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In the United
States, all businesses are required to run checks on their customers to ensure
they are not a terrorist, drugs trafficker or associated with a sanctioned organization
OFAC - the Office
of Foreign Assets Control - is the US Department of the Treasury that administers
and enforces economic and trade sanctions. These sanctions are based on US
foreign policy and aim to protect national security by preventing US businesses
from intentionally or unintentionally working with terrorists, international
narcotics traffickers, human traffickers, money launderers, those involved in the
creation and sale of weapons of mass destruction, or any other activities that
threaten the national security, foreign policy, or economy of the United
OFAC maintains its own watch lists of
individuals, organizations and countries across the globe that are known to be
involved in or associated with any of these sanctioned activities. The OFAC-specific watch list includes, among others, the Specially
Designated Nationals (SDN) list, the Foreign Sanctions Evaders (FSE), Sectoral
Sanctions Identifications (SSI) and Foreign Narcotics Kingpins.
US businesses need
to run an OFAC search - also known as OFAC Screening or OFAC Scrubbing - on every customer
in order to ascertain if that individual is associated with
any terrorist, narcotics or trafficking activities; if their name appears on the
OFAC list, it is against the law to deal with them.
And for a truly
accurate global screening check - that
not only meets OFAC requirements, but also obligations under US AML law - US
businesses also need to ensure that their sanction checks screen for other potential
threats and risks to the business, for example PEPs (Politically Exposed Persons),
(Relatives and Close Associates of PEPs), and SIPs (a Special
Interest Person - someone who has been convicted, arrested or is on trial
for a financial or serious crime).
The easiest, most
efficient and most reliable way for US financial institutions and businesses to
run OFAC, PEP, SIP and RCA screening is to use an automated sanction screening service,
that not only runs all the initial screening checks needed for onboarding, but also
offers ongoing monitoring to ensure ongoing compliance with OFAC requirements
and US AML laws.
For example, SmartSearch’s
market leading sanction screening and monitoring service takes daily updates
from the Dow Jones Factiva Watchlist, which comprises of 1100+ global lists
from regional all the way to international level, including the OFAC watchlist
and information on PEPs, SIPs and RCAs from across the world.
technology is able to screen an entire customer database every night so that
even if a customer’s initial check and screening came up clear, but they are
subsequently sanctioned, the business will know about it immediately and be
able to take the appropriate action.
Vice President of SmartSearch said: “If a business is found to have
transacted with anyone who appears on a OFAC watch list - even if they did so unintentionally
- they are not only at risk of hefty fines, but also face criminal conviction
and even jailtime.
“Between 2015 and 2018 alone, OFAC
levied more than $800m worth of fines to businesses that failed to meet their obligations, and as recently
as last month, OFAC announced a $115,005.04 settlement of two cases involving
T.D. Bank for apparent violations of the North Korea Sanctions Regulations and
the Foreign Narcotics Kingpin Sanctions Regulations.”
Cheek continues: “The sheer number of fines handed out by
OFAC in the past few years, and the recent action against T.D Bank highlight the
importance of developing and implementing appropriate sanctions screening
“Our ongoing monitoring service is supported by the Dow Jones Factiva
Watchlist which comprises of more than 1,100 worldwide Sanction and PEP lists,
of which there are over 150 United States Government lists including OFAC,
Canada’s OSFI/DFATD, UN and EU watchlists, the UK’s HM Treasury database and
more, making it a truly global solution.
“Our system hosts a live version of the Watchlist which is updated every
night and our efficient and innovative data matching processes work to greatly minimize the number of false
positives returned, so that our customers are not only alerted when a true
match is made, but are confident in our industry leading suppressions and