American Express agrees to Cuba travel settlement

American Express agrees to Cuba travel settlement

MIAMI - The Associated Press
American Express agrees to Cuba travel settlement

A man rides a bicycle past a mural in Cardenas in the province of Matanzas in central Cuba. REUTERS photo

American Express has reached a settlement with the U.S. Treasury Department over more than 14,000 tickets that were issued for travel between Cuba and countries outside the U.S., officials announced on July 21.

American Express Travel Related Services has agreed to pay $5.2 million to settle potential civil liability for apparent federal violations. The Treasury Department found that foreign branch offices and subsidiaries of American Express issued about 14,487 tickets for travel to and from the island between December 2005 and November 2011.

Those bookings were an apparent violation of the Cuban Assets Control Regulations. The rules issued in 1963 prohibit financial transactions by banking institutions under U.S. jurisdiction in which Cuba or its citizens have an interest.

“We voluntarily self-disclosed these bookings to OFAC (Office of Foreign Assets Control), and put in place robust controls to ensure it would not recur,” American Express spokeswoman Diana Postemsky said in a written statement.

American Express can provide travel service arrangements for authorized trips to the island, but the bookings in question were never approved by the federal government.

It’s not the first time American Express has come under federal scrutiny for its handling of Cuba-related travel. The company was investigated in 1995 and 1996 for similar violations committed by a subsidiary that had recently been acquired, according to the Treasury Department.

Federal officials said American Express showed “reckless disregard” for the regulations.