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Alex Baj’s practice primarily involves export controls and economic sanctions laws and regulations, anti-corruption investigations and compliance, international trade, and security clearance issues. Alex advises clients on export control and economic sanctions laws and regulations, including the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), US sanctions regulations administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), and nuclear export controls under the jurisdiction of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC).  Alex specializes in the development and implementation of export and anti-corruption compliance policies and procedures and training, internal investigations and voluntary disclosures under the EAR, the ITAR, and OFAC rules, due diligence for mergers and acquisitions, and on encryption and cybersecurity export controls.  Her clients include companies involved in defense, aerospace, software, semiconductor, and uranium processing industries.

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On October 7, 2022, in a move that was hailed by senior U.S. government officials as a paradigm shift in U.S. export controls policy toward China, the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued an interim final rule that amends the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) to impose new and expanded controls on advanced computing integrated circuits (ICs), computer commodities that contain such ICs, and certain semiconductor manufacturing items. Transactions for supercomputer end-uses and transactions involving certain entities on the Entity List are now subject to additional export controls, as are certain semiconductor manufacturing items and transactions for certain IC end uses. U.S. person activities as they relate to certain semiconductor activities in China are also now restricted.

Certain aspects of the rule, specified below, including the availability of license exceptions, became effective immediately on October 7, 2022. The new restrictions on U.S. person activities under § 744.6 became effective on October 12, 2022. The remainder of the provisions with a delayed effective date are specified below and will become effective on October 21, 2022. BIS is also accepting public comments on the interim final rule through December 12, 2022.

Separately, also on October 7, 2022, BIS issued a final rule, which revised the Unverified List (UVL) and clarified the activities and criteria that may lead to the addition of an entity to the Entity List. BIS stated that a sustained lack of cooperation by the host government in a country where an end-use check is to be conducted, such as China, that effectively prevents BIS from determining compliance with the EAR, will be grounds for adding an entity to the Entity List.

The U.S. policy goals behind the new rules are ambitious and seek to degrade China’s advanced computing capabilities in an unprecedented manner. As summarized recently by National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan: “On export controls, we have to revisit the longstanding premise of maintaining ‘relative’ advantages over competitors in certain key technologies.  We previously maintained a ‘sliding scale’ approach that said we need to stay only a couple of generations ahead. That is not the strategic environment we are in today. Given the foundational nature of certain technologies, such as advanced logic and memory chips, we must maintain as large of a lead as possible.”

The broad implications of these new rules, along with their efficacy from a policy standpoint, may take some time to come fully in to focus. For now, it is clear that any U.S. or non-U.S. individuals or entities that play any role in the global semiconductor supply chain—whether as manufacturers, producers, consumers, or otherwise—need to carefully review the new rules to determine what is required to comply and, if necessary, seek guidance or a license from BIS.

Continue Reading BIS Issues Expansive New Rules Targeting China

The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) has announced policy changes designed to strengthen its administrative enforcement of U.S. export controls. In a memorandum released on June 30, Matthew Axelrod, Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at BIS, outlined four new policy changes including (1) significantly higher penalties for egregious violations, (2) elimination of no admit/no deny settlements, (3) offering non-monetary settlement agreements in cases where the violations “do not reflect serious national security harm” but are more serious than cases that receive warnings or no-action letters, and (4) implementation of a dual-track processing system for Voluntary Self Disclosures (VSDs) involving minor or technical infractions and those involving potentially more serious violations. These changes have the potential to significantly increase export enforcement risks for U.S. and non-U.S. companies, and suggest it is time for exporters and reexporters to conduct internal audits, assessments, and monitoring for potential compliance gaps. It may be necessary for some exporters to consider tailoring and enhancing internal export compliance programs, processes, and resources to avoid costly penalties, investigations, business disruptions, and brand damage.

Continue Reading Revamping BIS’s Administrative Enforcement Authorities: Time to Consider More Investment in Internal Corporate Compliance

Between April 5 and April 17, 2022, the US government took several steps to ratchet up economic sanctions, export controls, and other restrictive trade measures targeting Russia and Belarus.

President Biden issued a new Executive Order prohibiting US persons from engaging in new investment in Russia, and also establishing a framework through which US persons could in the future be prohibited from providing certain services to any person in Russia.

