OFAC Lawyers

Our team of OFAC sanctions lawyers and economic sanctions attorneys are well-versed in the regulations set forth by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and other international bodies. We assist clients in ensuring compliance with these regulations and effectively represent them in any disputes or enforcement actions.

OFAC Sanctions Lawyer

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), a division within the U.S. Department of the Treasury, oversees and enforces U.S. economic sanctions and trade embargoes involving foreign nations and designated individuals. It takes action to advance U.S. national security and foreign policy objectives, drawing its legal authority from various sources, including executive orders, legislation, and international agreements.

What is OFAC Sanctions Attorney?

OFAC sanctions encompass a dynamic and intricate framework of rules, regulations, and foreign policy shifts. They also involve a continually evolving list of individuals and countries of concern. Any individual, organization, or foreign entity perceived as a threat to U.S. national security, foreign policy, or economic interests may face sanctions. In international business and transactions, compliance with OFAC laws and regulations is paramount. Staying abreast of evolving policies can be challenging, but an experienced OFAC attorney can offer valuable guidance for specific licensing, addressing current foreign activities, and other legal matters.

The Scope of OFAC’s Authority

Initially, it may seem that OFAC primarily addresses significant national security concerns like terrorism and international drug trafficking, making it appear unnecessary for most businesses to concern themselves with OFAC compliance. However, part of OFAC’s responsibility is to scrutinize U.S. companies engaged in international commerce. Consequently, it is vital for any company with overseas customers or suppliers to establish an OFAC compliance program.

The following scenarios necessitate the implementation of an OFAC compliance program:

1. A business routinely interacts with an individual, organization, or nation listed in the OFAC sanctions registry.
2. A business conducts a substantial volume of international transactions.
3. A business undergoes shifts in its customer base due to mergers or acquisitions.
4. A business offers electronic products and services.
5. A business has a history of prior OFAC violations or encounters.

Types of Sanctions


Type of SanctionsDescription
Economic SanctionsImpose limitations on trade, investment, or financial interactions involving the designated country or entity and other nations or entities. These restrictions may encompass import/export constraints, freezing of assets, and bans on financial transactions.
Diplomatic SanctionsRestrict or sever diplomatic relations between countries. This can encompass actions like expelling diplomats, suspending diplomatic missions, or enforcing travel restrictions on government officials.
Military SanctionsLimit military collaboration, training, or the transfer of weaponry between nations. This may involve measures such as arms embargoes or constraints on the trade of military technology and equipment.
Humanitarian SanctionsRestrict the provision of humanitarian aid or services to the designated country or entity. This may entail constraints on the supply of medical resources, food, or other forms of humanitarian assistance.
Personal SanctionsTargeted sanctions are directed at specific individuals, such as government officials, and may include travel bans, asset freezes, and other restrictions. They are also known as “targeted sanctions”.
Comprehensive SanctionsTarget an entire country or organization and may include several types of sanctions. As a rule, this is the most severe form of sanctions, which can have a significant impact on the economy and population of the country or organization targeted.

OFAC’s Range of Economic Sanctions Initiatives

OFAC administers four major categories of economic sanctions. Each category includes numerous specific sanctions that American financial institutions and businesses must adhere to. Oberheiden P.C. assists these institutions and businesses in identifying relevant sanctions, ensuring compliance, and provides legal defense in OFAC enforcement actions across all four categories.

The economic sanctions managed by OFAC include:

1. Country-Specific Economic Sanctions

OFAC enforces economic sanctions against 18 countries, restricting or prohibiting trade. These sanctions may target entire nations or specific transaction types or market sectors. Current country-specific sanctions cover:

– Afghanistan
– Belarus
– Burma
– Chinese Military Companies
– Cuba
– Ethiopia
– Hong Kong
– Iran
– Nicaragua
– North Korea
– Russia (including Global Magnitsky and Russian Harmful Foreign Activities Sanctions)
– Somalia
– Sudan, Darfur, and South Sudan
– Syria
– Ukraine/Russia
– Venezuela

OFAC often issues general licenses allowing certain economic activities in these countries. For a successful defense against alleged violations, proof of transaction alignment with a specific general license is typically necessary.

