith, as well as officials of the National Highways Authority of India (“NHAI”).  According to the CBI, CDM Smith paid bribes through its Indian subsidiary to various officials of the NHAI to secure infrastructure contracts between 2011 and 2016. The CDM Smith executives that stand accused allegedly disguised their bribes as “allowable business expenses” on their income tax returns.  The CBI enforcement action follows the 2016 Pilot Program declination with CDM Smith (covered in our 2017 Mid-Year FCPA Update) in which CDM Smith agreed to disgorge just over $4 million in profits in connection with the alleged improper payments to the NHAI. On April 4, 2018, the Indian government sought to pass the Prevention of Corruption (Amendment) Bill, 2013 (discussed in our 2016 Year-End FCPA Update) at a parliamentary session held at the Rajya Sabha (otherwise known as the Council of States, the upper house of the Indian Parliament).  The proposed law would introduce specific offenses and fines for commercial organizations engaging in bribery in India, create a specific offense for offering a bribe, and provide for criminal liability for company management of companies engaging in corrupt practices.  However, the Bill failed to be passed.  The Bill’s prospects of passage remain unclear. Korea The first half of 2018 saw a number of high-profile charges and convictions for corruption-related offenses.  As reported in our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update, then-President Park Geun-Hye was impeached in December 2016 amid allegations of influence peddling and corruption.  In April 2018, Park was convicted of 16 corruption-related offenses, including abuse of power, bribery, and coercion.  She was sentenced to 24 years’ imprisonment and a fine of KRW 18 billion (approximately $16 million).  Park decided not to appeal her sentence and is currently serving her jail term.  Choi Soon-Sil, Park’s friend and advisor who was accused of coercing Korean conglomerates into donating millions of dollars to charitable organizations connected to the former President, was sentenced in February 2018 to 20 years’ imprisonment for influence peddling, abuse of power, and corruption. In March 2018, another former Korean President, Lee Myung-Bak, was arrested on multiple charges of corruption, including bribery, embezzlement, tax evasion, and abuse of power.  Lee allegedly received more than KRW 11 billion (approximately $10 million) in bribes before and during his presidency.  Lee’s trial began at the end of May 2018 and is ongoing. As reported in our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee Jae Yong was convicted of bribery and related charges and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment in August 2017.  In an unexpected turn of events, Lee was released from prison in February 2018, after the Seoul High Court halved his jail term to 2.5 years and suspended his sentence on appeal.  In contrast, Lotte Group’s Chairman Shin Dong Bin was convicted of bribery and sentenced to 30 months’ imprisonment and a fine of KRW 7 billion (approximately $6.5 million) in February 2018.  The court found that he paid KRW 7 billion (approximately $6.5 million) to Choi Soon-Sil’s K Sports Foundation in return for Park’s support of reissuing Lotte’s business permit to operate its duty-free stores.  Shin remains imprisoned while his appeal of the sentence continues. Middle East and Africa Israel In January 2018, the Office of Israel’s Tax and Economic Prosecutor announced that it reached a Conditional Agreement with Teva Pharmaceuticals Industries Ltd, the world’s largest manufacturer of generic pharmaceutical products.  The agreement arose from alleged corrupt payments made between 2002 and 2012 to high-ranking ministry of health officials in Russia and Ukraine to influence the approval of drug registrations, as well as to state-employed physicians in Mexico to influence the prescription of products.  As part of the agreement with Israeli authorities, Teva agreed to pay a fine of approximately $22 million, on top of the $519 million it paid to resolve FCPA charges arising from the same conduct, as covered in our 2016 Year-End FCPA Update.  This was the second enforcement action brought under Israel’s foreign bribery statute and the first involving a Conditional Agreement.  Israeli prosecutors stated that the decision to enter into a Conditional Agreement with Teva was based on various factors, including the large penalty already paid to U.S. authorities, Teva’s cooperation and remediation, and recent financial hardships incurred by Teva. Saudi Arabia Earlier this year, Saudi officials began taking steps to conclude a large anti-corruption probe initiated in November 2017 by Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman that involved the detainment and questioning of hundreds of influential Saudis (covered in our 2017 Year-End FCPA Update).  According to one prosecutor, the government reached settlements worth $106 billion as a result of the probe.  Although most detainees have been released, some remain in custody pending trial.  Some analysts have viewed the corruption campaign as a power grab by Prince Mohammed, but the Saudi government insists its focus is combating endemic corruption.  In March 2018, Saudi officials announced that new anti-corruption departments were added to the Attorney General’s office in furtherance of King Salman and Crown Prince Mohammed’s goal to eradicate corruption. South Africa In April 2018, South African officials announced the reopening of a corruption investigation involving alleged abuse of public funds for a dairy farm in Vrede.  The investigation initially focused on Ace Magashule, secretary general of the African National Congress, and Mosebenzi Joseph Zwane, the former minister of mineral resources.  According to prosecutors, the dairy farm project was intended to help black farmers but instead funneled $21 million to business allies of the African National Congress.  As part of the investigation, prosecutors seized $21 million from three brothers known to be family friends and political allies of South Africa’s former President Jacob Zuma, who was ousted in February 2018 in connection with corruption allegations. CONCLUSION As is our semiannual tradition, over the following weeks Gibson Dunn will be publishing a series of enforcement updates for the benefit of our clients and friends as follows: Tuesday, July 10 – 2018 Mid-Year Update on Corporate NPAs and DPAs; Wednesday, July 11 – 2018 Mid-Year False Claims Act Update; Thursday, July 12 – Developments in the Defense of Financial Institutions; Friday, July 13 – 2018 Mid-Year Class Actions Update; Monday, July 16 – 2018 Mid-Year UK White Collar Crime Update; Tuesday, July 17 – 2018 Mid-Year Media and Entertainment Update; Wednesday, July 18 – 2018 Mid-Year Securities Litigation Update; Thursday, July 19 – 2018 Mid-Year Government Contracts Litigation Update; Monday, July 23 – 2018 Mid-Year UK Labor & Employment Update; Tuesday, July 24 – 2018 Mid-Year Shareholder Activism Update; Thursday, July 26 – 2018 Mid-Year Healthcare Compliance and Enforcement Update – Providers; Friday, July 27 – 2018 Mid-Year Securities Enforcement Update; and Wednesday, August 1 – 2018 Mid-Year FDA and Health Care Compliance and Enforcement Update – Drugs and Devices. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: F. Joseph Warin, John Chesley, Richard Grime, Christopher Sullivan, Jacob Arber, Elissa Baur, Josh Burk, Ella Alves Capone, Claire Chapla, Grace Chow, Stephanie Connor, Daniel Harris, William Hart, Patricia Herold, Korina Holmes, Derek Kraft, Miranda Lievsay, Zachariah Lloyd, Lora MacDonald, Andrei Malikov, Michael Marron, Jesse Melman, Steve Melrose, Jaclyn Neely, Jonathan Newmark, Nick Parker, Jeffrey Rosenberg, Rebecca Sambrook, Emily Seo, Jason Smith, Pedro Soto, Laura Sturges, Karthik Ashwin Thiagarajan, Caitlin Walgamuth, Alina Wattenberg, Oliver Welch, Oleh Vretsona, and Carissa Yuk. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these issues.  We have more than 110 attorneys with FCPA experience, including a number of former federal prosecutors and SEC officials, spread throughout the firm’s domestic and international offices.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn attorney with whom you work, or any of the following leaders and members of the FCPA group: Washington, D.C. F. Joseph Warin – Co-Chair (+1 202-887-3609, fwarin@gibsondunn.com) Richard W. Grime (+1 202-955-8219, rgrime@gibsondunn.com) Patrick F. Stokes (+1 202-955-8504, pstokes@gibsondunn.com) Judith A. Lee (+1 202-887-3591, jalee@gibsondunn.com) David P. Burns (+1 202-887-3786, dburns@gibsondunn.com) David Debold (+1 202-955-8551, ddebold@gibsondunn.com) Michael S. Diamant (+1 202-887-3604, mdiamant@gibsondunn.com) John W.F. Chesley (+1 202-887-3788, jchesley@gibsondunn.com) Daniel P. 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Welch (+852 2214 3716, owelch@gibsondunn.com) São Paulo Lisa A. Alfaro – Co-Chair (+55 (11) 3521-7160, lalfaro@gibsondunn.com) Fernando Almeida (+55 (11) 3521-7095, falmeida@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP, 333 South Grand Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90071 Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

July 2, 2018 |
Trump Administration Revokes Primary Sanctions Relief Provided by the Iran Nuclear Agreement and Signals Strict Sanctions Enforcement

