After much debate and despite continuing criticism, the Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) lifted sanctions previously imposed upon three Russian entities: En+ Group plc (En+), United Company Rusal plc (Rusal) and JSC EuroSibEnergo (ESE). Effective January 27, 2019, OFAC removed these entities from the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List.
These companies were initially placed on the SDN List in April 2018 due to their ownership and control by Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska. At the time, OFAC designated seven Russian oligarchs and 12 related companies in response to Russia’s continuing actions involving the Crimea region of Ukraine and for other “worldwide malign activity” concerning Syria, and destabilizing cyber activities. Upon implementing the sanctions, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin stated that the “Russian government operates for the disproportionate benefit of oligarchs and government elites” and that such actors “will no longer be insulated from the consequences of their government’s destabilizing activities.” Their placement on the SDN List meant that all property and interests in property of the listed entities and persons subject to U.S. jurisdiction were blocked, and U.S. persons were generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.
Under the terms of their removal from OFAC’s SDN List, En+, Rusal and ESE have reduced Oleg Deripaska’s direct and indirect shareholding stake in these companies and severed his control over them. OFAC stated that such action “ensures that the majority of directors on the En+ and Rusal boards will be independent directors – including U.S. and European persons – who have no business, professional or family ties to Deripaska or any other SDN, and that independent U.S. persons vote a significant bloc of the shares of En+.” According to OFAC, the companies have also agreed to unprecedented transparency into their operations by agreeing to extensive, ongoing auditing, certification and reporting requirements. OFAC has noted that all economic sanctions on Oleg Deripaska, as an individual, continue to be in force.
Interestingly, while supportive of the sanctions when first implemented, Republicans in the Senate in December 2018 approved of Treasury’s plan to de-list these three companies; when Democrats forced a vote on a resolution disapproving the action, it fell three votes short (57-42) of the necessary 60-vote supermajority requirement to move the resolution forward. Democrats have argued that insufficient measures have been taken by the companies to fully remove the influence of Oleg Deripaska over the companies.