According to OFAC, on August 25, 2017, the firm signed an agreement for lobbying services with the Al-Barakaat Group of Companies Somalia Limited ("Al-Barakaat"). Al-Barakaat is a Specially Designated Global Terrorist ("SDGT"). According to OFAC, the firm began rendering lobbying services following receipt of its first payment of $10,000. OFAC found that the lobbying services were outside the scope of authorized activities under a general license for legal services pursuant to GTSR and other OFAC sanctions regulations.
To settle the potential civil liability with OFAC, the lobbying firm paid $12,150. The amount reflected, among other things, the firm's voluntary self-disclosure of the conduct in question and implementation of remedial measures.
In its announcement of the settlement, OFAC warned that while most of its sanctions programs include general licenses authorizing the provision of certain "enumerated legal services" to sanctioned persons, lawyers must ensure that any dealings with blocked persons remain within the limits established by these authorizations. More fundamentally, other services that may be of interest to sanctioned persons - including lobbying, public relations, and government affairs - "are not legal services, and are generally not covered by general licenses authorizing the provision of legal services to blocked persons." Even for lawyers acting squarely within a general license's authorizations, pitfalls abound. For example, OFAC has previously cautioned that, depending on the sanctions program involved, receipt of payment may not be authorized under the applicable general license, necessitating application for a specific license. It is no wonder, then, that OFAC urged "attorneys, law firms, and legal services organizations [to] exercise caution and care regarding their sanctions obligations before knowingly engaging with blocked persons."
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