OFAC Counsel – Unblocking Frozen Funds or Assets - Securities Litigation & Compliance Services
WSJ logo
Forbes logo
Fox News logo
Bloomberg logo
Los Angeles Times logo
Washington Post logo
The Epoch Times logo
CNN logo
Telemundo logo
New York Times
NY Post logo
NBC logo
Daily Beast logo
USA Today logo
Miami Herald logo
CNBC logo
Dallas News logo

OFAC Counsel – Unblocking Frozen Funds or Assets

Our OFAC Lawyers Assist with Unblocking Frozen Funds and Other Assets in the U.S. and Abroad

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

The Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has a variety of enforcement tools at its disposal—and with good reason. OFAC is tasked with administering the United States’ economic and trade sanctions designed to prevent foreign malign actors from utilizing U.S. resources; and, in this role, the Office’s enforcement activities are fundamental to achieving key national security and foreign policy objectives.

One of OFAC’s enforcement tools is its authority to block (or “freeze”) funds and other assets when a blocked or targeted entity has an interest in the property. This could be a foreign nation that is subject to economic or trade sanctions, or it could be a Specially Designated National (SDN). In either scenario, OFAC can act quickly to block property and transactions, and then the U.S. parties involved are left with the burden of proving either (i) that the transaction is permissible under applicable federal law, rule, or regulation; or, (ii) that the party is entitled to unblocking and return of its property.

How OFAC Blocks Funds and Other Assets Intended for Blocked and Targeted Entities

In most cases, OFAC plays an indirect role in blocking funds and other assets. Import/export companies and financial institutions have a legal duty to inspect OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals And Blocked Persons List and block transactions involving blocked or targeted countries, companies, and individuals. Once a company or institution blocks a transaction, it must report the transaction to OFAC within 10 days. At this point, OFAC does not take possession of the funds or other assets in question. Rather the assets remain with the commercial entity that blocked the transaction until OFAC authorizes their release. The assets are not forfeited to the federal government unless OFAC (or another federal agency) separately pursues a forfeiture action in federal court.

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)

Applying to OFAC for Unblocking of Frozen Funds or Other Assets

Once property has been blocked, any entity or individual seeking release of the property must apply for release with OFAC. This is referred to as obtaining an OFAC license. As OFAC explains, “[a] license is an authorization from OFAC to engage in a transaction that otherwise would be prohibited (e.g. release of blocked funds).”

OFAC processes license applications in the order they are received. It is not unusual for the processing time to be six months or longer. If OFAC denies a license application, the applicant may be forced to apply for reconsideration, which effectively restarts the process.

As a result, for companies and individuals seeking to have funds or other assets unblocked, properly completing the license application is extremely important. This is where our lawyers can help.

First, we can determine whether you or your company qualifies for a license. If not, you may need to pursue a different route to unblocking. We can examine the transaction, the foreign entity or foreign national involved, and the relevant sanction to identify the basis for the decision to block the transaction as well as any hurdles you are likely to encounter.

Second, if filing for an OFAC license is the right approach, we can prepare the license application on your behalf. We can ensure that your license application contains all of the information required to avoid a denial and the need to request reconsideration. This includes fully and accurately completing the application itself and attaching all of the evidence (i.e., invoices, bills of lading, and identifying documentation) that OFAC agents will need to evaluate your application and unblock the assets in question.

Third, we can communicate with OFAC on your behalf to the extent necessary. This includes communicating not only with regard to your license application, but with regard to any other matters as well. If the attempted transaction has the potential to trigger an OFAC investigation or enforcement action, we can help you prepare to respond to an OFAC administrative subpoena, and we can defend you or your company against any allegations of OFAC non-compliance.

Establishing a Reason Why Your Funds or Other Assets Should Be Unblocked

Unblocking funds or other assets is not simply a matter of submitting a compliant application. Rather, an applicant must be able to identify a valid reason why unblocking is warranted. When our lawyers evaluate your situation and prepare your OFAC license application, we will explore all potential grounds for unblocking, including (but not limited to):

  • The company or financial institution that blocked the transaction or property made a mistake.
  • Although the company or financial institution may have been technically correct in blocking the transaction, the transaction should be authorized because it will not harm the United States’ national security or foreign policy interests.
  • Property that was properly blocked in the past should no longer be blocked due to a change in circumstances (i.e., a change in the counterparty’s management team or OFAC compliance status).

In many cases, identifying and proving a valid reason for unblocking property can be a complex and time-intensive process. For example, it may be necessary to examine all of the documents underlying the transaction as well as the parties’ organizational documents. Then, convincing OFAC to unblock the property will involve highlighting the relevant information and presenting it in such a way as to demonstrate that either (i) the transaction can move forward, or (ii) the property should be returned.

These are complicated scenarios, and determining what options are available requires a careful assessment of the parties, sanctions, property, and national interests involved. If you need to apply for unblocking of frozen funds or other assets with OFAC, we encourage you to speak with one of our lawyers in confidence.

Contact the OFAC Lawyers at Oberheiden P.C.

Are you (or is your company) entitled to the release of blocked funds or other assets frozen pursuant to OFAC sanctions? To speak with an OFAC lawyer at Oberheiden P.C. in confidence, please call 866-755-0697 or tell us how we can help online today.

Why Clients Trust Oberheiden P.C.

  • 95% Success Rate
  • 2,000+ Cases Won
  • Available Nights & Weekends
  • Experienced Trial Attorneys
  • Former Department of Justice Trial Attorneys
  • Former Federal Prosecutors, U.S. Attorney’s Office
  • Former Agents from FBI, OIG, DEA
  • Cases Handled in 48 States
Email Us 888-680-1745