OFAC Searches for Loan Applicants

Written By: Stacey Sprain, Op-Ed Writer

"OFAC" is the abbreviation for Office of Foreign Assets Control. It is the specific branch of the United States Department of the Treasury that administers and enforces economic and trade sanctions based on US foreign policy and national security goals against targeted foreign countries and regimes, terrorists, international narcotics traffickers, those engaged in activities related to the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and other threats to the national security, foreign policy or economy of the United States.

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OFAC searches are a requirement of Section 326 of the United States Patriot Act which states that, among other things, in addition to verifying every borrower’s identity we must determine whether the customer appears on any list of suspected terrorists or terrorist organizations. Most credit reporting agencies run OFAC searches for all borrowers. If your credit reporting agency does not currently include OFAC searches with your credit reports, ask your provider how to have that function added for you.

So what should you do if you DO get an OFAC alert on the credit report or other resource that may be used in the required OFAC search process? First, never assume that the hit is golden. You always need to assume that your borrower is “innocent until proven guilty” when it comes to an OFAC hit because there can be a lot of false positives. The Treasury Department provides a helpful guide that tells you exactly how to go about evaluating the OFAC information. You can access these steps in entirely athttp://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/regulations/faccr.pdf.

Refer to the following instructional steps to process all OFAC hits.

1. Is the “hit” or “match” listed on the credit report against OFAC’s SDN list or targeted countries, or is it
“hitting” for some other reason (i.e., Control List or PEP, CIA, Non-Cooperative Countries and Territories,
Canadian Consolidated List (OSFI), World Bank Debarred Parties, Blocked Officials File, or government
official of a designated country), or can you tell what the hit is?
• If the name is hit ting against OFAC’s SDN list or targeted countries, continue to Step 2 below.
• If it is hitting for some other reason, you should contact the “keeper” of which ever other list the match is hitting against. For questions about:
(a) The Denied Persons List and the Entities List, contact the Bureau of Industry and Security at the U.S. Department of Commerce at 202-482-4811,

(b) The FBI’s Most Wanted List or any other FBI-issued watch list, please see the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s website atwww.fbi.gov/contact/fo/fo.htm,

(c) The Debarred Parties List, please contact the Office of Defense Trade Controls at the U.S. Department of State, 202-663-2700,

(d) The Bank Secrecy Act and the USA PATRIOT Act, please contact the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) at 1-800-949-2732.

If you are unsure whom to contact, please contact the provider of the interdict software that told you there was a hit. (example-your credit provider).

2. Now that you have established that the hit is against OFAC’s SDN list or targeted countries, you must
evaluate the quality of the hit. Compare the name of the individual whose credit is being checked with the
name on the SDN list. Is the name on the SDN list a vessel or a company rather than an individual (or
vice-versa)? Is the name on the SDN list a male’s name whereas your credit applicant is a female?
• If yes to either question, you do not have a valid match.
• If no, please continue to Step 3 below.
3. How much of the SDN’s name is matching against the name on your credit application? Is just one of two
or more names matching (i.e., just the last name or just the first name)?
• If yes, you do not have a valid match.
• If no, please continue to Step 4 below.
4. Compare the complete SDN entry with all of the in formation you have on the matching name on your
credit application. An SDN en try of ten will have, for example, a full name, address, nationality, passport,
tax ID or cedula number, place of birth, date of birth, former names and aliases. Are you missing a lot of
this information for the name on your credit application?
• If yes, go back and get more information and then com pare your complete in formation against the SDN entry.
• If no, please continue to Step 5 below.
5. Are there a number of similarities or exact matches?
• If yes, please call the hot line at 1-800-540-6322.
• If no, you do not have a valid match.
If you are able to exclude your borrower based on file documentation or knowledge, be sure to clearly document the file and make sure that you communicate your research to the underwriter with your loan submission and maintain the explanations and documentation in the file in case of future audit.

If you have the need to request additional documentation from your borrower in order to exclude the borrower from the OFAC hit. You may wish to provide your borrower with or direct your borrower to the following informative consumer brochure explaining more about OFAC:http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/regulations/cons.pdf.

If you have reason to know or believe that allowing this person to do business in the United States would violate any of the Regulations, you should call the hotline and explain this knowledge or belief.

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There are potential fines and penalties for violating the regulations that require institutions to conduct and review OFAC lists for potential matches. Such fines for violations can be substantial. Depending on the program, criminal penalties can include fines ranging from $50,000 to $10,000,000 and imprisonment ranging from 10 to 30 years for willful violations. Depending on the program, civil penalties range from $250,000 or twice the amount of each underlying transaction to $1,075,000 for each violation.

About The Author

Stacey Sprain - As an op-ed writer, Ms. Stacey Sprain is currently a NAMP® Certified Ambassador Loan Processor (NAMP®-CALP). With over 15+ years of mortgage banking experience, Stacey is also a Quality Control Manager for a major mortgage lending institution. 

Opinion-Editorial (Op-Ed) Disclaimer For NAMP® Library Articles: The views and opinions expressed in the NAMP® Library articles are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect any official NAMP® policy or position. Examples of analysis performed within this article are only examples. They should not be utilized in real-world application as they are based only on very limited and dated open source information. Assumptions made within the analysis are not reflective of the position of NAMP®. Nothing contained in this article should be considered legal advice.