On July 19, 2022, President Biden issued Executive Order (EO) 14078 to strengthen the US Government’s efforts to combat and deter hostage-taking and wrongful detention of US nationals abroad.  Issued pursuant to the Robert Levinson Hostage Recovery and Hostage-Taking Accountability Act (Levinson Act), the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, and other authorities, EO 14078 strengthens existing hostage recovery activities and infrastructure and authorizes the Secretary of State, in consultation with the Secretary of the Treasury and the Attorney General, to impose blocking sanctions on persons determined to be responsible for or complicit in, to have directly or indirectly engaged in, or to be responsible for ordering, controlling, or otherwise directing, the hostage-taking of a United States national or the wrongful detention of a United States national abroad, or to have attempted to engage in such activity.

Continue Reading New Executive Order Targets Persons Responsible for Hostage Taking and Wrongful Detention

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

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

In this advisory, members of our Sanctions and Export Control team provide a preliminary assessment of the expected policy approach of President-elect Biden’s administration to major US sanctions programs, including China and Hong Kong, Russia, Iran, Cuba, Venezuela, Syria, North Korea, and Sudan sanctions programs.

While specific steps to be taken will be revealed in

On September 18, 2020, the US Commerce Department announced the prohibited transactions (which would be effective as of September 20, subject to a court-ordered suspension discussed below) aimed at limiting the use of WeChat (and possibly also TikTok) within the United States. These prohibitions may have some effect outside the United States as well. Technology companies, Internet infrastructure companies, financial institutions, and other companies that support these apps should take particular note since the prohibitions are directed at business-to- business engagement, as opposed to individual users of these apps. However, users should consider that their ability to continue to use WeChat in particular within the United States may become severely restricted, and perhaps eventually eliminated. The Commerce Department’s September 18 announcement explains that these prohibitions are intended to “protect users in the U.S. by eliminating access to these applications and significantly reducing their functionality.”

As background, on August 6, President Trump issued Executive Orders 13942 and 13943, directing the Secretary of Commerce to identify, within 45 days, specific types of prohibited transactions related to ByteDance Ltd. (including TikTok) and WeChat. See our earlier blog post for more detail. In two Notifications issued on September 18 (the WeChat notice is available here, and the ByteDance / TikTok notice is here), the Commerce Department identified a broad set of business-to-business transactions involving WeChat and ByteDance / TikTok that would be prohibited under US law.

Importantly, the timing for these prohibitions is different for each of the two Notifications.

  • The WeChat prohibitions were to take effect on September 20. However, they were temporarily blocked by a preliminary injunction issued by a US federal magistrate judge on September 19. The outcome of this litigation remains uncertain.
  • The limited ByteDance / TikTok prohibitions that were slated to take effect on September 20 were suspended by the Commerce Department until September 27 at 11:59 p.m. eastern. In a press release issued after the Notifications themselves, the Commerce Department stated that this delay was provided “in light of recent positive developments . . . at the direction of President Trump.” The effective date of most of the ByteDance / TikTok prohibitions as stated in the Notification is not until November 12, 2020, which would align with the 90-day period for divestment of TikTok in the United States that was ordered by the President on August 14. A proposed divestment or other type of partnership to operate TikTok within the United States is currently under review by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). President Trump stated that he has given the most recent proposed deal for TikTok his “blessing,” but the CFIUS process is not yet complete; nor has the deal closed. Commerce’s press release states that “the President has provided until November 12 for the national security concerns posed by TikTok to be resolved. If they are, the prohibitions in this order may be lifted.” The Chinese government has also indicated that any such deal would be subject to its approval as well.


Continue Reading US Commerce Department Identifies Prohibited Transactions Involving WeChat and TikTok

In July 2020, the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) released its Annual Report to Congress for Calendar Year (“CY”) 2019.  The Annual Report, which fulfills certain statutory reporting requirements, provides information on covered transactions filed with CFIUS during 2019.  Among other things, the 2019 Annual Report provides some initial data and other insights into CFIUS’s administration of the Foreign Investment Risk Review Modernization Act (“FIRRMA”), which expanded the jurisdiction of CFIUS and included new reporting requirements.

Continue Reading Analysis of Annual Report of CFIUS to Congress for Calendar Year 2019

On January 14, Germany, France and the UK initiated the dispute resolution mechanism in the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) based on Iran’s decision to pull away from its obligations under the agreement. While the European participants see the dispute resolution mechanism as a way to keep the JCPOA alive, triggering the mechanism also serves as the first of several steps that must be taken before UN and EU sanctions could potentially be reimposed. Though the reimposition of sanctions is far from inevitable, it is important to understand the functioning of the dispute resolution mechanism in order to anticipate the timeline of any possible future developments.
Continue Reading Germany, France and the UK begin the JCPOA’s Dispute Resolution Mechanism Process – A Gateway for the Reimposition of UN and EU sanctions?

On December 26 the State Department will publish a long-awaited rule amending the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) by providing a definition of activities that are not exports, reexports, retransfers, or temporary imports at 22 CFR section 120.54. Notably, this definition provides much-needed guidance on whether and under what circumstances end-to-end encrypted technical data is controlled under the ITAR. Published as an interim final rule, the State Department will accept comments through January 25, 2020, which could result in additional changes. However, the effective date of the interim final rule is set to be March 25, 2020, ninety days after publication in the Federal Register.


Continue Reading State Department publishes long-awaited ITAR rule on encryption and other excluded activities

The US Department of the Treasury (“Treasury”) published two proposed rules on September 24, 2019 that would significantly expand the jurisdiction of the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (“CFIUS”) to review inbound U.S. foreign investment for national security risks.  The proposed rules, which have been in the works for months, would implement

Today the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) issued new restrictions on remittances and “U-turn” transactions to Cuba, which will come into effect on October 9, 2019.  These restrictions are intended to further implement President Trump’s June 2017 National Security Presidential Memorandum, in which he outlined US policy toward Cuba under his administration and various policy actions to be taken by a number of agencies and departments.

These new restrictions build upon those announced on June 4, 2019, in which the US government prohibited US travelers from going to Cuba under the previous ‘group people-to-people educational’ travel authorization and further restricted travel by no longer permitting visits to Cuba via passenger and recreational vessels, including cruise ships and yachts, and private and corporate aircraft.

In addition to amending the Cuban Assets Control Regulations, OFAC issued 46 updated or new FAQs on Cuba. Although many of the changes were either cosmetic or to provide the relevant regulatory citations, some are worth noting.  In particular, FAQs 1, 40, 44, and 65 provide guidance on today’s amendments.  Additionally, FAQ 12 provides guidance on OFAC’s June 5 amendments related to “people-to-people travel.”

The amendments to OFAC regulations on remittances and U-turn transactions to Cuba represent the reinstatement of certain restrictions that were eased under the Obama administration as we described in our 2016 advisory.
Continue Reading Treasury tightens remittances to Cuba and prohibits “U-turn” transactions