The effects under English law of sanctions and ways to mitigate them

As part of our commercial law breakfast seminars for 2015, Jonathan Fisher QC and Adam Baradon discussed how the English courts have approached contractual performance where one or more of the parties is subject to restrictions by reason of a sanctions regime and in which ways parties can pre-empt problems. 

Sanctions have been used, originally as an instrument of war, since antiquity. In the modern era, governments continue to employ sanctions and embargoes as an instrument of foreign policy, usually under the premise of maintaining or restoring international peace and security.  Their use seems likely only to increase, particularly given Western governments’ increasing reluctance, or inability, to put “boots on the ground”.

The impact of sanctions on business is potentially significant – they can disrupt the performance of contracts, give rise to money-laundering and reporting obligations, or even impact on how groups structure their operations.

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