OFAC Licensing - Securities Litigation & Compliance Services
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OFAC Licensing

We Represent Companies and Individuals in the Process of Obtaining Licenses from the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulates transactions between U.S. persons and foreign entities and individuals. While transactions with “blocked” foreign entities and individuals are generally prohibited, U.S. persons can often engage in these transactions through an OFAC license.

OFAC Licensing: An Overview for U.S. Persons

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

There are two types of OFAC licenses: general and specific. As the U.S. Department of the Treasury explains, “[a] general license authorizes a particular type of transaction for a class of persons without the need to apply for a license.” As general licenses expire (and OFAC revokes general licenses from time to time), it is imperative that any company or individual seeking to rely on a general license confirm that it remains in effect.

However, the greater concern for most companies and individuals seeking to do business with blocked foreign nations, nationals and businesses is the need to obtain a specific license from OFAC. While general licenses are useful in certain limited circumstances, most transactions with blocked entities require a specific license. Obtaining a specific license involves filing an application with OFAC, and applicants must be prepared to present all required information in support of their applications.

Experienced Federal Lawyers for All OFAC Licensing Matters

At Oberheiden P.C., we assist U.S. companies and individuals with all OFAC licensing matters. Whether you need to seek approval for a proposed transaction with a foreign company or government, or you need to apply for the release of funds transferred from a specially designated national (SDN), our OFAC lawyers can guide you through the process and communicate with OFAC on your behalf. Our services in this area include:

Assessment of OFAC Sanctions and License Requirements

Before going through the process of evaluating potentially relevant general licenses or applying for a specific license, it is essential to identify the specific OFAC sanction that applies to your proposed transaction. While some OFAC sanctions are broad, others are more nuanced and complex, and it can often be difficult to determine whether a sanction applies.

If you or your company is seeking to do business with a company or government in a sanctioned country or with an SDN, our lawyers can examine the proposed transaction and determine whether a license is necessary. If a license is not necessary but nonetheless has the potential to trigger scrutiny from OFAC or other federal authorities, we can provide you with documentation explaining why no license is needed, and we can deal with the federal government on your (or your company’s) behalf if necessary.

OFAC General License Evaluations

If a proposed transaction implicates OFAC sanctions, the next step is to determine whether one of OFAC’s current general licenses applies. Utilizing a general license significantly streamlines the process of conducting a transaction with a blocked nation, national or business—as no application is necessary. If a general license applies, the transaction can be conducted without directly involving OFAC.

Similar to OFAC sanctions, OFAC general licenses vary widely in terms of their scope and clarity. As a result, determining whether a general license authorizes a transaction often proves difficult. Our OFAC lawyers have significant experience evaluating the applicability of OFAC general licenses to proposed transactions, and we stay up-to-date on the latest additions, expirations and revocations of OFAC general licenses.

OFAC Specific License Applications

Much of our OFAC licensing practice involves representing clients in the OFAC specific license application process. Specific license applications for fairly straightforward transactions typically take about four to six months to process, while applications for complex transactions can take a year or longer. Submitting a comprehensive application can significantly reduce both the processing time and the risk of a denial.

OFAC evaluates specific license applications completely on paper. There is no formal hearing process. However, applicants can communicate with OFAC, and engaging experienced counsel to help shepherd an application forward can help reduce delays and the risk of denial as well. At Oberheiden P.C., we have significant experience dealing with OFAC, and we rely on this experience to help our clients with their specific license applications. If you need to apply for a specific license from OFAC, we can assist you with the entire process, and we can get to work building your specific license application immediately.

OFAC Specific License Denial Reconsiderations and Appeals

If OFAC denies a specific license application, this is not necessarily the last word. Oftentimes, it will be possible to get OFAC to reconsider a denial. This is especially true if an application simply omitted relevant information, if an applicant has new information that is pertinent to its application, or if the relevant sanction has been revised. If you or your company has received a specific license denial, we encourage you to speak with one of our OFAC lawyers about how we may be able to help you move forward.

Another option for dealing with an OFAC specific license denial is to file an appeal in federal court. However, as federal judges will generally refer to OFAC regarding licensing decisions, this is generally a means of last resort. With that said, if this is your (or your company’s) only option, and if the blocked transaction is essential to your finances or business, then it may be worth drafting the necessary pleadings and asking a judge to intervene.

Management and Oversight of OFAC-Licensed Transactions

Given the unique and potentially high-risk nature of conducting a transaction pursuant to an OFAC license, we strongly recommend that parties continue to work with their OFAC counsel throughout their licensed transactions.

Once we obtain OFAC licenses for our clients, we work alongside them to manage and oversee their transactions, and we only intervene as necessary to ensure that our clients do not get themselves into trouble. Since OFAC licenses can restrict or dictate various transaction terms, it is imperative that parties give due consideration to their licenses during their negotiations, contract drafting, and post-execution business and commercial activities.

Put our highly experienced team on your side

Dr. Nick Oberheiden
Dr. Nick Oberheiden



Lynette S. Byrd
Lynette S. Byrd

Former DOJ Trial Attorney


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)

FAQs: What U.S. Companies and Individuals Need to Know about OFAC Licensing

When Is an OFAC Specific License Required?


An OFAC specific license may be required under various circumstances. Broadly speaking, U.S. companies and individuals must obtain OFAC licenses prior to conducting transactions with foreign entities and individuals that are “blocked” under OFAC’s regulations. Some examples of transactions that may require a specific license include mergers and acquisitions, financial transactions, selling foreign assets, and closing a bank account or winding down business activities in a newly-sanctioned country.

What Are the Consequences of Failing to Obtain an OFAC License?


The consequences of failing to obtain an OFAC license can be significant. Conducting a transaction in violation of an OFAC sanction can lead to civil or criminal prosecution under the Trading with the Enemy Act (TWEA), International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA), Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Designation Act, and various other laws. Civil fines can range from tens of thousands to millions of dollars, while criminal violations can carry million-dollar fines and decades of federal imprisonment.

How Do I Apply for an OFAC License?


While it is possible to submit an application for an OFAC specific license online, applying for a license is not a simple matter of filling out a couple of forms. To file for an OFAC specific license successfully, it is necessary to submit all pertinent information and supporting documentation that OFAC agents will need to evaluate and approve the application. As a result, U.S. persons that need to obtain an OFAC license should work with experienced legal counsel; and, since the application process can take several months (if not a year or longer), it is best to engage counsel promptly.

How Can I Determine if an OFAC General License Applies to a Proposed Transaction?


Since general licenses change frequently, OFAC does not maintain a public list of general licenses online (although it does maintain a list of revoked and expired general licenses). As a result, if you have questions about the applicability of an OFAC general license to a proposed transaction, you will need to discuss the transaction with an attorney who is knowledgeable about OFAC licensing.

Do I Need to File for an OFAC Specific License to Obtain the Release of Blocked Funds?


Generally, filing for an OFAC specific license is the method by which U.S. persons can obtain the release of blocked funds. If OFAC has blocked the transfer of funds to you or your business from a foreign entity or individual, you will want to consult with an experienced OFAC lawyer about filing a specific license application.

Speak with an Attorney at Oberheiden P.C. about Your OFAC Licensing Needs

If you need to know more about any aspect of OFAC licensing, or if you need to apply for a specific license from OFAC, we encourage you to contact us for a complimentary initial consultation. To speak with an experienced attorney at Oberheiden P.C. in confidence, please call 866-755-0697 or tell us how we can reach you online today.

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