Which types of OFAC cases do you find the most challenging?
Interviewee: It depends on the facts of the case. The most challenging cases usually involve a disagreement regarding the interpretation of the law. That becomes challenging because OFAC works in opaque settings and they don’t have to disclose to the public their interpretation of the law. There is no public resource people can use to figure out what OFAC has said in previous cases. It is important to find a lawyer who has handled these cases on a regular basis so that they are personally familiar with the interpretations that OFAC makes on certain issues. If you come across an issue that no one has seen yet, that could be very challenging. But that is something that an attorney who has experience working primarily with OFAC issues can address based on his or her own past experiences.
Where did you learn your trial skills?
Interviewee: I interned at the Superior Court of California for a summer where I got to work with trial court judges and observe trial practices of good and bad attorneys. When I left law school, I worked for a law firm that did a lot of federal criminal defense work and I handled federal criminal matters in U.S. District Courts for the Southern District of New York, the Eastern District of Virginia, and also the local courts here in Washington, DC.
Why is experience important when an individual is looking to hire an attorney for an OFAC case?
Interviewee: People usually don’t necessarily think that someone who handles administrative cases would need trial skills, but administrative cases can often elevate up to the trial level. That can happen when, during an investigation, OFAC refers the case to The United States Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. It is important for an OFAC attorney to be comfortable handling a criminal OFAC matter because they know the facts of the client’s case and they are familiar with what the client needs. The continuity of that attorney being on the case from the administrative level up to the trial level is important. It is also important to have experience with the agency. A lot of the interpretations of the law and the guidance that comes from OFAC are not known publicly. Attorneys that deal with this area of the law on a regular basis and who follow the press releases and appearances that OFAC officials make at various events have a better understanding of what OFAC might do in a particular situation.
What factors should someone consider when looking for the best OFAC attorney for their case?
Interviewee: Prior experience with the agency is of the utmost importance. It is helpful if the attorney has worked on these issues as a primary part of their practice because they are complicated and they involve a lot of moving parts. The regulations are broad and the interpretation that the agency makes regarding these provisions of the law can be inconsistent with what they have said previously depending on the circumstances. Someone who is constantly following the developments at OFAC could be an effective guide and counselor to clients. Having exposure to the agency and the way the agency works is extremely useful.