New year, new UK sanctions regime

Upon the end of the Brexit transition period at 11pm on 31 December 2020, the UK ceased to implement EU sanctions. UK sanctions are now in force under the UK’s domestic sanctions regime, the framework for which is contained in the Sanctions and Money Laundering Act 2018 (“SAMLA”). The UK has introduced regulations under SAMLA which implement UK versions of the EU sanctions regimes that were in force pre-Brexit, although the new UK sanctions are not identical to the EU sanctions in all respects. Continue reading

US Sanctions and the right of borrowers to withhold repayment: Commercial Court signals return to orthodoxy

The Commercial Court has granted summary judgment in favour of a bank seeking to recover payments under Credit Agreements entered into with the Venezuelan state-owned oil and gas company, Petroleos De Venezuela SA (PDVSA), finding that the defaulting borrower had no real prospect of successfully defending the claims on the basis of certain US Sanctions imposed on Venezuela which post-dated the execution of the Credit Agreements: Banco San Juan Internacional Inc v Petroleos De Venezuela SA [2020] EWHC 2937 (Comm). Continue reading

HSF Launches New Sanctions Blog

Herbert Smith Freehills’ US Sanctions team has recently launched a new Sanctions blog. The blog will provide commentary on economic sanctions and export control issues, with a focus on US laws, and will be of particular interest to in-house counsel and compliance personnel in both US and non-US companies. Continue reading

Third HSF webinar in Global CC&I Conference series: sanctions developments in a turbulent global environment

Herbert Smith Freehills LLP’s Seventh Annual Corporate Crime & Investigations (“CC&I”) Conference is being held as a Global Conference Series of webinars over the upcoming months. The first webinar took place on 18 June 2020 and covered the topic of “CC&I in the time of Covid-19”. The second took place on 16 July 2020 and covered the topic of “2020 Developments in Anti-Bribery and Corruption and Deferred Prosecution Agreements”. The third took place on 20 August 2020 and covered the topic of “Sanctions developments in a turbulent global environment”.

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EU introduces sanctions in relation to cyberattacks

On 30 July 2020, the European Council announced that asset freezing sanctions were to be imposed on six Chinese and Russian individuals and three entities (based in China, Russia and North Korea) responsible for, or involved in, various cyberattacks, including the attempted cyberattack against the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and those publicly known as “WannaCry”, “NotPetya” and “Operation Cloud Hopper”. Continue reading

UK introduces human rights-related sanctions under post-Brexit sanctions framework

On 6 July 2020, the United Kingdom introduced unilateral sanctions against 49 individuals and entities from Saudi Arabia, Russia, Myanmar and North Korea accused of involvement in several high profile human rights violations and abuses.The Global Human Rights Sanctions Regulations 2020 (the “Sanctions Regulations”), made pursuant to the Sanctions and Anti-Money Laundering Act 2018 ( “SAMLA”), are specifically tailored to address human rights abuses and mark the first time that the UK has imposed sanctions for human rights violations and abuses independently of either the United Nations or the European Union (“EU”) sanctions regimes. Continue reading

High Court finds terms of English law Facility Agreement allowed borrower to withhold interest payments given risk of US “secondary” sanctions

In a recent decision, the High Court has found that the terms of a Facility Agreement governed by English law allowed the borrower to withhold payment of interest instalments where there was a risk of secondary sanctions being imposed on the borrower under US law, notwithstanding that the Facility Agreement had no connection with the US: Lamesa Investments Limited v Cynergy Bank Limited [2019] EWHC 1877 (Comm).

At first sight the decision is surprising because English law does not generally excuse contractual performance by reference to a foreign law unless it is the law of the contract or the place of performance (and these exceptions did not apply here). However, the court noted that parties can contract out of this general rule, which is precisely what happened in this case. The relevant clause of the Facility Agreement permitted the borrower to withhold payment of interest instalments “in order to comply with any mandatory provision of law, regulation or order of any court of competent jurisdiction”.

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