The Guardian: Banks not rushing to Cuba as fear of entering a legal minefield still lingers

Once again, the international press consults with Gerstman Schwartz Malito Partner  Antonio C. Martinez II on the developing historical events surround U.S. - Cuba Relations..From The Guardian...Off the terror list, Cuba represents a less risky proposition but for bankers it’s been tough to get over the hefty fines that once came with violating sanctionsBarack Obama’s decision to remove Cuba from the state sponsors of terror listafter 30 years is many things: a symbol of the cold war’s end, a negotiating tactic to dispel distrust, and – most practically – an assurance to bankers wary of rushing into a legal minefield.Nearly four months after Obama and Cuban president Raúl Castro announced a historic rapprochement and a softening of sanctions against doing business on the island, few companies have tried to take advantage of the changes. Lodging company Airbnb set up with locals and streaming site Netflix made a mostly symbolic entrance there, but the most powerful forces in finance, the banks, have watched from afar for fear of getting caught up in a web of sanctions.The bankers have cause to be concerned. The US has actively pursued banks who violate sanctions agreements, in 2009 forcing Credit Suisse to pay a $536m settlement for its dealings with Cuba, Iran and others, and then drawing a $8.9bn fine from BNP Paribas last year for working with Sudanese clients. Cuba, Iran, Sudan and Syria are the only nations on the state sponsors of terrorism list. Also last year M&T Bank, the only institution that had been available to Cuban diplomats in Washington, suspended that service.“You really had an enormous exposure to that risk, from US regulators who have imposed very substantial fines on financial institutions,” said Pedro Freyre, an [...]