In a 10-K filed on Friday afternoon, Amazon disclosed that certain transactions and business ties with Iran may have violated U.S. sanctions, warning that it may be penalized after a regulatory review of the activities.
In the "Other Contingencies" section of its 10-K, Jeff Bezos' company had determined that, between January 2012 and December 2016 it had "processed and delivered orders of consumer products for certain individuals and entities located outside Iran covered by the Iran Threat Reduction and Syria Human Rights Act or other United States sanctions and export control laws. The consumer products included books, music, other media, apparel, home and kitchen, health and beauty, jewelry, office, consumer electronics, software, lawn and patio, grocery, and automotive products."
The world's biggest online retailer also said that it has "voluntarily reported these orders to the United States Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control and the United States Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security." and said it will cooperate with a review by the agencies, "which may result in the imposition of penalties."
As Bloomberg, which first spotted the violation, explains, the violations are the result of then-President Barack Obama's signature of the ITRA in 2012, meant to strengthen trade restrictions on Iran and try to persuade the country to stop its nuclear activities. This law imposes civil penalties and takes other action against foreign subsidiaries of U.S. companies engaging in transactions with Iran. In January 2016, the U.S. lifted many of the economic sanctions tied to the nuclear program.
Amazon further clarified the violations which consisted of consumer products sold to individuals and unspecified groups controlled or owned by the Iranian government, among which "consumer products valued at approximately $50 for an Iranian embassy located in a country other than Iran; consumer products valued at approximately $1,300 for an individual designated under Executive Order 13224; consumer products valued at approximately $2,400 for an entity owned or controlled by the Iranian government; and consumer products valued at approximately $250 for an individual who may have been acting for an entity designated under Executive Order 13382 and owned or controlled by the Iranian government. The consumer products included books, other media, apparel, home and kitchen, jewelry, office, toys, consumer electronics, software, health and beauty, pet products, and lawn and patio."
The company also said that is was "unable accurately to calculate the net profit attributable to these transactions" and said it does "not plan to continue selling to these accounts in the future."
The statement concludes with Amazon's declaration that its "review is ongoing and we are enhancing our processes designed to identify transactions associated with individuals and entities covered by the ITRA."
Why come clean now, and disclose violations that took place as far back as 2012?
Perhaps because Amazon, along with many other tech companies, was a key catalyst behind the recent successful lawsuit against the Trump administration's immigration executive order. While it is unknown if AG Sessions (or Trump himself) will retaliate against said companies, Jeff Bezos, who has a long "history" with Trump, decided not to take the chance.