Blog

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The laws and regulations governing international trade are especially complex and can be overwhelming for companies doing business across national borders. The rapidly expanding global marketplace, however, has made compliance more important than ever. Failure to heed these laws can have serious and lasting consequences as dire as criminal charges against the company and individual employees. The International Trade Law Compass blog offers a steady stream of updates on a broad range of international trade issues, including import/export compliance, U.S. sanctions programs, trends in cross-border contracts as well as significant criminal prosecutions and civil litigation.

Recent Blog Posts

  • Santa Claus Costume Classified as “Fancy Dress” for Import Duty Just in time for the holiday season, the U.S. Court of International Trade (“CIT”) recently held that certain components of a Santa Claus suit were of such quality that they should be subject to apparel duties, not the free duty assessed on costumes and other “festive articles.” The articles at issue were imported by Rubies Costume Co. (“Rubies”) as a complete Santa Clause costume. Included in the “premier” set, which carried a retail price of $100, were red polyester and acrylic pants,... More
  • CIT Upholds CBP Classification of “Optical” Data Modules In a recent decision, the United States Court of International Trade (CIT), upheld the classification of United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) with regard to fiber optic telecommunications modules, finding that the “optical” quality of fiber optics trumped their use for data transmission. ADC argued that, although fiber optic technologies use light (transmitted along glass cables), the technologies, including the modules at issue, are not “optical” instruments.  Further, ADC argued that the classification for optical products should be limited to articles... More
  • CIT Finds Shoe Importer Was “Grossly Negligent” In Classifying Products In recent decision, the Court of International Trade entered a $1.6 million award against shoe importer, Sterling Footwear, Inc. (“Sterling”), for what it found to be grossly negligent product misclassification.  Granting the U.S. Government’s motion for summary judgment in part, the Court left open the possibility of additional penalties of up to $20.8 million once the liability of Sterling’s owner and a related company  are determined at trial. The Court found that in 337 entries between 2007 and 2009, Sterling had misclassified... More
  • CIT Finds that Home Depot Doorknobs Are Locks In a recent opinion, the Court of International Trade upheld the determination by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) that certain doorknobs imported by home-improvement retailer Home Depot are properly classified as locks and subject to a higher duty than other doorknobs. In essence, the dispute came down to a question of whether a doorknob that locks is (i) a doorknob or (ii) a lock. Doorknobs are classified heading 8302 of the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) which covers... More
  • Gray Market Distributor Challenges CBP’s Grant of Protection to Duracell In a recent post, we discussed the lawsuit brought by battery behemoth Duracell against a company that it was importing “gray market” versions of its copper-topped products. In that action, Duracell has argued that the warranty that comes with its U.S. batteries is ten times longer than the warranty that comes with the batteries that Duracell sells to electronic manufacturers and which the defendant sought to import.  Accordingly, Duracell argued that this material difference in the warranty should permit it... More
  • Second Circuit Limits FCPA Enforcement Tools In its recent decision in United States v. Allen, 16-cr-898, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals held that testimony which is compelled pursuant to laws of foreign jurisdictions violates the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination when used as part of a U.S. prosecution.  The ruling may have a far-reaching impact on the U.S. Department of Justice’s (DOJ) enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which often rely on evidence obtained by foreign investigators. In US v. Allen, the defendants were accused of... More
  • Trump Administration Tightens Cuba Sanctions Co-Author, Santos Ramos On June 16, 2017, President Trump announced changes to United States’ Cuban sanctions regime which will stem the tide of liberalization that Obama Administration set in motion 2014. While the regulatory changes have not yet taken effect, the Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) released updated its online resources to reflect the Trump Administration’s forthcoming changes.  Most notably, under the announced changes, individual “people-to-people” travel will no longer be permitted and any trade or business... More
  • Indictments Against Shipping Executives Demonstrate DOJ’s Commitment to Individual Accountability Almost one year ago, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Norwegian Shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics AS (WWL) had agreed to pay a $98.9 million fine for its role in a conspiracy to control prices for roll-on, roll-off cargo (such as cars, trucks, and agricultural equipment) shipped to and from the United States.  At the time, the DOJ acknowledged that, in addition to the fine, WWL was cooperating in ongoing investigations and affirmed the Department’s commitment to holding “companies and... More
  • Complex FCPA Plea Agreement Gives Federal Court Pause Copyright: ginasanders / 123RF Stock Photo On June 16, 2016, Teva Pharmaceutical’s Russian subsidiary (Teva LLC) pled guilty to one count of conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  Judge Kathleen M. Williams of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida hesitated, however, in entering a final judgment under which Teva LLC would pay no fine.  While there is no doubt that Teva LLC’s parent entity will pay over a half-billion dollars for violations of the... More
  • Internet Powerhouses Make Priorities Known to U.S. Trade Representative In a letter dated May 16, 2017, the Internet Association, a trade group representing some of the largest internet companies in the country (and the world), pressed newly confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to see their perspective on trade policies in the digital age. Among the companies that the Internet Association represents are established giants such as Google, Amazon, and Facebook as well as those pushing the newest frontiers of Internet commerce, including Uber, Airbnb, and Dropbox.  This distinguished group... More