Click for PDF On June 27, 2018, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced it was taking further steps to implement the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”).[1]  Specifically, OFAC revoked general licenses authorizing U.S. persons and their foreign subsidiaries to undertake certain Iran-related activities and, in their place, issued wind-down authorizations for those activities, effectively putting all of the sanctions relief provided under JCPOA on equal footing—all covered transactions have now entered a formal wind-down process. Alongside its revocation and replacement of these licenses, OFAC provided additional guidance regarding the requirements of the wind-down period.  The Trump administration also offered further clarity regarding the enforcement of sanctions following their re-imposition.  Policy statements from U.S. regulators confirm that the administration plans to wage a “maximum pressure economic campaign” against Iran.[2]  Among other targets, the announcement that the U.S. will adopt an absolute prohibition on the importation of Iranian crude oil by non-U.S. countries indicates that the Trump administration seeks not just to re-impose Obama-era secondary sanctions, but may also abandon prior interpretations that granted significant leeway in enforcement.  The administration’s stated inclination towards strict enforcement will likely mean that it will enforce and narrowly interpret the wind-down authorizations, and that U.S. companies should expect little relief in the form of specific licenses from OFAC if wind-down activities extend beyond the time allotted. Background In prior alerts we provided overviews of the sanctions relief granted pursuant to the JCPOA and President Trump’s May 8, 2018 announcement that the U.S. would abandon the JCPOA and re-impose its nuclear-related sanctions.[3]  As we noted in that guidance, rather than immediately re-imposing sanctions, the Trump administration allowed activities authorized under the JCPOA to continue for a specified “wind-down” period which, depending upon the activity involved, expires in August and November of this year.[4] Consistent with the May 8 announcement, OFAC amended the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (“ITSR”) on June 28 to revoke JCPOA-related authorizations that had permitted U.S. persons to negotiate contingent contracts related to commercial passenger aviation, to import and deal in Iranian-origin carpets and foodstuffs, and to facilitate the engagement of their non-U.S. subsidiaries operating in Iran.  These general licenses have been replaced by more limited authorizations permitting engagement only in transactions ordinarily incident and necessary to the wind-down of the previously authorized activity.[5]  As a result of these changes and prior guidance, essentially all sanctions relief provided by the JCPOA is now in a wind-down period. Revocation and Replacement of Iran-Related Authorizations OFAC’s June 28 amendments to the ITSR revoked general licenses that had authorized U.S. companies and their U.S. subsidiaries to engage in several types of transactions involving Iran. General License H: Non-U.S. Subsidiaries of U.S. Companies Engaging in Iran In a substantial concession to Iranian demands in the JCPOA, OFAC issued General License H on January 16, 2016, permitting non-U.S. entities owned or controlled by U.S. persons (e.g., foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies) to generally engage in business operations in and with respect to Iran.  To support the engagement of U.S. person affiliates, OFAC also allowed numerous dispensations from broader Iranian sanctions.  For example, U.S. persons were permitted to establish or alter operating policies and procedures necessary to permit the non-U.S. entities they owned or controlled to engage in transactions in Iran, and U.S. persons were allowed to provide their non-U.S. affiliates with access to automated, globally integrated business support systems.[6]  Such measures allowed for the potential of meaningful trade between entities owned by U.S. companies and Iran.  While most financial institutions continued to refuse to assist General License H operations, this was one of the most significant aspects of the U.S. offer to Iran under the JCPOA. The ITSR amendments of June 28, 2018 revoke this authorization.  In its place, OFAC has provided narrower authorizations permitting U.S. companies and their foreign subsidiaries to engage only in those transactions ordinarily incident to and necessary for the wind-down of the previously authorized transactions.  These authorizations require U.S. companies and their foreign subsidiaries to return their operations to their pre-JCPOA status, in which neither were generally permitted to engage in Iran.  These wind-down transactions are only authorized through November 4, 2018.  After that date, U.S. companies and their foreign subsidiaries may face enforcement action for engaging in these transactions involving operations in Iran.[7] General License I: Contingent Contracts for Commercial Passenger Aviation Pursuant to the JCPOA, OFAC released a licensing policy indicating that it would issue on a case-by-case basis licenses for U.S. persons to sell and lease commercial passenger aircraft to Iran and to provide associated spare parts, components, and services.[8]  Following the issuance of this licensing policy, OFAC issued General License I, permitting U.S. persons to negotiate and enter into contracts related to such activities involving Iranian civil aviation, provided that the contracts were contingent upon the receipt of a specific license from OFAC under the previously announced licensing policy.[9]  OFAC revoked the specific licensing policy on May 8, 2018.[10]  As OFAC will no longer issue specific licenses pursuant to the prior licensing policy, OFAC has revoked the general license authorizing the negotiation of contracts contingent on their issuance.[11] Along with its revocation of General License I, OFAC added a new section to the ITSR permitting U.S. companies only to engage in activities ordinarily incident and necessary to the wind-down of transactions related to the negotiation of contingent contracts for Iranian commercial passenger aviation.[12]  Pursuant to this section, such wind-down transactions are only authorized through August 6, 2018.  As such, U.S. persons are now prohibited from engaging in transactions related to the negotiation of such contingent contracts and, after August 6, will also be prohibited from winding down such negotiations-related transactions.  Importantly, General License J-1, which authorizes non-U.S. persons to fly U.S.-origin civil aircraft into Iran, remains in effect.[13]  This license was not related to the JCPOA, but rather was a recognition that almost any aircraft that flies into Iran is “U.S.-origin” under U.S. law.[14]  Without this license such flights would be violations.  With the license still in effect, it will still be possible for non-U.S. air carriers to fly U.S.-origin civil aircraft into and out of Iran, subject to the conditions in the license and the U.S. Export Administration Regulations. Sections 560.534 and 560.535: Iranian-Origin Foodstuffs, Carpets, and Related Financial Transactions On January 21, 2016, OFAC amended the ITSR to generally license U.S. persons to import and deal in certain Iranian-origin foodstuffs and carpets from Iran or a third country.  In addition, OFAC authorized the issuance of letters of credit and the provision of brokering services related to such imports and dealings.[15]  These sanctions were not significant from a financial perspective,  especially in comparison with the civil aviation deals.  They were, however, meaningful for Iran and U.S. policy with respect to Iran given the centrality of Iranian food (such as pistachios) and carpets in Iranian culture and the fact that these products are produced by some of Iran’s most marginalized communities.  Removing these provisions, as much as the reintroduction sanctions on Iranian oil, is further recognition of the wide divergence between the Trump and Obama administration Iran policies. As with General Licenses H and I, OFAC has amended these provisions, narrowing their scope to permit only those transactions ordinarily incident to and necessary for the wind-down of the previously authorized activities through August 6, 2018.[16] Re-Imposing Sanctions as a Maximum Pressure Economic Campaign Prior to the JCPOA, the U.S. was authorized to impose secondary sanctions on entities (including foreign central banks) that engaged in transactions for the purchase of Iranian petroleum or petroleum products.  Under a complicated formula that balanced actual purchases of Iranian fuel with economic, political and diplomatic equities, foreign banks were exempted from these secondary sanctions if the president determined that a country was significantly reducing the volume of Iranian crude oil purchased.[17]  These secondary sanctions were waived as a result of the JCPOA.[18] In its May 8 guidance on the re-imposition of Iran sanctions, OFAC indicated that these secondary sanctions against foreign financial institutions would be re-imposed after November 4, 2018 and that the State Department would continue to waive their application where countries significantly reduced their imports of Iranian crude oil.[19]  However, recent statements from the State Department have called into question the availability of these exceptions for countries that only reduce, rather than eliminate, their Iranian oil imports. Specifically, in a call with reporters on June 26, 2018, immediately prior to the release of the general license revocations discussed above, the State Department conducted a “no-name” briefing and explained that the U.S. would not be granting exemptions from the imposition of these secondary sanctions for countries that significantly reduced their Iranian crude oil imports.  Instead, the official stated repeatedly that the State Department has been asking foreign governments to eliminate entirely their Iranian crude oil imports no later than November 4, 2018 and that the Department would likely not grant exceptions, as indicated in OFAC’s prior guidance.  He emphasized that the decision not to provide such exemptions was a deliberate element of the Trump administration’s “maximum pressure economic campaign” against Iran.[20]  On July 2, Brian Hook, the U.S. State Department’s Director of Policy Planning, clarified this policy in a press briefing; he underlined that the U.S. Government would not be looking to allow waivers as that would reduce the pressure; he did say, however, that the U.S. Government might be willing to work on a “case-by-case” basis with certain countries who are committed to reducing their imports from Iran but he would not commit to doing so.[21] These statements—and recent promises that the re-imposed sanctions would be the “strongest sanctions in history”—again suggest that the Trump administration is preparing to take a more hardline approach on Iran sanctions than previous administrations.[22]  If it comes to fruition (and is not just rhetoric or a negotiating tactic to pressure countries to comply with the U.S. approach), the approach would defy the expectations of many observers (and apparently even some members of his own administration), who previously assessed it as highly unlikely that President Trump would reject the JCPOA on a wholesale basis.  In many ways, the unique policy approaches of the Obama administration and Congress’ attempts to constrain it set the stage for President Trump’s more extreme re-implementation of sanctions.  With an eye on encouraging negotiations that eventually led to the JCPOA, the Obama administration provided for interpretations and exceptions to what would otherwise have been blanket restrictions on certain types of activities involving Iran (for example, the decision to allow certain non-U.S. countries to continue to import Iranian crude).  Because this interpretative guidance was accomplished by executive action, the Trump administration is not bound to adopt identical interpretations or enforcement strategies as it would have been if the interpretations were a product of statutes passed by Congress. As noted above, there are several areas, including the sanctions targeting crude oil imports, in which the Trump administration may take a stricter enforcement approach.  For example, where the Obama administration declined to designate certain Iranian financial institutions, the Trump administration may target a broader array of entities in the Iranian financial sector, adding a wider range of institutions to the Specially Designated Nationals (“SDN”) and Blocked Person List, and even imposing secondary sanctions on non-U.S. parties who choose to engage with them.  This could include private sector Iranian banks that had been among the preferred means for non-Iranians to transact in the country.  Additionally, the Trump administration may more readily enforce secondary sanctions against foreign entities engaged in transactions with designated Iranian parties (in the Obama era secondary sanctions were frequently threatened but rarely imposed).  Vague language in the regulations that provide for secondary sanctions authorities (including uncertain terms such as “materially support” or “significant transaction”) leaves considerable room to interpret provisions broadly or narrowly as the administration would like. Remaining Actions for Re-Imposition and Remaining Authorizations As noted in previous guidance, in addition to the June 28 revision of the ITSR, the Trump administration plans to take several further steps to achieve the full re-imposition of sanctions announced on May 8, 2018.   OFAC has indicated that no later than November 5, it will re-impose sanctions that applied to persons who had been removed from the SDN List pursuant to the JCPOA.[23]  Additionally, entities designated pursuant to Executive Order 13599 as “Government of Iran” entities or “Iranian financial institutions” will be moved from the List of Persons Blocked Solely Pursuant to E.O. 13599 to the SDN List, in some cases exposing non-U.S. persons who engage in activity with these entities to secondary sanctions risks.[24]  Finally, the U.S. Government will re-impose provisions of several executive orders that had previously provided the authority for the implementation of secondary sanctions against non-U.S. persons engaging in numerous transactions involving Iran.[25]  At a minimum, companies engaged in activities involving Iran should prepare for these actions to return the U.S. to its pre-JCPOA sanctions posture—indeed, depending upon how far the administration goes they may be returning the U.S. to the sanctions posture that it had even prior to any negotiations whatsoever. Despite these continuing steps to roll back authorizations to engage in transactions with Iran, certain licenses remain in effect, and the Trump administration has given no indication these authorizations are scheduled for revocation.  As mentioned above, General License J-1, which authorizes non-U.S. persons to temporarily fly U.S.-origin civil aircraft in Iran, remains in effect, as does General License D-1, which authorizes U.S. persons to export or reexport to Iran certain hardware, software and services related to Internet communications.[26]  Other authorities continue to permit the provision of food and medical devices to Iran.[27]  These authorities will likely remain in effect both because they were not provided pursuant to the JCPOA (and thus do not need to be removed in order to withdraw from the JCPOA) and because they may be provided by statute (such as the Trade Sanctions Relief Act), or are otherwise consistent with the policy that U.S. sanctions should target only the Iranian regime and not the Iranian people.  President Trump has also indicated his continuing support for this policy and Director of Policy Planning Hook repeated this in his July 2 briefing.[28]  However, in the absence of any guidance regarding the current or future status of these general licenses, and in particular how they will operate in a situation in which all or most Iranian counterparties become sanctioned, non-U.S. persons operating in these areas continue to face uncertainty regarding the extent to which they are subject to the restrictions of the wind-down period and how OFAC may view their activities after November 4, 2018. Conclusion These recent steps taken to re-impose Iran sanctions confirm that the Trump administration likely intends a full reversal of the sanctions relief provided for under the JCPOA and, in some instances, is prepared to go further to exert maximum pressure against Iran.  The revocations of the general licenses discussed above indicate that the Trump administration intends—at a minimum— to return to the pre-JCPOA sanctions status quo ante.  Furthermore, the recent statements from the State Department suggest that, in some instances, the Trump administration may choose to implement sanctions targeting Iran more strictly than they had been implemented prior to the JCPOA.  These statements also indicate that wind-down authorizations will be narrowly interpreted and strictly enforced—both during the wind-down period and after it lapses. While the recent actions and statements provide some hints as to the Administration’s strategy and direction, they nonetheless leave many questions unanswered.  This is especially the case for the vast majority of companies that had entered Iran and are active in sectors that are not scheduled for the resumption of secondary sanctions.  They understandably remain uncertain as to whether they are or will be subject to the same or similar wind-down restrictions.  Admittedly, the financial sector may force the hand of many such companies by refusing to process transactions associated with Iran business (either immediately or on a wind-down basis).  We will provide additional analysis and clarity regarding any subsequent guidance and statements in the coming weeks and months.    [1]   U.S. Dep’t of the Treasury, Revocation of JCPOA-Related General Licenses; Amendment of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations; Publication of Updated FAQs (Jun. 27, 2018), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20180627.aspx.    [2]   Special Briefing, U.S. Dep’t. of State, Senior State Department Official on U.S. Efforts to Discuss the Re-Imposition of Sanctions on Iran With Partners Around The World (Jun. 26, 2018), available at https://www.state.gov/r/pa/prs/ps/2018/06/283512.htm.    [3]   Press Release, White House, Remarks by President Trump on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (May 8, 2018), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarkspresident-trump-joint-comprehensive-plan-action.    [4]   Presidential Memorandum, Ceasing U.S. Participation in the JCPOA and Taking Additional Action to Counter Iran’s Malign Influence and Deny Iran All Paths to a Nuclear Weapon (May 8, 2018), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/ presidential-actions/ceasing-u-s-participation-jcpoa-taking-additional-action-counter-irans-maligninfluence-deny-iran-paths-nuclear-weapon; U.S. Dep’t of Treasury, Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Re-Imposition of Sanctions Pursuant to the May 8, 2018 National Security Presidential Memorandum Relating to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) (May 8, 2018), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resourcecenter/sanctions/Programs/Documents/jcpoa_winddown_faqs.pdf.    [5]   Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 83 Fed. Reg. 30335 (Jun. 28, 2018) (to be codified at 31 C.F.R. pt. 560), available at https://www.federalregister.gov/d/2018-13939.    [6]   OFAC, General License H: Authorizing Certain Transactions Relating to Foreign Entities Owned or Controlled by a United States Person (Jan. 16, 2016), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/iran_glh.pdf.    [7]   See OFAC FAQ No. 4.4.    [8]   OFAC, Statement of Licensing Policy for Activities Related to the Export or Re-Export to Iran of Commercial Passenger Aircraft and Related Parts and Services (Jan. 16, 2016), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/lic_pol_statement_aircraft_jcpoa.pdf    [9]   OFAC, General License I: Authorizing Certain Transactions Related to the Negotiation of, and Entry into, Contingent Contracts for Activities Eligible for Authorization Under the Statement of Licensing Policy for Activities Related to the Export or Re-export to Iran of Commercial Passenger Aircraft and Related Parts and Services (Mar. 24, 2016­), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/iran_gli.pdf. [10]   U.S. Dep’t of Treasury, Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Re-Imposition of Sanctions Pursuant to the May 8, 2018 National Security Presidential Memorandum Relating to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) (May 8, 2018, updated Jun. 27, 2018), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resourcecenter/sanctions/Programs/Documents/jcpoa_winddown_faqs.pdf, FAQ No. 4.1. [11]   See OFAC FAQ No. 4.3. [12]   31 C.F.R. § 560.536. [13]   OFAC, General License J-1:  Authorizing the Reexportation of Certain Civil Aircraft to Iran on Temporary Sojourn and Related Transactions (Dec. 15, 2016), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/iran_glj_1.pdf. [14]   Foreign-made items incorporating more than 10 percent U.S.-origin content by value, including civilian aircraft, may not be reexported by non-U.S. persons to Iran without authorization (31 C.F.R. § 560.205).  Most civilian aircraft— even those produced by non-U.S. manufacturers outside the United States—exceed this threshold. [15]   Iran Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 81 Fed. Reg. 3330 (Jan. 21, 2016) (codified at 31 C.F.R. pt. 560), available at https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2016/01/21/2016-01227/iranian-transactions-and-sanctions-regulations. [16]   See OFAC FAQ No. 4.5. [17]   22 U.S.C. § 8513a(d)(4). [18]   U.S. Dep’t. of the Treasury & U.S. Dep’t. of State, Guidance Relating to the Lifting of Certain U.S. Sanctions Pursuant to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Implementation Day (Jan. 16, 2016) available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/implement_guide_jcpoa.pdf . [19]   OFAC FAQ Nos. 5.1 and 5.2. [20]   Special Briefing, supra note 2. [21]   Brian Hook, Director of Policy Planning, U.S. State Department, Press Briefing, July 2, 2018. [22]   See, e.g., Press Release, U.S. Dep’t. of State, After the Iran Deal: A New Iran Strategy (May 21, 2018), available at https://www.state.gov/secretary/remarks/2018/05/282301.htm. [23]   OFAC FAQ No. 1.3. [24]   OFAC FAQ No. 3.1. [25]   OFAC FAQ No. 1.4. [26]   OFAC, General License D-1: General License with Respect to Certain Services, Software, and Hardware Incident to Personal Communications (February 7, 2014), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/iran_gld1.pdf. [27]   31 C.F.R. § 560.530. [28]   Brian Hook, supra note 21. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Judith Alison Lee, Adam M. Smith, R.L. Pratt, Christopher Timura and Stephanie Connor. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the above developments.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, the authors, or any of the following leaders and members of the firm’s International Trade Group: United States: Judith Alison Lee – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3591, jalee@gibsondunn.com) Ronald Kirk – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Dallas (+1 214-698-3295, rkirk@gibsondunn.com) Jose W. Fernandez – New York (+1 212-351-2376, jfernandez@gibsondunn.com) Marcellus A. McRae – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7675, mmcrae@gibsondunn.com) Adam M. Smith – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3547, asmith@gibsondunn.com) Christopher T. Timura – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3690, ctimura@gibsondunn.com) Ben K. Belair – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3743, bbelair@gibsondunn.com) Courtney M. Brown – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8685, cmbrown@gibsondunn.com) Laura R. Cole – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3787, lcole@gibsondunn.com) Stephanie L. Connor – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8586, sconnor@gibsondunn.com) Helen L. Galloway – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7342, hgalloway@gibsondunn.com) William Hart – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3706, whart@gibsondunn.com) Henry C. Phillips – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8535, hphillips@gibsondunn.com) R.L. Pratt – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3785, rpratt@gibsondunn.com) Scott R. Toussaint – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5320, stoussaint@gibsondunn.com) Europe: Peter Alexiadis – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 00, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) Attila Borsos – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 10, aborsos@gibsondunn.com) Patrick Doris – London (+44 (0)207 071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Penny Madden – London (+44 (0)20 7071 4226, pmadden@gibsondunn.com) Benno Schwarz – Munich (+49 89 189 33 110, bschwarz@gibsondunn.com) Michael Walther – Munich (+49 89 189 33-180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Richard W. Roeder – Munich (+49 89 189 33-160, rroeder@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

June 20, 2018 |
Acting Associate AG Panuccio Highlights DOJ’s False Claims Act Enforcement Reform Efforts

