Archive for the ‘Violations & Fines’ Category

Trilogy International Associates, Inc. and William Michael Johnson Each Receives $100,000 Civil Penalty for Export Violations

2018/04/04

By: Ashleigh Foor

On or about January 23, 2010, April 6, 2010, and May 14, 2010, Trilogy International Associates, Inc., of Altaville, CA exported an explosives detector and a total of 115 analog-to-digital converters to Russia. These items are subject to the EAR and controlled on national security grounds. The items were classified under Export Control Classification Numbers 1A004 and 3A001, respectively, and valued in total at approximately $76,035. Each of the items required a license for export to Russia pursuant to Section 742.4 of the EAR.

Between, on, or about January 20, 2010 and May 14, 2010, William Michael Johnson of Angels Camp, CA, caused, aided, and/or abetted three violations of the EAR, specifically three exports from the United States to Russia of items subject to the EAR without the required BIS export licenses.

Charges include:

  • Three Charges of 15 C.F.R. § 764.2(a) – Engaging in Prohibited Conduct
  • Three charges of 15 C.F.R. § 764.2(b) – Causing, Aiding, or Abetting a Violation

Penalty:

  • Civil penalty of $100,000 against Trilogy International Associates, Inc.
  • Civil penalty of $100,000 against William Michael Johnson
  • Debarred: Both Trilogy International Associates, Inc. and William Michael Johnson are denied export privileges for a period of 10 years from the date of this Order, until 26 February 2028.

Date of Order: 26 February 2018


Company Pays $1,220,400 for 37 Violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations

2018/02/08

The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced in December 2017, a $1,220,400 settlement with DENTSPLY SIRONA INC. (DSI), a US company with the successor in interest to DENTSPLY International Inc. (“DII” and, together with DSI, “DENTSPLY”) to settle a potential civil liability for 37 apparent violations of § 560.204 of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. Part 560 (ITSR).

Around November 26, 2009 and July 5, 2012, DII subsidiaries UK International (“UKI”) and DS Healthcare Inc. (d.b.a. Sultan Healthcare), (“Sultan”), exported 37 shipments of dental equipment and supplies from the US, directly or indirectly to Iran, to distributors in third-countries, with knowledge or reason to know that the goods were ultimately destined for Iran.  OFAC determined that DII did not voluntarily disclose the apparent violations and that the apparent violations constitute a non-egregious case.

Full Details: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/20171206.aspx


US Firms Part Ways with China’s ZTE Monitor

2018/02/08

In early 2017 China’s largest telecommunications company agreed to pay a nearly $900 million penalty to the US after entering a guilty plea for illegally shipping goods to Iran and North Korea. ZTE was charged with 380 violations of the EAR, including (1) Conspiracy (2) Acting with Knowledge of a violation in Connection with Unlicensed Shipments of Telecommunications Items to North Korea via China and (3) Evasion. The company also entered into a settlement with OFAC for violating the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (“ITSR”; 31 CFR Part 560). More Information on these charges can be found here.

Part of the settlement with OFAC required the company to hire an initial independent compliance monitor approved by the US government for a three-year term. The monitor is responsible for preparing the initial three annual audit reports to be provided to the US government. In addition, ZTE had to hire an independent compliance auditor, also approved by the US government, for an additional three years to prepare the remaining three annual audit reports.

Guidepost Solutions and Larkin Trade International were hired in June 2017 by the US monitor, James Stanton, a Texas civil and personal injury lawyer in charge of the oversite regime for ZTE. Stanton’s job is to help evaluate ZTE’s US export controls compliance and sanctions laws, and mitigate any future violations. US District Judge Ed Kinkeade, who presided over the ZTE sanctions case, actually rewrote the agreement to put Stanton in charge of monitoring the company before signing off on the plea deal. It has been said that Stanton has a lack of experience in US trade controls and the order naming him is sealed, leaving the reasoning behind the judge’s decision unclear. This situation is a bit of an anomaly because generally, the Department of Justice chooses an independent monitor in corporate criminal cases from candidates proposed by the company, which is how the agreement was originally written before Judge Kinkeade rewrote it. ZTE and the Justice Department agreed to Judge Kinkeade’s choice and the changes to the monitorship agreement, sources said, because the plea had already been negotiated and filed in the judge’s court and a temporary license allowing ZTE to continue to obtain US made goods was about to expire.

