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Meredith Rathbone focuses on export controls and economic sanctions, and has assisted clients in the energy, manufacturing, telecommunications, information security, banking, insurance, pharmaceutical, and service industries, among many others, in navigating the requirements of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and US sanctions regulations administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and US Department of State. She regularly assists companies in developing compliance policies, conducting internal investigations, performing training, and conducting due diligence in M&A transactions. She has represented individuals and companies facing civil and criminal investigations in this area, and has also represented clients in their efforts to be removed from OFAC’s list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs). She is a frequent writer and speaker on export controls and sanctions topics. She is the co-chair of the American Bar Association’s Export Controls and Economic Sanctions Committee, and also serves on the Sanctions Subcommittee of the State Department’s Advisory Committee on International Economic Policy.

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On February 23, 2024, the United States issued a broad set of new Russia-related sanctions and export controls in response to the second anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and the February 16, 2024, death of opposition leader, Aleksey Navalny, in Russian custody.

The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), and the State Department all issued new designations.  The agencies also issued an inter-agency advisory warning non-Russian companies from doing business in or with Russia.Continue Reading US Government Imposes New Russia Sanctions, Designating Over 500 Parties and Issuing Interagency Russia Business Advisory

On January 16, 2024, the Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) issued a memorandum, announcing that:

  1. parties disclosing minor or technical violations that occurred close in time can submit a single Voluntary Self-Disclosure (VSD) on a quarterly basis, which may include an abbreviated narrative account of the suspected violations; and
  2. parties sending formal requests to BIS’s Office of Exporter Services to engage in otherwise prohibited activities with respect to items involved in violations of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) should also send courtesy copies to the Office of Export Enforcement (OEE), which will help expedite BIS’s processing of such requests.

The memorandum builds upon previous changes to BIS’s administrative enforcement program, which were announced in memoranda dated June 30, 2022 and April 18, 2023.  These changes are intended to help OEE fast-track its review of “minor” or “technical” VSDs and to encourage additional disclosures of potentially significant violations of the EAR, but do not apply to VSDs relating to Part 760 of the EAR (antiboycott and restrictive trade practices).  For a detailed analysis of the previous memoranda, see our blog posts from July 6, 2022 and April 26, 2023.  Continue Reading BIS Makes Further Changes to Administrative Enforcement, But Questions Remain

Overview

On August 9, 2023, the White House issued a long-awaited Executive Order, entitled Addressing United States Investments in Certain National Security Technologies and Products in Countries of Concern (“EO 14105”). The EO establishes a new national security regulatory regime, implemented principally by the US Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”), in consultation with other federal agencies including the US Department of Commerce, that will require the notification of, as well as prohibit, certain investment activity by US persons in named “countries of concern,” currently China.

EO 14105 does not restrict all US person investment activity regarding China, and is tailored to focus on specific products, technologies, and capabilities involving: (1) semiconductors and microelectronics (including advanced integrated circuits and supercomputers); (2) quantum information technologies (e.g., computers, sensors, networking, and systems); and (3) certain artificial intelligence systems (e.g., with certain military, intelligence, or surveillance end uses).Continue Reading Biden Administration Announces New Outbound Investment Regime Targeting China

On June 16, 2023, the US Department of Commerce published a final rule (the “June 16 rule”) to implement Executive Order (EO) 14034, Protecting Americans’ Sensitive Data From Foreign Adversaries, by amending Commerce’s previously-issued Securing the Information and Communications Technology Supply Chain regulations (the “ICTS rule”).   Among other requirements, EO 14034 directed the Secretary of Commerce to consider the risks posed by “connected software applications” and take “appropriate action” in accordance with the previously issued ICTS rule and EO 13873, Securing the Information and Communications Technology and Services Supply Chain, pursuant to which the ICTS rule was issued. 