Click for PDF On June 14, 2018, Acting Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio gave remarks highlighting recent enforcement activity and policy initiatives by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”).  The remarks, delivered at the American Bar Association’s 12th National Institute on the Civil False Claims Act and Qui Tam Enforcement, included extensive commentary about DOJ’s ongoing efforts to introduce reforms to promote a more fair and consistent application of the False Claims Act (“FCA”).  While the impact of these policy initiatives remains to be seen, DOJ’s continued focus on these efforts, led by officials at the highest levels within DOJ, suggests that FCA enforcement reform is a priority for the Department. After giving an overview of several FCA settlements from the last eighteen months—apparently designed to demonstrate that this DOJ recognizes the importance of the FCA in a breadth of traditional enforcement areas—Mr. Panuccio discussed two particular priorities: the opioid epidemic and the nation’s elderly population.  He emphasized that DOJ would “actively employ” the FCA against any entity in the opioid distribution chain that engages in fraudulent conduct.  He then highlighted the crucial role of the FCA in protecting the nation’s elderly from fraud and abuse, citing examples of enforcement against a nursing home management company, hospices, and skilled rehabilitation facilities. The majority of Mr. Panuccio’s remarks focused, however, on policy initiatives DOJ is undertaking to ensure that enforcement “is fair and consistent with the rule of law.”  Mr. Panuccio alluded to general reform initiatives by the department, such as the ban on certain third-party payments in settlement agreements, before expanding on reforms specific to the FCA.  Mr. Panuccio highlighted that the recent FCA reform efforts have been spearheaded by Deputy Associate Attorney General Stephen Cox; Mr. Cox had delivered remarks at the Federal Bar Association Qui Tam Conference in February of this year that had provided insight into the positions articulated in the Brand and Granston memoranda.  In his speech, Mr. Panuccio described five policy initiatives being undertaken by DOJ to reform FCA enforcement: (i) qui tam dismissal criteria; (ii) the use of guidance in FCA cases; (iii) cooperation credit; (iv) compliance program credit; and (v) preventing “piling on.” Qui tam dismissals Mr. Panuccio acknowledged the tremendous increase in the number qui tam cases that are filed each year, which includes cases that are not in the public interest.  Recognizing that DOJ expends significant resources to monitor cases even when it declines to intervene, Mr. Panuccio noted that DOJ attorneys have been instructed to consider whether moving to dismiss the action would be an appropriate use of prosecutorial discretion under the FCA.  While DOJ previously exercised this authority only rarely, consistent with the Granston memo, Mr. Panuccio suggested that, going forward, DOJ may use that authority more frequently in order to free up DOJ’s resources for matters in the public interest. Although defendants generally may not yet be experiencing significant differences regarding the possibility of dismissal at the DOJ line level, the continued public discussion of the potential use of DOJ’s dismissal authority by high-level officials suggests that DOJ appreciates the problems caused by frivolous qui tams and may ultimately be more receptive to dismissal of actions lacking merit. Guidance As stated in the Brand Memorandum, DOJ will no longer use noncompliance with agency guidance that expands upon statutory or regulatory requirements as the basis for an FCA violation.  Mr. Panuccio explained that, in an FCA case, evidence that a party received a guidance document would be relevant in proving that the party had knowledge of the law explained in that guidance.  However, DOJ attorneys have been instructed “not to use [DOJ’s] enforcement authority to convert sub-regulatory guidance into rules that have the force or effect of law.” Cooperation With respect to cooperation credit, Mr. Panuccio indicated that DOJ is working on formalizing its practices and that modifications to prior practices should be expected.  That notwithstanding, Mr. Panuccio provided assurances that DOJ will continue to “expect and recognize genuine cooperation” in both civil and criminal matters.  He also noted that the extent of the discount provided when negotiating a settlement would depend on the nature of the cooperation, how helpful it was, and whether it helped identify individual wrongdoers. Though DOJ’s new policies on cooperation credit are still forthcoming, Mr. Panuccio’s remarks suggest that formal cooperation credit might be expanded to cover situations outside of those in which the defendant makes a self-disclosure. Compliance In recognition of the challenges of running large organizations, DOJ will “reward companies that invest in strong compliance measures.”  How this may differ, if at all, from current ad hoc considerations remains to be seen. Piling On Mr. Panuccio acknowledged that, when multiple regulatory bodies pursue a defendant for the same or substantially the same conduct, “unwarranted and disproportionate penalties” can result. In order to avoid this “piling on,” DOJ attorneys will promote coordination within the agency and other regulatory bodies to ensure that defendants are subject to fair punishment and receive the benefit of finality that should accompany a settlement.  Moreover, Mr. Panuccio remarked that DOJ attorneys should not “invoke the threat of criminal prosecution solely to persuade a company to pay a larger settlement in a civil case,” which really is simply a restatement of every attorney’s existing ethical duty.  Whether DOJ leadership’s interest here will result in significant practical developments is uncertain.  Such developments, though perhaps unlikely, could include eliminating the cross-designation of Assistant U.S. Attorneys as both Civil and Criminal; limiting the ability of Civil Division attorneys to invite Criminal Division lawyers to participate in meetings without the request or consent of defendants; or perhaps even somehow inhibiting the Civil Division from using the FCA, with its mandatory treble damages and per-claim penalties, following criminal fines and restitution. We will continue to monitor and report on these important developments. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Stephen Payne, Jonathan Phillips and Claudia Kraft. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers have handled hundreds of FCA investigations and have a long track record of litigation success.  Among other significant victories, Gibson Dunn successfully argued the landmark Allison Engine case in the Supreme Court, a unanimous decision that prompted Congressional action.  See Allison Engine Co. v. United States ex rel. Sanders, 128 S. Ct. 2123 (2008).  Our win rate and immersion in FCA issues gives us the ability to frame strategies to quickly dispose of FCA cases.  The firm has more than 30 attorneys with substantive FCA expertise and more than 30 former Assistant U.S. Attorneys and DOJ attorneys.  For more information, please feel free to contact the Gibson Dunn attorney with whom you work or the following attorneys. Washington, D.C. F. Joseph Warin (+1 202-887-3609, fwarin@gibsondunn.com) Stuart F. Delery (+1 202-887-3650, sdelery@gibsondunn.com) Joseph D. West (+1 202-955-8658, jwest@gibsondunn.com) Andrew S. Tulumello (+1 202-955-8657, atulumello@gibsondunn.com) Karen L. Manos (+1 202-955-8536, kmanos@gibsondunn.com) Stephen C. Payne (+1 202-887-3693, spayne@gibsondunn.com) Jonathan M. Phillips (+1 202-887-3546, jphillips@gibsondunn.com) New York Reed Brodsky (+1 212-351-5334, rbrodsky@gibsondunn.com) Alexander H. Southwell (+1 212-351-3981, asouthwell@gibsondunn.com) Denver Robert C. Blume (+1 303-298-5758, rblume@gibsondunn.com) Monica K. Loseman (+1 303-298-5784, mloseman@gibsondunn.com) John D.W. Partridge (+1 303-298-5931, jpartridge@gibsondunn.com) Ryan T. Bergsieker (+1 303-298-5774, rbergsieker@gibsondunn.com) Dallas Robert C. Walters (+1 214-698-3114, rwalters@gibsondunn.com) Los Angeles Timothy J. Hatch (+1 213-229-7368, thatch@gibsondunn.com) James L. Zelenay Jr. (+1 213-229-7449, jzelenay@gibsondunn.com) Palo Alto Benjamin Wagner (+1 650-849-5395, bwagner@gibsondunn.com) San Francisco Charles J. Stevens (+1 415-393-8391, cstevens@gibsondunn.com)Winston Y. Chan (+1 415-393-8362, wchan@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

June 14, 2018 |
Revisions to the FFIEC BSA/AML Manual to Include the New CDD Regulation

Click for PDF On May 11, 2018, the federal bank regulators and the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (“FinCEN”) published two new chapters of the Federal Financial Institution Examination Council Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering Examination Manual (“BSA/AML Manual”) to reflect changes made by FinCEN to the CDD regulation.[1]  One of the chapters replaces the current chapter “Customer Due Diligence – Overview and Examination Procedures” (“CDD Chapter”), and the other chapter is entirely new and contains an overview of and examination procedures for “Beneficial Ownership for Legal Entity Customers” to reflect the beneficial ownership requirements of the CDD regulation (“Beneficial Ownership Chapter”).[2] The new CDD Chapter builds upon the previous chapter, adds the requirements of the CDD regulation, and otherwise updates the chapter, which had not been revised since 2007.  The Beneficial Ownership Chapter largely repeats what is in the CDD Rule.  Both new chapters reference the regulatory guidance and clarifications from the Frequently Asked Questions issued by FinCEN on April 3, 2018 (the “FAQs”).[3]   Other Refinements to the CDD Regulation May Impact the BSA/AML Manual Implementation of the CDD regulation is a dynamic process and may require further refinement of these chapters as FinCEN issues further guidance.  For instance, in response to concerns of the banking industry, on May 16, 2018, FinCEN issued an administrative ruling imposing a 90-day moratorium on the requirement to recertify CDD information when certificates of deposit (“CDs”) are rolled over or loans renewed (if the CDs or loans were opened before May 11, 2018).  FinCEN will have further discussions with the banking industry and will make a decision whether to make this temporary exception permanent within this 90-day period (before August 9, 2018).[4] In his May 16, 2018, testimony at a House Financial Services Committee hearing on “Implementation of FinCEN’s Customer Due Diligence Rule,” FinCEN Director Kenneth Blanco suggested that FinCEN may be receptive to refinements as compliance experience is gained with the regulation.  Director Blanco also indicated that there will be a period of adjustment for compliance with the regulation and that FinCEN and the regulators will not engage in “gotcha” enforcement, but are seeking “good faith compliance.” Highlights from the New Chapters Periodic Reviews:  The BSA/AML Manual no longer expressly requires periodic CDD reviews, but suggests that regulators may still expect periodic reviews for higher risk customers.  The language in the previous CDD Chapter requiring periodic CDD refresh reviews has been eliminated.[5]Consistent with FAQ 14, the new CDD Chapter states that updating CDD information will be event driven and provides a list of possible event triggers, such as red flags identified through suspicious activity monitoring or receipt of a criminal subpoena.  Nevertheless, the CDD Chapter does not completely eliminate the expectation of periodic reviews for higher risk clients, stating:  “Information provided by higher profile customers and their transactions should be reviewed . . . more frequently throughout the term of the relationship with the bank.”Although this appears to be a relaxation of the expectation to conduct periodic reviews, we expect many banks will not change their current practices.  For a number of years, in addition to event driven reviews, many banks have conducted periodic CDD reviews at risk based intervals because they have understood periodic reviews to be a regulatory expectation. Lower Beneficial Ownership Thresholds:  Somewhat surprisingly, there is no expression in the new chapters that consideration should be given to obtaining beneficial ownership at a lower threshold than 25% for certain high risk business lines or customer types.  The new Beneficial Ownership Chapter simply repeats the regulatory requirement stating that:  “The beneficial ownership rule requires banks to collect beneficial ownership information at the 25 percent ownership threshold regardless of the customer’s risk profile.”  The FAQs (FAQ 6 and 7) refer to the fact that a financial institution may “choose” to apply a lower threshold and “there may be circumstances where a financial institution may determine a lower threshold may be warranted.”  We understand that specifying an expectation that there should be lower beneficial thresholds for certain higher risk customers was an issue that was debated among FinCEN and the bank regulators.For a number of years, many banks have obtained beneficial ownership at lower than 25% thresholds for high risk business lines and customers (e.g., private banking for non-resident aliens).  Banks that have previously applied a lower threshold, however, should carefully evaluate any decision to raise thresholds to the 25% level in the regulation.  If a bank currently applies a lower threshold, raising the threshold may attract regulatory scrutiny about whether the move was justified from a risk standpoint.  Moreover, a risk-based program should address not only regulatory risk, but also money laundering risk.  Therefore, banks should consider reviewing beneficial ownership at lower thresholds for certain customers and business lines and when a legal entity customer has an unusually complex or opaque ownership structure for the type of customer regardless of the business line or risk rating of the customer. New Accounts:  The new chapters do not discuss one of the most controversial and challenging requirements of the CDD rule, the requirement to verify CDD information when a customer previously subject to CDD opens a new account, including when CDs are rolled over or loans renewed.  This most likely may be because application of the requirement to CD rollovers and loan renewals is still under consideration by FinCEN, as discussed above. Enhanced Due Diligence:  The requirement to maintain enhanced due diligence (“EDD”) policies, procedures, and processes for higher risk customers remains with no new suggested categories of customers that should be subject to EDD. Risk Rating:  The new CDD Chapter seems to articulate an expectation to risk rate customers:  “The bank should have an understanding of the money laundering and terrorist financing risk of its customers, referred to in the rule as the customer risk profile.  This concept is also commonly referred to as the customer risk rating.”  The CDD Chapter, therefore, could be read as expressing for banks an expectation that goes beyond FinCEN’s expectation for all covered financial institutions in FAQ 35, which states that a customer profile “may, but need not, include a system of risk ratings or categories of customers.”  It appears that banks that do not currently risk rate customers should consider doing so.  Since the CDD section was first drafted in 2006 and amended in 2007, customer risk rating based on an established method with weighted risk factors has become a best and almost universal practice for banks to facilitate the AML risk assessment, CDD/EDD, and the identification of suspicious activity. Enterprise-Wide CDD:  The new CDD Chapter recognizes the CDD approach of many complex organizations that have CDD requirements and functions that cross financial institution legal entities and the general enterprise-wide approach to BSA/AML long referenced in the BSA/AML Manual.  See BSA/AML Manual, BSA/AML Compliance Program Structures Overview, at p. 155.  The CDD Chapter states that a bank “may choose to implement CDD policies, procedures and processes on an enterprise-wide basis to the extent permitted by law sharing across business lines, legal entities, and with affiliate support units.” Conclusion Despite the CDD regulation, at its core CDD compliance is still risk based and regulatory risk remains a concern.  Every bank must carefully and continually review its CDD program against the regulatory requirements and expectations articulated in the BSA/AML Manual, as well as recent regulatory enforcement actions, the institution’s past examination and independent and compliance testing issues, and best practices of peer institutions.  This review will help anticipate whether there are aspects of its CDD/EDD program that could be subject to criticism in the examination process.  As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit recently recognized, detailed manuals issued by agencies with enforcement authority like the BSA/AML Manual “can put regulated banks on notice of expected conduct.”  California Pacific Bank v. Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, 885 F.3d 560, 572 (9th Cir. 2018).  The BSA/AML Manual is an important and welcome roadmap although not always as up to date, clear or detailed as banks would like it to be. These were the first revisions to the BSA/AML Manual since 2014.  We understand that additional revisions to other chapters are under consideration.    [1]   May 11, 2018 also was the compliance date for the CDD regulations.  The Notice of Final Rulemaking for the CDD regulation, which was published on May 11, 2016, provided a two-year implementation period.  81 Fed. Reg. 29,398 (May 11, 2016).  https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-05-11/pdf/2016-10567.pdf. For banks, the new regulation is set forth in the BSA regulations at 31 C.F.R. § 1010.230 (beneficial ownership requirements) and 31 C.F.R. § 1020.210(a)(5).    [2]   The new chapters can be found at: https://www.ffiec.gov/press/pdf/Customer%20Due%20Diligence%20-%20Overview%20and%20Exam%20Procedures-FINAL.pdfw  (CDD Chapter) and https://www.ffiec.gov/press/pdf/Beneficial%20Ownership%20Requirements%20for %20Legal%20Entity%20CustomersOverview-FINAL.pdf (Beneficial Ownership Chapter).    [3]   Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Customer Due Diligence Requirements for Financial Institutions, FIN-2018-G001.  https://www.fincen.gov/resources/statutes-regulations/guidance/frequently-asked-questions-regarding-customer-due-0.  On April 23, 2018, Gibson Dunn published a client alert on these FAQs.  FinCEN Issues FAQs on Customer Due Diligence Regulation.  https://www.gibsondunn.com/fincen-issues-faqs-on-customer-due-diligence-regulation/. FinCEN also issued FAQs on the regulation on September 29, 2017. https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/2016-09/FAQs_for_CDD_Final_Rule_%287_15_16%29.pdf.    [4]   Beneficial Ownership Requirements for Legal Entity Customers of Certain Financial Products and Services with Automatic Rollovers or Renewals, FIN-2018-R002.  https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/2018-05/FinCEN%20Ruling%20CD%20and%20Loan%20Rollover%20Relief_FINAL%20508-revised.pdf    [5]   The BSA/AML Manual previously stated at p. 57:  “CDD processes should include periodic risk-based monitoring of the customer relationship to determine if there are substantive changes to the original CDD information. . . .” Gibson Dunn’s lawyers  are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments.  Please contact any member of the Gibson Dunn team, the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work in the firm’s Financial Institutions practice group, or the authors: Stephanie L. Brooker – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3502, sbrooker@gibsondunn.com) M. Kendall Day – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8220, kday@gibsondunn.com) Arthur S. Long – New York (+1 212-351-2426, along@gibsondunn.com) Linda Noonan – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3595, lnoonan@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

May 31, 2018 |
President Trump Issues Additional Sanctions Further Targeting PdVSA and the Government of Venezuela