The US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated a darknet market and cryptocurrency exchange, several Russian banks and their subsidiaries, and a number of companies allegedly assisting the Russian military by adding them to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List pursuant to Executive Orders (EOs) 14024 and 13694. OFAC also published seven new and amended general licenses, including authorizations related to the recent designations of Public Joint Stock Company Sberbank of Russia (Sberbank), Joint Stock Company Alfa-Bank (Alfa-Bank), and Public Joint Stock Company Alrosa (Alrosa).

Separately, the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced new, stringent export controls so that all items subject to the US Export Administration Regulations, except items designated “EAR99,” require a license for export, reexport, or transfer (in country) to or in the Russian Federation and Belarus.

Continue Reading US Sanctions on Russia Continue to Grow

As of March 20, 2022, a new Executive Order (EO) prohibited certain imports, exports, the transfer of US dollar banknotes to Russia, and new investments involving certain sectors of the Russian economy.  The US Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) also issued new General Licenses and Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) guidance. Additionally, the US Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry & Security (BIS) announced new regulations to control the export, reexport, and transfer (in country) of certain luxury goods to or within Russia and Belarus. BIS also identified numerous aircraft subject to US export controls jurisdiction that had flown to Russia without a license, and issued a reminder regarding the restrictions under General Prohibition 10 under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) of servicing such aircraft.

Key points of these US sanctions developments and export controls are summarized below.

For a summary of US sanctions and export controls adopted between February 21 and March 8, 2022, see this Steptoe blog post.

Continue Reading Update: New US Sanctions on Russia Target Certain Imports, Exports, Dollar Banknotes, and Investments

Since February 21, 2022, the United States has joined a coalition of countries imposing sanctions in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. New US sanctions and export controls are wide ranging and complex, significantly impacting trade and related financial transactions between the US and Russia, as well as Belarus.  They also affect transactions and exports from outside the United States in many areas of commerce. The following is a high-level overview of recent US legal developments as of March 8, 2022.

For more information on how these measures could impact your organization, contact a member of Steptoe’s Economic Sanctions and Export Controls teams.

Additional resources can be found on Steptoe’s “Sanctions against Russia: Implications for Business and International Trade” page.

Continue Reading A Summary of New Ukraine-related US Sanctions and Export Controls on Russia and Belarus

The United States government has continued to impose numerous economic sanctions and export controls measures following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.  On February 24, 2022, the US Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) significantly expanded export controls applicable to Russia.  On February 25, 2022, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) added Russian President Vladimir Putin and others to the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List.  It also imposed significant economic sanctions measures targeting Russia’s financial system — including by imposing sanctions on Russia’s largest financial institutions and limiting the ability of certain Russian state-owned and private entities to raise capital.  Together, OFAC’s actions, which were taken pursuant to Executive Order (EO) 14024 following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are estimated to affect nearly 80 percent of all banking assets in Russia.

Finally, on February 26, 2022, the United States and European Union countries, together with the United Kingdom and Canada, announced an agreement to block certain Russian banks from access to SWIFT (with Japan also agreeing the following day), to impose sanctions on Russia’s Central Bank, and to limit the ability of certain Russian nationals connected to the Russian government to obtain citizenship in their countries. They further agreed to ensure effective transatlantic coordination in implementing sanctions, including by sanctioning additional Russian entities and persons, and by working together and with other governments around the world to identify and freeze sanctioned Russian assets.

Continue Reading Biden Administration Imposes Sweeping Financial Sanctions, Export Controls after Russian Invasion of Ukraine

On February 23, 2022, the White House announced sanctions on the Nord Stream 2 pipeline following the announcement that Germany would halt certification of the project. Shortly after, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) named Nord Stream 2 AG and its managing director as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) pursuant to the Protecting Europe’s Energy Security Act (PEESA) and Executive Order (EO) 14039 of August 20, 2021. OFAC also issued General License No. 4 (GL-4) under EO 14039 authorizing US persons to engage in transactions that are ordinarily incident and necessary to the wind down of transactions involving Nord Stream 2 AG and any entity owned 50 percent or more by it, until March 2, 2022.

