Cookware coating manufacturer Whitford Worldwide has agreed to pay $824,314 as part of a settlement with the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced Tuesday regarding subsidiary dealings in the sanctioned country of Iran.
The case was termed “non-egregious,” despite 74 apparent violations of the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations by Whitford and its subsidiaries in Italy and Turkey. OFAC credited the company for its significant remedial measures when determining the fine.
According to OFAC’s Web notice, Whitford’s subsidiaries in Italy and Turkey historically sold coatings to Iran. When changes to OFAC’s Iran sanctions program took effect in late 2012, U.S.-owned or -controlled foreign entities were prohibited from knowingly engaging in transactions with Iran, which should have disrupted Whitford’s dealings in the country.
It wasn’t until 2013, however, until flags were raised at Whitford regarding potential sanctions violations, and even then Whitford’s regulatory affairs manager—whom OFAC notes did not specialize in sanctions compliance—incorrectly advised the subsidiaries they could continue to legally do business in Iran “so long as there were no direct connections between a Whitford subsidiary and Iran.” Upon receiving that advice, the company’s then-managing director for Europe (a U.S. person) instructed that sales to Iran go indirectly through third-party distributors and documents related to those sales avoid referencing Iran, according to OFAC.
“By adopting this plan, from approximately February 2014 through December 2015, Whitford, Whitford-Turkey, and Whitford-Italy engaged in additional Apparent Violations by selling to Iran, making payments to and receiving payments from their Iranian sales agent, and engaging in prohibited facilitation of transactions with Iran,” OFAC explained.
In January 2016, following OFAC’s issuing of Iran General License H, Whitford realized its foreign subsidiaries’ Iran transactions likely violated U.S. sanctions law. The company hired outside counsel to conduct an investigation and submitted a disclosure to OFAC.
“With a lengthy history of foreign subsidiary sales to Iran, Whitford acted recklessly by failing to implement compliance policies commensurate with selling to a high-risk jurisdiction such as Iran and taking affirmative steps to help its foreign subsidiaries to continue selling to Iran, using indirect channels, after being warned that foreign subsidiary sales to Iran were problematic,” OFAC noted. The regulator said Whitford conferred an economic benefit to Iran of $3.05 million via the 74 transactions.
The company received credit for its substantial cooperation with OFAC’s investigation and remedial measures taken, including appointing an independent external compliance monitor who reports directly to the board; appointing an internal compliance monitor; and receiving the resignation of its CEO, who had been the managing director for Europe mentioned above.
“This case demonstrates the importance of companies dedicating sufficient resources to U.S. sanctions compliance, staying abreast of changes to sanctions regulations, and understanding the full scope of sanctions prohibitions, especially when operating in higher risk jurisdictions,” OFAC stated. “Sanctions compliance personnel at U.S. companies should have the appropriate technical knowledge and expertise, based on the company’s risk exposure.”