Click for PDF On May 21, 2018, in response to the reelection of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, President Donald J. Trump imposed additional sanctions against the Government of Venezuela.[1]  The new sanctions prohibit U.S. persons from engaging in certain dealings in debt owed to the Government of Venezuela and equity of Venezuelan state-owned entities.  In this regard, these sanctions build upon prior Venezuela-related sanctions to further restrict financing available to the current Venezuelan government. In a statement released with the executive order, President Trump noted that the sanctions are designed to prevent the Maduro regime from selling off valuable state-owned assets in “fire sales,” which deprive the Venezuelan people of “assets the country will need to rebuild its economy.”[2]  In many senses this executive order represents a protective measure.  Furthermore, selling and collateralizing debt owed to and equity held by the Venezuelan government sidesteps other U.S. sanctions to provide alternative means of financing state-owned enterprises, such as Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A. (“PdVSA”), which fund support for the Maduro regime.[3]  The new sanctions are meant to close off this potential funding stream without incurring the collateral costs associated with adding PdVSA to the Specially Designated Nationals (“SDN”) list. Notably, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”)—which is also immersed in the tasks of issuing guidance related to new Russia and Iranian sanctions—has not provided any general licenses, interpretive guidance, or additional statements regarding this executive order or the sanctions it imposes. OVERVIEW OF NEW SANCTIONS The executive order specifically prohibits the following transactions in debt owed to and equity held by the Government of Venezuela.  As in earlier executive orders, the “Government of Venezuela” includes not only its political subdivisions, agencies, and instrumentalities but also the Central Bank of Venezuela, PdVSA, and any entity that is at least 50 percent owned or controlled by these targeted entities (including, for example, PdVSA subsidiaries and majority-owned joint ventures).[4] (1) Transactions involving the purchase of any debt owed to the Government of Venezuela, including accounts receivable.[5] The executive order prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in transactions involving the purchase of debts owed to the Government of Venezuela.  For example, pursuant to this prohibition, a U.S. person may not purchase from PdVSA a debt it is owed by a non-sanctioned customer.  Importantly, this provision prohibits not only U.S. persons from buying debts owed to the Venezuelan government but also broadly prohibits U.S. persons from engaging in any transactions related to the purchase of such debts.  For example, a U.S. bank may not provide financing for one entity to purchase the debt that another entity owes the Government of Venezuela. As in other Venezuela-related sanctions, debt subject to this prohibition includes bonds, loans, extensions of credit, loan guarantees, letters of credit, drafts, bankers acceptances, discount notes or bills, or commercial paper.[6]  Although accounts receivable are expressly included as debt in this provision, their inclusion here does not represent an expansion of OFAC’s interpretation of debt.  Rather, OFAC has generally considered trade debt, including accounts receivable, to be debt subject to prior Venezuela-related sanctions and other similar sanctions.[7]  The explicit inclusion of accounts receivable in these provisions highlights the type of transaction that the sanctions are primarily aimed at stopping and for which compliance professionals should screen. (2) Transactions involving any debt owed to the Government of Venezuela that is pledged as collateral after the effective date of this order, including accounts receivable.[8] The executive order also prohibits U.S. persons from dealing in debt owed to the Government of Venezuela that is pledged as collateral after May 21, 2018.  OFAC has not provided any interpretative guidance regarding what constitutes “collateral” for the purposes of this provision, but it likely refers to debt, as defined above, which is offered as security for a loan made to the Government of Venezuela.  This provision only covers debt pledged as collateral after May 21, 2018.  It does not prohibit U.S. persons from dealing in the transfer of debt owed to the Government of Venezuela that was pledged as collateral on or before May 21, 2018.  However, OFAC has also not provided additional information regarding when it will consider a debt to be “pledged” for the purposes of determining when such debt is covered by this provision.  It is likely that debt is pledged upon the execution of the agreement offering the debt as collateral. This provision directly curtails the ability of the Venezuelan Government to use accounts receivable financing to support its continued operation.  For example, a U.S. person would likely be prohibited from participating in transactions between a PdVSA customer and a PdVSA creditor where the customer paid its outstanding debt to the creditor, in lieu of payment by PdVSA. While similar in some respects to prior sanctions targeting debt transactions, these new prohibitions include several notable differences.  First, the provisions restrict transactions involving debt owed to the Government of Venezuela, rather than debt owed by the Government of Venezuela to its creditors.[9]  Second, there is no exception for dealings in short-term debt.  Where prior Venezuela sanctions permitted transactions in debt with payment terms less than 30 or 90 days (depending upon the debtor), debts with payment terms of any length are covered by this executive order.[10]  Finally, these prohibitions are not limited to “new debt” issued after a specified date.[11]  Instead, all debts owing to the Government of Venezuela, regardless of when they were issued, are covered.  The novelty of these features poses additional compliance challenges for U.S. businesses and financial institutions. (3) Transactions involving the sale, transfer, assignment, or pledging as collateral by the Government of Venezuela of any equity interest in any entity in which the Government of Venezuela has a 50 percent or greater ownership interest.[12] Pursuant to this provision, U.S. persons are broadly prohibited from engaging in transactions in which the Government of Venezuela is selling, transferring, assigning, or collateralizing equity interests in Venezuelan state-owned entities.  As in prior sanctions, “equity” includes stocks, share issuances, depositary receipts, or any other evidence of title or ownership.[13]  In that regard, this prohibition prevents the Maduro government from selling shares in state-owned entities to finance their continued operation. Unlike certain prior provisions restricting equity transactions involving the Venezuelan government, this provision is not limited based on the date the relevant equity was issued.[14]  Instead, all equity interests in any entity majority-owned by the Venezuelan government are subject to this prohibition, regardless of when the equity was issued.  Relatedly, where other prior sanctions prohibited U.S. persons from participating in the purchase of equity from the Venezuelan government, this provision now prohibits U.S. persons from participating in a broader range of transactions involving such equity.[15] Importantly, this prohibition covers transactions involving Venezuelan government sale, transfer, assignment, or collateralization of equity interests in CITGO.  When sanctions on Venezuelan government debt or equity were imposed in August 2017, OFAC issued a general license effectively carving out CITGO, PdVSA’s U.S. subsidiary, from those restrictions.[16]  OFAC has offered no such authorization here.  Consequently, in the absence of a license from OFAC, U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing in CITGO shares offered for sale, transfer, assignment, or collateral by the Government of Venezuela, including PdVSA. EUROPEAN UNION RESPONSE On May 29, 2018, the EU Foreign Ministers noted that the EU will “act swiftly, according to established procedures, with the aim of imposing additional targeted and reversible restrictive measures, that do not harm the Venezuelan population, whose plight the EU wishes to alleviate,” without yet detailing the exact scope of the additional EU sanctions.[17]  So far, the EU with Regulation (EU) 2017/2063 has already legislated an arms embargo and the prohibition on equipment, which might be used for internal repression, targeting also respective auxiliary services, as well as an asset freeze and prohibitions that no funds or economic resources shall be made available to or for the benefit of certain persons.[18]  From the EU statements, it can be inferred that as a minimum it is to be expected that the list of persons subject to the asset freeze will be expanded. IMPLICATIONS The new sanctions targeting the Government of Venezuela may have significant effects for U.S. and non-U.S. companies.  First, the novel features of the debt-related provisions, including restrictions on debt owed to rather than by PdVSA, may require firms to reconfigure their compliance strategies.  For example, the purpose of covered transactions or the parties’ relationship to the Government of Venezuela may not be readily apparent to financial institutions, who may, as a result, wish to supplement transaction screening with compliance certifications from their customers.  Foreign financial institutions must be wary as well.  If a foreign bank obscures the purpose of a transaction in order for a U.S. bank to accept the transaction, the foreign bank could be held liable for “causing” a violation of U.S. sanctions.[19] Furthermore, these additional sanctions, coupled with the prominence of state-owned enterprises in the Venezuelan economy, will further discourage U.S. companies from engaging in business in Venezuela.  Companies that do or have done business in Venezuela already face significant challenges securing payment from state-owned entities, such as PdVSA.  Not only does PdVSA lack the funding to pay outstanding debts but prior sanctions and OFAC-issued interpretative guidance have limited the ability of all parties to rely on debt financing.[20]  Cutting off PdVSA’s ability to use the sale of state-owned equities and accounts receivable financing to raise funds will make it more challenging to set acceptable payment terms for ongoing work in Venezuela.  When no viable payment options remain, U.S. businesses will likely stop doing business with companies like PdVSA.  In this way, the U.S. Venezuela-related sanctions may ultimately incur the same collateral costs that would have come from blacklisting PdVSA, even though these measures were intended to avoid this outcome. Despite having this potential unintended consequence, the escalating sanctions targeting Venezuela have not yet had their intended effect on the Maduro regime.  Although the Trump administration and the EU called for “free and fair” elections and the disbanding of the Venezuelan Constituent Assembly when announcing new sanctions last year, the Constituent Assembly certified the reelection of President Maduro in an election the Trump administration characterized as “neither free nor fair.”[21]  It is unclear whether the addition of these new prohibitions will be sufficient to achieve the desired outcome in Venezuela.    [1]   E.O. 13835 (May 21, 2018), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/venezuela_eo_13835.pdf.    [2]   Statement from President Donald J. Trump on the Maduro Regime in Venezuela (May 21, 2018), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-president-donald-j-trump-maduro-regime-venezuela/.    [3]   OFAC FAQs at Question 512, available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/faqs/Sanctions/Pages/faq_other.aspx#venezuela.    [4]   E.O 13835 § 2(d).    [5]   E.O 13835 § 1(a)(i).    [6]   OFAC FAQs at Question 511, available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/faqs/Sanctions/Pages/faq_other.aspx#venezuela.    [7]   Id. at Question 419, indicating that payment terms for goods provided and services rendered are debt subject to applicable sanctions.    [8]   E.O 13835 § 1(a)(ii).    [9]   Cf. Directive 2 (as amended on Sept. 29, 2017) under Executive Order 13662, https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/eo13662_directive2_20170929.pdf. [10]   E.O. 13808 (Aug. 24, 2017) (“EO”), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/13808.pdf. [11]   Cf. E.O. 13808 § 1(a)(i)-(ii). [12]   E.O 13835 § 1(a)(iii). [13]   OFAC FAQs at Question 511, available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/faqs/Sanctions/Pages/faq_other.aspx#venezuela. [14]   Cf. E.O. 13808 § 1(a)(ii). [15]   Cf. E.O. 13808 § 1(b). [16]   General License 2, available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/venezuela_gl2.pdf. [17]   Venezuela: Council adopts conclusions, available at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2018/05/28/venezuela-council-adopts-conclusions/. [18]   Regulation (EU) 2017/2063, available at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32017R2063&from=EN. [19]   E.O 13835 § 2(a); see e.g., OFAC (July 20, 2017), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/CivPen/Documents/20170727_transtel.pdf, [20]   Clifford Krauss, ConocoPhillips Wins $2 Billion Ruling over Venezuelan Seizure, (Apr. 25, 2018) NY Times, available at https://www.nytimes.com/2018/04/25/business/energy-environment/conocophillips-venezuela-ruling.html. [21]   Statement by the Press Secretary on New Financial Sanctions on Venezuela (Aug. 25, 2017), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-press-secretary-new-financial-sanctions-venezuela/; Declaration by the High Representative on behalf of the EU on the presidential and regional elections in Venezuela available at http://www.consilium.europa.eu/en/press/press-releases/2018/05/22/declaration-by-the-high-representative-on-behalf-of-the-eu-on-the-presidential-and-regional-elections-in-venezuela/. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: R.L. Pratt, Judith Alison Lee, Adam Smith, Stephanie Connor and Richard Roeder. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the above developments.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, the authors, or any of the following leaders and members of the firm’s International Trade Group: United States: Judith Alison Lee – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3591, jalee@gibsondunn.com) Ronald Kirk – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Dallas (+1 214-698-3295, rkirk@gibsondunn.com) Jose W. Fernandez – New York (+1 212-351-2376, jfernandez@gibsondunn.com) Marcellus A. McRae – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7675, mmcrae@gibsondunn.com) Adam M. Smith – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3547, asmith@gibsondunn.com) Christopher T. Timura – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3690, ctimura@gibsondunn.com) Ben K. Belair – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3743, bbelair@gibsondunn.com) Courtney M. Brown – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8685, cmbrown@gibsondunn.com) Laura R. Cole – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3787, lcole@gibsondunn.com) Stephanie L. Connor – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8586, sconnor@gibsondunn.com) Helen L. Galloway – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7342, hgalloway@gibsondunn.com) William Hart – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3706, whart@gibsondunn.com) Henry C. Phillips – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8535, hphillips@gibsondunn.com) R.L. Pratt – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3785, rpratt@gibsondunn.com) Scott R. Toussaint – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5320, stoussaint@gibsondunn.com) Europe: Peter Alexiadis – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 00, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) Attila Borsos – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 10, aborsos@gibsondunn.com) Patrick Doris – London (+44 (0)207 071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Penny Madden – London (+44 (0)20 7071 4226, pmadden@gibsondunn.com) Benno Schwarz – Munich (+49 89 189 33 110, bschwarz@gibsondunn.com) Michael Walther – Munich (+49 89 189 33-180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Mark Handley – London (+44 (0)207 071 4277, mhandley@gibsondunn.com) Richard W. Roeder – Munich (+49 89 189 33-160, rroeder@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