In December 2017, rumors broke out that Guidepost Solutions and Larkin Trade International had resigned in August 2017 from the job of actively auditing ZTE. Although the exact reason is unclear, some say it was a result of  Stanton restricting their access to ZTE documents and officials, which ultimately hindered their ability to effectively monitor the company. Stanton’s first report was due to the US government last month and this report, as well as the subsequent 2 reports will decide whether the company is liable for an additional fine of $300 million or being added to the US denial list.

Nearly all parties related to the case, including Guidepost Solutions, Larkin Trade International, Judge Ed Kinkeade, and James Stanton have all declined requests for comments based on this news. Additional details about this story and the ties between Judge Kinkeade and James Stanton can be found at https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-zte-exclusive/u-s-experts-resign-from-monitoring-chinas-zte-corp-sources-idUSKBN1EG03R


Seiler Instrument to Pay $1.5 Million in Forfeiture to the United States

2018/02/08

Source: Department of Justice

Seiler Instrument & Manufacturing Company, Inc., a Kirkwood-based defense contractor, admits fault to the company’s use of optical materials imported from China in the weapons sights which the company improperly certified as compliant with the Buy American Act and will pay the United States $1,500,000.00 in forfeiture. The company manufactured the parts under a series of contracts with the Department of Defense. Pursuant to a pretrial diversion agreement Seiler Instrument has made an initial payment of $500,000.00 and will make additional payments of $500,000.00 in each of the next two years. The company also agrees to enter a plea of guilty to a false statement charge in the event that the company does not meet the full terms of the agreement.

Seiler Instrument is a long-time defense contractor which specializes in the production of fire control systems, including sighting devices for weapons, which are used on all United States Military Howitzer and mortar systems.  The pretrial agreement concluded after an investigation into the company’s business practices and how its proceedings reflect import and export regulations governing the procurement of materials used to manufacture defense systems. Two of these provisions include the Buy American Act and the International Traffic in Arms Regulations which place limitations on the export of restricted technical data used in the procurement and manufacturing process to countries such as China. The agreement states that Seiler Instrument took actions to correct problems and has further agreed to have its compliance program monitored by the Department of Defense.

This case was investigated by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (Department of Defense, Office of Inspector General), the U.S. Immigration and Custom Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Army CID Major Procurement Fraud Unit and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security – Office of Export Enforcement, Chicago Field Office. The Defense Contract Management Agency also provided substantial assistance in this investigation.

More Details: https://www.justice.gov/usao-edmo/pr/seiler-instrument-pay-15-million-forfeiture-united-states


Whirlpool Europe Srl (Italy)/Whirlpool Corporation to Pay Civil Settlements to Settle Alleged Antiboycott Violations

2017/11/15

By: Ashleigh Foor (Source: Commerce/BIS)

On September 25, 2017, Whirlpool Europe Srl (Italy) was charged with three violations of 15 CFR 760.2(a), refusal to do business, ten violations of 15 CFR 760.2(d), furnishing information about business relationships with boycotted countries or blacklisted persons, and eight violations of 15 CFR 760.5, failing to report the receipt of a request to engage in a restrictive trade practice or foreign boycott against a country friendly to the United States (Case No: 14-02(A)). A civil settlement of $72,450, if paid as agreed, will keep Whirlpool from being debarred or suspended from export transactions.

