Sanctions are used to coerce countries to toe a diplomatic, economic, or political line. The United States and other national governments and international bodies have been busy with these of late, making significant changes to their sanctions programs. Most recently, on November 16, 2012, the U.S. eased a decades-old import ban on most goods of Burmese origin. This step followed on the heels of an easing of restrictions on new investments in Burma and on the exportation of financial services to Burma.
The U.S. governments relaxation of its Burmese sanctions program came after a move to impose more restrictive sanctions on Iran and Syria, a step also taken by the European Union and other national governments.
Staying on top of shifting international sanctions programs imposed by the U.S. government and other national governments and international organizations can be a daunting and time-consuming task for corporate compliance officersthe details are tedious and the stakes are high.
Below are some resources and tools that can assist counsel in navigating the shifting sands of international sanctions:
National Governments and International Organizations Resources
U.S. Government: The U.S. Treasury Departments Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions imposed by the United States on foreign countries and listed entities, including international narcotics traffickers, terrorists, weapons of mass destruction proliferators, and others.
The OFAC website contains a wealth of information on U.S. sanctions programs imposed on certain foreign countries and their nationals. For country-specific information, the OFAC website has a resource center with an overview of U.S. sanctions programs aimed at particular countries. The OFAC site also contains information on recent OFAC actions, a great resource for counsel to stay on top of U.S. international sanctions developments.
OFACs Resource Center has sanctions program information for specific industry groups, including for the financial sector, the insurance industry, and for exporters/importers.
The OFAC site provides a good resource for quickly and easily checking names against the U.S. governments Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons list (SDN). While a useful resource for a quick search, the SDN search function does not detect misspellings or other incorrectly entered text, and does not make use of fuzzy logic to return near matches. For more refined search options, see the global search engine information below.
The U.S. government also maintains a website containing a consolidated spreadsheet of export screening lists of the Departments of Commerce, State, and the Treasury. The export.gov site also contains useful articles, videos, and other reference material for U.S. companies interested in learning more about export opportunities and compliance needs.
United Nations: The United Nations Security Councils Sanctions Committees maintain a compendium of U.N. sanction programs. The U.N. website contains links to the latest versions of all U.N. Security Council targeted sanctions lists.
European Union: The E.U. maintains an overview of sanctions adopted within the framework of its Common Foreign and Security Policy. The E.U. site offers a consolidated list containing the names and identification details of all persons, groups, and entities targeted by financial restrictions, plus documents detailing the objectives and principles guiding E.U. sanctions policy.
United Kingdom: The U.K.s Foreign and Commonwealth Office maintains a website detailing U.K. sanctions imposed on individual countries. The U.K. site includes background information on U.N. and E.U. sanctions, and contact information for the U.K. offices involved in international sanctions compliance.
In addition, the U.K.s Asset Freezing Unit website has a consolidated list of asset-freeze targets designated by the U.N., E.U. and U.K. under current international sanctions regimes. The U.K.s Asset Freezing Unit is responsible for the implementation and administration of international financial sanctions in effect in the United Kingdom.
The Federation of International Trade Associations: FITA has a page called Really Useful Links for International Trade that provides links to various international trade-related organizations and sources of international sanctions information, including articles and policy papers. While a bit heavy on the politics of sanctions, there is some good background information.
MyCorporateResource.com: The MyCorporateResource.com site compiles law firm news alerts and other information on international sanctions. This is a good resource for reading top legal summaries of the latest sanctions programs changes, written by some of the leading international trade law firms. The site is a great hub for law firm summaries on significant international trade issues.
While there is no single comprehensive source for information about all international sanctions programs, these are a good start for in-house counsel tracking sanctions developments.
There are a number of companies that operate global search engines, compiling hundreds of sanctions lists into a single, easily searched resource. In addition to U.S., U.N., and E.U. sanctions, these search engines also cover other international organizations and other debarred parties listings with which companies may need to comply.
These search engines vary widely in cost and coverage and may also include politically exposed persons (PEP) lists that, unlike government lists, are far from scientific. Unlike sanctions lists, for PEP screening, companies should resist the idea that more is in every case better. You need to know if youre working with PEPs that pose the greatest risk to your particular organization. Some global search engines have more streamlined lists focusing only on high-ranking PEPs (tracnumber.com); others can be tailored to limit searches to only those PEPs that match your companys definition of a politically exposed person (accuitysolutions.com); and others sub-classify politically exposed persons based on your companys appetite for risk. Still other customizable, risk-based PEP search engine options include Dow Jones Watchlist and Genpact.
Of course, determining whether you should work with a distributor who is the off-hours tennis instructor for some highly placed foreign officials son remains more art than science.
Are there any online compliance resources that you recommend I add to the list? Send suggestions to CorporateCounsel@alm.com or post them to the CorpCounsel LinkedIn group.
Alexandra Wrage is the president of TRACE, an antibribery compliance organization offering practical tools and services to multinational companies. TRACE offers several free collective action resources including BRIBEline, a site where companies can report bribe demands anonymously, the TRACE Compendium, a database of international enforcement actions, and TRAC, a publicly accessible compliance platform that shares baseline due diligence with companies at no cost. Ms. Wrage is also the author of a chapter in Collective Action: Innovative Strategies to Prevent Corruption, edited by Dr. Mark Pieth.