May 30, 2018 |
Update on Proposed Changes to the CFIUS Review Process

Click for PDF After six months of wrangling over the fate of a proposal to modernize the process by which the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS” or the “Committee”) reviews foreign investment in the United States, the U.S. Congress appears primed to streamline and modernize the CFIUS review process.  Last week, committees in the Senate and the House of Representatives approved mark-ups of the proposed legislation, which will most likely be included in the National Defense Authorization Act of Fiscal Year 2019.  As it currently stands, the proposed legislation would alter the CFIUS review process in many critical respects. Background CFIUS is an inter-agency committee authorized to review the national security implications of transactions that could result in control of a U.S. business by a foreign person (“covered transactions”), and to block transactions or impose measures to mitigate any threats to U.S. national security.[1]  Established in 1975 and last reformed in 2007, observers have pointed to an antiquated regulatory framework that hinders the Committee’s ability to review the particular national security implications posed by an increasing number of Chinese investments targeting sensitive technologies in the United States. As we wrote in November 2017, the proposed Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (“FIRRMA”) sought to expand the scope of transactions subject to CFIUS review and reform the process by which that review takes place.[2]  Despite initial bipartisan congressional support and endorsement by the Trump administration, FIRRMA encountered a fair amount of criticism from U.S. industry groups.  As originally drafted, FIRRMA would have broadened the scope of transactions subject to CFIUS review to include—among other things—outbound investments in which a U.S. company would contribute intellectual property or other support, such as joint ventures or licensing agreements, which are not currently subject to CFIUS jurisdiction.  After months of intense lobbying, those provisions have been replaced by a proposal to update U.S. export controls to regulate “emerging” and “foundational” technologies.  The amended version of FIRRMA also provides for short-form “light” filings, tightens the timeframe for CFIUS reviews, exempts acquirers from U.S. allies, expands the definition of “passive” investments excluded from CFIUS review, and codifies the Committee’s review of real estate transactions involving sensitive government sites as well as those connected to air, land, and sea ports. Regulating Outbound Technology Transfers Through the Export Control Process One of the most controversial provisions of the original FIRRMA legislation was the inclusion of outbound investments—such as joint ventures or licensing agreements—in the list of covered transactions subject to CFIUS review.[3]  As originally drafted, FIRRMA would have subjected to CFIUS review any contribution (other than through an ordinary customer relationship) by a U.S. critical technology company of both intellectual property and associated support to a foreign person through any type of arrangement.  Such structures are common vehicles for foreign investment, and do not trigger CFIUS jurisdiction under current regulations because they do not involve the acquisition of a U.S. business.  As detailed below, the Senate ultimately retreated from this approach, opting instead to deal with such transactions through a new and enhanced set of export controls. The Senate’s amended version of FIRRMA would require the President to establish, in coordination with the Secretaries of Commerce, Defense, Energy, and State, a “regular, ongoing interagency process to identify emerging and foundational technologies” that are essential to national security but not subject to CFIUS review.[4]  The Senate draft directs the Secretary of Commerce to establish controls on the export, re-export, or in-country transfer of such technology, such as requiring a license or other authorization.[5]  Notably, the legislation would require a license before any covered technology is transferred to a country subject to an arms embargo, which would include technology transfers to China.  If a license application is submitted on behalf of a joint venture, the Commerce Department may require the disclosure of any foreign person with significant ownership interests in the foreign entity participating in the transaction. The House version of the proposed CFIUS legislation also includes robust export control measures in lieu of an effort to regulate outbound investments through CFIUS.  As a result, the CFIUS reform legislation may provide an end-run around attempts to reform and modernize U.S. export controls, an effort that has languished on the legislative docket for decades. Mandatory “Light” Filings and a Streamlined Review Process  Under current practice, most CFIUS reviews commence when the parties to a transaction submit a joint voluntary notice, a lengthy filing that must include detailed information about the transaction, the acquiring and target entities, the nature of the target entity’s products, and the acquiring entity’s plans to alter or change the target’s business moving forward.[6]  In practice, parties are expected to submit a “draft” notice to CFIUS prior to the commencement of the official 30-day review period, which provides the Committee and the parties with an opportunity to identify and resolve concerns before the official clock starts ticking.  In recent years, this informal review process has added a degree of unpredictability in terms of timing, as the “pre-filing” phase can consume several weeks. The current CFIUS review process includes a 30-day initial review of a notified transaction, potentially followed by a 45-day investigation period, for a possible total of 75 days.  In certain circumstances, CFIUS may also refer a transaction to the President for decision, which must be made within 15 days.[7]  As the volume of transactions before the Committee has increased, it has become more common for CFIUS to ask parties to refile notices at the end of the official 75-day review period, thereby restarting the clock.  This has added a significant degree of uncertainty to the CFIUS review, compelling some parties to abandon deals or not to file at all. The Senate’s amended version of FIRRMA would alter this process in several key respects: Mandatory “Light” Filings.  In lieu of the lengthy voluntary notice required in the current CFIUS review process, FIRRMA would authorize parties to submit short form “declarations”—not to exceed 5 pages in length—at least 45 days prior to the completion of a transaction.  Declarations would be mandatory in certain circumstances, such as when a foreign government holds a “substantial” interest in the foreign acquirer, or in other circumstances prescribed by the Committee.[8] Exemptions.  The proposed Senate bill would also allow the Committee to exempt transactions involving companies from U.S. allies, as well as those which have developed a parallel process to review the national security implications of foreign investment.  Notably, parallel measures to review foreign investment have been proposed in a number of other countries.  In August 2017, citing similar concerns with China’s technological investments, the European Union called for more rigorous screening of foreign acquisitions involving European companies, and Germany increased the authority of its Ministry for Economic Affairs and Energy (“BMWi”) to review foreign investments.  And in October 2017, the United Kingdom published several legislative proposals that would increase its ability to review and intervene in transactions that raise national security considerations or involve national infrastructure. Timeframe.  FIRRMA would also require the Committee to respond to a declaration within a tighter time period.  The Senate draft says that the Committee shall take action within 30 days of receiving a declaration,[9] whereas the House draft cuts that response time down to 15 days.[10]  FIRRMA would provide for a longer initial review period, extending it from 30 to 45 days and authorizing CFIUS to extend the 45-day investigation phase by 30 days “in extraordinary circumstances.”[11]  In the House draft, the extension period for extraordinary circumstances is only 15 days.[12] Filing Fees.  The original FIRRMA bill included a provision requiring filing fees not to exceed the lesser of 1% of the value of the transaction or $300,000.[13] The Senate draft still provides for filing fees, but it is less specific as to the amount, instructing the Committee to consider the value of the transaction, the effect of the fee on small business concerns, the effect on foreign investment, and the expenses of the Committee in setting the fee.[14]  The Senate draft also instructs the Committee to periodically reconsider the amount of the fee.  In contrast, the House draft eliminates the proposed filing fees entirely. Judicial Review.  The original November 2017 version of FIRRMA would have exempted the actions and findings of the Committee from judicial review, limiting parties’ ability to challenge CFIUS decisions.  The amended Senate version of the bill provides that parties may challenge CFIUS actions before the U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit.[15]  The Senate draft also establishes procedures for the review of privileged or classified information via ex parte and in camera reviews.[16] The Space Between “Control” and “Passive” Investments The Senate draft would expand the definition of a covered transaction to include not only a transaction through which a foreign company could obtain “control” of a U.S. company, but also any “other investment (other than passive investment) by a foreign person in any United States critical technology company or United States critical infrastructure company that is unaffiliated with the foreign person.”[17]  Notably, current CFIUS regulations exclude transactions that result in a foreign person holding 10 percent or less of the outstanding voting interest in a U.S. business if the transaction is “solely for the purpose of a passive investment,” i.e., “if the person holding or acquiring such interests does not plan or intend to exercise control, does not possess or develop any purpose other than passive investment, and does not take any action inconsistent with holding or acquiring such interests solely for the purpose of passive investment.”[18]  FIRRMA sought to clarify this provision by codifying a stricter definition of the term passive investment, not dependent upon the percent of ownership interest.  If enacted, this change will significantly increase the types of transactions that are subject to CFIUS scrutiny. The amended version of the Senate bill effectively expands the definition in several key ways.  For example, the original FIRRMA stated that in order for an investment by a foreign person in a U.S. business to be considered passive, the foreign person could not have access to any non-public technical information or nontechnical information that was not available to all investors.[19]  The amended Senate draft adds a materiality requirement and eliminates the provision on nontechnical information entirely.  In the new version, the information afforded must be technical, material, and nonpublic in order for the investment to be deemed non-passive.[20] The draft Senate legislation also specifically indicates that financial information does not qualify as material nonpublic technical information.[21] The passivity definition is of critical importance for private equity funds, and the amended Senate version of the bill accommodates such funds by excluding them from regulations that would allow CFIUS to create a test for passivity based on the size of the investment.  The Senate draft also clarifies that an indirect investment by a foreign person through an investment fund that affords the foreign person membership as a limited partner on an advisory board or committee shall be considered a passive investment so long as the advisory board or committee does not have the power to approve, disapprove, or otherwise control investment decisions of the fund.[22] Real Estate Transactions As drafted late last year, FIRRMA sought to broaden the scope of transactions subject to CFIUS review to include the purchase or lease by a foreign person of real estate that is in close proximity to a U.S. military installation or other sensitive U.S. government facility or property.  This would effectively codify the Committee’s standard practice of examining the proximity of a physical property to any sensitive military or U.S. government facilities.  The amended version of the Senate draft retains this provision, and includes properties connected to air, land or sea ports.[23]  However, the Senate draft exempts the purchase of any ‘single housing unit’ as well as real estate in ‘urbanized areas’ as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.[24] Amendments A to ZTE By the end of the Senate Banking mark-up on May 22, 2018, the Senate’s draft legislation had been subject to 50 different amendments, ranging from pedestrian changes in title to substantive alterations in the original language.  There was also a last-ditch attempt by Senator Van Hollen (D-MD) to push back on the Trump administration’s recent effort to weaken penalties imposed on the Chinese telecom giant ZTE Corporation (“ZTE”) for violations of U.S. sanctions and export controls.  Notably, the amended legislation was approved by the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs with the ZTE amendment by a unanimous vote.  Some observers noted that the Senate’s attempt to push back on the President’s interference in the ZTE case could provide the administration with certain diplomatic cover in advance of further trade talks with the Chinese.    [1]   CFIUS operates pursuant to section 721 of the Defense Production Act of 1950, as amended by the Foreign Investment and National Security Act of 2007 (FINSA) (section 721) and as implemented by Executive Order 11858, as amended, and regulations at 31 C.F.R. Part 800.    [2]   Press Release, U.S. Senator John Cornyn, Cornyn, Feinstein, Burr Introduce Bill to Strengthen the CFIUS Review Process, Safeguard National Security (Nov. 8, 2017), available at https://www.cornyn.senate.gov/content/news/cornyn-feinstein-burr-introduce-bill-strengthen-cfius-review-process-safeguard-national.    [3]   FIRRMA Section 3(a)(5)(B)(v).  The House draft includes only joint ventures that could result in the foreign control of a U.S. business in the list of covered transactions.  Amendment to H.R. 5841 Section 201(3)(B)(i).    [4]   Amendment to S. 2098 Section 25(a).    [5]   Amendment to S. 2098 Section 25(b).    [6]   31 C.F.R. §§ 800.401(a)-(b), 800.402(c).    [7]   31 C.F.R. § 800.506.    [8]   The requirements for what can trigger a mandatory declaration (the acquisition of a substantial interest in a U.S. business by a foreign person in which a foreign government has a substantial interest) are the same in both the House and Senate drafts.  The definition of substantial interest is also the same.  The original Senate version of FIRRMA mandated declarations for transactions involving the acquisition of a voting interest of at least 25% in a U.S. business by a foreign person in which a foreign government owns, directly or indirectly, at least a 25% voting interest.  See FIRRMA Section 5(v)(II)(aa).  Recent iterations of the bill replaced this 25% threshold with the phrase “substantial interest,” to be defined by subsequent regulation, with the caveat that an interest that is a passive investment or that is less than a 10% voting interest shall not be considered a substantial interest.  Amendment to S. 2098 Section 6(v)(IV)(bb)(AA)-(CC).  The House bill largely parallels the Senate bill on the use of voluntary and mandatory declarations.  One linguistic change is that the Senate bill directs that the Committee “shall” prescribe regulations establishing requirements for declarations whereas the House bill says that the Committee “may” prescribe regulations for voluntary and mandatory declarations.  Amendment to H.R. 5841 Section 302(a)(v)(II)(aa).    [9]   Amendment to S. 2098 Section 6(v)(III)(bb). [10]   Amendment to H.R. 5841 Section 302(a)(v)(IV)(bb). [11]   Amendment to S. 2098 Section 9. [12]   Amendment to H.R. 5841 Section 303. [13]   FIRRMA Section 19. [14]   Amendment to S. 2098 Section 22. [15]   Amendment to S. 2098 Section 15. [16]   These provisions clarify parties’ rights in the wake of the D.C. Circuit’s 2014 decision in Ralls Corp. v. Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.  After CFIUS and President Obama ordered the Chinese-owned Ralls Corporation to divest a wind-farm project in close proximity to a Department of Defense facility, the D.C. Circuit held that the Committee had violated Ralls’ due process rights by failing, prior to the order to divest, to provide Ralls with access to the unclassified information that the government had relied on, and to give Ralls the opportunity to rebut that unclassified information. [17]   Amendment to S. 2098 Section 3(a)(5)(B)(iii). [18]   31 C.F.R. §§ 800.302(b), 800.223. [19]   FIRRMA Section 3(a)(5)(D)(i). [20]   Amendment to S. 2098 Section 3(a)(5)(D)(i). [21]   Amendment to S. 2098 Section 3(a)(5)(D)(ii). [22]   Amendment to S. 2098 Section 3(a)(5)(D)(iv). [23]   Amendment to S. 2098 Section 3(a)(5)(B)(ii). [24]   Amendment to S. 2098 Section 3(a)(5)(C)(i). The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Judith Alison Lee, Jose Fernandez and Stephanie Connor. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the above developments.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, the authors, or any of the following leaders and members of the firm’s International Trade Group: United States: Judith Alison Lee – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3591, jalee@gibsondunn.com) Ronald Kirk – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Dallas (+1 214-698-3295, rkirk@gibsondunn.com) Jose W. Fernandez – New York (+1 212-351-2376, jfernandez@gibsondunn.com) Marcellus A. McRae – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7675, mmcrae@gibsondunn.com) Adam M. Smith – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3547, asmith@gibsondunn.com) Christopher T. Timura – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3690, ctimura@gibsondunn.com) Ben K. Belair – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3743, bbelair@gibsondunn.com) Courtney M. Brown – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8685, cmbrown@gibsondunn.com) Laura R. Cole – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3787, lcole@gibsondunn.com) Stephanie L. Connor – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8586, sconnor@gibsondunn.com) Helen L. Galloway – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7342, hgalloway@gibsondunn.com) William Hart – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3706, whart@gibsondunn.com) Henry C. Phillips – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8535, hphillips@gibsondunn.com) R.L. Pratt – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3785, rpratt@gibsondunn.com) Scott R. Toussaint – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5320, stoussaint@gibsondunn.com) Europe: Peter Alexiadis – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 00, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) Attila Borsos – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 10, aborsos@gibsondunn.com) Patrick Doris – London (+44 (0)207 071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Penny Madden – London (+44 (0)20 7071 4226, pmadden@gibsondunn.com) Benno Schwarz – Munich (+49 89 189 33 110, bschwarz@gibsondunn.com) Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33-180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Mark Handley – London (+44 (0)207 071 4277, mhandley@gibsondunn.com) Richard W. Roeder – Munich (+49 89 189 33-160, rroeder@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

