By Tom Reynolds, Export Solutions

I’m something of a “news junkie.” If you’re like me, then you are constantly hearing about certain countries that can’t seem to keep themselves out of the news. You may even occasionally hear the name of a country that your company either does business with, or is contemplating as a customer.

There are many ways to check whether certain persons, companies, or even entire countries might be sanctioned, embargoed, debarred, or otherwise restricted by U.S. or other international trade controls. Most of these tools are online and they’re free. I’m talking about those tools on the U.S. Government websites, courtesy of our Uncle Sam. In addition, there are also a few pay sites where you can check several or all of the different entity lists at the same time. (No free advertising here!) If you do (or should be doing) more than the occasional screening, then subscribing to one of these paid sites would be well worth the price of admission.

Whatever method you use to screen the parties to your contracts, subcontracts, purchase orders, partnerships, mergers, acquisitions, or whatever, it is important that you screen early and often and understand the limitations of the screening site you use. For example, it does no good to check only the Commerce Department’s Denied Party, Entity, or Unverified lists, only to find that the Treasury Department’s OFAC has recently frozen your customer’s assets in order to uphold U.S. foreign policy goals. If nothing else, the fact that your customer will not be able to pay might pique your interest!

So now, let’s get back to that bothersome thing you may have heard on your favorite cable news channel or read in an online newsfeed about your international customer. If a certain country, company, or person on your customer or supplier list is suddenly getting a lot of press during the ubiquitous 24-hour news cycle, you should turn up the sound. Listen, read, or otherwise scan for keywords such as (in no particular order):

  • Invaded
  • Annexed
  • Coup
  • Sanction(s)(ed)
  • Boycott
  • Debarred
  • Denied Party
  • Illegally
  • Unlawfully
  • Continued bombing
  • Drone strike
  • Prohibited
  • Boots on the ground
  • Closed its embassy
  • Drag through the street
  • Protesters burned the American flag
  • The U.S./United Nations/NATO has condemned…
  • Rebel forces have…
  • Terrorist
  • Proliferation
  • Violated… treaty
  • Suspended
  • Took hostages
  • Used as human shields
The list could go on and on, but I hope you get the drift. Here’s the simple math:

Entity you do (or intend to do) business with, their country, government, leaders, Etc.

Bad word(s) from the list above

Featured news story

A good chance that you need to do some screening! (Or should have screened a long time ago.)

As Jeff Foxworthy might have said (if he was cool enough to work in Export Compliance): “If you see your best customer on the evening news and the word ‘indicted’ is used… Youuuuuuuu might need to screen better!”

If the above blog raises more questions for you than answers, or if you had to look up one or more of the terms we have used, you might best be served by seeking the advice of your company’s Empowered Official (EO), or some other Subject Matter Expert. If you and your EO are really stumped, then you can always contact us!

For more related to this subject, please browse the “Posted in” links below.

Tom Reynolds is the Vice President of Operations for Export Solutions, a consultancy firm which specializes in helping companies with import/export compliance.