Art Law Report

U.S. Senate Report Takes a Swing at Money Laundering in the Art Market But Strikes Out on Substance

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 12, 2020 at 2:41 PM

A recent report by the U.S. Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations (headlined by Chairman Senator Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Ranking Member Tom Carper, Democrat of Delaware) has drawn widespread attention for its damning statements about the international art market. Focusing on purchases of art from major auction houses by Arkady and Boris Rotenberg, two Russian nationals described as “oligarchs” by the report, the Subcommittee makes a series of pronouncements about the supposed prevalence of money laundering in the art market, and the need for regulation to address this perceived problem. Yet upon closer read, the report is a recycling of clichés about the art market, a detailed description about the considerable diligence by the auction houses far beyond what any even theoretical regulation would require (thus begging the question of what lesser regulation would accomplish), and no discussion or empathy at all for the vast majority of small art businesses that could not possibly comply with such regulation and stay in business, let alone actually combat money laundering. In other words, in concluding that two men laundered money, the Senate committee deduces that the practice is rampant. This hardly follows as a matter of logic. Far from supporting the case for sweeping financial regulation of the art market, the report unintentionally makes the opposite point.

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Topics: OFAC, Vladimir Putin, Uniform Commercial Code, House of Representatives, New York Times, Responsible Art Market initiative, Money laundering, FinCEN, Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Boris Rotenberg, oligarch, shell companies, suspicious activity reports, Banking Secrecy Act, Politically Exposed Persons, Arkady Rotenberg, Treasury, ultimate beneficial owner, UBO, Corporate Transparency Act of 2019, Tom Carper, Office of Foreign Assets Control, Rob Portman

With New Congress, Resale Royalties Bill and Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act Are Dead (Again)

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on January 5, 2015 at 9:49 AM

A quirk of parliamentary procedure is that any bill in Congress exists only for so long as that particular Congress is in session. This week, the 114th Congress took its seats, meaning that any bill not passed by both the House of Representatives and the Senate, and signed by the President, is a dead letter. This is the fate of many, many bills—indeed most.

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Topics: Legislation, Resale Royalties, Chuck Close, Moral Rights, Nazi-looted art, Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act, 28 U.S. § 1605, Art Law Day, 114th Congress, 22 U.S.C. § 2459, City of Amsterdam, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), FSIA, expropriation exception”, droit de suite, IFSA, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Senate, House of Representatives, Immunity from Seizure Act, President, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity

Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act: House Votes to Amend FSIA to Exclude Artwork Loan as Basis for Jurisdiction

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 22, 2012 at 9:15 AM

The House of Representatives approved the Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity Clarification Act on March 19, 2012, to remove the display of a work of art in the United States as basis to sue a foreign sovereign here. The law touches on important distinctions between immunity from suit—when a party cannot be sued at all—from immunity from seizure—when a particular object or asset cannot be seized.

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Topics: Legislation, 22 USC 2459, Immunity from Seizure, FSIA, Restitution, Senate Bill 2212, World War II, Foreign Sovereign Immunities, Portrait of Waly, House of Representatives, Immunity from Suit, Foreign Cultural Exchange Jurisdictional Immunity, State Department

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About the Blog


The Art Law Report provides timely updates and commentary on legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities. It is authored by Nicholas M. O'Donnell, partner in our Art & Museum Law Practice.

The material on this site is for general information only and is not legal advice. No liability is accepted for any loss or damage which may result from reliance on it. Always consult a qualified lawyer about a specific legal problem.

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