May 21, 2018 |
The EU Responds to the U.S. Withdrawal from the Iran Deal

Click for PDF We recently assessed President Trump’s decision to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”), and to re-impose lifted sanctions on Iran, including secondary sanctions that threaten to limit non-U.S. entities’ access to the U.S. market if they transact with certain Iranian entities. On May 17, 2018, Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, stated that the European Union (EU) would “stick to the [JCPOA]” and seek to protect “European businesses, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.”[1] The next day, the European Commission announced it would prohibit compliance with the re-imposed U.S. sanctions.[2] The Commission will accomplish this by revising an existing EU blocking statute,[3] so that EU nationals and other persons within the EU, as well as companies incorporated within the EU, such as subsidiaries of U.S. companies, will be prohibited from complying with the revived U.S. sanctions.[4] This decision thrusts companies that do business in both the United States and EU into significant legal uncertainty. The European Commission also announced a number of other measures designed to facilitate continued trade with Iran. For example, the Commission has “[l]aunched the formal process to remove obstacles for the European Investment Bank to decide under the EU budget guarantee to finance activities” in Iran.[5] As “confidence building measures,” the Commission will “continue and strengthen the ongoing sectoral cooperation with, and assistance to, Iran, including in the energy sector and with regard to small and medium-sized companies.”[6] The Commission has also said it would encourage member states “to explore the possibility of allowing one-off bank transfers to the Central Bank of Iran” to allow Iranian authorities to receive oil-related revenues.[7] Implementation Timeline The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced the re-imposed sanctions will be subject to 90- and 180-day wind-down periods that will expire on August 6 and November 4, 2018, respectively.[8] The European Commission aims to have the amended blocking statute take effect before the first expiration on August 6, 2018.[9] Once amended, the blocking statute will automatically take effect after two months, unless either the European Parliament or Council object, but it could take effect sooner if both institutions indicate approval before the objection periods ends.[10] Legal Risks A tangle of U.S. laws, including the Iran and Libya Sanctions Act of 1996 (“ISA”)[11] and Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (“CISADA”),[12] provide sanctions that apply extraterritorially to prohibit non-U.S. entities from transacting with various Iranian entities. Companies that engage in such transactions may face severe consequences, including large financial penalties and a complete ban from the U.S. banking system.[13] Needless to say, such a ban may pose an existential threat to non-U.S. entities with significant U.S. business. The practical effect of the EU blocking statute, however, remains uncertain. That regulation prohibits entities and persons from complying with U.S. sanctions and foreign court requests that stem from U.S. laws specified in the blocking statute’s annex.[14] The annex currently includes the following laws: a)      Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act of 1996; b)      Iran and Libyan Sanctions Act of 1996; c)      Code of Federal Regulations, Ch. V, Part 515 (Cuban Assets Controls Regulations), subparts B, E, and G. The blocking statute’s impact remains uncertain for a variety of reasons. First, EU member states must give effect to the statute by passing domestic implementing laws. The United Kingdom passed such a law, which created a criminal offence for compliance with the stated U.S. laws. The U.K. law does not provide for a prison sentence as punishment,[15] but it does provide for a potentially unlimited fine.[16] Other member states also created criminal offences, including Ireland, the Netherlands, and Sweden. Other states, including Germany, Italy and Spain, created administrative penalties for non-compliance. Meanwhile some member states, including France, Belgium and Luxembourg, never implemented the blocking statute. It is unclear whether they would do so now, although they have a duty under EU law to implement the blocking statute. Second, the European Commission has not yet released the amended statute: its scope remains to be seen. Finally, the extent to which member states will prosecute violations of the blocking statute remains unclear. It has largely been viewed as a political symbol, rather than an effective legal tool. No company has ever been convicted of breaching the blocking statute,[17] and only Austria has ever pressed charges.[18] Indeed, European Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis recognized the blocking statute “could be of limited effectiveness” given the centrality of the U.S. banking system.[19] Considering the current political situation, which substantially differs from the situation when the EU blocking statute was first introduced in 1996, the enforcement appetite, however, might increase. Possible Options for Affected Companies The U.S. sanctions and impending EU blocking statute confront companies with a multi-jurisdictional Scylla and Charybdis. Entities have three basic options. First, they could attempt to comply with both U.S. and EU law while maintaining business in Iran. Some companies, such as French oil conglomerate Total, have indicated they will seek special licenses from the United States to allow their business in Iran to continue.[20] Given that the purpose of the U.S. sanctions is to isolate Iran economically, such efforts seem unlikely to succeed. Second, companies could comply with U.S. sanctions while exiting Iranian business and thereby potentially violating the EU blocking statute. While special attention has to be paid to criminal prosecution in, inter alia, Ireland, and high fines in the United Kingdom,[21] most member states impose maximum fines well under $1 million.[22] The United States, meanwhile, may impose multi-billion dollar fines[23] and ban companies from the U.S. banking system. Given the profound threat of such penalties, a number of non-U.S. companies have already announced plans to end business in Iran.[24] Third, companies could comply with the blocking statute, maintain business with Iranian entities, and violate the U.S. sanctions. But given the existential threat that a ban from the U.S. financial system would pose to many large companies, this route appears least tenable. Whether this route merits pursuit will largely depend on the support the EU commits to providing to small and medium-sized enterprises that become a target of U.S. sanctions. Conclusion The European Commission’s announcement that it will amend the blocking statute further increases the uncertainty companies face in navigating U.S. sanctions on Iran, and may expose them to significant liability. Russia’s recently proposed law to impose fines and possibly imprisonment for complying with U.S. sanctions against Russia only adds to the uncertainty.[25] The scope and practical effect of the EU blocking statute remain to be seen, but Gibson Dunn will continue to closely monitor the situation. 1 Speech, European Commission, Press conference remarks by Jean-Claude Juncker (May 17, 2018), http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_SPEECH-18-3851_en.htm. 2 Press Release, European Commission, European Commission acts to protect the interests of EU companies investing in Iran as part of the EU’s continued commitment to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (May 18, 2018), http://europa.eu/rapid/press-release_IP-18-3861_en.htm. 3 Council Regulation (EC) No. 2271/1996 (OJ L 309, 29.11.1996, p. 1-6). 4 Id.; see also Press Release, supra note 2. 5 Press Release, supra note 2. 6 Id. 7 Id. 8 U.S. Dep’t of Treasury, Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Re-Imposition of Sanctions Pursuant to the May 8, 2018 National Security Presidential Memorandum Relating to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) (May 8, 2018), https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/jcpoa_winddown_faqs.pdf, (hereinafter “OFAC FAQ”). 9 Press release, supra note 2. 10 Id. 11 Pub. L. No. 104-172 (codified as amended in scattered sections of 50 U.S.C.). 12 Pub. L. No. 111-195 (codified as amended in scattered sections of 22 and 50 U.S.C.). 13 CISADA § 102. 14 Council Regulation (EC) No. 2271/1996, art. 5. 15 Extraterritorial US Legislation (Sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Libya) (Protection of Trading Interests) Order, S.I. 1996/3171. The U.K. law’s omission of a custodial sentence makes it an outlier in U.K. financial crime laws. 16 Id. 17 See, e.g., In 1990s Redux, EU to Consider Blocking U.S. Sanctions Over Iran, N.Y. Times (May 9, 2018), https://www.nytimes.com/reuters/2018/05/09/business/09reuters-iran-nuclear-eu-business.html. 18 See Austria charges bank after Cuban accounts cancelled, Reuters (Apr. 27, 2007), http://www.reuters.com/article/2007/04/27/austria-bawag-idUSL2711446820070427. 19 Huw Jones, EU says block on U.S. sanctions on Iran of limited use for EU banks, Reuters (May 17, 2018), https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-nuclear-eu-banks/eu-says-block-on-u-s-sanctions-on-iran-of-limited-use-for-eu-banks-idUSKCN1II17K; 20 Steven Mufson, French oil giant Total seeks Iran sanctions waiver from Trump for $2 billion project, Washington Post (May 16, 2018), https://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/french-oil-giant-total-seeks-iran-sanctions-waiver-from-trump-for-2-billion-project/2018/05/16/dfc709cc-5926-11e8-b656-a5f8c2a9295d_story.html. 21 See Extraterritorial US Legislation (Sanctions against Cuba, Iran, Libya) (Protection of Trading Interests) Order, S.I. 1996/3171 (articulating no maximum penalty); Lag om EG:s förordning om skydd mot extraterritoriell lagstiftning som antas av ett tredje land (Svensk författningssamling [SFS] 1997:825) (Swed.) (same). 22 For example, the Netherlands imposes a maximum fine of one million guilders, which is about $560,000. See Uitvoering van verordening (EG) nr. 2271/96 van de Raad van de Europese Unie van 22 november 1996, https://www.parlementairemonitor.nl/9353000/1/j9vvij5epmj1ey0/vi3ah5gewv8e. 23 For example, it levied a $9 billion fine against BNP Paribas for violating sanctions against Iran, Cuba and Sudan. Maia De La Baume & Anca Gurzu, Europe not backing down on Iran, Politico (May 17, 2018), https://www.politico.com/story/2018/05/17/europe-iran-trump-595120. 24 EU moves to block US sanctions on Iran, Al Jazeera (May 17, 2018), https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2018/05/eu-moves-block-sanctions-iran-180517134848253.html. 25 Maya Lester, Draft Russian Bill criminalises compliance with Western sanctions, European Sanctions Blog (May 16, 2018), https://europeansanctions.com/2018/05/16/draft-russian-bill-criminalises-compliance-with-western-sanctions/. The proposed Russian law targets U.S. sanctions against Russia, not Iran, but if Russia chooses to maintain business with Iran, then it’s possible that compliance with the re-imposed U.S. sanctions against Iran could trigger the Russian law where that compliance implicates business in Russia. See id. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Judith Alison Lee, Patrick Doris, Mark Handley, Richard Roeder, Adam Smith, and Chris Timura. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the above developments.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, the authors, or any of the following leaders and members of the firm’s International Trade Group: United States: Judith Alison Lee – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3591, jalee@gibsondunn.com) Ronald Kirk – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Dallas (+1 214-698-3295, rkirk@gibsondunn.com) Jose W. Fernandez – New York (+1 212-351-2376, jfernandez@gibsondunn.com) Marcellus A. McRae – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7675, mmcrae@gibsondunn.com) Adam M. Smith – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3547, asmith@gibsondunn.com) Christopher T. Timura – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3690, ctimura@gibsondunn.com) Ben K. Belair – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3743, bbelair@gibsondunn.com) Courtney M. Brown – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8685, cmbrown@gibsondunn.com) Laura R. Cole – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3787, lcole@gibsondunn.com) Stephanie L. Connor – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8586, sconnor@gibsondunn.com) Helen L. Galloway – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7342, hgalloway@gibsondunn.com) William Hart – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3706, whart@gibsondunn.com) Henry C. Phillips – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8535, hphillips@gibsondunn.com) R.L. Pratt – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3785, rpratt@gibsondunn.com) Scott R. Toussaint – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5320, stoussaint@gibsondunn.com) Europe: Peter Alexiadis – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 00, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) Attila Borsos – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 10, aborsos@gibsondunn.com) Patrick Doris – London (+44 (0)207 071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Penny Madden – London (+44 (0)20 7071 4226, pmadden@gibsondunn.com) Benno Schwarz – Munich (+49 89 189 33 110, bschwarz@gibsondunn.com) Michael Walther (+49 89 189 33-180, mwalther@gibsondunn.com) Mark Handley – London (+44 (0)207 071 4277, mhandley@gibsondunn.com) Richard W. Roeder – Munich (+49 89 189 33-160, rroeder@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

May 9, 2018 |
The Trump Administration Pulls the Plug on the Iran Nuclear Agreement

