Today the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) fined Oregon orthodontic device manufacturer World Class Technology Corporation $43,200 for seven shipments of orthodontic devices valued at $59,886 to Iran. The shipments in question were transshipped through Germany, UAE and Lebanon.

OFAC noted that there were three aggravating factors. First, the company did not confess its sins voluntarily to OFAC but instead got caught. Second, company executives knew the orthodontics were going to Iran. Third, the company disrespected OFAC by not having an OFAC compliance program until 2008.

There is, of course, more than a little absurdity in the idea that every company in the U.S. must have an OFAC compliance program or bear the wrath of the agency. WCT is estimated to have between 50-99 employees. Its headquarters are pictured on the left. It has under $20 million in revenue per year currently and, no doubt, much less before it adopted its compliance program in 2008. How many agencies must small businesses bow down to through adopting compliance programs designed to assure that they do not transgress the regulations of that agency? Would any of them ever get any business done if they did?

OFAC cited five mitigating factors, which presumably saved WTC from a company crushing $1.75 million fine which OFAC noted was the statutory maximum. First, the transaction would likely have been licensed. Second, WCT had no sanctions history in the previous five years. Third, WCT agreed to toll the statute of limitations — the penalty imposed today covered violations dating back to 2008. Fourth, WCT ultimately adopted a compliance program. Fifth, WCT “lacked commercial sophistication in conducting international sales.”

The real face-palm moment here is mitigating factor five. OFAC admits that WCT should be given a break because it didn’t have the commercial savvy to understand that it was violating OFAC regulations. Only a few nanoseconds before OFAC was criticizing the company for not having an OFAC compliance program. How does this add up? Do they cancel each other out? More likely, OFAC wants to have it both ways rather than to confront the ugly fact that it has absolutely no outreach to small businesses like WCT, and itself bears some measure of blame for the exports of unsophisticated companies.

Copyright © 2016 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved.

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