OFAC issues Finding of Violation to AXA

OFAC has issued a Finding of Violation to AXA Equitable Life Insurance Company (AXA), for apparent violations of US anti-narcotics sanctions (OFAC’s enforcement notice is here).  In 1992, AXA issued two health insurance policies that together provided coverage for Leopoldo Grayeb, Noemi Fernandez, and Juan Manual Fernandez, all of whom were added to the SDN List in December 2009.  Subsequently, neither AXA nor the US insurance company serving as the Third Party Administrator (TPA) for the policies screened the names of the TPA’s policyholders against the SDN List, resulting in a failure to block the policies and premium payments in which the 3 designated people had an interest.

It was not until another TPA assumed responsibility for the policies in June 2011 that the policyholders were identified as being on the SDN List, by which time $14,406.19 of payments connected to the SDNs had been facilitated or processed by AXA.

Among other factors, OFAC found AXA’s conduct to have been aggravated by the fact it is a large and commercially sophisticated financial institution, without an adequate compliance programme, but mitigated by the fact that no AXA personnel, including managers or supervisors, appeared to have had actual knowledge of the conduct that led to the violations.

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About Michael O'Kane

Michael O’Kane is a partner and Head of the Business Crime team at leading UK firm Peters & Peters. Described as ‘first-rate’ (Legal 500 2012), he “draws glowing praise from commentators” (Chambers 2013) for handling the international aspects of business crime, including sanctions, extradition and mutual legal assistance. Called to the Bar in 1992 and prior to joining Peters & Peters he was a senior specialist prosecutor at the Crown Prosecution Service Headquarters(CPS). At CPS HQ he was a key member of a small specialist unit responsible for the prosecution of serious and high profile fraud, terrorist and special interest criminal matters including the Stansted Airport Afghan hijacking and the prosecution of Paul Burrell (Princess Diana’s butler). Michael joined Peters & Peters in 2002. He became a partner in May 2004, and Head of the Business Crime team in May 2009. Since joining Peters & Peters, Michael has dealt with a wide range of business crime matters. He has particular expertise in international sanctions, criminal cartels, extradition, corruption, mutual legal assistance, and FSA investigations. Described as“ an influential practitioner in fraud and regulatory work, so much so that he is top of the referral lists of many City firms for independent advice for directors” (The Lawyer’s Hot 100 2009), he was recognised as one of the UK’s most innovative lawyers in the 2011 FT Innovative Lawyer Awards and included in the list of the UK's leading lawyers in 'The International Who's Who of Asset Recovery 2012. In 2012 he was the winner of the Global Competition Review Article of the Year. Michael regularly appears on television and radio to discuss his specialist areas and he is the author of the leading textbook on the UK Criminal Cartel Offence “The Law of Criminal Cartels-Practice and Procedure” (Oxford University Press 2009). Recent/Current Sanctions Work • Representing 109 individuals and 12 companies subject to designation by the European Council under targeted measures imposed against Zimbabwe. This is the largest and most complex collective challenge to a sanctions listing ever brought before the European Court. • Acting for a former Egyptian Minister and his UK resident wife, challenging their designation by the European Council of Ministers under targeted measures brought against former members of the Egyptian Government. • Advising a company accused in a UN investigation report to have breached UN sanctions imposed in relation to Somalia. • Advising a UK company in relation to ongoing commercial relationships with an Iranian company listed under both EU and UN sanctions. • Advising an individual in relation to a UK investigation for alleging breaching nuclear export controls.

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