The following blog is excerpted from an interview with an OFAC attorney in which they discusse OFAC’s list of Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs).
What is the process for getting off the SDN List and how long does it typically take?
There exists a procedure to be removed from the SDN list. It is contained in regulation 31 CFR 501.807 and it identifies several grounds for removal from the SDN list. One way is if the original designation was a mistake. If you are not the person that OFAC thought it was designating, you may have a solid chance at getting of the SDN list. The other way to get off the list is if the circumstances which led to your designation originally are no longer applicable. If you have changed your ways or taken some remedial action, then an argument can be made that you no longer need to be designated. You have to put that information into an application and file that with OFAC. The internal process by which OFAC changes the SDN list is opaque, and they don’t have to justify their designations to the public. If you are designated, hiring an attorney who is familiar with the process and has a general understanding of what OFAC looks for during a reconsideration may be helpful.
Are there any other parties involved in the decision of who gets placed on or removed from the SDN list?
In this regard, it depends on the particular circumstances of the designation and it depends on which program the person was designated under. In a lot of narcotics trafficking designations, there is coordination between the Department of State and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA). Usually the designations are part of a larger criminal investigation or conspiracy. Recently, a major Columbian cartel was taken off the SDN list by OFAC. This action was connected to a larger series of guilty plea arrangements with the Department of Justice. People pled guilty and fulfilled the terms of their plea agreements and in return were taken off the SDN list. That case appears to be evidence of coordination between the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Justice.
Does OFAC provide information explaining why someone is on the SDN list?
Yes. Generally the best place to find background information on a designation is to look for the Treasury’s press release that accompanies the announcement of the designation. Such press releases contain explanations on why the person was designated and under what legal authority the person was designated. In some cases, like for a drug cartels or transnational criminal organizations, OFAC provides charts that link together the areas, the people, and the co-conspirators that are involved so you can see the criminal network or relationships between the designated parties.