April 30, 2020

OFAC issues a Finding of Violation

On April 30, 2020, the Office of Foreign Assets Control of the US Department of the Treasury issued a Finding of Violation to American Express Travel Related Services Company.  According to OFAC, between March and May of 2015, Amex issued a prepaid card and processed 41 transactions worth $35,246.82 for Gerhard Wisser, who was placed on the list of Specially Designated Nationals in January 2009.  The card was issued by a non-US financial institution despite initial declinations issued by Amex’ risk identification system, and despite manual review by a compliance analyst, who incorrectly determined that Wisser was not an SDN.  As noted in the Finding of Violation, activity on the Global Travel Card issued as a result of these compliance errors was in violation of the Weapons of Mass Destruction Proliferators Sanctions Regulations, 31 CFR Part 544.

In assessing the violation, OFAC viewed as aggravating factors the size and sophistication of Amex, and the shortcomings of the company’s compliance program, which allowed automatic approval of applications in instances where the risk engine led to a system timeout.  OFAC found, however, that there was no willful or reckless behavior on the part of Amex, and took into account additional mitigating factors such as Amex’ subsequent remediation, and the company’s clear record for the five years preceding the transactions at issue.

There is no monetary penalty associated with a Finding of Violation.

OFAC press release | Finding of Violation