On October 8, 2020, the Departments of State and the Treasury announced sanctions on numerous Iranian financial institutions. The Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has sanctioned eighteen major Iranian banks. Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin stated that the sanctions “reflect our commitment to stop illicit access to U.S. dollars.” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that the sanctions “further depriv[e] the Islamic Republic of Iran of funds to carry out its support for terrorist activities and nuclear extortion that threatens the world.” Both the State and Treasury Departments note that these new sanctions do not affect existing authorizations and exceptions for humanitarian exports to Iran.

These new sanctions, which essentially cover all remaining Iranian banks not previously sanctioned by OFAC, have been taken in order to deny the Iranian government financial resources that may be used to fund and support its nuclear program, missile development, terrorism and terrorist proxy networks, and malign regional influence. OFAC has designated and placed on the Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) List the following Iranian banks: (1) Amin Investment Bank, (2) Bank Keshavarzi Iran, (3) Bank Maskan, (4) Bank Refah Kargaran, (5) Bank-e Shahr, (6) Eghtesad Novin Bank, (7) Gharzolhasaneh Resalat Bank, (8) Hekmat Iranian Bank, (9) Iran Zamin Bank, (10) Karafarin Bank, (11) Khavarmianeh Bank (also known as Middle East Bank), (12) Mehr Iran Credit Union Bank, (13) Pasargad Bank, (14) Saman Bank, (15) Sarmayeh Bank, (16) Tosee Taavon Bank (also known as Cooperative Development Bank), (17) Tourism Bank, and (18) Islamic Regional Cooperation Bank (owned or controlled by Eghtesad Novin Bank).

OFAC has authorized U.S. persons to engage in transactions and activities involving these Iranian SDN financial institutions otherwise sanctioned and blocked under E.O. 13902 if such transactions are authorized, exempt, or otherwise not prohibited under the Iranian Transactions and Sanctions Regulations (ITSR). This includes activity permitted under specific licenses issued pursuant to the ITSR as well as activity permitted under the ITSR or general licenses, such as provision of medicine and medical devices, provision of agricultural products, humanitarian activity, certain journalistic activity and other permitted activity.

Non-U.S. persons may be subject to “secondary” sanctions if they engage in transactions involving financial institutions sanctioned under E.O. 13902. However, OFAC’s guidance and FAQs make clear that non-U.S. persons would not be subject to “secondary” sanctions for engaging in humanitarian or other activity permitted for U.S. persons under General License L or other provisions. In addition, OFAC is providing a 45-day period – until November 22, 2020 – for non-U.S. persons to wind down previously non-sanctionable activity with these newly designated Iranian banks.

OFAC has updated its Iran FAQs, providing further guidance on the scope of General License L, and outline the effects of these sanctions on both U.S. and non-U.S. persons, including secondary sanctions exposure. See FAQs 842, 843, 844, 845, 846, and 847.