What is the OFAC US Sanctions List?

Released by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), the OFAC sanctions list is a collection of sanctioned individuals, entities, regimes, organisations and even entire countries. OFAC is a supervisory body of the US Department of Treasury and its obligations include administering and overseeing economic and trade sanctions, based on the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United States.

Through the OFAC US sanctions list, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) aims to protect international trade – both at home and abroad – against the threat of terrorist activities and narcotics and arms trafficking. OFAC also sanctions individuals, companies and organisations. and describes them as Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs) – these are included on their dedicated SDN list. The assets of sanctioned persons or entities on the SDN list are frozen, and it is prohibited to conduct business with them. The most up-to-date SDN list can be publicly accessed on the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) website.

It falls under the remit of individual companies to ensure they regularly check the OFAC list – not only to comply with sanctions regulations, but also to avoid the threat of doing business with a sanctioned person, company or country – which could be both financially and reputationally damaging. In addition to the OFAC lists, many organisations also factor EU lists into their regular sanctions programs to ensure the safety and security of their organisation.

What is the OFAC Sanctions List Search?

Using the OFAC sanctions list search tool – also known as the OFAC Screening Tool and OFAC Search – allows you to seek out a match on anyone listed as a Specially Designated National (SND), as well as on OFAC’s Consolidated Sanctions List.

You can browse OFAC’s regularly published sanctions lists that include individuals, institutions and countries that they deem to be a threat to national security. The SDN List, for example, lists the names of persons who are prohibited from doing business with the US, whereas the Consolidated Sanctions List contains a variety of specific lists, including:

  • Sectoral Sanctions Identifications (SSI): A list of people, companies and organisations in the Russian energy and finance industries.
  • Foreign Sanctions Evaders (FSE): A list of foreign individuals and companies that have violated US sanctions against Syria or Iran.
  • A list of foreign financial institutions that are subject to CAPTA (Correspondent Account or Payable-Through Account Sanctions)

What are the Sanctioned Countries?

It’s important to remember that the list of sanctioned countries may change without warning, so it is important to view the most up-to-date list of countries sanctioned by the Office of Foreign Assets Control. This can be found on the official United States Treasury website.

As of publishing, the following countries are subject to trade and financial sanctions:

  • Belarus
  • Burma
  • Cuba
  • Democratic Republic of Congo
  • Iran
  • Iraq
  • Ivory Coast (Côte D’Ivoire)
  • Liberia
  • North Korea
  • Sudan
  • Syria
  • The Balkans region
  • Zimbabwe

How Do You Comply with OFAC?

It is the obligation of all US citizens, companies and any individuals or organisations doing business with the United States to comply with OFAC regulations. Failure to do so – i.e. doing business with a sanctioned individual, company, entity or country – can result in heavy penalties, including fines and jail time. Companies that uncover any suspicious transactions through the course of their customer-transaction audits must report them immediately to OFAC.

Because there are many different forms of the OFAC US sanctions lists, managing them manually can be time-consuming and result in human error. So it’s important to use a screening solution like Nexis Diligence that can automate your searches and ensure you are getting access to the most up-to-date trade and financial sanctions.

How Can You Do Your OFAC Sanctions Due Diligence?

In order to meet legal obligations in your company’s sanctions programs, it is essential to use a risk and compliance screening tool when vetting and verifying potential business partners. It’s also wise to ensure your entire organisation is aware of the responsibilities of regularly checking sanctions lists. Helpfully, the Framework for OFAC Compliance Commitments contains five steps that all sanctions programs should meet:

  1. Management: The management team must set the correct behaviour from the top and formally support a risk-based compliance program. It is recommended that management appoints a dedicated OFAC sanctions officer.
  2. Risk analysis: Numerous factors must be assessed regularly to avoid any risks, from customers and suppliers, to products, services and locations.
  3. Internal compliance: Procedures must be in place to carry out the correct checks and reduce risks.
  4. Independent testing: Ongoing audits will uncover any gaps or weaknesses in a business’ sanctions programs.
  5. Employee training: Regular training ensures your people, customers and suppliers understand the risks of failing to comply with OFAC regulations.

Checking OFAC Sanctioned Countries List

Nexis Diligence is a screening solution that contains AML, KYC, UOB and OFAC sanctions data on millions of companies around the world. There is also additional data on blacklists, politically exposed people (PEP), sanctions lists, watchlists, and more, which means you can use the platform to perform your due diligence and find any and all ownership information in a single search to identify potential risks.