Click here to visit Steptoe’s COVID-19 International Trade Resource Page to learn how COVID-19 is impacting international trade.

How is COVID-19 shaping the US-China trade dispute? Will the pandemic affect pending US trade remedy proceedings? What will happen to US international trade negotiations?

The global COVID-19 pandemic has had, and will continue to have, significant implications for businesses involved in international commerce. Steptoe’s cross-disciplinary team of lawyers has responded to these and other questions on our COVID-19 International Trade Resource Page.

We will update this page on a regular basis, and we hope you find these insights helpful to you and your business. Steptoe’s cross-disciplinary team of lawyers can help with these new international trade issues and the countless legal and policy issues that companies are now navigating due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

For more information, please visit our COVID-19 Resource Center or contact a member of our International Trade group.

Click here to read the full Client Advisory from Steptoe.

On March 4, 2020, the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) of the US Treasury Department imposed a $450,000 civil money penalty against the former chief operational risk officer at US Bank National Association (US Bank), for his alleged role in failing to prevent violations of US anti-money laundering (AML) laws and regulations that occurred during his tenure.

FinCEN’s unprecedented individual enforcement action is the latest sign that US AML regulators intend to hold individual executives accountable for their roles in financial institutions’ violations of law. It serves as a reminder of the importance of strengthening compliance programs in order to minimize the likelihood of findings of individual liability. Meanwhile, authorities outside the United States, including in the UK, are increasingly focused on AML failings and individuals potentially liable for those failings.

Continue Reading Client Advisory: FinCEN Penalizes Compliance Officer for Anti-Money Laundering Failures

See our client advisory: Immigration Compliance During COVID-19 Travel, Visa, and Worksite Disruptions

The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted immigration with changes to travel bans, visa processing, and immigration interview suspensions. These changes, combined with the need for social distancing to inhibit the spread of COVID-19, have driven employers – voluntarily and involuntarily – to accommodate remote work wherever possible. These work-from-home initiatives, while imperative, may have immigration consequences. As companies respond to workplace issues, it is important to include immigration-related requirements and considerations when crafting remote work policies

Also, see our client advisory: I-9 In-Person Employment Verification Deferred During COVID-19 Pandemic

Due to COVID-19, we have seen a nationwide shift to remote work arrangements. The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has recognized the incompatibility of in-person employment-eligibility requirements with public health restrictions, and has therefore issued temporary accommodations to the Employment Eligibility Verification (Form I-9) compliance rules. These accommodations address the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) requirement mandating that employers review original employment eligibility verification documentation in the presence of the employee within three days of hiring any worker. In light of the unique national emergency, DHS is allowing employers to inspect Form I-9, Section 2 documents remotely (e.g., over video link, fax, or email) and to inspect and retain copies (rather than originals) of those documents until normal business operations resume.

The rampant spread of coronavirus across the world has brought with it terrible consequences to every conceivable part of life – hospitals have scrambled to care for patients, individuals have been confined to their homes, restaurants and bars have closed and flights have been cancelled.  The cogs of justice, however, also have not been immune from the reaches of the virus.

On 17 March 2020, the Lord Chief Justice of England and Wales, Lord Burnett, announced the adjournment of all new trials in Crown Court listed to start before the end of April that are expected to last longer than three days.  The decision was made as a result of the large number of participants – judge, members of the jury, defendant, lawyers, witnesses and staff and the consequent risks of a trial not being able to complete.  Lord Burnett’s announcement noted, however, that trials already underway would generally proceed in the hope that they could be completed.

Continue Reading Coronavirus: Even Justice is in Quarantine

*The title of this post has been corrected to clarify the BIS Undersecretary’s decision.

In an unusual decision, the Undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) remanded a civil penalty of $31,425,760 assessed by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) against Nordic Maritime Pte. Ltd., (“Nordic Maritime”) a Singapore-based marine seismic company and its chairman for violations of the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”). While agreeing with the seriousness of the charges, the Undersecretary found that the statutory maximum penalty—double the value of the contract underlying the violations—was disproportionate in comparison to other BIS cases.  The Undersecretary’s decision is available here.

The decision offers a rare public view into the BIS enforcement process involving ALJs, which differs from other agencies such as the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), while demonstrating that the U.S. government continues to accept limits on reasonable penalties for violations of sanctions and export control regulations, notwithstanding the administration’s otherwise intense policy focus on Iran and other sanctioned territories.

Continue Reading BIS Undersecretary Vacates Administrative Law Judge’s $31 Million Civil Monetary Penalty for Iran Export Controls Violations; Remands for Further Consideration

Concerns about the continued availability of medical equipment in the European Union and uncoordinated attempts by individual EU Member States to block exports of such equipment have prompted the European Commission to become active on two levels.

