OFAC Appeals Attorneys - Securities Litigation & Compliance Services
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OFAC Appeals Attorneys

Federal Lawyers with Prior DOJ Experience Representing Companies and Individuals in OFAC Appeals

John W. Sellers
Attorney John W. Sellers
SEC Defense Team Lead
Former DOJ Trial Attorney

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has substantial authority to regulate—and block—transactions between U.S. and foreign entities and individuals. While dealing with OFAC is a complicated and time-consuming process generally, this is especially true when seeking to have OFAC reverse a prior decision. OFAC appeals present several unique challenges, and filing a successful appeal requires an informed, strategic, and timely approach.

At Oberheiden P.C., our federal lawyers represent U.S. and foreign clients in all OFAC-related matters. This includes OFAC appeals. Whether your company is seeking to secure a specific license from OFAC or you are seeking removal from OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List, we can help. Our OFAC appeals attorneys can examine your options, realistically assess your chances of success, help you make informed decisions, and deal with OFAC (or the courts) as warranted.

Put our highly experienced team on your side

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Dr. Nick Oberheiden

Founder

Attorney-at-Law

Lynette S. Byrd
Lynette S. Byrd

Former DOJ Trial Attorney

Partner

Brian J. Kuester
Brian J. Kuester

Former U.S. Attorney

Amanda Marshall
Amanda Marshall

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

Joe Brown
Joe Brown

Former U.S. Attorney

Local Counsel

John W. Sellers
John W. Sellers

Former Senior DOJ Trial Attorney

Linda Julin McNamara
Linda Julin McNamara

Federal Appeals Attorney

Aaron L. Wiley
Aaron L. Wiley

Former DOJ attorney

Local Counsel

Roger Bach
Roger Bach

Former Special Agent (DOJ)

Chris Quick
Chris J. Quick

Former Special Agent (FBI & IRS-CI)

Michael S. Koslow
Michael S. Koslow

Former Supervisory Special Agent (DOD-OIG)

Ray Yuen
Ray Yuen

Former Supervisory Special Agent (FBI)

Types of OFAC Appeals We Handle

Most OFAC appeals fall into one of three categories: (i) appeals to secure OFAC licenses, (ii) appeals to secure the release of blocked assets, and (iii) appeals for removal from the SDN list or another OFAC sanctions list. Our federal lawyers handle all three types of OFAC Appeals.

1. Appealing the Denial of an OFAC License

OFAC’s modus operandi generally involves establishing broad prohibitions and then carving out specific exceptions that allow certain approved transactions and other commercial activities. It creates these exceptions through the issuance of licenses. “General licenses” allow companies and individuals to engage in permissible transactions as a matter of course, while OFAC grants “specific licenses” case-by-case through an application process.

As OFAC explains, “[a] specific license is a written document issued by OFAC to a particular person or entity, authorizing a particular transaction in response to a written license application.” While there are standards for the approval of specific licenses, whether to grant an application for a specific license is largely within OFAC’s administrative discretion. As a result, applying for a specific license is frequently an iterative process, and applicants can often improve their chances of success significantly by working proactively with OFAC during the application process.

But, once OFAC denies an application for a specific license, the prospects of success shift. As OFAC further explains:

“A denial by OFAC of a license application constitutes final agency action. The regulations do not provide for a formal process of appeal. However, OFAC will reconsider its determinations for good cause, for example, where the applicant can demonstrate changed circumstances or submit additional relevant information not previously made available to OFAC.”

Thus, in the absence of new or additional information not previously submitted, the options for challenging OFAC’s denial of a specific license application are generally limited to submitting a revised application or challenging the scope of OFAC’s discretionary authority in federal district court. While going to court can lead to additional delays, it will be necessary in some cases. At Oberheiden P.C., we work to secure specific licenses directly from OFAC whenever possible, but we do not hesitate to litigate on behalf of our clients when necessary.

2. Appealing for the Release of Blocked Assets

We also represent companies and individuals in OFAC appeals seeking the release of blocked assets. Typically, this process begins with filing a specific license application, as OFAC states: “If your funds have been blocked or ‘frozen’ by a financial institution or other party due to a possible link to OFAC-administered sanctions, you may apply for a specific license.” OFAC has a specific license application and application process for seeking the release of funds blocked based on apparent or potential violations of the agency’s sanctions.

As seeking the release of blocked assets generally involves applying for a specific license, we also handle appeals involving the denial of these specific license applications. Similar to other types of specific license denials, this may either involve continuing to work directly with OFAC or seeking relief in the federal courts.

