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Proposed Rule

Export Administration Regulations: Penalty Guidance in the Settlement of Administrative Enforcement Cases

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AGENCY:

Bureau of Industry and Security, Commerce.

ACTION:

Proposed rule.

SUMMARY:

The Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) proposes to amend the Export Administration Regulations by incorporating guidance on how BIS makes penalty determinations when settling administrative enforcement cases under part 766 of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), 15 CFR 730-799 (2003). This guidance also addresses related aspects of how BIS responds to violations of the EAR, such as charging decisions. This rule also proposes to amend parts 764 and 766 of the EAR to conform to this guidance.

DATES:

Comments must be received by November 17, 2003.

ADDRESSES:

Written comments should be addressed to: Chief Counsel for Industry and Security, Attention: Philip D. Golrick, Room H-3839, United States Department of Commerce, 14th Street and Constitution Avenue, NW., Washington, DC 20230. Please mark envelopes containing comments with the words “Settlement Guidance.”

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FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT:

For further information regarding this proposed rule, contact Philip D. Golrick, Office of Chief Counsel for Industry and Security, United States Department of Commerce, at (202) 482-5301.

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SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION:

Background

As an essential part of its administration of the export control system, BIS brings administrative enforcement actions for violations of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR). Many administrative enforcement cases are resolved through settlements between BIS and the respondent.

The rule proposes to incorporate guidance in the EAR on how BIS determines what penalty is appropriate for the settlement of an administrative enforcement case. This guidance would appear in a new Supplement No. 1 to part 766 of the EAR. The proposed guidance identifies both general factors, such as the destination for the export and degree of willfulness involved in violations, and specific mitigating and aggravating factors which BIS typically takes into account in determining an appropriate penalty. The proposed guidance also describes factors that BIS's Office of Export Enforcement (OEE) typically considers in describing whether a violation should be addressed in a warning letter, rather than in an administrative enforcement case. The guidance would not apply to antiboycott matters arising under part 760 of the EAR.

In part 764, the rule proposes to amend section 764.5(e) to state that Supplement No. 1 to part 766 describes how BIS typically exercises its discretion regarding whether to pursue an administrative enforcement case regarding violations reported in a voluntary self-disclosure under section 764.5, and what administrative sanctions to seek in settling such a case.

In part 766, the rule proposes to amend section 766.3(a) to state that Supplement No. 1 to part 766 describes how BIS typically exercises its discretion regarding the issuance of charging letters, other than in antiboycott matters under part 760. The rule proposes to amend section 766.18 to add a new paragraph (f), stating that Supplement No. 1 to part 766 describes how BIS typically exercises its discretion regarding the terms under which it is willing to settle particular cases, other than antiboycott matters under part 760.

This guidance is consistent with the objectives of section 223 of the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (Title II, Pub. L. 104-121).

Rulemaking Requirements

1. This proposed rule has been determined to be not significant for purposes of E.O. 12866.

2. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no person is required to respond to, nor shall any person be subject to a penalty for failure to comply with a collection of information, subject to the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act (PRA), unless that collection of information displays a currently valid OMB Control Number. This rule involves a collection of information subject to the requirements of the Paperwork Reduction Act of 1980 (44 U.S.C. 3501 et seq.). This collection has been approved by the Office of Management and Budget under Control Number 0694-0058, and carries an annual burden hour estimate of 800 hours and a cost to the public of approximately $32,000.

3. This rule does not contain policies with Federalism implications as this term is defined in Executive Order 13132.

4. Pursuant to 5 U.S.C. 553(b)(A), the provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act requiring a notice of proposed rulemaking and the opportunity for public comment are waived, because this regulation involves a general statement of policy and rule of agency procedure. No other law requires that a notice of proposed rulemaking and an opportunity for public comment be given for this rule. Because a notice of proposed rulemaking and an opportunity for public comment are not required to be given for this rule under the Administrative Procedure Act or by any other law, the analytical requirements of the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 601 et seq.) are not applicable. However, in view of the importance of this proposed rule, which represents the first comprehensive statement of BIS's approach toward these issues, BIS is seeking public comments before the proposed rule takes effect. The period for submission of comments will close November 17, 2003. BIS will consider all comments received before the close of the comment period in developing a final rule. Comments received after the end of the comment period will be considered if possible, but their consideration cannot be assured. BIS will not accept public comments accompanied by a request that a part or all of the material be treated confidentially because of its business proprietary nature or for any other reason. BIS will return such comments and materials to the persons submitting the comments and will not consider them in the development of the final rule. All public comments on this proposed rule must be in writing (including fax or e-mail) and will be a matter of public record, available for public inspection and copying. The Office of Administration, Bureau of Industry and Security, U.S. Department of Commerce, displays these public comments on BIS's Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Web site at http://www.bis.doc.gov/​foia. This office does not maintain a separate public inspection facility. If you have technical difficulties accessing this web site, please call BIS's Office of Administration at (202) 482-0637 for assistance.

