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What compliance professionals need to know about two new Russian laws

On March 4, Russia enacted two new laws to combat what it describes as “fake news.” The new laws cover individuals and organizations opposing the war in Ukraine and those who support financial sanctions against Russia or its citizens and companies.

Many major organizations suspended their broadcasts from Russia and operations there to protect their employees. Penalties for violating the new laws include up to fifteen years in jail and various fines.

CNN, the BBC, CBS, Bloomberg, the Canadian Broadcasting Corp., and Radio-Canada all said they would stop reporting and broadcasting from Russia because of the risk to their employees.

BBC Director-General Tim Davie said the legislation “appears to criminalize the process of independent journalism.”

The New York Times said Tuesday it is “temporarily removing its journalists from Russia in the wake of harsh new legislation that effectively outlaws independent reporting” on the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

On Tuesday, however, the BBC said it would resume reporting from Russia following a four-day suspension.

The Washington Post said it will remove author names and reporting locations from some articles written by Russia-based staff.

According to Human Rights Watch, individuals outside Russia could be subject to extradition for violating the new laws. The extraterritorial reach is unknown at this point, including how other countries might react to Russian requests for extradition.

Compliance professionals understand the challenges and complications. Ten years ago, I was in a breakout session at an FCPA conference, and a heated debate arose around the ability of the United States to extradite and prosecute non-U.S. citizens who violate the FCPA outside the United States. “They can’t do that, that’s not right,” I heard someone say.

“They can,” the moderator replied, “it’s the law.”

And now, compliance professionals must be aware of the new Russian laws that may put their companies and employees at risk. When CEOs — or any employees — take to print or broadcast outlets or social media and talk about supporting “the toughest sanctions possible against Russia and its oligarchs,” that’s now a compliance concern with potentially serious consequences.

It’s also a deep moral dilemma.

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