Major Law Firms Agree: Stonegate Bank's (Cuba) Credit Card Breaks the Law

Wednesday, June 29, 2016
This week, The Miami Herald has a story about how the Obama Administration is potentially breaking the law regarding the use of credit cards in Cuba (Stonegate Bank) and business ventures with the Cuban military (Starwood Hotels).

Note how two of Washington, D.C.'s biggest and most respected law firms agree that Stonegate Bank's use of credit cards are subject to Section 103 of the Cuban Liberty and Democratic Solidarity Act.

Thus, as we have previously detailed -- such credit card transaction are blatantly illegal.

From The Miami Herald:

U.S. policy for credit cards in Cuba too lenient, critics say

U.S. residents who travel to Cuba will be able to use a MasterCard issued by Florida-based Stonegate, the bank announced this month. But what happens if they use the card in a hotel owned by the Cuban military or a property seized by the Cuban government from U.S. owners in the 1960s?

Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, said Section 103 “has no exceptions as written.” The Obama administration, he added, has been “stretching” embargo rules to introduce new “exceptions” that derive from previous exceptions but are “inconsistent” with other parts of the law.

Claver-Carone, who follows Cuba policy closely on his blog, Capitol Hill Cubans, said the license issued to Starwood is “inconsistent” with the policy of “empowering the Cuban people” because it would benefit the military, not private business people.

In the case of Stonegate, he said, the U.S. Treasury Department should require the bank to set up a system to certify that transactions with its credit card will not involve confiscated U.S. properties [...]

Legal studies generated by both sides of the policy debate over Cuba have reached different conclusions, but all agree that Section 103 would take precedence.

The law firm of Steptoe & Johnson LLP concluded in January of 2015 that the new rules allowing the use of debit and credit cards “were inconsistent with the prohibitions in the U.S. law related to indirect financing of confiscated properties in Cuba.”

A report commissioned by the Cuba Study Group from the law firm Hogan Lovells in 2011 on executive branch powers concluded the president could allow U.S. banks to offer Cuba financing for transactions linked to the provision of authorized services. “Any such authorizations, however, would be subject to the prohibitions set forth in Section 103” and other laws “on the provisions for transactions involving property confiscated by the Cuban government.”