Click for PDF On May 8, 2018, President Donald Trump announced his decision to abandon the 2015 Iran nuclear deal—the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (the “JCPOA”)—and re-impose U.S. nuclear-related sanctions on the Iranian regime.[1]  Though it came as no surprise, the decision went further than many observers had anticipated.  Notably, under the terms of the JCPOA, U.S. sanctions were held in abeyance through a series of waivers that were periodically renewed by both the Obama and Trump administrations.  Many commentators expected the current administration to discontinue only waivers of sanctions on the Iranian financial sector that were set to expire on May 12, 2018, leaving other sanctions untouched.[2]  Instead, the Trump administration re-imposed all nuclear related sanctions on Iran, staggering the implementation over the course of the next six months.  As described in an initial volley of frequently asked questions (“FAQs”) set forth by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), the re-imposition of nuclear sanctions will be subject to certain 90 and 180 day wind-down periods that expire on August 6, 2018 and November 4, 2018, respectively.[3] Background The JCPOA The JCPOA was a purposefully limited accord focusing only on Iran’s nuclear activities and the international community’s nuclear-related sanctions.  Prior to the JCPOA, the international community, including the United Nations, the European Union, and the United States imposed substantial sanctions on Iran of varying scope and severity.  The European Union had implemented an oil embargo and U.S. nuclear sanctions had included the “blacklisting” of more than 700 individuals and entities on OFAC’s list of Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (“SDN List”), as well as economic restrictions imposed on entities under U.S. jurisdiction (“Primary Sanctions”) and restrictions on entities outside U.S. jurisdiction (“Secondary Sanctions”).  Secondary Sanctions threatened non-U.S. entities with limitations on their access to the U.S. market if they transacted with various Iranian entities.  Broadly, Secondary Sanctions forced non-U.S. entities to decide whether they were going to deal with Iran or with the United States.  They could not do both. The JCPOA, signed between Iran and the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council (the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, and China) and Germany (the “P5+1”) in 2015, committed both sides to certain obligations related to Iran’s nuclear development.[4]  Iran committed to various limitations on its nuclear program, and in return the international community (the P5+1 alongside the European Union and the United Nations) committed to relieving substantial portions of the sanctions that had been placed on Iran to address that country’s nuclear activities.  This relief included the United States’ commitment to ease certain Secondary Sanctions, thus opening up the Iranian economy for non-U.S. persons without risking their access to the U.S. market to pursue Iranian deals.  This sanctions relief came into effect in January 2016 (on “Implementation Day”) when the IAEA determined that Iran was compliant with the initial nuclear components of the JCPOA. Criticism of the Deal Donald Trump made his opposition to the JCPOA a cornerstone of his presidential campaign.  On occasions too numerous to count, then candidate and now President Trump criticized the deal and indicated his intent to withdraw from the JCPOA unless it was “fixed” to address his concerns, including the deal’s silence on Iran’s ballistic missile development and the existence of certain “sunset provisions” (after which any remaining sanctions would be permanently lifted).[5] There were at least two challenges built into the JCPOA that critics—including President Trump—have seized upon.  First, in an effort to reach an agreement to limit Iran’s nuclear capabilities, the Obama administration and other JCPOA parties not only included “sunset” provisions in the accord after which certain restrictions on Iran would be lifted, but also drew a distinction between Iran’s compliance with the nuclear deal and its conduct in other areas (including its support for groups the United States deems terrorists, its repression of its citizens, its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and its conventional weapons development programs).  Supporters of the deal argued that addressing the immediate nuclear weapons risk was paramount—this necessitated both the sunset provisions and the absence of addressing other troubling activities.  Critics of the deal, however, including some powerful Congressional leaders and President Trump, derided these compromises and claimed not only that the sunset periods were too brief to be meaningful, but also that by ignoring non-nuclear issues Iran was given both a free pass to continue its bad behavior and indeed the ability to fund that bad behavior out of proceeds received from the nuclear-related sanctions relief. A second challenge to the deal came from the fact that while the other parties to the JCPOA agreed to remove almost all of their sanctions on Iran, U.S. relief was far more surgical and reversible.  This was recognized by all parties to the JCPOA but so long as President Obama (or a successor with similar political views) was in office, it was thought to be a manageable limitation.  One of the key limits to the U.S. relief was that U.S. persons—including financial institutions and companies—have remained broadly prohibited from engaging with Iran even after the JCPOA was implemented in 2016.  Instead, the principal relief the U.S. offered was on the sanctions risks posed to non-U.S. parties pursuant to Secondary Sanctions and related measures.  As a consequence, it has remained a challenge for non-U.S. persons to fully engage with Iran due to the continued inability to leverage U.S. banks, insurance and other institutions that remain central to the bulk of cross-border finance and trade. Changes to U.S. Sanctions Regarding Iran Wind-Down Periods In conjunction with the May 8, 2018 announcement, the President issued a National Security Presidential Memorandum (“NSPM”) directing the Secretary of State and the Secretary of the Treasury to prepare immediately for the re-imposition of all of the U.S. sanctions lifted or waived in connection with the JCPOA, to be accomplished as expeditiously as possible and in no case later than 180 days from the date of the NSPM. According to FAQs published by OFAC, the 90-day wind-down period will apply to sanctions on:[6] The purchase and acquisition of U.S. dollar banknotes by the Government of Iran; Gold and precious metals; Graphite, raw or semi-finished metals such as aluminum and steel; Coal; Software for integrating industrial processes; Iranian rials; Iranian sovereign debt; and Iran’s automobile sector. At the end of the 90-day wind-down period, the U.S. government will also revoke authorizations to import into the United States Iranian carpets and foodstuffs and to sell to Iran commercial passenger aircraft and related parts and services.[7] The longer 180-day wind-down period will apply to sanctions on:[8] Iranian port operators, shipping and shipbuilding; Petroleum-related transactions; Transactions by foreign financial institutions with the Central Bank of Iran and designated Iranian financial institutions; Provision of specialized financial messaging services to the Central Bank of Iran and certain Iranian financial institutions; Underwriting services, insurance and reinsurance; and Iran’s energy sector. At the end of the 180-day wind-down period, the U.S. government will also revoke General License H, which authorizes foreign entities of U.S. companies to do business with Iran, and the U.S. government will re-impose sanctions against individuals and entities removed from the SDN List on Implementation Day.[9] The nature and scope of the “wind-down” period resulted in immediate, and significant, concerns from companies seeking to comply with U.S. sanctions.  OFAC has clarified that, in the event a non-U.S. non-Iranian person is owed payment after the conclusion of the wind-down period for goods or services that were provided lawfully therein, the U.S. government would allow that person to receive payment according to the terms of the written contract or written agreement.[10]  Similarly, if a non-U.S., non-Iranian person is owed repayment after the expiration of the wind-down periods for loans or credits extended to an Iranian counterparty prior to the end of the 90-day or 180-day wind-down period, as applicable, provided that such loans or credits were extended pursuant to a written contract or written agreement entered into prior to May 8, 2018, and such activities were consistent with U.S. sanctions in effect at the time the loans or credits were extended, the U.S. government would allow the non-U.S., non-Iranian person to receive repayment of the related debt or obligation according to the terms of the written contract or written agreement.[11]  These allowances are designed for such parties to be made whole for debts and obligations owed or due to them for goods or services fully provided or delivered or loans or credit extended to an Iranian party prior to the end of the wind-down periods.  Notably, any payments would need to be consistent with U.S. sanctions, including that payments could not involve U.S. persons or the U.S. financial system, unless the transactions are exempt from regulation or authorized by OFAC.[12] Changes to the SDN List In assessing the impact of the “re-designations” under the SDN List, it is useful to note the restrictions that remained in place after the JCPOA was implemented.  For example, although they were not classified as SDNs, the property and interests in property of persons of the Government of Iran and Iranian financial institutions remained blocked if they are in or come within the United States or if they are in or come within the possession or control of a U.S. person, wherever located.  As a result, U.S. persons were broadly prohibited from engaging in transactions or dealing with the Government of Iran and Iranian financial institutions, while non-U.S. persons could deal with them in non-dollar currencies.[13]  But under the new policy, such persons will be moved to the SDN List, which means that non-U.S. persons who continue to deal with them will be subject to Secondary Sanctions.[14]  OFAC indicated that it will not add such persons to the SDN List immediately, so as “to allow for the orderly wind down by non-U.S., non-Iranian persons of activities that had been undertaken” consistent with the prior regulations.  This change will happen no later than November 5, 2018.[15] Diplomatic Next Steps Yesterday’s announcement followed significant diplomatic efforts to save the deal.  Trump’s January 2018 announcement that he would extend existing waivers until May 2018 set off a feverish round of negotiations with European partners, culminating in recent visits by French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel to try to persuade the Trump administration to remain in the deal.  Many expect those negotiations to continue, as the global community is significantly more exposed to the Iranian market than U.S. persons, who continued to be subject to sanctions post-JCPOA.  Indeed, since sanctions were suspended in early 2016, Iran’s oil exports have increased dramatically, reaching approximately two million barrels per day in 2017.  European imports from Iran rose by nearly 800 percent between 2015 and 2017 (primarily imports of Iranian oil), while European exports to Iran rose by more than four billion euros ($5 billion) annually over the same period.[16]  Major European companies have also resumed investing in Iran—France’s Total has announced plans to invest $1 billion in one of Iran’s largest offshore gas fields.[17]  Early press reports following President Trump’s May 2018 announcement, if accurate, suggest that Iran and the other JCPOA parties remain committed to the underlying deal and plan to begin prompt negotiations to salvage the JCPOA.[18] Because full re-imposition of U.S. sanctions is not scheduled to take effect for another six months, it is entirely possible that the announcement by President Trump will serve as an impetus to negotiations that bring Iran and the rest of the P5+1 to the table.  Such an approach could mirror the Trump administration’s recent tactics with respect to steel and aluminum tariffs, where a splashy public announcement is followed by a series of repeated extensions as the administration seeks to extract further concessions.  One point of leverage the EU may have in these negotiations is the possibility of extending the existing “Blocking Regulation,”[19] which makes it unlawful for EU persons to comply with a specific list of U.S. sanctions laws against Cuba, Libya and Iran as of 1996.  That list could be extended to capture U.S. sanctions against Iran in respect of which the JCPOA offered relief.  This possibility has been mentioned by senior EU officials a number of times since late last year, including by the EU ambassador to the United States in September 2017,[20] and the head of the Iranian Taskforce in the EU’s External Action Service in February 2018.[21] For now, the EU remains committed to the deal.  On the same day that President Trump announced the change in Iran sanctions policy, European Union High Representative and Vice-President Federica Mogherini remarked that “[a]s long as Iran continues to implement its nuclear related commitments, as it is doing so far, the European Union will remain committed to the continued full and effective implementation of the nuclear deal. . . . The lifting of nuclear related sanctions is an essential part of the agreement.  The European Union has repeatedly stressed that the lifting of nuclear related sanctions has not only a positive impact on trade and economic relations with Iran, but also and mainly crucial benefits for the Iranian people.  The European Union is fully committed to ensuring that this continues to be delivered on.”[22] Notably, the Trump administration may be hard pressed to convince Iran’s most significant trading partners —many of whom are mired in disputes with the United States—to add pressure on Tehran.  China and India are Iran’s largest importers, and China appears particularly unlikely to reduce its reliance on Iranian oil given heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington over bilateral trade and investment issues.  Furthermore, the Trump administration would need to convince Russia to halt plans to invest potentially tens of billions of dollars in Iran’s oil and gas sector, and the Trump administration’s strained ties with Turkey make it far from clear that Turkey would cooperate with renewed U.S. pressure on Iran.[23]  Furthermore, the expected rise in oil prices as a result of the withdrawal is seen as a boon to Russia, whose economy is heavily dependent on petroleum and natural gas exports. Alternatively, U.S. allies in the Middle East, led by Israel and Saudi Arabia, support the Trump administration and have argued that Iran threatens their own national security.  Last week Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu unveiled documents regarding Iran’s covert nuclear weapons project from the 1990s as proof that Iran lied about the extent of its program, a move that was widely criticized as an effort to influence U.S. public opinion with information that was widely known and had provided the impetus for the negotiations in the first place.  The U.S. intelligence community had confirmed the weapons program ended in 2003. Furthermore, the Trump administration could have a difficult time persuading countries to cut commercial ties with Iran in the absence of any international legal basis for doing so.  Although U.S. sanctions on Iran have more force than United Nations sanctions, the latter created an important international framework that the United States and other countries could expand on.  Most of these sanctions were repealed with the passage of UN Security Council Resolution 2231 (2015), which endorsed the JCPOA.  The “snapback” mechanism in UNSCR 2231 would enable the United States to unilaterally require the restoration of UN sanctions on Iran under international law.  But as the UN’s nuclear watchdog has repeatedly confirmed Iran’s compliance with the JCPOA’s nuclear terms, the diplomatic costs of unilaterally requiring UN sanctions’ reactivation would likely outweigh any benefits.[24] Although the JCPOA contains no provisions for withdrawal, Iran has long threatened to resume its nuclear program if the United States reneges on its obligations by reinstituting sanctions.[25]  In the immediate aftermath of the Trump administration’s May 8 announcement, however, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said that his government remains committed to maintaining the nuclear deal with other world powers.  The Iranian leader said he had directed his diplomats to negotiate with the deal’s remaining signatories—including European countries, Russia and China—and that the JCPOA could survive without the United States.  Rouhani, who had made the deal his signature achievement, faces stiff pressure from the hardline elements within Iran who objected to the deal.  If Iran resumes uranium enrichment activities, that could move European parties to walk away from the negotiating table, thereby dooming the JCPOA on which President Rouhani has staked so much political capital and empowering more hardline elements within the Iranian regime.[26] Conclusion Although many expect negotiations regarding the fate of the JCPOA to continue over the next six months, the outcome of such deliberations is highly uncertain.  Notably, it took the combined efforts of the Bush and Obama administrations to convince foreign governments and companies to join the United States in imposing sanctions on Iran, and such coordinated actions are unlikely to be replicated in the wake of leaving the JCPOA.  As the Trump administration negotiates with the rest of the parties to the JCPOA, it is possible that the U.S. administration may exercise discretion and decline to bring enforcement actions against non-U.S. persons that continue to do business with Iran.  That would mitigate the immediate impact of re-imposing sanctions. The precise nature of any EU response remains to be seen.  Although potential blocking regulations may serve as leverage in negotiations, the impact would be severe for European companies seeking to comply with both U.S. and European laws.  Whether the position of the United Kingdom will remain aligned with its European partners once it has left the EU is another imponderable,[27] although the U.K., French and German governments have projected a united front in re-affirming their commitment to the JCPOA,[28] and the U.K. is a signatory to the JCPOA separate from its status as an EU member state.  Further strains to the U.S.–EU relationship are likely if the U.S. were to bring enforcement actions against EU persons for alleged breaches of re-imposed sanctions.  The EU has stated that “it is determined to act in accordance with its security interests and to protect its economic investments.”[29]  However, what this might mean in practice remains unclear.    [1]   Press Release, White House, Remarks by President Trump on the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (May 8, 2018), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/remarks-president-trump-joint-comprehensive-plan-action; see also Presidential Memorandum, Ceasing U.S. Participation in the JCPOA and Taking Additional Action to Counter Iran’s Malign Influence and Deny Iran All Paths to a Nuclear Weapon (May 8, 2018), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/ceasing-u-s-participation-jcpoa-taking-additional-action-counter-irans-malign-influence-deny-iran-paths-nuclear-weapon.    [2]   These sanctions were enacted on the last day of 2011, when President Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012 (“NDAA”).  Included within the NDAA is a measure that designated the entire Iranian financial sector as a primary money laundering concern, which effectively required the President to freeze the assets of Iranian financial institutions and prohibit all transactions with respect to Iranian financial institutions’ property and interests in property if the property or interest in property comes within the United States’ jurisdiction or the possession and control of a United States person.  In addition, the measure broadly authorized the President to impose sanctions on the Central Bank of Iran.    [3]   Press Release, U.S. Dep’t of Treasury, Statement by Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin on Iran Decision (May 8, 2018), available at https://home.treasury.gov/news/press-releases/sm0382.    [4]   U.S. Dep’t of State, Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (July 14, 2015), available at https://www.state.gov/documents/organization/245317.pdf.    [5]   Press Release, White House, Statement by the President on the Iran Nuclear Deal (Jan. 12, 2018), available at https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefings-statements/statement-president-iran-nuclear-deal.    [6]   U.S. Dep’t of Treasury, Frequently Asked Questions Regarding the Re-Imposition of Sanctions Pursuant to the May 8, 2018 National Security Presidential Memorandum Relating to the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) (May 8, 2018), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/Programs/Documents/jcpoa_winddown_faqs.pdf, FAQ No. 1.2.    [7]   Id.    [8]   OFAC FAQ No. 1.3.    [9]   Id. [10]   OFAC FAQ No. 2.1. [11]   Id. [12]   Id. [13]   E.O. 13599, 77 Fed. Reg. 6659 (Feb. 5, 2012); U.S. Dep’t of Treasury, Resource Center, OFAC, JCPOA-related Designation Removals, JCPOA Designation Updates, Foreign Sanctions Evaders Removals, NS-ISA List Removals; 13599 List Changes (Jan. 16, 2016), available at https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/updated_names.aspx. [14]   OFAC FAQ No. 3. [15]   Id. (“Beginning on November 5, 2018, activities with most persons moved from the E.O. 13599 List to the SDN List will be subject to secondary sanctions.  Such persons will have a notation of “Additional Sanctions Information – Subject to Secondary Sanctions” in their SDN List entry.”) [16]   Peter Harrell, The Challenge of Reinstating Sanctions Against Iran, Foreign Affairs (May 4, 2018), available at https://www.foreignaffairs.com/articles/iran/2018-05-04/challenge-reinstating-sanctions-against-iran?cid=int-fls&pgtype=hpg. [17]   Id. [18]   See, e.g., Erin Cunningham & Bijan Sabbagh, Iran to Negotiate with Europeans, Russia and China about Remaining in Nuclear Deal, Wash. Post (May 8, 2018), available at https://wapo.st/2HWaI9w?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.ed12421ad6a6; James McAuley, After Trump Says U.S. Will Withdraw from Iran Deal, Allies Say They’ll Try to Save It, Wash. Post (May 8, 2018), available at https://wapo.st/2rokYfI?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.291cd9490f2e. [19]   Council Regulation (EC) No 2271/96 of 22 November 1996 protecting against the effects of the extra-territorial application of legislation adopted by a third country, and actions based thereon or resulting therefrom. [20]   Jessica Schulberg, Europe Considering Blocking Iran Sanctions if U.S. Leaves Nuclear Deal, EU Ambassador Says, Huffington Post (Sept. 26, 2017), available at https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/europe-iran-sanctions-nuclear-deal_us_59c9772ce4b0cdc77333e758. [21]   John Irish & Parisa Hafezi, EU could impose blocking regulations if U.S. pulls out of Iran deal, Reuters, (Feb. 8, 2018), available at https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-iran-nuclear-eu/eu-could-impose-blocking-regulations-if-u-s-pulls-out-of-iran-deal-idUKKBN1FS2F0. [22]   Press Release, European Union External Action Service, Remarks by HR/VP Mogherini on the statement by US President Trump regarding the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) (May 8, 2018). [23]   Harrell, see supra n. 16. [24]   Id. [25]   The last sentence of the JCPOA expressly provides: “Iran has stated that if sanctions are reinstated in whole or in part, Iran will treat that as grounds to cease performing its commitments under this JCPOA in whole or in part.” [26]   See Erin Cunningham & Bijan Sabbagh, Iran to Negotiate with Europeans, Russia and China about Remaining in Nuclear Deal, Wash. Post (May 8, 2018), available at https://wapo.st/2HWaI9w?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.ed12421ad6a6; James McAuley, After Trump Says U.S. Will Withdraw from Iran Deal, Allies Say They’ll Try to Save It, Wash. Post (May 8, 2018), available at https://wapo.st/2rokYfI?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.291cd9490f2e. [27]   While the U.K. is currently in the EU, it will be leaving the EU shortly, at which time it may seek to negotiate trade deals with a variety of governments.  Particularly if negotiations over the U.K.’s exit from the EU were to become fractious, it is possible a post-Brexit U.K. could use its stance on the JCPOA as a bargaining counter in negotiations with the Trump administration over a new U.K.–U.S. trade deal. [28]   Press Release, U.K. Prime Minister’s Office, Joint statement from Prime Minister May, Chancellor Merkel and President Macron following President Trump’s statement on Iran (May 8, 2018), available at https://www.gov.uk/government/news/joint-statement-from-prime-minister-may-chancellor-merkel-and-president-macron-following-president-trumps-statement-on-iran. [29]   Press Release, EU External Action Serv., Remarks by HR/VP Mogherini on the statement by US President Trump regarding the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) (May 8, 2018. The following Gibson Dunn lawyers assisted in preparing this client update: Judith Alison Lee, Adam Smith, Patrick Doris, Mark Handley, Stephanie Connor, Richard Roeder, and Scott Toussaint. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding the above developments.  Please contact the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work, the authors, or any of the following leaders and members of the firm’s International Trade Group: United States: Judith Alison Lee – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3591, jalee@gibsondunn.com) Ronald Kirk – Co-Chair, International Trade Practice, Dallas (+1 214-698-3295, rkirk@gibsondunn.com) Jose W. Fernandez – New York (+1 212-351-2376, jfernandez@gibsondunn.com) Marcellus A. McRae – Los Angeles (+1 213-229-7675, mmcrae@gibsondunn.com) Daniel P. Chung – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3729, dchung@gibsondunn.com) Adam M. Smith – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3547, asmith@gibsondunn.com) Christopher T. Timura – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3690, ctimura@gibsondunn.com) Stephanie L. Connor – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8586, sconnor@gibsondunn.com) Kamola Kobildjanova – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5291, kkobildjanova@gibsondunn.com) Courtney M. Brown – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-955-8685, cmbrown@gibsondunn.com) Laura R. Cole – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3787, lcole@gibsondunn.com) Scott R. Toussaint – Palo Alto (+1 650-849-5320, stoussaint@gibsondunn.com) Europe: Peter Alexiadis – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 00, palexiadis@gibsondunn.com) Attila Borsos – Brussels (+32 2 554 72 10, aborsos@gibsondunn.com) Patrick Doris – London (+44 (0)207 071 4276, pdoris@gibsondunn.com) Penny Madden – London (+44 (0)20 7071 4226, pmadden@gibsondunn.com) Mark Handley – London (+44 (0)207 071 4277, mhandley@gibsondunn.com) Benno Schwarz – Munich (+49 89 189 33 110, bschwarz@gibsondunn.com) Richard W. Roeder – Munich (+49 89 189 33-160, rroeder@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.

May 3, 2018 |
Webcast: Anti-Money Laundering and Sanctions Enforcement and Compliance in 2018 and Beyond

Gibson Dunn partners provide an overview of significant trends and key issues in Bank Secrecy Act (BSA)/Anti-Money Laundering (AML) and sanctions enforcement and compliance. Topics covered: BSA/AML Overview Recent trends in BSA/AML enforcement Recent trends in BSA/AML compliance BSA/AML Reform Efforts Sanctions Overview Key OFAC sanctions program developments Recent trends in sanctions enforcement The future of sanctions under the Trump Administration (and beyond) View Slides [PDF] PANELISTS M. Kendall Day was a white collar prosecutor for 15 years, serving most recently as an Acting Deputy Assistant Attorney General with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Criminal Division, where he supervised Bank Secrecy Act investigations, enforcement of anti-money laundering and sanctions laws, deferred prosecution agreements and non-prosecution agreements involving all types of financial institutions. He previously served in a variety of leadership and line attorney roles, including as Chief of the DOJ Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section. Mr. Day will join Gibson Dunn’s Washington, D.C. office as a partner effective May 1, 2018. Stephanie L. Brooker is co-chair of Gibson Dunn’s Financial Institutions Practice Group. She is former Director of the Enforcement Division at the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), and previously served as the Chief of the Asset Forfeiture and Money Laundering Section in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia and as a trial attorney for several years. Stephanie represents financial institutions, multi-national companies, and individuals in connection with criminal, regulatory, and civil enforcement actions involving BSA/AML, sanctions, anti-corruption, securities, tax, wire fraud, and sensitive employee matters. Her practice also includes BSA/AML compliance counseling and due diligence and significant criminal and civil asset forfeiture matters. Adam M. Smith is an experienced international trade lawyer who previously served in the Obama Administration as the Senior Advisor to the Director of OFAC and as the Director for Multilateral Affairs on the National Security Council. Adam focuses on international trade compliance and white collar investigations, including with respect to federal and state economic sanctions enforcement, the FCPA, embargoes, and export controls. F. Joseph Warin is co-chair of Gibson Dunn’s White Collar Defense and Investigations Practice Group, and chair of the Washington, D.C. office’s Litigation Department.  He is a former Assistant United States Attorney in Washington, D.C., one of only ten lawyers in the United States with Chambers rankings in five categories, was named by Best Lawyers® as 2016 Lawyer of the Year for White Collar Criminal Defense in the District of Columbia, and recognized by Benchmark Litigation as a U.S. White Collar Crime Litigator Star for seven consecutive years (2011–2017). In 2017, Chambers honored Mr. Warin with the Outstanding Contribution to the Legal Profession Award. MCLE CREDIT INFORMATION: This program has been approved for credit in accordance with the requirements of the New York State Continuing Legal Education Board for a maximum of 1.50 credit hours, of which 1.50 credit hours may be applied toward the areas of professional practice requirement.  This course is approved for transitional/non-transitional credit. Attorneys seeking New York credit must obtain an Affirmation Form prior to watching the archived version of this webcast.  Please contact Jeanine McKeown (National Training Administrator), at 213-229-7140 or jmckeown@gibsondunn.com to request the MCLE form. Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP certifies that this activity has been approved for MCLE credit by the State Bar of California in the amount of 1.50 hours. California attorneys may claim “self-study” credit for viewing the archived version of this webcast.  No certificate of attendance is required for California “self-study” credit.

