U.S. Imposes New Export Controls on Russia’s Energy Sector and Adds Russian Shipbuilder to Entity List

On 1 August, Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security, Eric L. Hirschhorn, signed a rule amending the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to “impose additional sanctions implementing U.S. policy toward Russia,” and address the ongoing developments in Ukraine.  Under the rule, the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) imposes export controls on items used in Russia’s energy sector, including exploration and production from deepwater, Artic offshore, and shale projects.  The rule also adds state-owned shipbuilder, United Shipbuilding Corporation, to the Entity List.  On 31 July, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added United Shipbuilding Corporation, to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List.

The new rule adds 15 CFR § 746.5 to the EAR, “Russian Industry Sector Sanctions,” and imposes export, reexport, and transfer controls on items classified under the following Export Control Commodity Numbers (ECCNs): 0A998 (Oil/gas exploration equipment, software, and data ), 1C992 (Commercial charges and devices containing energetic materials ), 3A229 (Firing sets and equivalent high-current generators), 3A231 (Neutron generator systems), 3A232 (Detonators and multipoint initiation systems), 6A991 (Marine or terrestrial acoustic equipment ), 8A992 (Vessels, marine systems or equipment, “specially designed” “parts” and “components” therefor), and 8D999 (“Software” “specially designed” for operation of unmanned submersible vehicles used in oil/gas industry).  These new controls apply “when the exporter, reexporter or transferor knows or is informed that the items will be used directly or indirectly in Russia’s energy sector” for exploration and production from deepwater (more than 500 feet depth), Artic offshore, and shale oil/gas projects.  The rule goes on to identify, without limitation, examples of items that are specifically covered by the new Russian Industry Sector Sanctions, as follows: drilling rigs, parts for horizontal drilling, drilling and completion equipment, subsea processing equipment, Artic-capable marine equipment, wireline and down hole motors and equipment, drill pipe and casing, software for hydraulic fracturing (“fracking”), high pressure pumps, seismic acquisition equipment, remotely operated vehicles, compressors, expanders, valves, and risers.  The rule makes clear that “[n]o license exceptions may overcome the licensing requirements under new § 746.5,” except for license exception GOV, and that the license review policy is a presumption of denial.

The rule also adds Supplement No. 2 to Part 746, Russian Industry Sector Sanctions List.  This new supplement includes the ECCNs referenced above, but also includes more than 50 “Schedule B” numbers.  Schedule B numbers are a commodity classification number used for exports, administered by the U.S. Census Bureau and used for reporting foreign trade data.  The following main Schedule B numbers and items are listed: 7304, 7305, and 7306 (line pipe, drill pipe, casing), 8207 (rock drilling or earth boring tools and bits), 8413 (oil well pumps and elevators), 8421 (industrial gas cleaning and separation equipment), 8430 (offshore drilling and production platforms and boring/sinking machinery), 8431 (oil/gas field machinery parts), 8479 (oil/gas field wire line and downhole equipment), 8705 (mobile drilling derricks), and 8905 (floating or submersible drilling or production platforms and floating docks).

For U.S. companies and foreign companies that are subject to U.S. export controls and the jurisdiction of BIS, these new Russian energy sector sanctions pose new compliance challenges and risks.  As with any economic sanctions and export controls, but particularly with the progressing multilateral Ukraine-related sanctions, companies are urged to exercise enhanced due diligence in their compliance efforts.  U.S. and foreign companies that currently export, reexport, or transfer commodities, technology, and software covered by the ECCNs and Schedule B, should be alerted to this new rule and its compliance requirements.  U.S. companies and foreign companies that are subject to U.S. export controls that might only sell or transfer such items domestically should also undertake additional due diligence and not “self-blind” on determining whether Russia is the ultimate destination of the items.

The new rule can be found at this link, http://1.usa.gov/1okGBSH.

For assistance with understanding and complying with this new BIS rule, Ukraine-related and other economic sanctions laws, regulations, and Executive Orders, as well as representation before BIS and OFAC in investigations, civil penalty, and voluntary self-disclosures, please contact Jon P. Yormick, Attorney and Counsellor at Law, jon@yormicklaw.com or by calling +1.866.967.6425 (Toll free in Canada & U.S.) or +1.216.269.5138 (mobile).

International Trade Presentations in Buffalo to Ring in the New Year!

