The U.S. government continues to vigorously enforce U.S. export laws against both U.S. and non-U.S. companies. In addition to monetary penalties, companies charged with violating U.S. export laws may be subject to strict compliance obligations. In extreme cases, the U.S. government may even suspend a company’s export privileges.

In this webinar, we will discuss recent

On October 12, the U.S. Commerce Department, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced that it imposed a civil penalty fine against VTA Telecom Corporation (VTA) for the unauthorized export of controlled commodities to Vietnam.  Additionally, BIS is requiring VTA to improve its export control compliance efforts and retain a Director of Trade Compliance.  Alternatively, VTA can dissolve or cease operations.

VTA, located in Milpitas, California, was established in 2013 as a subsidiary of a Vietnamese state-owned telecommunications company.  BIS is the primary U.S. government agency responsible for administering and enforcing export controls on commercial items that could support weapons proliferation and other threats to U.S. national security.

According to BIS, VTA procured and exported items from the United States to its parent company in Vietnam with knowledge that certain of those exports were intended to support a Vietnamese defense program. To settle the matter, VTA agreed to the following:

  1. A penalty of $1,869,372.
  2. Expenditure of $25,000 to fund its internal export compliance program (ICP).
  3. Hiring and retention of a Director of Trade Compliance to oversee VTA’s export activities for at least two years.


Continue Reading BIS Imposes Civil Fine and Compels Hiring of Compliance Official or Cease Operations

On September 28, the U.S. Commerce Department, Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) announced that it has imposed a civil penalty fine and denial of export privileges against Vorago Technologies (Vorago) for the unauthorized export of controlled commodities to Russia.

Vorago is a U.S. manufacturer of integrated circuits for use in environments with high radiation levels and extreme temperatures.  The company’s products are particularly well suited for use in space.  BIS is the primary U.S. government agency that administers and enforces U.S. export controls on commercial items, including particularly strict licensing requirements on items that can be used with weapons of mass destruction or conventional weapons.

According to BIS, Vorago engaged in a conspiracy with a Russian company, Cosmos Complect (Cosmos), to circumvent U.S. export controls.  To settle the matter, Vorago agreed to the following:

  1. A penalty of $497,000, and
  2. Denial of export privileges until September 2023.

The denial of export privileges, and roughly half of the penalty, will be suspended as long as Vorago complies with the terms of the settlement.


Continue Reading U.S. Technology Company Pays for Unauthorized Exports to Russia

On August 3, 2021, the U.S. State Department Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) issued an order laying out charges and imposing a monetary penalty of $6.6 million on Keysight Technologies, a U.S. technology and software company, for 24 alleged violations of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).  The ITAR are the primary U.S. regulations that control exports of defense articles, services, and technology, including software.

Keysight and DDTC settled the matter through a Consent Agreement that also requires Keysight to take specific compliance measures, including maintaining a designated compliance officer, for a period of three years.

We want to highlight three particular elements of this matter.


Continue Reading Export Enforcement Update: The Importance of Commodity Classification

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I recently provided insights on export control law related to technology and research in a recent article in Chemistry World.  The article covers a recent settlement between Princeton University and the U.S. Commerce Department. Under the settlement, Princeton agreed to pay a fine for alleged export violations related to research sent to foreign facilities in

On February 1, the U.S. Commerce Department, Bureau of Industry & Security (BIS), announced a settlement (available here) with Princeton University in connection with 37 alleged violations of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR).  The EAR are the main regulations that govern exports of commercial goods, software and technology; BIS has principal responsibility for administering and enforcing the EAR.

The settlement is a valuable reminder of the amount of export-controlled activity that takes place at and involving universities, academic medical centers, and other research institutions.  Penalties for export violations can be significant.  Legal departments, compliance departments, and offices of sponsored research therefore must ensure that faculty – many of whom may be non-U.S. nationals – are aware of their responsibilities under U.S. export law.

Alleged Violations

According to BIS, the violations occurred when Princeton exported strains and recombinants of animal pathogen to non-U.S. research institutions.  These items are controlled for export for chemical and biological reasons, and thus an export license is required to make the exports.  Princeton did not obtain the necessary export licenses.


Continue Reading Princeton Penalized for Alleged Research-Related Export Violations

In recent months, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) have announced several notable penalties for violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).  The FCPA prohibits bribery of foreign government officials and requires issuers of securities on U.S. exchanges to keep and maintain accurate books and records and robust internal controls.

We have summarized a few of these enforcement actions below to serve as a reminder of the various ways in which companies can fall afoul of the FCPA.

Goldman Sachs Pays Largest-Ever FCPA Penalty

In October 2020, Goldman Sachs Group Inc. (Goldman Sachs) agreed to a $3.3 billion penalty to resolve allegations that the company and its Malaysian subsidiary violated the FCPA by making payments to a Malaysian sovereign wealth fund 1Malaysia Development Berhad (1MDB).  This represents the largest-ever FCPA penalty imposed on a company.

The DOJ and SEC alleged that senior employees of Goldman Sachs used a third-party intermediary to bribe high-ranking government officials in Abu Dhabi and Malaysia.  The improper payments were allegedly made by Goldman Sachs to assist with efforts to obtain business from 1MDB.


Continue Reading FCPA Update: Enforcement Continues

Two recent enforcement actions taken by the U.S. Treasury Department, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) serve as a reminder of the long-arm and broad scope of U.S. economic sanctions jurisdiction.  (Separately, perhaps nothing illustrates the breadth of OFAC’s purview as well as the agency’s recent Advisory on Potential Sanctions Risks Arising from Dealings in High-Value Artwork.)  OFAC is the main U.S. government agency that administers U.S. sanctions.

Berkshire Hathaway Agrees to Settlement for Violations of U.S. Sanctions on Iran

On October 20, 2020, OFAC announced a settlement with Berkshire Hathaway related to alleged violations of U.S. sanctions on Iran committed by Berkshire’s Turkish subsidiary.  Berkshire is the multinational holding company headed by billionaire Warren Buffett.

According to OFAC, Berkshire’s Turkish subsidiary made 144 shipments of cutting tools and related products to Turkish distributors with knowledge that the goods would be shipped on to Iran.  The products were valued at approximately $383,000.


Continue Reading OFAC Enforcement Update: November 2020

As developments related to COVID-19 continue to unfold, Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys are monitoring the situation and providing guidance through a series of video chats entitled, “COVID-19 Compliance Conversations.”

In this episode, Thad McBride is joined by Mahesh Joshi, Vice President & Chief Compliance Officer at NCR. Mahesh shares thoughts on how he