The day before, on February 22, 2022, OFAC named more than 40 entities, five individuals, and five vessels as SDNs under EO 14024 of April 15, 2021. The targets included two banks: Corporation Bank for Development and Foreign Economic Affairs Vnesheconombank (VEB) and Promsvyazbank Public Joint Stock Company (PSB). US persons are prohibited from engaging in any transfer, transaction, export, import, withdrawal, or other dealing involving property or interests in property of SDNs, including the two banks and Nord Stream 2 AG, and if in the possession of a US person or otherwise in the United States, such property or interest in property must be blocked and reported to OFAC in no more than ten days. The prohibitions also apply to any legal entity owned 50 percent or more by one or more SDNs, even if not specifically named or included on the OFAC SDN list.

Continue Reading Update: Biden Administration Announces Sanctions on Nord Stream 2, Russian Banks, Sovereign Debt and Other Targets

On February 21, 2022, the White House issued a new Executive Order (EO) imposing comprehensive sanctions on the disputed Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine following President Vladimir Putin’s announcement that Russia would recognize the independence of the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) and place Russian military forces in those territories for purported peacekeeping operations.

The new EO prohibits:

  • new investment in the DNR or LNR by US persons, wherever located;
  • the importation into the United States, directly or indirectly, of any goods, services, or technology from the DNR or LNR;
  • the exportation, reexportation, sale, or supply, directly or indirectly, from the United States, or by a US person, wherever located, of any goods, services, or technology to the DNR or the LNR; and
  • any approval, financing, facilitation, or guarantee by a US person, wherever located, of a transaction by a foreign person where the transaction by that foreign person would be prohibited if performed by a US person or within the United States.


Continue Reading White House Announces First Sanctions after Russia Enters Ukraine’s Donetsk and Luhansk Regions

Economic sanctions and export controls will form a core part of any multilateral response to an escalation of Russia’s military actions targeting Ukraine. While it is not possible to predict with certainty whether an escalation will occur or what form the responsive measures would take, this blog post outlines some of the current US sanctions proposals and authorizations to assist companies in taking preliminary steps to assess their potential exposure.

As of January 2022, none of the United States, the EU, or the UK have implemented any new, significant Russia-related sanctions or export control measures concerning Russia’s recent military buildup near the Russia-Ukraine border. Based on events in 2014 and the sanctions that ensued, companies could face rapid and potentially disruptive regulatory restrictions with wide-ranging impacts on a variety of industries. Some measures could be imposed within hours of a triggering event, or even prior to a specific triggering event. The US, EU, and UK are likely to coordinate a sanctions response to some extent, but some variations across different jurisdictions’ sanctions measures are also to be expected.  According to reports, policymakers have yet to agree on the triggers for new sanctions, and diplomatic efforts are ongoing.

Continue Reading Preparing for New Russia-Related Sanctions and Export Controls

On April 15, 2021, the White House and the US Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) announced a package of economic sanctions targeting Russia, including expansive new legal authorities that would allow for the imposition of additional future sanctions on Russia in the technology sector and on Russian government bodies.  OFAC has also issued expanded restrictions on participation in the primary market for Russian sovereign debt, and lending to the Russian government, by US financial institutions.  In addition, OFAC blocked nearly 40 additional individuals and entities for “attempt[ing] to influence the 2020 [US] presidential election” and engaging in certain activities in Crimea.  At the same time, the US Department of State announced the expulsion of 10 Russian diplomats.

The centerpiece of the package is Executive Order (“E.O.”) 14024, which, according to an OFAC press release, “elevates the [US] government’s capacity to deploy strategic and economically impactful sanctions to deter and respond to Russia’s destabilizing behavior.”  As the first significant Russia sanctions action by the Biden Administration, E.O. 14024 appears to have been intended to send a strong signal to Russia, but without taking action at this stage that would be highly or disproportionately economically damaging.  In taking this approach, it appears that the Administration has left open the possibility of an improvement in relations with Russia.  Indeed, these sanctions were preceded by President Biden’s April 13th proposal of a possible summit with President Putin to “discuss the full range of issues facing the United States and Russia.”

Continue Reading New Russia Sanctions Focused on the Technology Sector and Sovereign Debt Markets