Is Your Company Under Investigation by BIS, CPB, DOS, or OFAC for Import/Export Violations?
Investigations involving the U.S. Department of State (DOS), Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), Customs and Border Protection (CPB), and Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) can lead to substantial penalties including debarment, fines, and prison time. If your company is under investigation for import or export violations, it is important that you seek legal representation immediately.
Domestic companies that export products overseas and that import products from foreign suppliers are subject to the oversight of multiple federal agencies. These agencies vigorously enforce federal export and import controls in order to protect the nation’s borders and regulate international trade, and they come down heavily on companies that fall short of meeting their obligations.
If your company is under investigation by the U.S. Department of State (DOS), Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), Customs and Border Protection (CPB), Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), or any other federal agency in relation to its import or export operations, it is imperative that you speak with an attorney as soon as possible. You need to engage federal defense counsel to take control of the investigation, and you need to make sure that your company (and you) are not at risk for severe penalties.
Federal Authorities Take All Import/Export Control Violations Extremely Seriously
Due to the myriad laws and regulations that apply to cross-border transactions, companies of all sizes and in all industries frequently find themselves facing allegations of federal import/export control violations. In many cases, these allegations can be resolved with an explanation and demonstrable efforts to prevent similar issues from recurring in the future. This is because most import/export violations are unintentional; and, while not justified, unintentional violations also do not warrant the same level of scrutiny as intentional scams. Additionally, most violations involve innocuous products that do not raise national security or anti-terrorism concerns for the federal government.
But, this is not always the case, and federal authorities cannot afford to take chances. So, even when the circumstances suggest that an apparent violation is relatively benign, the DOS, BIS, CPB, OFAC, and other federal law enforcement agencies will still investigate to the fullest extent of their authority. In order to protect themselves, companies (and their owners and executives) need to fully defend themselves as well, and they must be prepared to present a compelling case for why the government’s investigation should not lead to administrative enforcement action or civil or criminal charges.
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Why Companies Nationwide Trust Our Federal Defense Team to Handle Import/Export Investigations
Companies across the country trust Oberheiden P.C.’s federal defense team to represent them in DOS, BIS, CPB, OFAC, and other federal agency investigations. Here’s why:
1. We are More Than Just a Law Firm.
Most law firms consist of a team of attorneys, most of whom are not senior-level, and some administrative professionals. But, we are different. At Oberheiden P.C., our federal defense team is comprised of attorneys and former federal agents, all of whom bring extensive knowledge and insights to the table. When you choose our firm to represent you, you will be represented by career federal defense attorneys and former federal prosecutors who have centuries of combined experience in federal cases, and your team will also include former Supervisory Special Agents and Special Agents in Charge from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and other agencies.
2. We Focus Our Practice on Federal Defense.
Our firm is also unique in that we focus our practice on federal cases. Most law firms primarily handle civil enforcement actions and criminal charges at the state level, and their attorneys have little (if any) experience helping clients avoid the severe ramifications of being charged with a federal offense. At Oberheiden P.C., each member of our team is highly-experienced in complex federal matters, and our team approach ensures that each client receives the full benefit of our federal attorneys’ and former federal agents’ collective experience.
3. We Also Focus Our Practice on Federal Compliance.
In addition to federal defense, we also represent our clients with regard to federal compliance. This is important, because if your company has violated federal export or import controls, you need to remedy the violation as soon as possible. Not only can our federal defense team help your company (and you) avoid unnecessary consequences as a result of any violations that may have been committed, but our federal compliance lawyers can make sure you have the policies and procedures in place to prevent similar problems in the future.
4. We Resolve Investigations Without Charges.
We have resolved the vast majority of our clients’ federal law enforcement investigations without charges being filed. Not only does this reduce the cost of your defense, but it also protects your company from the reputational harm that can come with being charged with a federal civil offense or crime. Of course, it also means that your company (and you) are not at risk for an unfavorable verdict in court, and this means that you can confidently re-focus your time and attention on your normal day-to-day corporate responsibilities.
5. We Provide Unwavering Litigation Defense Representation When Necessary.
When a client comes to us after being charged, or when the circumstances are such that facing civil or criminal charges is unavoidable, we provide unwavering defense representation during the pre-trial and trial phases. Unlike other firms, we do not assume that going to trial is a foregone conclusion. We have secured positive results for many of our clients at the pre-trial phase of federal civil and criminal litigation, including negotiating favorable plea deals and getting charges dismissed before trial.
Sanctions for Import/Export Control Violations in the United States
Companies and individuals targeted by the DOS, BIS, CPB, OFAC, and other federal law enforcement agencies for import-export control violations can face a host of potential sanctions. In any particular case, the specific sanctions that are on the table depend on factors, including: (i) the scope and severity of the alleged violations; (ii) the statute(s) under which the allegations are being put forth; and, (iii) whether the allegations are administrative, civil, or criminal in nature.
Alleged import/export control violations can range from failing to obtain a license from failing to obtain an export license from DOS, CPB, or OFAC to trading with the enemy and supporting state-sponsored terrorism. The breadth of potential allegations makes it especially important for companies targeted by these and other agencies to seek experienced federal defense representation. Depending on the specific allegations involved, companies and individuals targeted for alleged import/export control violations can face sanctions including:
- Debarment or Loss of Registration – Companies and individuals accused of violating the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) and related federal statutes can face debarment from participating (directory or indirectly) in any import, export, or other business activities that are governed by ITAR. Exporters can also face loss of registration with the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC).
- Civil or Criminal Fines – Companies and individuals accused of violating ITAR, the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), the Anti-Terrorism Clarification Act (ATCA), the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the International Narcotics Trafficking Emergency Response by Detecting Incoming Contraband with Technology Act (INTERDICT Act), and other import/export regulations and statutes can face fines in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. This is true in both civil and criminal law enforcement proceedings.
- Federal Incarceration – Company owners, executives, board members, and other individuals charged with criminal import and export violations can also face long-term federal imprisonment. Individuals charged with crimes under the statutes listed above (among others) can easily be at risk for decades of incarceration.
Defense Strategies for DOS, BIS, CPB, and OFAC Import/Export Investigations
With all of these considerations in mind, companies and individuals targeted for alleged import and export control violations need to execute proactive defense strategies. This is true even if the allegations appear to be “minor” or misguided. When our federal defense team represents clients in import/export control matters involving DOS, BIS, CPB, OFAC, and other agencies, we utilize defense strategies including:
- Attorney-Client Privileged Internal Assessment – By conducting a privileged internal assessment, we can identify any potential issues and address them proactively before they lead to federal enforcement action.
- Prompt Intervention – By promptly intervening in the government’s investigation, we can delay any potential charges and begin working toward a favorable outcome.
- Identifying Safe Harbors and Exceptions – The federal import/export regulations are subject to numerous safe harbors and exceptions. If one of these applies to your business, we can use it to protect you.
- Asserting Other Statutory and Regulatory Defenses – There are numerous other potential statutory and regulatory defenses to alleged import/export violations as well. We can use our experience to pursue all available defenses on your company’s (and your) behalf.
- Diligently Pursing Pre–Charge Resolution – Unless and until charges get filed, we will focus our efforts on resolving your case without formal legal action being initiated against you or your company.
Speak with a Federal Import/Export Defense Lawyer at Oberheiden P.C.
If you need to speak with a federal defense lawyer about a DOS, BIS, CPB, or OFAC investigation targeting alleged import or export control violations, we encourage you to contact us immediately. To speak with a member of our federal import/export defense team in confidence, call 214-692-2171 or tell us how to reach you online now.