Related case number 14-02(B) involves Whirlpool Corporation. The company received a civil settlement of $9,000 for three violations of 15 CFR 760.2(d), furnishing information about business relationships with boycotted countries or blacklisted persons. No debarment or suspension will be placed if penalty is paid as agreed.


Miltech, Inc. of Northampton, MA Receives 18 Charges of Alleged Export Violations

2017/11/15

By: Ashleigh Foor

On September 25, 2017, Miltech, Inc. of Northampton, MA was charged a civil penalty of $230,000 due to engaging in conduct prohibited by the EAR when it exported items subject to the EAR from the United States to China and Russia without the required BIS Licenses. On eighteen separate occasions between, on, or around October 14, 2011 and July 14, 2014, Miltech exported active multiplier chains, items classified under Export Control Classification Number (“ECCN”) 3A001.b.4 and valued in total at approximately $364,947, without seeking or obtaining the licenses required for these exports pursuant to section 742.4 of the EAR. These items are controlled on national security and anti-terrorism grounds.

Miltech received 18 charges of 15 C.F.R. § 764.2(a) for engaging in prohibited conduct. $180,000 of the $230,000 penalty must be paid within 30 days, and the remaining $50,000 will be suspended and waived after two years if Miltech fulfills the terms of its settlement agreement and this order.  The company will not be debarred if penalty is paid as agreed and Miltech complies with other terms of this settlement.


Failing to Keep Current with Classifications Leads to Civil Penalty for NJ-based Company

2017/10/16

By: Ashleigh Foor

During the second week of September, Bright Lights USA, a Barrington, NJ-based company, received a $400,000 civil penalty from the State Department’s Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) for exporting unauthorized defense components and technical data, which violates the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

Bright Lights notified DDTC of two ITAR violations in voluntary self-disclosures filed with the agency in April 2013 and June 2016.

Bright Lights failed to stay current with the former Obama administration’s Export Control Reform (ECR) regarding  the transition of ITAR-related commodities/technology from the State Department’s US Munitions List to the Commerce Control List. The wrong commodity jurisdiction was selected and resulted in export violations for both the physical export of the items and the illegal transfer of technology made by the company.

Want to make sure your company is staying compliant? We have an upcoming webinar on classifications:

EAR Hardware and Materials Classifications: Learning By Doing

Practice Makes Perfect—A Two-Part Webinar that Combines Hands-On Exercises, Discussions, and Instruction. October 25, 2017 & November 8, 2017


US Citizen CEO Sentenced to 57 Months in Prison for Conspiring to Export Specialty Metals to Iran

2017/10/16

By: Ashleigh Foor

On Friday, September 8, 2017, Erdal Kuyumcu, a US citizen and the chief executive officer of Global Metallurgy, LLC, based in Woodside, New York, was sentenced to 57 months in prison for conspiring to export specialty metals to Iran. The sentencing took place at the federal courthouse in Brooklyn, New York and proceedings held before Chief United States District Judge Dora L. Irizarry. In June 14, 2016, Kuyumcu plead guilty to conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act by exporting specialty metals from the United States to Iran.

According to court documents, Kuyumcu conspired to export from the United States to Iran a metallic powder primarily composed of cobalt and nickel, without having obtained the required license from the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). It was determined after a two-day presentencing evidentiary hearing that the metallic powder has potential military and nuclear uses. In order to prevent nuclear proliferation and terrorism, the US Department of Commerce requires a license to export and exporting without the required license is illegal.

In addition, Kuyumcu and others planned to obtain more than 1,000 pounds of the metallic powder from a US-based supplier, and hid the true destination of the goods by having it shipped first to Turkey and then to Iran. Coded language was used to keep this all secret, for instance, referring to Iran as the “neighbor.”  Once a shipment was sent from Turkey to Iran, a steel company in Iran would send a letter-sized package to Kuyumcu’s Turkey-based co-conspirator.

The Iranian steel company had the same address as an OFAC-designated Iranian entity under the Weapons of Mass Destruction proliferators’ sanctions program that was associated with Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.