International trade and business attorney, Jon Yormick, will discuss Export Control Reform (ECR) and economic sanctions in 2 separate presentations in Buffalo next month.

On January 15, the Law Offices of Jon P. Yormick Co. LPA is co-sponsoring a 2-hour workshop, Export Control Reform, Revisited, with Mohawk Global Trade Advisors and Daemen College. The event will be held at Daemen College, with check-in beginning at 8:30 am.  The program will run from 9:00-11:00 am. In addition to Jon, the workshop will feature Jim Trubits of Mohawk Global Trade Advisors, and Rae Perrott of Moog, Inc. They will discuss and share experiences with the recently implemented ECR from the perspectives of a global exporting company, a freight forwarder, and legal counsel. The focus will be on the transition of defense articles from the ITAR to the EAR, new AES documentation requirements, and tips for export compliance based on lessons learned from recent consent decrees. The cost is $35 and includes breakfast. For registration, contact Abby Frank at 315.552.3001 or at afrank@mohawkglobal.com.

Also on January 15, Jon will give a presentation at the Buffalo World Trade Association’s monthly dinner meeting. The BWTA was founded in 1921 and has the mission of expanding international business knowledge and activity of U.S. and Canadian companies in the Buffalo Niagara region.  In his presentation, Navigating Economic Sanctions Successfully, Jon will discuss economic sanctions regimes, OFAC General Licenses and TSRA licenses that give companies certain business opportunities within the U.S. sanctions regimes, and emphasize economic sanctions compliance, including lessons learned from recent OFAC and BIS civil penalty cases.  The meeting will be held at the Millennium Hotel, 2040 Walden Ave., with cocktails beginning at 5:30 and dinner at 6:30 pm. For registration and membership information, visit www.bwta.us.

Lost in the Headlines about FCPA Violations, one Northeast Ohio Company Settles an Export Control Civil Penalty Case

On October 22, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced they had reached an agreement with Diebold, Inc. to settle allegations that the company violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The ATM manufacturer, headquartered in North Canton, Ohio, settled with the DOJ and SEC by agreeing to pay nearly $50 million to resolve allegations that it violated the FCPA by bribing government officials in China and Indonesia and falsifying records in Russia in order to obtain and retain contracts to provide ATMs to state-owned and private banks in those countries. According to the DOJ press release, the company made payments and provided gifts and non-business travel to bank employees, recording leisure travel for bank employees as “training.” The DOJ acknowledged that Diebold cooperated in the investigation, including making a voluntary disclosure regarding the FCPA violations.

A few weeks later, in mid-November Cleveland-based Park-Ohio Holdings, Inc. stated in its quarterly SEC filing that it received a subpoena from the SEC in August in connection with a third-party and that the DOJ was conducting a criminal investigation of the third-party. According to the company’s SEC filing, the third-party paid a foreign tax official on behalf of the company in 2007 and that the activity “implicates” the FCPA. The country where the payment was made was not identified.

In the middle of those reports, on October 25, the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), released a settlement agreement and order relating to GrafTech International Holdings, Inc., with global headquarters in the Cleveland suburb of Parma. The company settled 12 proposed charges that it exported without required licenses, agreeing to pay $300,000.00 and complete an external audit of its export controls compliance program and those of three overseas operations. While the case did not result in eye-catching multi-million dollar penalties, it is noteworthy nonetheless.

BIS alleged that on four occasions between 2007 and 2009, GrafTech violated the export control regulations when it exported CGW grade graphite to China without an export license. The graphite was classified under ECCN 1C107.a and controlled for missile technology reasons. The shipments had a value of approximately $276,000.00. BIS also alleged that on eight occasions between 2007 and 2010, GrafTech exported CGW grade graphite to India, without required export licenses. The value of those shipments totaled approximately $248,000.00. The settlement agreement stated that GrafTech made a voluntary self-disclosure regarding the violations. Notably, in April 2010, BIS, Office of Technology Evaluation, issued Critical Technology Assessment: Fine Grain, High Density Graphite which addressed U.S. export controls, among other key topics. That report can be found here.

As mentioned, in addition to the $300,000.00 penalty, GrafTech agreed to complete an external audit export controls compliance program and the compliance programs’ three subsidiaries, located in France, Italy, and South Africa. The settlement agreement and BIS order did not detail the involvement of the subsidiaries in the violations, if any, but it can be presumed that the company’s export controls compliance program at each location were a concern to BIS.

