An AP story today suggests that the White House may be considering the return of “U-turn” transactions for permitted sales to Iran. Those transactions, which were eliminated in 2008, allowed, under former section 560.516(a)(1), transactions with Iran to be cleared in U.S. Dollars by permitting non-U.S. banks to use their correspondent banks in the United States. In order to qualify for the exception, both the originating and beneficiary banks had to be non-Iranian foreign banks. In addition, no Iranian banks on the SDN List could be involved and, of course, the underlying transaction could not be one prohibited under U.S. law. So, if an Iranian customer wanted to buy goods from France and pay dollars, the Iranian customer would direct its bank in London to use its correspondent account in a New York bank to send the purchase price in U.S. dollars to the seller’s bank in France.
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Of course, even if U-turn transactions are permitted once again by OFAC, there is no guarantee that banks will be willing to process them. After all, no one has forgotten that the New York Department of Financial Services, believing the it understood OFAC regulations better than OFAC, went after Standard Chartered bank for legal U-turn transactions involving Iran.