Four years ago, this blog last reported on Microwave Equipment Corporation (“MEC”) in North Andover, Massachusetts, when its President, Rudolf Cheung, pleaded guilty to exporting a military antenna to Singapore without a license. MEC is back in the spotlight again having just agreed to pay the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (“DDTC”) $100,000 in connection with MEC’s unlicensed provision of ITAR-controlled technical data to a Chinese national employee without a license. According to the Proposed Charging Letter, Cheung “repeatedly provided Employee with ITAR-controlled … technical data … between December 2009 and June 2010 … in relation to five discrete research and manufacturing projects.”
The charging letter specifically noted MEC’s “exceptional cooperation” during the investigation, but still decided to whack the company with a large fine, citing the fact that the employee was Chinese and, apparently more significantly, the delay by MEC in filing the voluntary disclosure after discovering the violation:
Respondent’s Export Compliance Officer became aware that specific projects were being discussed with Employee in or around May 2010, and took steps to limit such conversations. Respondent did not, however, submit a disclosure to DDTC reporting the unauthorized transfer of ITAR-controlled information to Employee until January 20, 2012. The disclosure was submitted by the company on the same day that Dr. Cheung pleaded guilty to an unrelated criminal violation of the AECA.
This seems harsh, to say the least. It is obviously not a coincidence that the voluntary disclosure was not filed until Cheung, the president of the company, pleaded guilty to his own export charges. Clearly, Cheung, no doubt for his own reasons, was blocking the disclosure, and it seems unfair to penalize those left behind for these additional violations by Cheung because he delayed their disclosure. Still, this underlines the conventional wisdom that voluntary disclosures should be filed promptly after the discovery of the violation.
As an interesting footnote, Cheung has still not been sentenced, almost four years after his guilty plea. A sentencing hearing was scheduled for April 24, 2015, but it did not take place. Since that time, various deadlines and hearings were reset by the court. The last docket entry is a call for a joint status report which was due to be filed on January 29, 2016, but appears to have never been filed.