April 30, 2020

On April 30, 2020, OFAC published an enforcement action against American Express Travel Related Services Company (“Amex”) resulting from 41 violations related to transactions processed on behalf of Gerhard Wisser, an individual added to OFAC’s Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) List in 2009.  The violations were a result of human error and screening system defects.  In March 2015, Mr. Wisser applied for an American Express GlobalTravel Card. Amex’s screening software initially declined Mr. Wisser and would not allow the application to be processed; however, following additional screening attempts and the software subsequently timing out, the declination of Mr. Wisser was unintentionally overridden and his card application was approved. Then, from March to May 2015, Mr. Wisser proceeded to utilize his GlobalTravel Card approximately 41 times. Following a cooperative investigation and proper remediation measures, OFAC determined a monetary penalty against Amex was not necessary. This case highlights the importance of ensuring that automated compliance measures, such as screening software results, cannot be overridden without proper review.

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