On June 21, 2021, the United States, the EU, the UK, and Canada announced coordinated sanctions following the forced and unlawful landing of a Ryanair flight in Minsk and the detention by Belarusian authorities of journalist Raman Pratasevich and Sofia Sapega, in May 2021. The sanctions include new EU sectoral-style sanctions against certain sectors of the Belarusian economy, as well as targeted financial sanctions against dozens of individuals and entities in connection with alleged human rights violations and the violent repression of civil society, democratic opposition, and journalists in Belarus.

The new sanctions follow the reactivation, on June 3, 2021, of longstanding sanctions against nine Belarussian companies and their subsidiaries by the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), as discussed in our April 20, 2021 blog post.

Continue Reading Belarus Faces New EU, US, UK, and Canadian Sanctions After Ryanair Flight Diverted

The European Commission recently issued three Opinions on the interpretation of specific provisions in different EU sanctions frameworks. They cover the notion “making available”, changes to the features of frozen funds as well as the release of frozen funds.

Continue Reading European Commission Issues Guidance on the Application of Specific EU Financial Sanctions Provisions

The German Federal Parliament has adopted a new Act on Corporate Due Diligence Responsibilities in Supply Chains (‘the Supply Chain Act’) on Friday, June 11, 2021, due to enter into effect on January 21, 2023.  By virtue of the Supply Chain Act, companies with a significant presence in Germany, as further explained below, must ensure compliance with human rights and environmental concerns in their business operations and impose equivalent due diligence responsibilities on their suppliers, irrespective of where they are located.

The Supply Chain Act could be of particular interest to the extractive industry, including oil and gas companies, and suppliers of the German automotive industry, but other industries will be affected as well given that the Act applies in principle across all sectors and covers both manufacturing and services, including, in principle, financial services.

Continue Reading Germany Introduces New Human Rights and Environmental Responsibilities for Parties in B2B-Relationships

On June 9, 2021, the US Department of Commerce (Commerce), Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), published a notice in the Federal Register amending the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), 15 CFR Part 760, to provide a new interpretation regarding the US antiboycott regime applicable to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).  This Commerce action follows the US Department of the Treasury’s (Treasury) similar action earlier this year to remove the UAE from Treasury’s list of countries that require or may require participation in or cooperation with an international boycott not sanctioned by the United States.  As a result of Commerce’s action, the UAE is no longer presumed to be a country engaging in an unsanctioned boycott, and the risk of violating the prohibitions and reporting obligations under Part 760 of the EAR have been substantially curtailed, but not wholly eliminated.

Continue Reading United Arab Emirates Has Terminated its Boycott Against Israel, but Certain US Antiboycott Risks May Remain

The Biden administration has reactivated a long-delayed immigration program for early-stage international entrepreneurs. The International Entrepreneur Rule (IER) is intended to benefit the US economy by filling a gap in US immigration options for individuals who are positioned to develop high-growth potential start-up companies. Under the IER, qualified entrepreneurial foreign nationals will be eligible to enter the US for up to five years to work for and assist in the growth of the start-up entity.

This program is available to all nationalities, as it is not tied to country specific agreements. Also, unlike other investment-based US visa options, the start-up company must be funded by qualified US investors, awards, and/or grants, rather than the entrepreneur’s personal funds. In light of these novel eligibility requirements, participants will include first-time as well as highly successful entrepreneurs. In all cases, IER participants need to incorporate US tax planning throughout the lifecycle of their ventures, to protect current and hoped-for wealth.

For more information on the IER, including considerations for tax planning for qualified individuals, click here to read the Client Alert.

On June 9, 2021, the White House issued a new Executive Order (EO) that revokes three Executive Orders issued in 2020 and early 2021 that were aimed specifically at TikTok, WeChat, and eight other China-linked communications and financial technology software applications.

In place of these EOs, the new EO, “Protecting Americans’ Sensitive Data from Foreign Adversaries,” builds on steps the US Commerce Department has already taken under EO 13873 of May 15, 2019, to protect the information and communications technology and services (ICTS) supply chain against threats from China and other identified foreign adversaries.

As a result of the new EO, the US government will further analyze the risks arising from the use of applications such as TikTok and WeChat – including risks related to the security of Americans’ sensitive data — and could take further steps to mitigate those risks, either through existing ICTS regulations or through additional executive and legislative actions.