2. Smart (List-Based) Sanctions

These sanctions target specific threats rather than countries. They encompass:

– Counterterrorism
– Cyber-related activities
– Genocide and Human Rights Abuse
– Transnational Organized Crime
– Weapons Proliferation

Targeting specific individuals, businesses, and entities designated as Specially Designated Nationals or Blocked Persons (SDNs), these sanctions block assets and prohibit dealings with them by U.S. persons.

3. Sector-Based Sanctions

These sanctions target specific trade sectors within certain countries, not individual nations or entities. A notable example is the sector-based sanctions related to Ukraine, especially following Russia’s annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict.

4. Secondary Sanctions

These sanctions penalize entities that associate or conduct business with SDNs. Though relatively new and limited in number, the recent implementation of secondary sanctions indicates potential expansion of this program.

Economic Sanctions Defense

OFAC administers multiple economic sanctions programs aimed at regulating and often preventing commercial and financial dealings with foreign entities and individuals. U.S. banks and domestic entities must consistently adhere to these sanctions, whether it involves abstaining from prohibited transactions or conducting restricted transactions under a general or specific OFAC license.

Violations of OFAC’s economic sanctions can lead to severe repercussions, including asset freezes, federal investigations, and, in many cases, potential criminal prosecution for U.S. banks and businesses. Consequently, all U.S. entities engaged in cross-border transactions affected by OFAC sanctions must prioritize compliance. They should also be prepared to mount an effective defense if accused of violating OFAC’s economic sanctions.

Types of OFAC Economic Sanctions

When facing OFAC enforcement actions, a crucial initial step is pinpointing the specific sanctions that your business or financial institution is alleged to have breached. Within OFAC’s economic sanctions programs, there are numerous individual sanctions, each carrying its own set of prohibitions, exceptions, and exemptions. To mount a successful OFAC economic sanctions defense, identifying the relevant sanction(s) is imperative, as it determines the available defenses.

Iryna Berenstein
Associated Partner
Mrs. Berenstein is a distinguished and outstanding lawyer with profound experience and exceptional legal knowledge in the field of International Private Law, Financial Law, Corporate Law, investment regulation, Compliance, Data Protection, and Reputation Management.

OFAC Sanctions FAQ

Who are OFAC Sanctions Lawyers?
The application of sanctions by OFAC law firms is subject to complex and constantly changing rules and regulations. Any individuals or groups that pose a real or perceived threat to U.S. economic sanctions policy or national security may be subject to sanctions. When conducting international business transactions, you must be aware of all OFAC rules and regulations. Staying up to date with all the policy changes can be challenging, but OFAC's US sanctions lawyers can provide the best advice. In addition, they can help with specific licensing issues, foreign activities, or international legal needs.
What happens if found in violation of OFAC sanctions?
OFAC's sanctions are rapidly evolving and have broad prohibitions and strict liability. Unfortunately, an individual or entity can easily violate the latest sanctions without even knowing it. For those who deal with foreign countries, it is very difficult to keep up to date with the latest OFAC sanctions. You should contact OFAC sanctions lawyers if Your business needs assistance with compliance with U.S. sanctions measures, or You have received notice that you are under internal investigation for violating these regulations. These notices come in the form of a message on your credit report. OFAC's lawyers will provide legal advice and counsel on conducting international business, and assist you with the following issues
  • Export and import licensing;
  • Personal or commercial transactions;
  • OFAC administrative subpoenas;
  • Unblocking frozen funds and assets;
  • Voluntary disclosure of information;
  • General advisory opinions;
  • Internal review and investigation of cases;
  • Exclusion from the SDN list, i.e. the list of specially designated nationals.
All US citizens or those who own property subject to US administration are subject to US OFAC sanctions. Therefore, they must act with extreme caution when dealing with international business. It is possible to avoid possible penalties, seizure or freezing of funds and assets. However, first and foremost, you need to get legal advice from reputable OFAC lawyers who will keep you informed of all security measures
What are functions of OFAC?
Individuals or legal entities that conduct international business with blacklisted states or designated persons may be subject to criminal penalties. In addition, persons conducting personal transactions with friends, family members or charitable organizations are also subject to U.S. OFAC sanctions. Willful violation of sanctions will result in criminal prosecution by the Department of Justice. In addition, OFAC may hold a person civilly liable for a sanctions violation, regardless of whether it was committed knowingly or unknowingly. Thus, the sanctions legislation is considered an offense for which strict liability is provided.