Reed Smith Client Alerts

Last week, Assistant Secretary for Export Enforcement Matthew S. Axelrod previewed some of the ways in which the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) will change its approach to enforcing export control and antiboycott laws. BIS’s contemplated policy changes are intended to increase transparency, strengthen compliance, and incentivize deterrence.

According to Assistant Secretary Axelrod, BIS is specifically considering the following policy changes in the coming months:

  1. Administrative charging letters may become public when filed. The change would be consistent with the initiation of criminal charges or administrative proceedings with the SEC. Currently, charging letters are not public until after BIS resolves a case, often years after it began.
  2. The use of no admit/no deny settlements may be discontinued. Instead, companies would be required to admit to specific wrongdoing. While an admitted statement of facts may send a deterrent message and provide a learning opportunity for other companies, it may also make companies less likely to resolve cases before trial.
  3. Administrative penalty amounts may increase. Currently, administrative penalties can reach amounts over $300,000 per violation or twice the value of the transaction, whichever is greater. In many instances though, BIS imposes lesser penalties based on mitigating factors and remediation. Assistant Secretary Axelrod did not reference a specific increase or explain whether the increase would affect the regulations, nor did he reference the actual penalties imposed. He indicated, however, that the penalty amount should incentivize companies to invest in compliance programs or forego transactions that violate the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). He also indicated that penalties must be high enough to punish and deter violations.