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List of Subjects

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For the reasons discussed in the preamble, this proposed rule would amend Parts 764 and 766 of the EAR as follows:

1. The authority citation for 15 CFR part 764 is amended to read as follows:

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Authority: 50 U.S.C. app. 2401 et seq.; 50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.; E.O. 13222, 66 FR 44025, 3 CFR., 2001 Comp., p. 783; Notice of August 7, 2003 (68 FR 47833, August 11, 2003).

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PART 764—[AMENDED]

2. Section 764.5, paragraph (e) is revised to read as follows:

Voluntary self-disclosure.
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(e) Criteria. Supplement No. 1 to part 766 describes how BIS typically exercises its discretion regarding whether to pursue an administrative enforcement case under part 766 and what administrative sanctions to seek in settling such a case.

3. The authority citation for 15 CFR part 766 continues to read as follows:

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Authority: 50 U.S.C. app. 2401 et seq.; 50 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.; E.O. 13222, 66 FR 44025, 3 CFR., 2001 Comp., p. 783; Notice of August 7, 2003 (68 FR 47833, August 11, 2003).

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PART 766—[AMENDED]

4. Section 766.3, paragraph (a) is revised to read as follows:

Institution of administrative enforcement proceedings.

(a) Charging letters. The Director of the Office of Export Enforcement (OEE) or the Director of the Office of Antiboycott Compliance (OAC), as appropriate, or such other Department of Commerce official as may be designated by the Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Enforcement, may begin administrative enforcement proceedings under this part by issuing a charging letter in the name of BIS. Supplement No. 1 to this part describes how BIS typically exercises its discretion regarding the issuance of charging letters, other than in antiboycott matters under part 760. The charging letter shall constitute the formal complaint and will state that there is reason to believe that a violation of the EAA, the EAR, or any order, license or authorization issued thereunder, has occurred. It will set forth the essential facts about the alleged violation, refer to the specific regulatory or other provisions involved, and give notice of the sanctions available under part 764 of the EAR. The charging letter will inform the respondent that failure to answer the charges as provided in § 766.6 of this part will be treated as a default under § 766.7 of this part, that the respondent is entitled to a hearing if a written demand for one is requested with the answer, and that the respondent may be represented by counsel, or by other authorized representative who has a power of attorney to represent the respondent. A copy of the charging letter shall be filed with the administrative law judge, which filing shall toll the running of the applicable statute of limitations. Charging letters may be amended or supplemented at any time before an answer is filed, or, with permission of the administrative law judge, afterwards. BIS may unilaterally withdraw charging letters at any time, by notifying the respondent and the administrative law judge.

5. Section 766.18 is amended by adding paragraph (f) to read as follows:

Settlement.
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(f) Supplement No. 1 to this part describes how BIS typically exercises its discretion regarding the terms under which it is willing to settle particular cases, other than antiboycott matters under Part 760.

6. Part 766 is amended by adding Supplement No. 1 to read as follows:

Supplement No. 1 to Part 766-Guidance on Charging and Penalty Determinations in Settlement of Administrative Enforcement Cases

Introduction

This supplement describes how BIS responds to violations of the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), and specifically how BIS makes penalty determinations in the settlement of civil administrative enforcement cases under part 764 of the EAR. This guidance does not apply to enforcement cases for antiboycott violations under part 760 of the EAR.

Because many administrative enforcement cases are resolved through settlement, the process of settling such cases is integral to the enforcement program. BIS carefully considers each settlement offer in light of the facts and circumstances of the case, relevant precedent, and BIS's objective to achieve in each case an appropriate level of penalty and deterrent effect. In settlement negotiations, BIS encourages parties to provide, and will give serious consideration to, information and evidence that parties believe is relevant to the application of this guidance to their cases, to whether a violation has in fact occurred, or to whether they have an affirmative defense to potential charges.