According to the terms of settlement, GrafTech must hire a third-party consultant with expertise in U.S. export control law to conduct the audit with respect to all exports and re-exports of items on the Commerce Control List (CCL). The audit must cover a twelve-month period preceding the date of the order and must be delivered to BIS within eighteen (18) months. The order also requires the company to identify actual or potential violations by any of the four entities being audited, including the directive that GrafTech “promptly provide copies of the pertinent air waybills and other export control documents and supporting documentation” to BIS.

Why there is an apparent recent rash of enforcement actions involving Northeast Ohio companies doing business globally is a mystery. Certainly, these revelations should be a “wake-up call” for companies in the region that conduct business globally and have global operations. More broadly, of course, these reports emphasize the need for all U.S. companies to re-double their FCPA and export control compliance efforts in order to avoid costly civil and criminal penalties, additional enforcement expenses, and the reputational harm that violations can cause.

For assistance with understanding and complying with the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) or other export controls and economic sanctions, as well as representation before BIS in investigations, civil penalty, and voluntary self-disclosure matters, please contact Jon P. Yormick, Esq., jon@yormicklaw.com or by calling +1.866.967.6425 (Toll free in Canada & U.S.) or +1.216.928.3474.

Sales Department Wake-up Call: Costly Antiboycott Violations Lurk in Documents and Communications

Violations of the U.S. Antiboycott sections of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) tend to not get much attention compared to other violations of the EAR, such as those involving evasion, acting with knowledge, or aiding and abetting.  Antiboycott violations tend to lead to fewer civil penalty settlements with the Office of Antiboycott Compliance (OAC), Bureau of Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce (BIS). When settlements are reported, they tend to be relatively minimal, but that might be changing in the wake of 2 settlements in the last several days.

In general, the OAC explains that the Antiboycott regulations “prohibit U.S. companies from furthering or supporting the boycott of Israel sponsored by the Arab League, and certain other countries, including complying with certain requests for information designed to verify compliance with the boycott.”  Sales forces of U.S. companies that are well-trained in export control compliance know that complying with these requests might be prohibited under the EAR and just the request to comply may be reportable to BIS.

The June 7, 2013 Proposed Charging Letter to the Director of Sales & Marketing Operations at one of the companies that recently settled its alleged Antiboycott violations seems to show that the sales teams (and maybe the Credit Department) at some  companies might not be knowledgeable enough about the Antiboycott regulations and compliance with them.  The first case involved a $32,000 settlement with the OAC on 16 violations occurring between 2009-11 – one violation of furnishing information about business relationships with boycotted countries or blacklisted persons and 15 violations of failing to report the receipt of requests to engage in a restrictive trade practice or foreign boycott against a country friendly to the U.S. aka Israel.  The company was alleged to be involved with selling or transferring goods or services from the U.S. to Bahrain, Oman, Qatar, and the UAE, all of which are generally friendly to the U.S. as well.

A table attached to the Proposed Charging Letter shows that the company provided information in a transport certificate for Oman stating “…the ship is permitted to enter Port Sultan Qaboos, in accordance with the Laws of Sultanate of Oman.”  The company failed to report boycott compliance requests from Bahrain and Oman found in various transaction documents (possibly emails) and letters of credit.  The requests included requests to ensure that the company “Delete all products, manufactured in Israel as they are banned in Bahrain,” or noting that “All Produce of Israel are Banned” and that the shipping company or agent was to issue a certificate that the ship was permitted to enter Muscat or Sultan Qaboos.

The second settlement with OAC involved 63 violations of the Antiboycott regulations – 5 for furnishing information and 58 for failing to report requests to comply with the boycott. This case was settled for $56,000.  The 5 violations of furnishing information arose from emails and invoices, each confirming certain parts sold to a UAE party were not made in Israel.  Additionally, 57 sales orders from the UAE and one from Malaysia each requested that the U.S. company cancel portions of the order because parts originated from Israel, requested substitute parts, confirm that parts were not made in Israel, of otherwise made clear that Israeli-origin products were prohibited.

As with all civil penalty settlements that are released to the public, these recent settlements with the OAC should be a “wake up call” for U.S. companies doing business in the Middle East and in other countries that support the Arab League boycott against Israel.  The failure to train the sales and credit teams on identifying boycott requests, properly analyzing those requests for potential reporting to the OAC and complying with the U.S. Antiboycott regulations can be costly in terms of penalties and reputational harm.