April 23, 2018 |
FinCEN Issues FAQs on Customer Due Diligence Regulation

Click for PDF On April 3, 2018, FinCEN issued its long-awaited Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Customer Due Diligence Requirements for Financial Institutions, FIN-2018-G001. https://www.fincen.gov/resources/statutes-regulations/guidance/frequently-asked-questions-regarding-customer-due-0.[1]  The timing of this guidance is very controversial, issued five weeks before the new Customer Due Diligence (“CDD”) regulation goes into effect on May 11, 2018.[2]  Most covered financial institutions (banks, broker-dealers, mutual funds, and futures commission merchants and introducing brokers in commodities) already have drafted policies, procedures, and internal controls and made IT systems changes to comply with the new regulation.  Covered financial institutions will need to review these FAQs carefully to ensure that their proposed CDD rule compliance measures are consistent with FinCEN’s guidance. The guidance is set forth in 37 questions.  As discussed below, some of the information is helpful, allaying financial institutions’ most significant concerns.  Other FAQs confirm what FinCEN has said in recent months informally to industry groups and at conferences.  A few FAQs raise additional questions, and others, particularly the FAQ on rollovers of certifications of deposit and loan renewals, are not responsive to industry concerns and may raise significant compliance burdens for covered financial institutions.  The guidance reflects FinCEN’s regulatory interpretations based on discussions within the government and with financial institutions and their trade associations.  The need for such extensive guidance on so many issues in the regulation illustrates the complexity of compliance and suggests that FinCEN should consider whether clarifications and technical corrections to the regulation should be made.  We provide below discussion of highlights from the FAQs, including areas of continued ambiguity and uncertainty in the regulation and FAQs. Highlights from the FAQs FAQ 1 and 2 discuss the threshold for obtaining and verifying beneficial ownership.  FinCEN states that financial institutions can “choose” to collect beneficial ownership information at a lower threshold than required under the regulation (25%), but does not acknowledge that financial institution regulators may expect a lower threshold for certain business lines or customer types or that there may be regulatory concerns if financial institutions adjust thresholds upward to meet the BSA regulatory threshold.  A covered financial institution may be in compliance with the regulatory threshold, but fall short of regulatory expectations. FAQ 7 states that a financial institution need not re-verify the identity of a beneficial owner of a legal entity customer if that beneficial owner is an existing customer of the financial institution on whom CIP has been conducted previously provided that the existing information is “up-to-date, accurate, and the legal entity’s customer’s representative certifies or confirms (verbally or in writing) the accuracy of the pre-existing CIP information.”  The example given suggests that no steps are expected to verify that the information is up-to-date and accurate beyond the representative’s confirmation or certification.  The beneficial ownership records must cross reference the individual’s CIP record. FAQs 9-12 address one of the most controversial aspects of the regulation, about which there has been much confusion: the requirement that, when an existing customer opens a new account, a financial institution must identify and verify beneficial ownership information.  FinCEN provides further clarity on what must be updated and how:Under FAQ 10, if a legal entity customer, for which the required beneficial ownership information has been obtained for an existing account, opens a new account, the financial institution can rely on the information obtained and verified previously “provided the customer certifies or confirms (verbally or in writing) that such information is up-to-date and accurate at the time each subsequent new account is opened,” and the financial institution has no knowledge that would “reasonably call into question” the reliability of the information.  The financial institution also would need to maintain a record of the certification or confirmation by the customer.There is no grace period.  If an account is opened on Tuesday, and a new account is opened on Thursday, the certification or confirmation is still required.  In advance planning for compliance, many financial institutions had included a grace period in their procedures. FAQ 11 provides that, when the financial institution opens a new account or subaccount for an existing legal entity customer whose beneficial ownership has been verified for the institution’s own recordkeeping and operational purposes and not at the customer’s request, there is no requirement to update the beneficial ownership information for the new account.  This is because the account would be considered opened by the financial institution and the requirement to update only applies to each new account opened by a customer.  This is consistent with what FinCEN representatives have said at recent conferences.The FAQ specifies that this would not apply to (1) accounts or subaccounts set up to accommodate a trading strategy of a different legal entity, e.g., a subsidiary of the customer, or (2) accounts of a customer of the existing legal entity customer, “i.e., accounts (or subaccounts) through which a customer of a financial institution’s existing legal entity carries out trading activity through the financial institution without intermediation from the existing legal entity customer.”  We believe the FAQ may fall far short of addressing all the concerns expressed to FinCEN on this issue by the securities industry. FAQ 12 addresses an issue which has been a major concern to the banking industry:  whether beneficial ownership information must be updated when a certificate of deposit (“CD”) is rolled over or a loan is renewed.  These actions are generally not considered opening of new accounts by banks.FinCEN continues to maintain that CD rollovers or loan renewals are openings of new accounts for purposes of the CDD regulation.  Therefore, the first time a CD or loan renewal for a legal entity customer occurs after May 11, 2018, the effective date of the CDD regulation, beneficial ownership information must be obtained and verified, and at each subsequent rollover or renewal, there must be confirmation that the information is current and accurate (consistent with FAQ 10) as for any other new account for an existing customer.  There is an exception or alternative approach authorized in FAQ 12 “because the risk of money laundering is very low”:  If, at the time of the rollover or renewal, the customer certifies its beneficial ownership information, and also agrees to notify the financial institution of any change in information in the future, no action will be required at subsequent renewals or rollovers.The response in FAQ 12 is not responsive to the concerns that have been expressed by the banking industry and will be burdensome for banks to administer.  Obtaining a certification in time, without disrupting the rollover or renewal, will be challenging, and it appears that if it the certification or promise to update is not obtained in time, the account may have to be closed. FAQs 13 through 17 address another aspect of the regulation that has generated extensive discussion: When (1) must beneficial ownership be obtained for an account opened before the effective date of the regulation, or (2) beneficial ownership information updated on existing accounts whose beneficial ownership has been obtained and verified.Following closely what was said in the preamble to the final rule, FAQ 13 states that the obligation is triggered when a financial institution “becomes aware of information about the customer during the course of normal monitoring relevant to assessing or reassessing the risk posed by the customer, and such information indicates a possible change in beneficial ownership.”FAQ 14 clarifies somewhat what is considered normal monitoring but is not perfectly clear what triggers obtaining and verifying beneficial ownership.  It is clear that there is no obligation to obtain or update beneficial ownership information in routine periodic CDD reviews (CDD refresh reviews) “absent specific risk-based concerns.” We would assume that means, following FAQ 13, concerns about the ownership of the customer.  Beyond that FAQ 14  is less clear.  It states that the obligation is triggered “when, in the course of normal monitoring a financial institution becomes aware of information about a customer or an account, including a possible change of beneficial ownership information, relevant to assessing or reassessing the customer’s overall risk profile.  Absent such a risk-related trigger or event, collecting or updating of beneficial ownership information is at the discretion of the covered financial institution.”The trigger or event may mean in the course of SAR monitoring or when conducting event-driven CDD reviews, e.g., when a subpoena is received or material negative news is identified – something that may change a risk profile.  Does the obligation then arise only if the risk profile change includes a concern about whether the financial institution has accurate ownership information?  That may be the intent, but is not clearly stated.  If the account is being considered for closure because of the change in risk profile, would the financial institution be released from the obligation to obtain beneficial ownership?   That would make sense, but is not stated.  This FAQ is in need of clarification and examples would be helpful.On another note, the language in FAQ 14 also is of interest because it may suggest, in FinCEN’s view, that periodic CDD reviews should be conducted on a risk basis, and CDD refresh reviews may not be expected for lower risk customers, as is the practice for some banks. FAQ 18 seems to address at least partially a technical issue with the regulation that arises because SEC-registered investment advisers are excluded from the definition of legal entity customer in the regulation, but U.S. pooled investment vehicles advised by them are not excluded.[3]  FAQ 18 states that, if the operator or adviser of a pooled investment vehicle is not excluded from the definition of legal entity customer, under the regulation, e.g., like a foreign bank, no beneficial ownership information is required to be obtained on the pooled investment vehicle under the ownership prong, but there must be compliance with beneficial ownership control party prong, i.e., verification of identity of a control party.  A control party could be a “portfolio manager” in these situations.FinCEN describes why no ownership information is required as follows:  “Because of the way the ownership of a pooled investment vehicle fluctuates, it would be impractical for covered financial institutions to collect and verify ownership identity for this type of entity.”  Thus, in the case where the operator or adviser of the pooled investment vehicle is excluded from the definition of legal entity, like an SEC-registered investment adviser, it would seem not to be an expectation to obtain beneficial ownership information under the ownership prong.  Nevertheless, the question of whether you need to obtain and verify the identity of a control party for a pooled investment vehicle advised by a SEC registered investment adviser is not squarely answered in the FAQ.  A technical correction to the regulation is still needed, but it is unlikely there would be regulatory or audit criticism for following the FAQ guidance at least with respect to the ownership prong. FAQ 19 clarifies that, when a beneficial owner is a trust (where the legal entity customer is owned more than 25% by a trust), the financial institution is only required to verify the identity of one trustee if there are multiple trustees. FAQ 20 deals with what to do if a trust holds more than a 25% beneficial interest in a legal entity customers and the trustee is not an individual, but a legal entity, like a bank or law firm.  Under the regulation, if a trust holds more than 25% beneficial ownership of a legal entity customer, the financial institution must verify the identity of the trustee to satisfy the ownership prong of the beneficial ownership requirement.  The ownership prong references identification of “individuals.”  Consequently, the language of the regulation does not seem to contemplate the situation where the trustee was a legal entity.FAQ 20 seems to suggest that, despite this issue with the regulation, CIP should be conducted on the legal entity trustee, but apparently, on a risk basis, not in every case:  “In circumstances where a natural person does not exist for purposes of the ownership/equity prong, a natural person would not be identified.  However, a covered financial institution should collect identification information on the legal entity trustee as part of its CIP, consistent with the covered institution’s risk assessment and customer risk profile.”  (Emphasis added.)More clarification is needed on this issue, and perhaps an amendment to the regulation to address this specific situation.  Pending additional guidance, the safest course appears to be to verify the identity of legal entity trustee consistent with CIP requirements, which may pose practical difficulties, e.g., will a law firm trustee easily provide its TIN?  Presumably, CIP would not be required on any legal entity trustee that is excepted from the definition of legal entity under 31 C.F.R. § 1010.230(e)(2). FAQ 21 addresses the question of how does a financial institution verify that a legal entity comes within one of the regulatory exceptions to the definition of legal entity customer in 31 C.F.R. § 1010.230(e)(2).  The answer is that the financial institution generally can rely on information provided by the customer if it has no knowledge of facts that would reasonably call into question the reliability of the information.  Nevertheless, that is not the end of the story.  The FAQ provides that the financial institution also must have risk-based policies and procedures that specify the type of information they will obtain and reasonably rely on to determine eligibility for exclusions. FAQ 24 may resolve another technical issue in the regulation.  The exceptions to the definition of legal entity in the regulation refer back to the BSA CIP exemption provisions, which in turn, cross reference the Currency Transaction Reporting (CTR) exemption for banks when granting so-called Tier One exemptions.  One category for the CTR exemption is “listed” entities, which includes NASDAQ listed entities, but excludes NASDAQ Capital Markets Companies, i.e., this category of NASDAQ listed entity is not subject to CIP or CTR Tier One exemptions.  31 C.F.R. § 1020.315(b)(4).  This carve out was not discussed in the preamble to the CDD final regulation or in FAQ 24.The FAQ simply states:  “[A]ny company (other than a bank) whose common stock or analogous equity interests are listed on the New York Stock Exchange, the American Stock Exchange (currently known as the NYSE American), or NASDAQ stock exchange” is excepted from the definition of legal entity.  In any event, as with the FAQ 18 issue, it would appear that a technical correction is needed on this point, but, given the FAQ, it is unlikely that a financial institution would be criticized if it treated NASDAQ Capital Markets Companies as excepted legal entities. FAQs 32 and 33 end the speculation that the CDD regulation impacts CTR compliance.  Consistent with FinCEN CTR guidance, under FAQ 32, the rule remains that, for purposes of CTR aggregation, the fact that two businesses share a common owner does not mean that a financial institution must aggregate the currency transactions of the two businesses for CTR reporting, except in the narrow situation where there is a reason to believe businesses are not being operated separately. Conclusion Financial institutions and their industry groups will likely continue to seek further guidance on the most problematic issues in the CDD regulation.  It is our understanding that FinCEN and the bank regulators also will address compliance with the CDD regulation in the upcoming update to the FFIEC Bank Secrecy Act/Anti-Money Laundering Examination Manual. Covered financial institutions already have spent, and will continue to spend, significant time and resources to meet the complex regulatory requirements and anticipated regulatory expectations.  In this flurry of activity to address regulatory risk, it is essential for financial institutions to continue to consider any money laundering risk of legal entity clients and that CDD not become simply mechanical.  It is not only a matter of documenting and updating all of the right information about beneficial ownership and control, but financial institutions should continue to assess whether the ownership structure makes sense for the business or whether it is overly complex for the business type and purposely opaque.  Also, it is important to consider whether it makes sense for a particular legal entity to be seeking a relationship with your financial institution and whether the legal entity is changing financial institutions voluntarily.  CDD measures to address regulatory risk and money laundering risk overlap but are not equivalent.    [1]   FinCEN also issued FAQs on the regulation on July 19, 2016. https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/2016-09/FAQs_for_CDD_Final_Rule_%287_15_16%29.pdf.   FINRA issued guidance on the CDD regulation in FINRA Notice to Members 17-40 (Nov. 21, 2017). http://www.finra.org/sites/default/files/notice_doc_file_ref/Regulatory-Notice-17-40.pdf.    [2]   The Notice of Final Rulemaking was published on May 11, 2016 and provided a two-year implementation period.  81 Fed. Reg. 29,398 (May 11, 2016). https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/FR-2016-05-11/pdf/2016-10567.pdf.  FinCEN made some slight amendments to the rule on September 29, 2017.  https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/federal_register_notices/2017-09-29/CDD_Technical_Amendement_17-20777.pdf The new regulations are set forth in the BSA regulations at 31 C.F.R. § 1010.230 (beneficial ownership requirements); 31 C.F.R. § 1020.210(a)(5) (banks); 31 C.F.R. § 1023.210(b)(5) (broker-dealers); 31 C.F.R. § 1024.210(b)(4) (mutual funds); and 31 C.F.R. § 1026.210(b)(5) (future commission merchants and introducing brokers in commodities).    [3]   The regulation does not clearly address the beneficial ownership requirements for a U.S. pooled investment vehicle operated or controlled by a registered SEC investment adviser.  Pooled investment vehicles operated or advised by a “financial institution” regulated by a Federal functional regulator are not considered legal entities under the regulation.  31 C.F.R. § 1010.230(e)(2)(xi).  An SEC registered investment adviser, however, is not yet a financial institution under the BSA.  Under 31 C.F.R. § 1010.230(e)(3), a pooled investment vehicle that is operated or advised by a “financial institution” not excluded from the definition of legal entity is subject to the beneficial ownership control party prong. Gibson Dunn’s lawyers  are available to assist in addressing any questions you may have regarding these developments.  Please contact any member of the Gibson Dunn team, the Gibson Dunn lawyer with whom you usually work in the firm’s Financial Institutions practice group, or the authors: Stephanie L. Brooker – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3502, sbrooker@gibsondunn.com) Arthur S. Long – New York (+1 212-351-2426, along@gibsondunn.com) Linda Noonan – Washington, D.C. (+1 202-887-3595, lnoonan@gibsondunn.com) © 2018 Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP Attorney Advertising:  The enclosed materials have been prepared for general informational purposes only and are not intended as legal advice.