On November 9, 2021, the ACAMS New York Chapter hosted a virtual event titled Current Events and Hot Topics in Sanctions, which was sponsored by Thomson Reuters. The event was moderated by Howard Spieler (ACAMS New York Chapter Co-Chair) and included the following panelists: Dainia Jabaji (AML and Sanctions Attorney, Winston & Strawn LLP); John Smith (former OFAC Director, currently Partner, Morrison & Foerster); and Nicole Sayegh Succar (former Licensing Officer at OFAC, currently Economic Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering (AML) Counsel, Crowell & Moring LLP).
The event opened with a discussion on how the Biden Administration’s approach and strategy for the use of Sanctions differs from the Trump Administration. Some key areas included the approach to China and Russia – two countries for which the current administration has not taken a unified approach. There is a stronger likelihood for a significant uptick in Sanctions activity with regard to Russia, due to its openness and brazenness to conduct cyber attacks against the US. Unlike Sanctions against China, actions taken against Russia may have less of an economic impact on Americans/American companies depending on their industry. When asked, panelists stated that sanctions aimed towards politics in Latin America are much less of a priority for this administration. Most of the recent actions in this region are targeted towards allowing freedom of information and preventing election interference.
The discussion then moved into the current state of sanctions requirements regarding the situation in Afghanistan, including the US Government’s hesitancy to place broad Sanctions on the Taliban, and best practices for how financial institutions should handle any touchpoints with Afghanistan or the Taliban. Panelists also gave updates on the actions that the US Government is taking to address the uptick in ransomware attacks, including the publication of FinCEN’s Financial Trend Analysis in October, the updated FinCEN Advisory on Ransomware in November, and recent remarks from Deputy Treasury Secretary, Wally Adeyemo, on ransomware and crypto. Additionally, OFAC recently published guidance for the virtual current industry, and issued its first crypto-related designation this year against SUEX, which was an exchange that had helped to facilitate ransomware payments.
Throughout the event, the panelists reiterated the importance for financial institutions to implement IP blocking. This applies to both US institutions and foreign institutions with a US-nexus. The panelists encouraged attendees to review the recently released Treasury 2021 Sanctions Review report which highlights the increasing importance of Sanctions programs over the past 20 years since 9/11.