For assistance with understanding and complying with the Antiboycott regulations, other provisions of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) or other export controls and economic sanctions, as well as representation before BIS in investigations, civil penalty, and voluntary self-disclosure matters, please contact Jon P. Yormick, Esq., jon@yormicklaw.com or by calling +1.866.967.6425 (Toll free in Canada & U.S.) or +1.216.928.3474.

 

September Presentations will Highlight Export Control Compliance

Upcoming presentations by international business and trade attorney, Jon Yormick, will focus on Export Control Reform (ECR) and the “deemed export” rule.

On September 9, Jon will speak at the Ohio Foreign Commerce Association’s luncheon meeting.  His presentation on Preparing for Compliance and Enforcement Under Export Control Reform, will address the impact of ECR on a company’s export compliance program and how the enforcement landscape is changing with ECR.

In Albany, New York on September 20, immediately following the Annual Northern Border Update of the Upstate New York Chapter – American Immigration Lawyers Association, Jon will present at a day-long CLE conference, Where Immigration Meets Other Law.  The conference will be held at Albany’s historic Ft. Orange Club and is presented by the Upstate New York Chapter – AILA and the Albany County Bar Association.  Jon will present What Immigration Lawyers Should Know About Export Controls and explain  how business immigration counsel can effectively assist technology sector clients in meeting their export controls compliance burdens, including the I-129 Part 6 certification and the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security’s enforcement of the “deemed export” rule.  He will be joined by Jim Trubits of Mohawk Global Trade Advisors.  Seating is limited.  For more information, please visit http://bit.ly/14TwonL or register now for this event at http://conta.cc/12CLwsa.

Upcoming Presentations in Buffalo and Cleveland Focus on U.S. Export Controls

In September, Jon Yormick will speak on U.S. export controls and offer guidance on compliance measures organizations must take in this era of investigations, enforcement, and increased penalties.

On September 19 in Buffalo, Jon will address the American Immigration Lawyers Association Upstate New York Chapter at its dinner meeting, “What Upstate NY Immigration Lawyers Should Know About Export Controls.”  His presentation will focus on the I-129 Part 6 Certification requirements and the role of immigration counsel in export controls compliance.  Jon will discuss specific issues regarding compliance with the deemed export rule, including dual/third-country nationals, TN and B-1 visa, and staffing company concerns.  He will be joined by Jim Trubits of Mohawk Global Advisory Services.  The meeting will be held at the Protocol Restaurant and be videotaped for Lawline CLE.

Two days later, on September 21, Jon will speak at the Ohio Aerospace Institute’s Industry Roundtable meeting on “Busting Myths of DDTC Registration.”  He will debunk misconceptions and misunderstanding about registration and provide guidance on what aerospace, defense, technology companies and universities need to know about registering with the Department of State, Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) for items and technical data on the U.S. Munitions List and provide an update on Export Control Reform (ECR).

New York Company Settles AECA and ITAR Violations for $8M after Making Voluntary Self-Disclosures: The Cost of Failing to Properly Determine Export Control Jurisdiction

A Long Island, New York company, Aeroflex, Inc., has entered into an $8 million settlement with the U.S. Department of State for an estimated 158 alleged violations of the Arms Export Control Act (AECA) and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

According to the nearly 18-page long Proposed Charging Letter, the Department considered the series of voluntary disclosures submitted by the company and its remedial compliance measures as “significant mitigating factors” in deciding the charges to pursue.  The Department, however, found that there were significant national security interests involved and systemic and longstanding violations, including improper product classifications, and decided to charge the company with an estimated 158 violations for unauthorized exports based on information contained in the voluntary disclosures.

The Department found that the “violations were caused by inadequate corporate oversight and demonstrate systemic and corporate-wide failure to properly determine export control jurisdiction over commodities,” leading to “the unauthorized exports and re-exports of ITAR-controlled electronics, microelectronics, and associated technical data; and caused unauthorized exports of ITAR-controlled microelectronics by domestic purchasers.”

