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Current Events and Hot Topics in Sanctions

Updated: Dec 14, 2022

On Thursday, November 17, the ACAMS New York Chapter held its 7th annual Current Events and Hot Topics in Sanctions event, which was sponsored by Thomson Reuters and hosted by The Center for Professional Accounting Practices at Fordham University. The panel (pictured below from left to right) was moderated by ACAMS Chapter Co-Chair Howard Spieler and included the following speakers: Clay Stevenson (Managing Director, Head of Sanctions & Embargoes, Americas, Deutsche Bank); Andrew Jensen (Managing Director and Global Head, Sanctions and Screening, Scotiabank); and Daniel Tannebaum (Partner and Global Anti-Financial Crime Practice Leader, Oliver Wyman).

The discussion began with a discussion of the impact of sanctions on Russia. The panelists highlighted that Russian sanctions are not comprehensive, and that of the roughly 3,000 Russian banks, only 10 are sanctioned. Trade has actually increased with Russia in countries such as India, Turkey, UAE, and China – in some cases by up to 300%. Other sanctions against Russia, such as the oil cap sanctions, are going to be very difficult to implement and audit/examine. Therefore, the ultimate impact on the Russian economy (and aggression) is yet to be determined.

The conversation then shifted to potential sanctions against China, should it become more aggressive with Taiwan. The panelists agreed that it would be difficult to imagine what such sanctions would look like in practice, and how other countries would manage to maneuver around China sanctions. Overall, sanctions today have become more difficult to implement because there is a less global approach. Sanctions are instead becoming increasingly local, and there will inevitably be conflicts of law that need to be considered by those implementing the requirements.

The panelists also discussed recently released OFAC Guidance on Instant Payment Systems, which is in many ways similar to OFAC’s ACH guidance from 1997 and speaks to certain geographic risk indicators around instant payments.

Additionally, the discussion covered how sanctions professionals should handle concerns regarding strict liability by having effective controls and documentation. Sound decisioning is not enough to demonstrate a strong program to auditors and examiners.

As key takeaways, panelists discussed:

  • The importance of combining efforts among financial crimes compliance teams (e.g., AML, fraud, sanctions, anti-bribery) in order to effectively manage risks

  • The criticality of strong program management and documentation

  • Maintaining a healthy work/life balance

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