Is OFAC’s SDN Search Tool Accurate?

Last week the United States Department of the Treasury Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) introduced a new search tool on their website which allows users to search for the names of individuals and entities on OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List (SDN List). The tool is simply called simply SDN Search. There has been a lot of buzz around this new search tool primarily because of the disclaimer OFAC issues on their webpage indicating that “The use of SDN Search does not limit or excuse any liability for any act undertaken as a result of, or in reliance on, such use.” However, aside from the fact that using OFAC’s own search tool to detect and prevent transactions with parties on the SDN List will not shield you from liability from engaging in transactions with such parties, OFAC’s new search tool has other potential issues; namely, that the information provided by SDN Search might not exactly be accurate.

How would I know whether the information is accurate or not? I happen to represent a few individuals who are on the SDN List and are seeking to have their names removed. I looked up those individuals and entities and noticed some discrepancies between OFAC’s information on my clients and what the documentary evidence, which we had provided to them, actually showed.

For example, in one case, OFAC SDN Search shows five (5) passports and passport numbers for one of my clients. However, it fails to show information on another one of my client’s passports, a copy of which was turned over to OFAC during the reconsideration process. Moreover, that same client’s date of birth on the OFAC SDN Search is twenty (20) days later than his actual birth as documented on his birth certificate. In another case, OFAC lists three (3) birth dates for the client when only one of those dates is the actual date of his birth.

So what does this mean? In my mind it means one of two things. On one hand it could mean that OFAC does not care about the information, supported by documentary evidence, that is provided to them in the reconsideration process. On the other hand it could mean that they have serious data entry and record keeping problems. Regardless, these discrepancies coupled with OFAC’s disclaimer regarding liability all amount to one thing: OFAC SDN Search may not be the best tool to use when running your SDN checks. While I do applaud OFAC for taking this step and trying to provide a tool to make SDN checks easier, I think it will take some time to work out the bugs before it comes to be on par with products offered by MK Data Services, World Check, or ATTUS.

The author of this blog is Erich Ferrari, an attorney specializing in OFAC matters. If you have any questions please contact him at 202-280-6370 or ferrari@ferrari-legal.com.

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