So You Violated Sanctions, Now What? OFAC Offers a Tutorial on Remediating Violations.

Two recent civil penalty actions by OFAC supply guidance for how entities should address sanctions violations after they are discovered.

In the first case, Kollmorgen Corporation settled civil liability for violations of Iranian sanctions for a mere $13,381. For perspective, the maximum statutory civil monetary penalty available for the violations was $1,500,000. So why the leniency from OFAC? The answer is swift and comprehensive remedial action. Specifically, Kollmorgen, an American company, acquired a Turkish company, Elsim. After the acquisition, Kollmorgen discovered that Elsim made sales to customers in Iran and continued to service the contracts on at least six different occasions. To make matters worse, Elsim employees actively concealed the Iranian transactions from Kollmorgen’s management. Elsim also falsified records to conceal the transactions.

Having uncovered the violations through a robust due diligence program, Kollmorgen took swift, strong, and effective remedial steps that fall into four broad categories:

  • Review – Kollmorgen’s due diligence program detected the violations (notwithstanding Elsim’s active suppression) in the first place. Then, having discovered the violations, Elsim implemented manual reviews of Elsim’s database to detect any other violations. Kollmorgen also implemented an ethics hotline for reporting future violations.
  • Control – In addition to firing the offending manager, Kollmorgen also required Elsim’s senior management to certify on a quarterly basis that no Elsim services or products were provided to Iran. Kollmorgen also hired outside counsel to investigate the matter.
  • Education – Kollmorgen conducted written and in-person training for Elsim employee’s on Kollmorgen’s trade compliance policies.
  • Blocking – Kollmorgen took steps to block the Iranian customers from future orders.

Contrast the Kollmorgen case against a $5,512,564 penalty against AppliChem, a German company acquired by Illinois Tool Works, Inc. There, AppliChem behaved in a similar manner to Elsim in that it actively masked blocked transactions, this time with Cuba, through an intermediary company. Although Illinois Tool Works self-reported, its response lacked the same sort of extensive preventative and remedial steps taken by Kollmorgen. AppliChem apparently lacked the robust due diligence program of Kollmorgen because it missed several red flags indicating that blocked transactions were ongoing. AppliChem also apparently failed to implement the same sort of strong remedial programs exemplified by Kollmorgen’s response. OFAC’s opinion of the two responses is exhibited by the divergence in the two penalties—AppliChem’s penalty represents 27% of the maximum civil penalty versus the penalty against Kollmorgen, which represents less than 1% of the possible penalty.

The message is clear—organizations that act proactively, swiftly, and decisively in response to discovery of likely sanctions will be granted greater lenience than those organizations that do not.