The ICTS rule authorizes Commerce to prohibit or otherwise regulate certain transactions involving information and communications technology or services (“ICTS”) with a nexus to “foreign adversaries” that pose an “undue or unacceptable risk” to US national security.  (For additional detail on the ICTS rule, see our prior blog post.)  The June 16 rule amends the ICTS rule to clarify Commerce’s ability to regulate transactions involving software, including so-called “connected software applications,” and to further enumerate the criteria that Commerce will consider when reviewing such transactions.   The changes are effective July 17, 2023.Continue Reading Commerce Issues Final Rule Targeting Connected Software Applications

On April 18, 2023, Matthew Axelrod, Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement at the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), issued a memorandum outlining two important changes to BIS’s settlement guidelines when significant potential violations of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR) are identified. Specifically, BIS announced that (1) the deliberate non-disclosure of a significant potential violation will now be treated as an aggravating factor in civil enforcement cases, and (2) whistleblowing of significant potential violations by another party that ultimately results in a BIS enforcement action will be considered a mitigating factor in any future enforcement action involving the whistleblower, even for unrelated conduct. The policy changes are intended to incentivize the submission of disclosures to BIS when industry or academia uncovers significant EAR violations (i.e., those reflecting possible national security harm, as opposed to minor, technical violations).

BIS’s new policy of treating non-disclosure of significant potential violations of the EAR as an aggravating factor marks a potential sea change in the voluntary self-disclosure (VSD) risk calculus for exporters and reexporters. By reorienting the purpose of the VSD to serve as both carrot and stick, BIS has now interjected more complexity into the voluntary disclosure decision making process. Companies that may have been inclined, previously, to remediate significant potential violations but not disclose may now face a more difficult choice. While it may take years for the civil penalty data to demonstrate the concrete costs of non-disclosure of significant potential violations of the EAR, consideration of that factor is likely to weigh heavily in any future BIS VSD decisions.Continue Reading A Carrot and a Stick: BIS Clarifies Policy on Self-Disclosures and Whistleblowing

On February 24, 2023, the US government announced a range of new export controls, sanctions, and tariffs to coincide with the first anniversary of Russia’s ongoing war against Ukraine. These actions by the US Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), the US Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the US Department of State, and the White House reflect the continued efforts of the US – in coordination with its allies – to impose costs on Russia for the war.

Each successive round of US export controls and sanctions presents new compliance challenges, against the backdrop of heightened enforcement risk resulting from aggressive, well-coordinated US government actions. US and non-US entities and individuals who engage in transactions related to Russia or Belarus should pay close attention to this complex and evolving regulatory framework. Additionally, entities and individuals exporting to Iran should take note of the expanded scope of the US Export Administration Regulations (EAR) under a new Iran Foreign Direct Product (FDP) Rule.Continue Reading US Imposes Additional Export Controls, Sanctions, and Tariffs targeting Russia, Belarus, and Iran On First Anniversary of Russia’s War Against Ukraine

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 U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) recently released preliminary guidance on the implementation of a price cap policy on Russian crude oil and petroleum products.  This policy has major implications for maritime service providers and maritime supply chains.
Continue Reading OFAC Releases Preliminary Guidance on Implementation of the Russian Oil Price Cap

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 18 and May 2, 2022, the US government continued to ratchet up economic sanctions, export controls, and other restrictive trade measures targeting Russia.  Most significantly, on April 21, President Biden issued a Proclamation prohibiting “Russian-affiliated vessels” from entering US ports.  Otherwise, the US government has focused on utilizing its existing authorities to impose further costs on Russia.

Over the last two weeks of April, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated over 40 individuals and entities including Transkapitalbank (TKB), re-issued an expanded set of Ukraine- / Russia- Sanctions Regulations (URSR), and issued several new or revised general licenses, including one relating to the provision of assistance by nongovernmental organizations, and 8 Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

Separately, the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) continues to be focused on restricting the Russian aviation sector, issuing a temporary denial order (TDO) on the Russian cargo aircraft carrier, Aviastar, for operating aircraft on flights into and out of Russia without the BIS authorization required under the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), and providing weekly updates to its list of commercial and private aircraft operated in potential violation of the EAR.Continue Reading April 18 – May 2, 2022 Russian Sanctions Update