There's been a recent uptick of realization amongst board members and executives that many of their company's activities put them in real danger of violating U.S. laws—laws that concern governance, sanctions, embargoes, counter-terrorism, anti-money laundering, foreign bribery and corruption, and so forth.
Sarbanes-Oxley may be partly responsible for the increased awareness of the very real specter of personal liability for corporate actions that violate U.S. laws like the Patriot Act, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Trading with the Enemy Act and Presidential Orders underlying US Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) regulations. Indeed, if violations are severe enough, along the lines of "committing an egregious strike against America and its Allies", the Enemy Expatriation Act could be invoked, which could strip an executive of citizenship.
Besides the personal risk of ruin, or worse, boards and executives have become more aware that the consequences to the corporate entity aren't just to the current bottom line—brand reputation and future earning potentials are also at stake. Just one false compliance move can wipe out hard-earned equity and require a nightmare journey of damage control and cost recovery.
OFAC sanctions and embargoes are at the heart of the matter. Its regulations are based largely on transactions—regular run-of-the-mill business transactions—hence the heightened risk of committing serious violations. For example, few companies these days are without foreign transactions on their books: supply chains have long established low-cost country sourcing, globalization has hit its stride, and online stores are ubiquitous.
Hopefully there is little left of the once-popular misconception among the highest ranking company officials that screening against government lists to ensure your company is not doing business with terrorists, international drug traffickers, and rogue states belongs solely to the defense industry and to shippers of controlled goods. It applies to all U.S. companies, and all Americans.
With trade compliance solutions so readily available, why take the risk? It's simply not worth ruining a great reputation.