Expedia Group agreed to pay more than $325,000 to settle allegations that it assisted more than 2,200 people with Cuba-related travel, in apparent violation of U.S. regulations.
The settlement, announced Thursday, came after the Bellevue, Wash.-based travel giant voluntarily disclosed the situation to the U.S. Treasury Department, according to the agency.
The allegations were not related to travel between the U.S. and Cuba. Instead, they arose from services Expedia provided to people traveling within Cuba, and between the island nation and countries other than the United States. These types of business activities by U.S. companies violate U.S. Cuban Assets Control Regulations.
The incidents took place between April 2011 and October 2014, according to the Treasury Department. Here’s how the agency explained what happened.
The apparent violations occurred because certain Expedia foreign subsidiaries lacked an understanding of and familiarity with U.S. economic sanctions laws and Expedia employees overlooked particular aspects of Expedia’s business that presented risks of noncompliance with sanctions. Specifically, electronically booked travel resulted from failures or gaps in Expedia’s technical implementations and other measures to avoid such apparent violations. With respect to at least one foreign subsidiary, Expedia failed to inform the subsidiary until approximately 15 months after Expedia acquired the subsidiary that it was subject to U.S. jurisdiction and law. Expedia was slow to integrate the subsidiary into the Expedia corporate family, including with respect to compliance with U.S. sanctions, and the subsidiary continued operating independently during the integration period.
The amount of the settlement was significantly less than in previous cases, such as a $5.2 million fine levied against American Express Travel in 2013. It’s also below the normal $556,250 base penalty for these types of violations, due in part to Expedia’s cooperation and efforts to correct the internal problems, according to the Treasury Department announcement.
Expedia hasn’t issued an official statement on the settlement.
As noted by the Associated Press, the settlement came a week after the Trump administration imposed new restrictions on travel between the U.S. and Cuba, reversing some of the changes made by the Obama administration in 2016.