Regarding trade within the EU, the Commission has taken steps to ensure the unimpeded availability of medical supplies. The EU measures are embedded in the new Guidelines on border management measures to protect public health and ensure the availability of goods and essential services. According to the Commission, the controls put in place by the EU Member States must not undermine the continuity of economic activity and should preserve the operation of supply chains. Therefore unobstructed transport services are key to maintaining the availability of goods. Of primary concern is the transport of essential goods such as protective equipment and supplies, vital medicines, but also food supplies including livestock. Moreover, the Commission calls on the solidarity of EU Member States to preserve the free circulation of all goods and guarantee the functioning of relevant supply chains. No additional restrictions should be imposed on the circulation of goods in the EU Single Market, unless duly justified.

Continue Reading EU takes measures regarding trade with medical equipment

On 12 March 2020, OFAC designated Switzerland-based oil broker and Rosneft subsidiary TNK Trading International SA (“TNK Trading”) as a Specially Designated National (“SDN”) pursuant to Executive Order 13850 for operating in the oil sector of the Venezuelan economy. The action follows OFAC’s February 18, 2020 designation of another Rosneft subsidiary, Rosneft Trading SA (“Rosneft Trading”), and its president, who also were targeted for operating in Venezuela’s oil sector. Concurrently, OFAC issued an updated General License 36A authorizing U.S. persons to engage in certain transactions ordinarily incident and necessary to the wind down of transactions involving TNK Trading or Rosneft Trading, or any entity in which they own a 50% or greater interest, through May 20, 2020.

For more on this issue, see our February 18, 2020 IRC Blog post on the implications of OFAC’s designation of Rosneft Trading.

On February 26, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut partially overturned the jury conviction of Lawrence Hoskins in United States v. Hoskins, acquitting the defendant of all Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) counts.  In doing so, the court found that the government had failed to demonstrate as a matter of law that Hoskins, a British citizen, had acted as an “agent” of Alstom Power Inc. (“API”), a US-based subsidiary of French multinational corporation Alstom S.A. (“Alstom”), and a “domestic concern” for purposes of FCPA jurisdiction.  This ruling is the latest twist in a case that has dealt a series of blows to the DOJ’s expansive assertion of FCPA jurisdiction over foreign defendants. As described below, however, the DOJ still has a number of tools available to prosecute non-US defendants involved in foreign corruption.

Continue Reading The FCPA’s Arm Remains Long: Recent Developments in FCPA Jurisdiction over Non-US Defendants

Click here to read the full Client Advisory by Steptoe.

What can we learn from recent SDN designations by the US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) on multinationals such as subsidiaries of COSCO and Rosneft Trading S.A.?

OFAC has shown a willingness to impose, then lift, sanctions on major companies that play an important role in global supply chains, forcing counterparties to react fast and adapt. In this advisory, we comment on the types of companies OFAC may sanction, how long those sanctions may last, and whether impacted parties can advocate for relief.

For more information about how these trends affect your sanctions compliance program, click here to read the Client Advisory.

On 28 February 2020, a jury acquitted three former Barclays executives – Roger Jenkins, Tom Kalaris and Richard Boath – of criminal fraud charges brought by the Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”).  The charges were founded on allegations that the three had conspired to make secret payments to Qatar in exchange for the state’s provision of financial assistance to Barclays during 2008.  The acquittal concludes the SFO’s investigation in the matter which began in 2012 but also, however, allowed the release of previous judgments that, among other things, shed light on the difficulties in imposing corporate criminal liability.

On 3 July 2017, the SFO charged Barclays PLC with both conspiracy to commit fraud by false representation for failing fully to disclose to the stock market deals it had reached with Qatari investors and unlawful financial assistance by providing a $3 billion loan to the Qatari state’s sovereign wealth fund.  On 12 February 2018 Barclays Bank PLC also was charged with providing unlawful financial assistance.  On 21 May 2018 the charges against both Barclays entities were dismissed by the Crown Court, prompting a subsequent application by the SFO to reinstate all of the charges.  On 26 October 2018, the High Court dismissed the SFO’s application.  Any greater understanding regarding the reasons as to why the charges were dismissed and the Court’s approach to the imposition of corporate criminal liability, however, was put on hold as both Crown Court and High Court judgments remained subject to reporting restrictions until the conclusion of the trial of the individual Barclays executives.  These restrictions were lifted by Lord Justice Popplewell following the acquittal of the three executives in February 2020.

Continue Reading The Elusive “Directing Mind and Will”