Access USA Shipping, which runs the website, was once the darling of the Commerce Department. According to the company’s website, the company won that agency’s “President’s ‘E’ Award” for exporters. Do they still get to keep that award after agreeing to pay the Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) a $27 million for 150 export violations?

The allegations contained in the BIS Charging Documents, if true, are pretty harrowing. According to BIS, Access USA changed values and item descriptions in export documents to avoid export scrutiny, describing, for example, guns and weapons parts as “sporting goods accessories,” “fishing tools and spare parts,” or “tailoring tools.” In another case, employees described exported rifle stocks and grips as “toy accessories.” And then, according to BIS, the company had a “personal shopper program” not to help busy executives pick out the best ties or dresses but to have employees pose as the foreign customer, using the employee’s own personal credit cards and home addresses, where the U.S. seller had refused to sell export controlled goods to that foreign customer. There’s plenty more, but you get the gist.

Not surprisingly, the charging documents point out at length that BIS had made “outreach” visits to explain the export laws to Access Shipping. The purpose of these references, apparently, was to bolster the case, as if that were needed, that the company knew what it was doing was on the dark side of the shady line. It strikes me that when guns are described as fishing tools — hey look, it’s a barrel of fish! — you’ve pretty much got the intent issue covered.

This reference to “outreach” visits reinforces the point I’ve made before that these “outreach” visits are not as much made out of the agency’s altruistic desire to educate as they are made to build future cases when the “outreach” victim makes a mistake — although this particular case, admittedly, seems pretty far from an innocent mistake. Just say no to “outreach” visits. They will provide less information than sending employees to real training conferences and seminars and will only come back to haunt you.

Copyright © 2017 Clif Burns. All Rights Reserved. (No republication, syndication or use permitted without my consent.)