The 158 alleged violations included: 32 unauthorized exports of ITAR-controlled microelectronics and electronics, including to NATO and other allied countries; 96 unauthorized exports of ITAR-controlled microelectronics to China; causing 18 unauthorized exports of defense articles when the company and its subsidiaries “sold ITAR-controlled radiation tolerant multipurpose transceivers to domestic buyers who exported the transceivers without Department authorization,” due to Aeroflex’s incorrect jurisdiction determination; causing 7 unauthorized exports of defense articles to China by exporting “ITAR-controlled microelectronics to foreign entities who then re-exported these defense articles to the People’s Republic of China without Department authorization,” again due to making incorrect jurisdiction determinations; causing an unauthorized export of defense articles when it sold ITAR-controlled integrated circuits to the UAE for end-use on satellite projects in India, knowing the items would be re-exported without Department authorization; and misused the ITAR Canadian exemption 4 times when it exported radiation hardened microelectronics to Canada without Department authorization.

Despite the company-wide failures noted in the Proposed Charging Letter, Aeroflex and its subsidiaries apparently did make some efforts at export controls compliance – they were just badly misguided.  The company apparently relied primarily on “commodity classification guidance from the Department of Commerce in reviewing the export control status of its microelectronics and electronics,” but failed to understand that Commerce can only properly classify items and technology that are subject to the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).

In other words, Aeroflex often skipped over the critical first-step in the export control analysis which is to determine jurisdiction over the commodities, technology, and software involved – whether jurisdiction lies with the Department of State or the Department of Commerce.  Only after this determination is made, can classification be determined.  The Proposed Charging Letter noted that while “companies may self-classify an article or service, it is to their advantage to seek a [Commodity Jurisdiction] CJ determination where a company has doubts” about whether an article or service is covered by the U.S. Munitions List and, therefore, falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of State.

Making the proper jurisdiction determination is highlighted not only by this settlement, but by Export Control Reform (ECR), which, in a little more than 60 days, will cause a shift in jurisdiction from the Department of State to the Department of Commerce for certain aircraft parts and components and gas turbine engines.  Companies should be well into their reviews of how ECR will impact their exports.  And as the Aeroflex settlement shows, incomplete or incorrect analyses of jurisdiction can lead to costly violations.  Companies should not assume that jurisdiction will shift for their items and technologies under ECR.  Whether affected by ECR or not, companies should use this settlement as a reminder to review jurisdiction regularly or to perform that in-depth analysis for the first time before “systemic and longstanding violations” occur.  There really are no short-cuts to be taken with export controls.

Lying to Federal Investigators Leads to 15 Year Denial of Export Privileges

“Honesty is the best policy” is an age-old adage, attributed to patriot Benjamin Franklin, but one not followed by a couple who recently had their export privileges denied by the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).  BIS administers and enforces U.S. commercial export control laws and regulations, the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).  The EAR is often said control “dual use” items and technologies, meaning those goods and technologies that have both commercial and military applications.

According to a pair of July 16 Orders and underlying settlement agreements, Yaming Nina Qi Hanson and her husband, Harold Hanson, made false or misleading statements to a BIS special agent and an FBI special agent during January, 2009 interviews.  The interviews were part of an investigation of unlicensed exports to China of 20 miniature unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) autopilots.  Qi Hanson stated that several university classmates in China provided her with $75,000 to purchase the autopilots from a Canadian seller, knowing this was false.  In truth, the president of Xi’an Xiang Yu Aviation Technical Group in Xian, China had provided the purchase money.  Meanwhile, Harold Hanson stated to investigators that he did not provide the Canadian seller with an end-use of the autopilots.  In truth, he had sent emails to the company stating the autopilots would be used for studying thunderstorm and tornado development in the Great Plains, knowing the autopilots were to be exported to China.

The denial order prohibits the Hansons from being involved, directly or indirectly, in any transaction involving the export of commodities, technology, or software from the U.S. that is subject to the EAR for 15 years.  The complete details of the denial orders can be found on the BIS website at http://1.usa.gov/14uUgmr.

The denial order represents a BIS administrative penalty in a case that included the Hansons pleading guilty, in 2009, to criminal charges of making false statements regarding the illegal exports.  A summary of the case is found in the BIS 2010 publication, “Don’t Let this Happen to You!” also found on the BIS website at http://1.usa.gov/15zw7HT.

Here, the (attempted) cover-up only served to aggravate the EAR violation.

For assistance with understanding and complying with the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) or other export controls and economic sanctions, as well as representation before BIS and in investigations, civil penalty, and voluntary self-disclosure matters, please contact Jon P. Yormick, Attorney and Counsellor at Law, jon@yormicklaw.com or by calling +1.866.967.6425 (Toll free in Canada & U.S.) or +1.216.928.3474.