Continue Reading Biden Administration Revokes TikTok and WeChat Executive Orders, Revises Framework on Security Threats from Foreign Apps

On June 3, 2021, the White House issued an Executive Order (EO) amending EO 13959 of November 12, 2020, which imposed restrictions on US persons transacting in publicly traded securities of companies identified by the US Department of Defense (DoD) as “Communist Chinese military companies” (CCMCs). The new EO, “Addressing the Threat from Securities Investments that Finance Certain Companies of the People’s Republic of China,” reformulates and recasts the prior EO, by providing important clarifications on the scope of the restrictions, revising the criteria for designating Chinese companies under the EO, and shifting responsibility for designations from the DoD to the US Treasury Department.  As a result of these changes, the EO creates a securities-related sanctions regime for so-called “Chinese Military-Industrial Complex Companies” that is effectively separated from the CCMC list maintained by DoD pursuant to Section 1237 of the Fiscal Year 1999 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) as amended.  The new EO takes effect on August 2, 2021, at 12:01 a.m. eastern daylight time.

In conjunction with the new EO, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) published several new and revised Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) explaining the new EO and addressing questions raised by the securities industry since the issuance of EO 13959 in November 2020. Finally, as evidence that the Biden Administration is pursuing a comprehensive effort across the relevant agencies, the DoD released for the first time a “Chinese Military Companies” (CMC) list under Section 1260H of the Fiscal Year 2021 NDAA.

Continue Reading White House Issues Amended Executive Order on Chinese Military-Industrial Securities

Advocate General of the Court of Justice Gerard Hogan rendered an Opinion in the first case before the Court of Justice of the European Union on the interpretation of the EU Blocking Statute. The case concerns Iranian bank Bank Melli Iran, which has a branch in Hamburg (Germany), and which claims before the German Courts that the notice of ordinary termination given by Telekom Deutschland with respect to their contracts for telecommunication services was motivated solely by Telekom Deutschland’s desire to comply with US sanctions legislation. Bank Melli Iran maintains that Telekom Deutschland violated the EU Blocking Statute, which prohibits EU undertakings (entities engaged in an economic activity, regardless of their legal form or the way in which they are financed) from complying with such extraterritorial US measures.

In its opinion, Advocate General Hogan finds that:

  1. The general prohibition contained in the EU Blocking Statute (which is directed against compliance with certain third country legislation providing for secondary sanctions) applies even in the event that such an undertaking complies with that legislation without first having been compelled by a foreign administrative or judicial agency to do so.
  2. An EU undertaking seeking to terminate an otherwise valid contract with an Iranian entity subject to the US sanctions must demonstrate to the satisfaction of the national court that it did not do so by reason of its desire to comply with those sanctions.

Continue Reading Advocate General Hogan Issues Opinion on Interpretation of EU Blocking Statute against Extraterritorial US Sanctions

On May 18, 2021, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) issued an updated general license under Executive Order (EO) 13959 authorizing US persons to transact in publicly traded securities of entities whose names “closely match” the name of any company previously identified as a Communist Chinese military company (CCMC). The general license (now called General License No. 1B), which was due to expire on May 27, 2021, now expires on June 11, 2021.

For the time being, the restrictions under EO 13959 apply only to entities whose names appear on OFAC’s Non-SDN CCMC List as well as seven entities who are yet to be formally added to OFAC’s Non-SDN CCMC List but were identified by the Department of Defense on January 14, 2021.

Continue Reading OFAC Extends General License for “Close Name Matches” under Executive Order 13959 as Biden Administration Reviews Communist Chinese Military Company Sanctions

The Council of the European Union (the Council) on May 17, 2021 agreed to prolong, for the second time, the sanctions framework concerning restrictive measures against cyber-attacks threatening the European Union (EU) or its Member States for another year, until May 18, 2022. The Council’s press release is available here.

Cyber sanctions are part of the EU cyber diplomacy toolbox and seek to prevent, discourage and respond to malicious cyber-attacks that have a significant impact on the EU. This framework was adopted in May 2019 under Council Decision (CFSP) 2019/797 and Council Regulation (EU) 2019/796, and is reviewed by the Council on a yearly basis. It allows the EU to sanction persons and entities deemed to be involved in major cyber-attacks threatening the EU or its Member States by imposing asset freezes or travel bans against those listed in the Council’s legal acts. The EU can also target those involved in attempted cyber-attacks with a potentially significant effect.

Continue Reading The EU Keeps Its Ability to Sanction Cyber Attackers for One More Year