Treasury/OFAC Announces Settlement Agreement With IPSA International Services, Inc.

2017/10/16

(Source: https://www.treasury.gov/resource-center/sanctions/OFAC-Enforcement/Pages/OFAC-Recent-Actions.aspx)

IPSA International Services, Inc. of Phoenix, Arizona agreed to settle its potential civil liability for 72 apparent violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560 (ITSR). The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced IPSA’s settlement of $259,200 on August 7, 2017. The apparent violations include, on 44 separate occasions, IPSA’s importation of Iranian-origin services into the United States in apparent violation of § 560.201 of the ITSR, and on 28 separate occasions, IPSA’s engagement in transactions or dealings related to Iranian-origin services by approving and facilitating its foreign subsidiaries’ payments to providers of Iranian-origin services in apparent violation of §§ 560.206 and 560.208 of the ITSR.  OFAC concluded that IPSA did not voluntarily disclose these apparent violations, and that the apparent violations constitute a non-egregious case.

OFAC’s web notice is included below.

ENFORCEMENT INFORMATION FOR AUGUST 10, 2017

Information concerning the civil penalties process can be found in the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations governing each sanctions program; the Reporting, Procedures, and Penalties Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 501; and the Economic Sanctions Enforcement Guidelines, 31 C.F.R. part 501, app. A. These references, as well as recent final civil penalties and enforcement information, can be found on OFAC’s website.

ENTITIES – 31 CFR 501.805(d)(1)(i)

IPSA International Services, Inc. Settles Potential Civil Liability for Apparent Violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations: IPSA International Services, Inc. (IPSA), Phoenix, Arizona, has agreed to pay $259,200 to settle its potential civil liability for 72 apparent violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 560 (ITSR). [FN/1] The apparent violations involve, on 44 separate occasions, IPSA’s importation of Iranian-origin services into the United States in apparent violation of § 560.201 of the ITSR, and on 28 separate occasions, IPSA’s engagement in transactions or dealings related to Iranian-origin services by approving and facilitating its foreign subsidiaries’ payments to providers of Iranian- origin services in apparent violation of §§ 560.206 and 560.208 of the ITSR.

OFAC determined that IPSA did not voluntarily disclose the apparent violations, and that the apparent violations constitute a non-egregious case. The total transaction value of the apparent violations was $290,784. The statutory maximum civil penalty amount in this case was $18,000,000, and the base civil penalty amount was $720,000.

IPSA is a global business investigative and regulatory risk mitigation firm that provides due diligence services for various countries and their citizenship by investment programs. In March 2012, IPSA entered into an engagement letter and fee agreement with a third country with respect to its citizenship by investment program (“Contract No. 1”). In October 2012, IPSA’s subsidiary in Vancouver, Canada (“IPSA Canada”) entered into a similar contract with a government-owned financial institution in a separate third country (“Contract No. 2”). While the majority of the applicants to both of these programs were nationals from countries not subject to OFAC sanctions, some were Iranian nationals. Since most of the information about Iranian applicants could not be checked or verified by sources outside Iran, IPSA Canada and IPSA’s subsidiary in Dubai, United Arab Emirates subsequently hired subcontractors to conduct the necessary due diligence in Iran, and those subcontractors in turn hired third parties to validate information that could only be obtained or verified within Iran. Although it was IPSA’s foreign subsidiaries that managed and performed both Contract No. 1 and Contract No. 2, with regard to Contract No. 1, IPSA appears to have imported Iranian-origin services into the United States because the foreign subsidiaries conducted the due diligence in Iran on behalf of and for the benefit of IPSA. With regard to Contract No. 2, IPSA also appears to have engaged in transactions or dealings related to Iranian-origin services and facilitated the foreign subsidiaries’ engagement in such transactions or dealings because IPSA reviewed, approved, and initiated the foreign subsidiaries’ payments to providers of the Iranian-origin services.