This guidance does not confer any right or impose any obligation regarding what penalties BIS may seek in litigating a case or what posture BIS may take toward settling a case. Parties do not have a right to a settlement offer, or particular settlement terms, from BIS, regardless of settlement postures BIS has taken in other cases.

I. Responding to Violations

The Office of Export Enforcement (OEE), among other responsibilities, investigates possible violations of the Export Administration Act of 1979, as amended, the EAR, or any order, license or authorization issued thereunder. When it appears that such a violation has occurred, OEE investigations may lead to a warning letter or a civil enforcement proceeding. A violation may also be referred to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution. The type of enforcement action initiated by OEE will depend primarily on the nature of the violation.

A. Issuing a warning letter: Warning letters represent OEE's conclusion that an apparent violation has occurred. In the exercise of its discretion, OEE may determine in certain instances that issuing a warning letter, instead of bringing an administrative enforcement proceeding, will achieve the appropriate enforcement result. A warning letter will fully explain the apparent violation and urge compliance. OEE often issues warning letters to first-time offenders for an apparent violation based on technicalities; where good faith efforts to comply with the law and cooperate with the investigation are present; where the investigation commenced as a result of a voluntary self-disclosure satisfying the requirements of §764.5; and where no aggravating factors exist. A warning letter does not constitute a final agency determination that a violation has occurred.

B. Pursuing an administrative enforcement case: The issuance of a charging letter under §766.3 initiates an administrative enforcement proceeding. Charging letters may be issued when there is reason to believe that a violation has occurred. Cases may be settled before or after the issuance of a charging letter. See § 766.18. BIS prepares a proposed charging letter when a case is settled before issuance of an actual charging letter. See § 766.18(a). In some cases, BIS also sends a proposed charging letter to a party in the absence of a settlement agreement, thereby informing the party of the violations that BIS has reason to believe occurred and how BIS expects that those violations would be charged.

C. Referring for criminal prosecution: In appropriate cases, BIS may refer a case to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution, in addition to pursuing an administrative enforcement action.

II. Types of Administrative Sanctions

There are three types of administrative sanctions under section 764.3(a) of the EAR: a civil penalty, a denial of export privileges, and an exclusion from practice before BIS. Administrative enforcement cases are generally settled on terms that include one or more of these sanctions.

A. Civil penalty: A monetary penalty may be assessed for each violation. The maximum amount of such a penalty per violation is stated in section 764.3(a)(1), subject to adjustments under the Federal Civil Penalties Start Printed Page 54404Adjustment Act of 1990 (28 U.S.C. 2461, note (2000)), which are codified at 15 CFR 6.4.

B. Denial of export privileges: An order denying a party's export privileges may be issued, as described in § 764.3(a)(2). Such a denial may extend to all export privileges, as set out in the standard terms for denial orders in Supplement No. 1 to part 764, or may be narrower in scope (e.g., limited to exports of specified items or to specified destinations or customers).

C. Exclusion from practice: Under § 764.3(a)(3), any person acting as an attorney, accountant, consultant, freight forwarder or other person who acts in a representative capacity in any matter before BIS may be excluded from practicing before BIS.

III. How BIS Determines What Sanctions Are Appropriate in a Settlement

A. General Factors: BIS usually looks to the following basic factors in determining what administrative sanctions are appropriate in each settlement:

Degree of Willfulness: Many violations involve no more than simple negligence or carelessness. In most such cases, BIS typically will seek a settlement for payment of a civil penalty (unless the matter is resolved with a warning letter). In cases involving gross negligence, willful blindness to the requirements of the EAR, or knowing or willful violations, BIS is more likely to seek a denial of export privileges or an exclusion from practice, and/or a greater monetary penalty than BIS would otherwise typically seek. While some violations of the EAR have a degree of knowledge or intent as an element of the offense, see, e.g., § 764.2(e) (acting with knowledge of a violation) and § 764.2(f) (possession with intent to export illegally), BIS may regard a violation of any provision of the EAR as knowing or willful if the facts and circumstances of the case support that conclusion. In deciding whether a knowing violation has occurred, BIS will consider, in accordance with Supplement No. 3 to part 732, the presence of any red flags and the nature and result of any inquiry made by the party. A denial or exclusion order may also be considered even in matters involving simple negligence or carelessness, particularly if the violations(s) involved harm to national security or other essential interests protected by the export control system, if the violations are of such a nature and extent that a monetary fine alone represents an insufficient penalty or if the nature and extent of the violation(s) indicate that a denial or exclusion order is necessary to prevent future violations of the EAR.