 

A Tale of Two Recent OFAC Settlements

In recent weeks, the Department of Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced civil liability settlements with two U.S. companies.  Both cases involved alleged violations of the Iranian Transactions Regulations (the “ITR”), but one case was viewed as egregious, while the other was non-egregious.  Both cases offer insight as to activities and factors weighed by OFAC in concluding civil settlements for violations of the ITR.

In mid-January OFAC announced that Dal-Tech Devices, Inc., of Boca Raton, Florida, agreed to pay $10,000 to settle its potential civil liability for apparent violations of the ITR.  Dal-Tech distributes microwave radio frequency devices.  While under prior ownership and management, the company apparently violated the ITR by selling and exporting radio frequency measurement devices (“RF devices”) to Austria, knowing the products were ultimately destined for Iran.  The total value of the shipment was under $3,500.  When the company learned the shipment had been returned from Austria without delivery, it re-exported the same RF devices to Slovenia for transshipment to Iran.   The OFAC announcement explains the civil settlement coincides with a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (the “DPA”) between Dal-Tech and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Delaware.  Dal-Tech did not voluntarily disclose the apparent violations to OFAC.  The alleged violations constitute an egregious case.

Dal-Tech faced a base penalty of $500,000 for its apparent violations.  The relative minimal settlement resulted from OFAC’s consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case, assessed pursuant to the General Factors under OFAC’s Economic Sanctions Enforcement Guidelines.  Specifically, OFAC considered the following facts and circumstances: the criminal charges set forth in the DPA reflect knowing and willful conduct by an employee that is attributable to the company; Dal-Tech’s prior management at least had reason to know that the company’s goods were ultimately destined for Iran; Dal-Tech has not been the subject of any prior OFAC enforcement action; Dal-Tech lacked a sanctions compliance program at the time of the apparent violations; pursuant to the DPA, the company will implement a compliance program that includes sanctions and export compliance training of all employees; the settlement with OFAC is part of a comprehensive settlement with other federal law enforcement agencies; and the enforcement response is proportionate to the nature of the violations, given the totality of the circumstances.  Clearly, the factors considered were a combination of positive and negative factors.  The nature of the goods involved and repeated efforts to complete the sale via transshipment appear to have caused this case to be egregious.

On February 1, OFAC then announced that Offshore Marine Laboratories (“OML”), of Gardena, California, agreed to pay $97,695 to settle potential civil liability for alleged violations of the ITR and Executive Order 13382, “Blocking Property of Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators and Their Supporters” (“EO 13382”).  Despite the more substantial settlement amount, this was a non-egregious case.

It was alleged that between July 2007 and July 17, 2008, OML exported eight shipments of spare parts and supplies to a company in the UAE.  The goods were intended for an offshore oil drilling rig located in Iranian waters.   OFAC explained the rig owner and operator were located in Iran, and five of the shipments occurred after the rig owner’s property and interests in property were blocked pursuant to EO 13382.  That Executive Order was signed in 2005 by President Bush and is aimed at freezing the assets of proliferators of weapons of mass destruction and their supporters. Importantly, EO 13382 prohibits all transactions between those designated under it and any U.S. person and freezes any assets the designees may have under U.S. jurisdiction.

Similar to the Dal-Tech case, OML did not voluntarily disclose this matter to OFAC.  OML faced a base penalty in the amount $167,000 for its alleged violations.  OFAC considered the following facts and circumstances in this case to reach the settlement with OML: OML harmed sanctions program objectives because the transactions aided the development of Iranian petroleum resources; OML had no OFAC compliance program in place at the time of the alleged violations; OML has no history of prior OFAC violations; OML demonstrated substantial cooperation with OFAC throughout the investigation, including entering into a statute of limitations tolling agreement; and OML took remedial measures by implementing an OFAC compliance program.

When comparing the facts and circumstances considered by OFAC in each case, it is understandable why Dal-Tech was an egregious case.  The seeming disparity in the settlement amounts of an egregious versus non-egregious case appears to be explained by the parallel criminal case in Dal-Tech.

