International Emergency Economic Power Act (IEEPA)

The International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) was legislated on 28 October 1977 which was signed by President Jimmy Carter. The IEEPA empowers the president to proclaim an unusual and exceptional threat to the federal security, foreign policy, and the economy of the United States that originates in whole or in considerable part outside the United States. It also empowers the president to restrict transactions and freeze assets in response to such a statement.

In the case of an actual attack on the United States, the president has the authority to seize property associated with a nation, group, or individual that assisted in the attack. In addition, because the IEEPA is governed by the terms of the National Emergencies Act (NEA), an emergency proclaimed under the Act must be renewed annually in order to stay in existence.

The International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) is a treaty that extends executive power over crises during times of peace. The IEEPA empowers the president to respond with uncommon and extraordinary risks to national security by altering the United States' economic policy. The IEEPA serves as the governing authority for much of the US sanctions regime, which is managed and monitored by OFAC, as well as export control restrictions handled by the Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). The continuation of the use of IEEPA to enhance presidential authority and sanctions is a recurring topic in US sanctions policy. The basic statute that allows this is the IEEPA.

What are the President's Powers Under the IEEPA?

The IEEPA empowers the president to examine, regulate, or prohibit foreign organizations' economic operations. The Act applies to almost every transaction involving foreign individuals, governments, or enterprises that falls under the authority of the United States. This involves the purchase and sale of currencies and securities. As long as the President proclaims a national emergency by executive order, there is sufficient executive authority to adopt and enforce penalties rules.

Since the 9/11 Terrorist Attack

After the 9/11 terrorist attacks, President George W. Bush signed Executive Order 13224 under the IEEPA to seize terrorist groups' assets. The President delegated blocking authority to federal agencies overseen by the Treasury Department. Congress authorized the USA PATRIOT Act in October 2001, which extended IEEPA asset blocking rules to allow asset blocking throughout the "pendency of an inquiry." This law amendment empowered the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control to seize assets without providing evidence of the blocking subject's misconduct or allowing the blocking subject to reply to the charges in court fully. The execution of these blocking proceedings resulted in a series of judicial disputes challenging government power to bar charity organizations from accessing assets maintained in the United States permanently. 

On 30 May 2019, the White House said that President Donald Trump would utilize IEEPA authority to impose tariffs on Mexican exports due to the national security concern posed by illegal Mexican immigration into the United States. Additionally, as part of an ongoing trade battle with China, Trump tweeted on 24 August 2019 that he "hereby orders" US corporations to begin looking at alternatives to China based on IEEPA-claimed powers. On the other hand, Trump did not formally declare an emergency as required under the IEEPA.

Sanctions Violation Penalties According to the IEEPA

Violations of IEEPA penalties have severe civil and criminal consequences. According to the IEEPA, it is illegal to violate, try to violate, conspire to break, or cause a violation of any license, order, restriction. It is stated that anybody who willfully commits, seeks to conduct, conspires to commit, or assists or helps in the commission of an unlawful act faces a $1,000,000 fine, a 20-year prison sentence, or both. Furthermore, it is specified that a civil penalty of not more than $250,000 or double the value of the illegal transaction may be imposed on any individual who performs unlawful conduct.