OFAC Enforcement Action: IPSA International

IPSA made 72 apparent violations (non-egregious, not voluntarily self-disclosed) of OFAC’s Iran sanctions. They agreed to a settlement of $259,200 for transactions totalling $290,784 – but compared to a base penalty amount of $720,000.

The violations are little tough to explain, so let OFAC do it:

 

IPSA is a global business investigative and regulatory risk mitigation firm that provides due diligence services for various countries and their citizenship by investment programs. In March 2012, IPSA entered into an engagement letter and fee agreement with a third country with respect to its citizenship by investment program (“Contract No. 1”). In October 2012, IPSA’s subsidiary in Vancouver, Canada (“IPSA Canada”) entered into a similar contract with a government-owned financial institution in a separate third country (“Contract No. 2”). While the majority of the applicants to both of these programs were nationals from countries not subject to OFAC sanctions, some were Iranian nationals. Since most of the information about Iranian applicants could not be checked or verified by sources outside Iran, IPSA Canada and IPSA’s subsidiary in Dubai, United Arab Emirates subsequently hired subcontractors to conduct the necessary due diligence in Iran, and those subcontractors in turn hired third parties to validate information that could only be obtained or verified within Iran. Although it was IPSAs foreign subsidiaries that managed and performed both Contract No. 1 and Contract No. 2, with regard to Contract No. 1, IPSA appears to have imported Iranian-origin services into the United States because the foreign subsidiaries conducted the due diligence in Iran on behalf of and for the benefit of IPSA. With regard to Contract No. 2, IPSA also appears to have engaged in transactions or dealings related to Iranian-origin services and facilitated the foreign subsidiaries’ engagement in such transactions or dealings because IPSA reviewed, approved, and initiated the foreign subsidiaries’ payments to providers of the Iranian-origin services.

And here is how OFAC lopped off over 60% off the base penalty:

 

OFAC considered the following to be aggravating factors: 

  1. IPSA failed to exercise a minimal degree of caution or care when it imported background investigation services of Iranian origin into the United States and when it reviewed, approved, and initiated its foreign subsidiaries’ payments to providers of Iranian-origin services, and the frequency and duration of the apparent violations constitute a pattern or practice of conduct; 
  2. at least one of IPSA’s senior management knew or had reason to know that it was importing and/or engaging in transactions or dealings related to services of Iranian origin;
  3. the transactions giving rise to the apparent violations resulted in economic benefits to Iran, and the conduct underlying the apparent violations is not eligible for OFAC authorization under existing licensing policy2;
  4. IPSA is a commercially sophisticated company operating internationally with experience in U.S. sanctions; and (5) IPSA’s OFAC compliance program was ineffective in that it did not recognize or react to the risks presented by engaging in transactions that involved Iranian-origin background investigation services.

OFAC considered the following to be mitigating factors:

  1. IPSA has no prior OFAC sanctions history in the five years preceding the earliest date of the transactions giving rise to the apparent violations;
  2. IPSA undertook significant remedial measures by taking swift action to cease the prohibited activities, conducting an investigation to discover the causes and extent of the apparent violations, and adopting new internal controls and procedures to prevent reoccurrence of the apparent violations; and 
  3. IPSA substantially cooperated with OFAC’s investigation by conducting an internal look-back investigation for potential sanctions violations and submitting an investigation report to OFAC without receiving an administrative subpoena, promptly providing detailed additional information and documentation in a well-organized manner in response to OFAC’s multiple requests for information, and entering into a statute of limitations tolling agreement. 

Links:

OFAC Notice

OFAC Enforcement Information

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