PayPal has agreed, without admitting any guilt, to pay $7.6 million to the U.S. Government to settle allegations that it failed to block transactions to Cuba, Sudan, and Iran. Read the announcement here.
PayPal fessed up about what it had done by filing a voluntary self-disclosure. It did not wait to be caught, which may be particularly smart for a financial institution. OFAC tends to be brutal with financial institutions that violate US sanctions laws.
It is difficult to tell if OFAC went easy on PayPal. Seven million dollars for any financial institution is a drop in the bucket, especially when, as here, a company repeatedly violates sanctions laws for several years. There were 486 transactions in all! On other hand, the total money spent on these 486 transactions was just $43,934. OFAC does not reveal whether these were cash transfers or purchases of consumer products. At about $90 a pop, maybe people were just buying small kitchen appliances or cheap Broadway tickets. If so, OFAC's main gripe may have been with the intended recipients. What really ticked off OFAC was that PayPal processed 136 transactions to and from a Specially Designated National, someone on a prohibited parties list that all transactions must be screened against.
That the penalty was not all it could have been is at least partially due to PayPal's cooperation with OFAC's investigation. It also helped that PayPal replaced its compliance personnel.
Unfortunately, OFAC's press release does not specify whether PayPal was able to use its own services to pay the fine. One wonders if the U.S. Government was required to pay a processing fee or wait a week to receive its funds.
Principal and a founding member of GRVR Attorneys.