In addition to dealing with OFAC, we also work with financial institutions on behalf of our clients as well. Financial institutions have a legal obligation to flag transactions that appear to present risks for OFAC sanction violations; and, when a financial institution flags a transaction, this is what triggers formal OFAC procedures. By working with financial institutions proactively to address concerns about potential sanction violations, it is often possible to avoid the need to file an appeal (or specific license application) with OFAC.

3. Appealing for Removal from an OFAC Sanctions List

Our OFAC appeals lawyers also represent companies and individuals in appeals for removal from OFAC sanctions lists, including the SDN List. Officially, this is referred to as filing a petition for removal. According to OFAC:

“The ultimate goal of sanctions is not to punish, but to bring about a positive change in behavior. Each year, OFAC removes hundreds of individuals and entities from the SDN List. Each removal is based on a thorough review by OFAC. Maintaining the integrity of U.S. sanctions is a high priority for OFAC and is the driving principle behind its rigorous review process that evaluates every request for removal individually on its merits and applies consistent standards to all of them.”

Despite this being the case, seeking removal from the SDN List or another OFAC sanctions list can prove to be a significant challenge. We represent clients during the initial petition process as well as in subsequent appeals. In some cases, resubmitting a petition for removal may be enough, as OFAC notes that, “[i]f you present new arguments and evidence, OFAC may reach a different conclusion.” However, if a petition for removal contains all relevant information and OFAC still issues a denial, then it will be necessary to pursue relief through the appropriate appellate procedures.

FAQs: What U.S. and Foreign Citizens Need to Know About OFAC Appeals

What Are My Options if OFAC Has Denied My Specific License Application?

 

If OFAC has denied your (or your company’s) specific license application, you will want to work quickly to challenge the denial—if warranted. In some cases, this will involve continuing to work with OFAC under the pending application. In others, it will involve submitting a revised application. In others still, it will involve filing a formal appeal in federal district court.

What Is the Process for Filing an OFAC Appeal?

 

The process for filing an OFAC appeal depends on the nature of the issue involved. While OFAC has adopted administrative procedures for seeking the release of blocked assets or removal from an OFAC sanctions list, the denial of an OFAC license is itself considered a “final” agency decision. This means that companies and individuals seeking to challenge the denial of an OFAC license must generally do so through the federal court system. Oberheiden P.C.’s federal lawyers represent clients in administrative and judicial appeals involving all OFAC matters.

What Is the Likelihood of Success When Appealing an OFAC Final Decision in Federal Court?

 

The likelihood of success when appealing an OFAC final decision in federal court depends on the circumstances. As a general principle of jurisprudence, federal courts will defer to administrative agencies’ decision-making authority—preferring not to second-guess the application of their subject matter expertise. With that said, there are clear limits on this authority, and the courts will hold agencies, including OFAC, accountable when warranted. For example, decisions that are arbitrary or capricious provide clear grounds for appeal, and there is a substantial body of case law involving successful appeals of agency decisions.

Do I Need a Lawyer to File a Petition for Removal with OFAC?

 

Technically, SDNs do not need to hire a lawyer to file a petition for removal with OFAC. The agency notes that it, “accepts petitions directly from listed persons or from their representatives.” As a practical matter, however, it is advisable to engage experienced legal representation for all OFAC appeals. Filing an unsuccessful petition can not only lead to unnecessary delays; but, once OFAC denies a petition, convincing OFAC to reconsider its decision (or challenging OFAC’s decision in court) can prove far more challenging.

Do I Need a Lawyer to File an Appeal with OFAC To Unblock (or “Unfreeze”) Assets?

 

Just as it is advisable to hire a lawyer when filing a petition for removal from OFAC’s SDN List, it is advisable to hire a lawyer when filing a specific license application to unblock (or “unfreeze”) assets. Here, too, the process is complicated, and mistakes and oversights can lead to unnecessary challenges and delays. A federal lawyer who has experience dealing with OFAC will be able to assist with preparing your specific license application and deal with OFAC on your behalf as necessary.


Speak with an OFAC Appeals Lawyer at Oberheiden P.C. Today

Our OFAC appeals attorneys have extensive experience representing companies and individuals in OFAC appeals and other OFAC-related matters. If you have questions about filing an appeal, we encourage you to contact us promptly for more information. To schedule a complimentary initial consultation at your convenience, please call 866-755-0697 or send us a message online today.

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