What goes into Employee Background Checks: The OFAC Patriot Act Search


Following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Congress passed the lengthily named “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act,” commonly known as the “Patriot Act.”  This piece of legislation was aimed at arming law enforcement with tools to both detect and prevent acts of terrorism.  While the Patriot act has had both supporters and nay-sayers, it has become of great value to employers.  One of the services included in theRRD’s employment screening packages is the OFAC Patriot Act Search.  This tool screens for individuals and groups associated with terrorism.  By screening your employees with this service, you’re helping to prevent potential terrorists from receiving an income for their terrorist activities.  You’re also helping to ensure the safety of your own employees.

History Of OFAC

During the administration of President Jimmy Carter in 1977, Congress enacted the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA). This law authorizes the president to regulate commerce after declaring a national emergency in response to any unusual or extraordinary threat to the United States from a foreign source. The provisions of IEEPA are administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) under the Department of the Treasury, which publishes a list of individuals and companies owned or controlled by, or acting for or on behalf of, targeted countries. It also lists individuals, groups, and entities, such as terrorists and narcotics traffickers designated under programs that are not country-specific.  Collectively, such individuals and companies are called Specially Designated Nationals (SDNs).

Once the president has identified a particular event a national emergency to US interests, this gives OFAC the authority to search for targets.  Once they have compiled evidence against a particular group or individual in the form of large financial records, they send it to the Department of Justice for verification and review.  Usually, when OFAC declares sanctions against a group or individual, other regulatory agencies will follow suit, resulting in assets being frozen in a number of different countries.  If a name is flagged as a match and this person is then identified as a bona fide SDN, their assets are blocked and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from dealing with them.  This list is available to be searched for the name of an individual they are looking to do business with, and the page will return either a perfect match, a partial match, or no match whatsoever.

Here Are Some Of The Databases Checked By The OFAC For A Screening

·         Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), Bank of England Consolidated List of Financial Sanctions, Office of the Superintendent of Financial Institutions Terrorism Financing, European Union Consolidated List, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Monetary Authority of Singapore – Consolidated lists of all organizations and individuals which are subject to targeted financial sanctions or travel bans under Australian, United Kingdom, Canadian, European Union, United States of America, Hong Kong, and Singaporean sanctions laws, respectively.

·         Bureau of Industry and Security – A list of all organizations and individuals for which there exists a strict export prohibition, a specific license requirement for exporting, or the presence of a “red flag”

·         DTC Debarred parties – A list of organizations and individuals prohibited from participating directly or indirectly in the export of defense articles for violating the Arms Export Control Act in the United States of America

·         FBI Hijack Suspects, FBI Most Wanted, FBI Most Wanted Terrorists, FBI Seeking Information, FBI Top Ten Most Wanted, Interpol Most Wanted – Lists of particularly dangerous individuals wanted by the FBI and Interpol for hijackings, terrorism, and a variety of other crimes.

·         Terrorist Exclusion List – A list of organizations with known ties to terrorist groups, and which can disqualify an associated individual from living in the United States

·         Unauthorized Banks – A list of any financial institution operating without a license or charter

·         Non-cooperative Countries and Territories – A list of countries which are perceived to be non-cooperative in the global fight against money laundering and terrorist financing

·         Non-proliferation – A list of groups and individuals involved in the attempted proliferation of nuclear weapons to terrorist groups and countries around the world

·         Politically Exposed Persons – A list of particularly prominent individuals- and their relatives- who are at a higher risk for involvement in bribery and corruption by way of their position

·         Primary Money Laundering Concern (PMLC) – A list of foreign groups and individuals identified by the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network as seriously involved in money laundering

·         World Bank Debarred Parties – A list of groups and individuals ineligible to be awarded a World Bank-financed contract because they have been sanctioned under the Bank’s fraud and corruption policy

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