The settlement amount reflects OFAC’s consideration of the following facts and circumstances, pursuant to the General Factors under OFAC’s Economic Sanctions Enforcement Guidelines, 31 C.F.R. part 501, app. A. OFAC considered the following to be aggravating factors: (1) IPSA failed to exercise a minimal degree of caution or care when it imported background investigation services of Iranian origin into the United States and when it reviewed, approved, and initiated its foreign subsidiaries’ payments to providers of Iranian-origin services, and the frequency and duration of the apparent violations constitute a pattern or practice of conduct; (2) at least one of IPSA’s senior management knew or had reason to know that it was importing and/or engaging in transactions or dealings related to services of Iranian origin; (3) the transactions giving rise to the apparent violations resulted in economic benefits to Iran, and the conduct underlying the apparent violations is not eligible for OFAC authorization under existing licensing policy [FN/2]; (4) IPSA is a commercially sophisticated company operating internationally with experience in U.S. sanctions; and (5) IPSA’s OFAC compliance program was ineffective in that it did not recognize or react to the risks presented by engaging in transactions that involved Iranian-origin background investigation services.

OFAC considered the following to be mitigating factors: (1) IPSA has no prior OFAC sanctions history in the five years preceding the earliest date of the transactions giving rise to the apparent violations; (2) IPSA undertook significant remedial measures by taking swift action to cease the prohibited activities, conducting an investigation to discover the causes and extent of the apparent violations, and adopting new internal controls and procedures to prevent reoccurrence of the apparent violations; and (3) IPSA substantially cooperated with OFAC’s investigation by conducting an internal look-back investigation for potential sanctions violations and submitting an investigation report to OFAC without receiving an administrative subpoena, promptly providing detailed additional information and documentation in a well-organized manner in response to OFAC’s multiple requests for information, and entering into a statute of limitations tolling agreement.

For more information regarding OFAC regulations, please go here.


Beware of Contracts Signed by Specially Designated Nationals

2017/08/03

(Source: Commonwealth Trading Partners)

By: Chalinee Tinaves, Esq., Commonwealth Trading Partners, ctinaves@ctp-inc.com.

On July 20, 2017, the Office of the Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced a $2 million penalty against ExxonMobil Corporation and two of its subsidiaries for violating the Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations. According to OFAC, ExxonMobil violated the sanctions when its execs dealt in services with Igor Sechin, President of Rosneft OAO, when they signed eight legal documents relating to oil and gas projects in Russia between May 14, 2014, and May 23, 2014.

If you’ll travel back in time to March 2014, as tensions were heating up regarding Russian deployment of military forces in the Crimea region of Ukraine, President Obama issued Executive Order 13661, “Blocking Property of Additional Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine,” in response to actions deemed to constitute an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security and foreign policy of the U.S. Section 1(a)(ii) authorized the Secretary of the Treasury to designate officials of the Government of the Russian Federation, block any property or interests in property, and prohibit dealing in any property and interests in property of a person listed on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List). Section 4 of E.O. 13661 prohibited US persons from making “any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services by, to, or for the benefit of any person whose property and interests in property are blocked pursuant to this order” as well as receiving “any contribution or provision of funds, goods, or services” from a designated person.

On April 28, 2014, OFAC designated Igor Sechin as an official of the Russian government, thereby generally prohibiting US persons from conducting transactions with him. Although Rosneft OAO is:

  • designated on the Sectoral Sanctions Identifications List (SSI List) pursuant to Executive Order 13662 “Blocking Property of Additional Persons Contributing to the Situation in Ukraine;”
  • subject to Directive 2 (prohibiting transacting in, providing financing for, or otherwise dealing in new debt of greater than 90 days maturity if that debt is issued on or after the sanctions effective date by, on behalf of, or for the benefit of the persons operating in Russia’s energy sector); and
  • subject to Directive 4 (prohibition against the direct or indirect provision of, exportation, or reexportation of goods, services, or technology in support of exploration or production for deepwater, Arctic offshore, or shale projects that have the potential to produce oil in the Russian Federation or in maritime area claimed by Russian Federation and extending from its Territory); nonetheless, Rosneft OAO is not designated on the SDN List and is therefore not subject to blocking sanctions.