The DPA details how an initial arrest and conviction of an Iranian national arms dealer and search of his laptop uncovered emails with a former Dal-Tech employee regarding the attempted shipments of RF devices.  None of the shipments reached Iran because it was part of an undercover investigation by Immigration & Customs Enforcement (“ICE”).  A search of the laptop uncovered thousands of emails with hundreds of U.S. companies.  The DPA also details the cooperation and significant remedial measures that Dal-Tech will undertake, including ongoing cooperation with investigators who, no doubt, are interested in learning the full scope of the arms dealer’s efforts to procure U.S. military equipment for Iran.

The Dal-Tech case provides insight on how those seeking to procure goods for Iran will contact hundreds of U.S. companies in an effort to find someone within a company willing to make a sale.  Companies of all sizes and in all sectors must have internal controls and robust export compliance measures in place to avoid the potential to become involved in those illicit efforts.  The OML case additionally shows that a robust export compliance program that screens potential transactions early can avoid even non-egregious export and economic sanctions violations that are financially costly to companies and cause reputational harm.

New York Dental Supply Company “Acting with Knowledge” Settles Iranian Transactions Regulations Charge

Last month, a family-owned dental supply company in New York settled a civil penalty with the Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS).  The amount of the civil penalty settlement was rather minimal – $8,750 – but the case is noteworthy nonetheless.

BIS proposed charging the company with a single count of violating the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), specifically 15 CFR § 764.2(e) – acting with knowledge that a violation of the EAR was about to occur or was intended to occur.  The settlement agreement explained that in 2008, the company sold dental products for export to Iran, via the UAE, without the required authorization to do so from the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC).  The dental supplies were valued at $12,950 and were EAR99 items, meaning they were subject to the EAR, but not on the Commerce Control List (CCL).  Products designated as EAR99 generally do not require an export license from the U.S. Government; however, a license is required to certain destinations and Iran is certainly one such destination.

For companies and their legal counsel who may not be well-versed in this complex area of export controls and economic sanctions law, it should be noted that although the shipment was to be delivered in the UAE, because the supplies were ultimately destined for Iran, the Iranian Transactions Regulations (ITR) control this export transaction and others like it.  As stated in the settlement agreement, “an export to a third country intended for transshipment to Iran is a transaction that requires OFAC authorization.”

The settlement agreement went on to explain a frequently heard scenario in which the company initially made contact with the Iranian buyer at a trade show in Dubai.  In this instance, the New York company subsequently began to complete an OFAC license application to obtain authorization to export the products to Iran.  However, the application was never completed and submitted, so the company never obtained an OFAC license.  The company’s VP for Sales and Marketing explained to BIS Office of Export Enforcement (OEE) agents that the “OFAC license application was too complicated and time consuming,” so it was decided to proceed with the sale and attempt to export the products without the license.  Intentionally abandoning the OFAC license application, knowing that a license was required, led BIS to propose charging the company with one count of “acting with knowledge” in this instance.  Wisely, the company resolved the case by agreeing to pay the civil penalty within 30 days.  No other sanctions were imposed under the settlement agreement.

This settlement offers some instructive points for U.S. exporters and exporting foreign companies with a U.S. nexus.  First, it is a violation of the EAR and the ITR to sell and export products to an Iranian party via a transshipment destination, whether the UAE, Singapore, or any other country.  Second, certain EAR99 products can be sold and exported to Iran, provided a license from OFAC is obtained and the terms of that license are followed carefully.  Under the Trade Sanctions Reform and Export Enhancement Act of 2000 (TSRA), companies can export certain EAR99 agricultural commodities, medicines or medical devices to Iran.  While the specific dental supplies in this case are not listed, other dental supplies are provided in BIS guidance (implants, dentures, crowns, instruments).  This means that the potential sale would likely have qualified for a TSRA license from OFAC.  While somewhat time-consuming for SMEs, has this New York company followed-through on completing the license application and submitting it, the outcome in this case likely would have led to an export success, rather than becoming another BIS civil penalty settlement to read and comment upon.

For assistance with understanding and complying with the Export Administration Regulations, the Iranian Transactions Regulations, or other export controls and economic sanctions, as well as representation before BIS and OFAC in investigations, civil penalty, and voluntary self-disclosure matters, please contact Jon P. Yormick, Attorney and Counsellor at Law, jon@yormicklaw.com  or by calling +1.866.967.6425 (Toll free in Canada & U.S.) or +1.216.928.3474.

Copyright/Disclaimer
New York State Statement of Client's Rights
Attorney Advertising