March 14, 2022

Russia Sanctions: What Questions Should the Board be Asking?

The war in Ukraine has prompted the United States and other Western nations to impose unprecedented sanctions on Russia, Belarus and certain of their financial institutions, companies and individuals. The breadth of these sanctions is like nothing we have seen in our lifetimes, and the impact of these sanctions can be far-reaching given the integration of Russia into the global economy prior to the invasion of Ukraine.

I recently spoke with my colleague John Smith on MoFo’s Above Board podcast to better understand the sanctions landscape and to find out what issues companies and board of directors should be focused on when trying to understand how sanctions could impact their operations. Prior to joining MoFo as co-head of the firm’s National Security practice, John was the Director of the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, often referred to as OFAC, which administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on U.S foreign policy and national security goals.

As noted in the podcast, the extraordinary sanctions should prompt companies and boards to assess their legal exposure to Russia and Belarus, as well as their reputational exposure arising from ongoing business with the sanctioned regimes, entities or individuals. Banking sanctions could have significant implications for ongoing and future financial transactions beginning this week, as some Russian banks are banned from participation in the SWIFT network, which is the backbone of the global payment network. Companies also need to be particularly cognizant of individuals or entities who are subject to “blocking” sanctions, which make those parties off-limits for any transactions, as well as “correspondent account” sanctions (which impact the ability of banks subject to sanctions to conduct transactions with U.S. banks) and debt and equity restrictions (which limit investment in and financing of sanctioned entities).

– Dave Lynn