As you can see, the conflict lies in how to conduct business transactions with an organization that is not blocked with an executive who is. According to the release, OFAC rejected ExxonMobil’s position that Sechin was acting in his professional capacity as President of Rosneft OAO when they signed the legal documents. Specifically, ExxonMobil referenced comments by a Treasury Department spokesman in April 2014 allowing BP Plc Chief Executive, Bob Dudley, to remain on the board of directors of Rosneft OAO so long as he did not discuss personal business with Sechin. In rejecting this argument, OFAC indicated that statement did not address ExxonMobil’s conduct nor did the plain language of Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations include a distinction between “personal” or “professional.” Further, OFAC has not interpreted the Regulations to create a carve-out for designated parties acting in their professional capacity.

Interestingly, in support of its position, OFAC pointed to its Frequently Asked Question #285 published on March 18, 2013, regarding the Burma Sanctions Program. Although conveniently now removed from OFAC’s FAQs and website following the termination of the Burma Sanctions Regulations, an archived link detailing FAQ #285 captured the full text of OFAC’s response to ministry dealings with a designated Burmese Government minister. According to OFAC:

A government ministry is not blocked solely because the minister heading it is an SDN. U.S. persons should, however, be cautious in dealings with the ministry to ensure that they are not, for example, entering into any contracts that are signed by the SDN.

However, in Treasury’s restatement of FAQ #285 in the ExxonMobil announcement, OFAC indicated that US parties should “be cautious in dealings with [a non-designated] entity to ensure that they are not providing funds, goods, or services to the SDN, for example, by entering into any contracts that are signed by the SDN.”

Rejecting ExxonMobil’s rebuttal that OFAC regulations state that different interpretations may exist among and between the sanctions programs that it administers, FAQ #285 “clearly signaled” that OFAC views the signing of a contract with an SDN as prohibited, even if the entity on whose behalf the SDN signed was not sanctioned in situations where sanctions programs also involve SDNs. These reasons, in addition to the definitions of “property” and “property interest” in the Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations, E.O. 13661, and statements issued by the White House and the Department of Treasury, served to provide ExxonMobil with notice that signing the legal documents with Sechin would violate the prohibitions in the Ukraine-Related Sanctions Regulations.

In assessing the penalty based on OFAC’s Economic Sanctions Enforcement Guidelines, among other aggravating factors, OFAC viewed ExxonMobil’s transaction to be a show of “reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements when it failed to consider warning signs associated with dealing in the blocked services of an SDN” and contributed “significant harm” to the objectives of the Ukraine-Related Sanctions Program. Following the announcement, ExxonMobil stood by its position that it acted in full compliance with the sanctions guidelines in 2014 and argued that the Treasury Department is “trying to retroactively enforce a new interpretation of an executive order that is inconsistent with the explicit and unambiguous guidance from the White House and Treasury issued before the relevant conduct and still publicly available today.”

What does all this mean for U.S. companies? While FAQ #285 was initially crafted to address contracts with a designated government official (which Sechin satisfied based on his designation as a Russian official), it is unclear whether this interpretation would also be applicable in situations involving non-government SDNs and their corporate dealings. Further, the prohibited conduct of entering into a contract signed by an SDN in FAQ #285 was listed as an example. It is entirely possible that a range of other contract activities are prohibited by SDNs like negotiating a contract. Companies must be aware of the risks associated with projects that would require authorization by an SDN. Further, companies can mitigate their risk by screening all the parties involved in a transaction to avoid potentially violating a sanctions program.