FinCEN Implements New Rule Requiring U.S. Banks to Seek Information from Foreign Banks on Iranian Financial Ties
On October 5, 2011 the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) delivered to the Federal Register a final rule to implement section 104(e) of the Comprehensive Iran Sanctions, Accountability, and Divestment Act of 2010 (CISADA) to complement Treasury’s ongoing efforts to protect the international financial system from abuse by Iran. The rule becomes law upon its publication in the Federal Register.
The new rule will be published in 31 C.F.R. Section 1060.300 and is entitled “Reporting obligations on foreign bank relationships with Iranian-linked financial institutions designated under IEEPA and IRGC-linked persons designated under IEEPA.”
The goal of this new rule is to further separate the U.S. financial system from Iran by ensuring that no foreign banks with which U.S. institutions have corresponding accounts with have any ties to suspect Iranian financial institutions. The outcome of this rule will be to further isolate the Government of Iran, disrupt its ability to develop weapons of mass destruction or support terrorism, and encourage the broader international financial system to isolate Iran if it wants to benefit from doing business with the United States.
The rule accomplishes these goals by requiring a U.S. bank, upon a request from FinCEN, to inquire into whether any of the foreign banks with which it holds a correspondent account has dealings or accounts associated with the Government of Iran, blocked Iranian banks, or the Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). The rule also requires, upon request, inquiries into a foreign bank’s transfers of funds for or on behalf of, directly or indirectly, an Iranian-linked financial institution or IRGC associated entity designated under IEEPA within the preceding 90 calendar days.
The new rule also requires that the U.S. bank request from the foreign bank a notification if the foreign bank subsequently establishes an account for an Iranian-linked financial institution designated under IEEPA at any time within 365 calendar days from the date of the foreign bank’s initial response. A laundry list of requirements is listed in the new regulation dictating the specific disclosures a bank must report to Treasury with regards to financial dealings involving Iranian entities designated pursuant to IEEPA and any of the foreign banks with which the U.S. bank has a correspondent account. U.S. banks have 45 days after a request from FinCEN to file their initial report. A U.S. bank will also have 10 days to file a report to FinCEN if they are subsequently informed that a foreign bank they hold an account with opens an account with an Iranian-linked financial institution.
This line of inquiry will ultimately determine whether or not that foreign financial institution itself will be prohibited from maintaining or opening, in the United States, a correspondent account or payable-through account. As authorized by Congress in CISADA, if the Secretary of the Treasury determines that the foreign financial institution knowingly engages in certain specified activities, that foreign financial institution will not be allowed to maintain or open such accounts with U.S. financial institutions. Those specified activities include facilitating a significant transaction or transactions or providing significant financial services for a financial institution whose property or interests in property are blocked pursuant to IEEPA. This prohibition is specifically aimed at disrupting Iran’s proliferation of weapons of mass destruction or delivery systems for weapons of mass destruction, or in connection with Iran’s support for international terrorism, or for the IRGC or any of its agents or affiliates whose property or interests in property are blocked.
Failure of a U.S. bank to comply with FinCEN’s request for inquirt into the Iranian-linked affairs of a foreign financial institution will subject the U.S. bank to both civil and criminal penalties as enumerated in 31 U.S.C. Sections 5321(a) and 5322.
The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in Federal Criminal Defense matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or firstname.lastname@example.org.