Destination Involved: BIS is more likely to seek a greater monetary penalty and/or denial of export privileges or exclusion from practice in cases involving:

(1) Exports or reexports to countries subject to anti-terrorism controls, as described at §742.1(d).

(2) Exports or reexports to destinations particularly implicated by the type of control that applies to the item in question—for example, export of items subject to nuclear controls to a country with a poor record of nuclear non-proliferation.

Violations involving exports or reexports to other destinations may also warrant consideration of such sanctions, depending on factors such as the degree of willfulness involved, the nature and extent of harm to national security or other essential interests protected by the export control system, and what level of sanctions are determined to be necessary to deter or prevent future violations of the EAR.

Related Violations: Frequently, a single export transaction can give rise to multiple violations. For example, an exporter who mis-classifies an item on the Commerce Control List may, as a result of that error, export the item without the required export license and submit a Shipper's Export Declaration (SED) that both misstates the applicable Export Control Classification Number (ECCN) and erroneously identifies the export as qualifying for the designation “NLR” (no license required). In so doing, the exporter committed three violations: one violation of §764.2(a) for the unauthorized export and two violations of §764.2(g) for the two false statements on the SED. It is within the discretion of BIS to charge three separate violations and settle the case for a penalty that is less than would be appropriate for three unrelated violations under otherwise similar circumstances, or to charge fewer than three violations and pursue settlement in accordance with that charging decision. In exercising such discretion, BIS typically looks to factors such as whether the violations resulted from knowing or willful conduct, willful blindness to the requirements of the EAR, or gross negligence; whether they stemmed from the same underlying error or omission; and whether they resulted in distinguishable or separate harm.

Multiple Unrelated Violations: In cases involving multiple unrelated violations, BIS is more likely to seek a denial of export privileges, an exclusion from practice, and/or a greater monetary penalty than BIS would otherwise typically seek. For example, repeated unauthorized exports could warrant a denial order, even if a single export of the same item to the same destination under similar circumstances might warrant just a monetary penalty. BIS takes this approach because multiple violations may indicate serious compliance problems and a resulting risk of future violations. BIS may consider whether a party has taken effective steps to address compliance concerns in determining whether multiple violations warrant a denial or exclusion order in a particular case.

Timing of Settlement: Under §766.18, settlement can occur before a charging letter is served, while a case is before an administrative law judge, or while a case is before the Under Secretary for Industry and Security under §766.22. However, early settlement—for example, before a charging letter has been served—has the benefit of freeing resources for BIS to deploy in other matters. In contrast, for example, the BIS resources saved by settlement on the eve of an adversary hearing under §766.13 are fewer, insofar as BIS has already expended significant resources on discovery, motions practice, and trial preparation. Because the effective implementation of the U.S. export control system depends on the efficient use of BIS resources, BIS has an interest in encouraging early settlement and may take this interest into account in determining settlement terms.

Related Criminal or Civil Violations: Where an administrative enforcement matter under the EAR involves conduct giving rise to related criminal or civil charges, BIS may take into account the related violations, and their resolution, in determining what administrative sanctions are appropriate under part 766. A criminal conviction indicates serious, willful misconduct and an accordingly high risk of future violations, absent effective administrative sanctions. However, entry of a guilty plea can be a sign that a party accepts responsibility for complying with the EAR and will take greater care to do so in the future. In appropriate cases where a party is receiving substantial criminal penalties, BIS may find that sufficient deterrence may be achieved by lesser administrative sanctions than would be appropriate in the absence of criminal penalties. Conversely, BIS might seek greater administrative sanctions in an otherwise similar case where a party is not subjected to criminal penalties. The presence of a related criminal or civil disposition may distinguish settlements among civil penalty cases that appear otherwise to be similar. As a result, the factors set forth for consideration in civil penalty settlements will often be applied differently in the context of a “global settlement” of both civil and criminal cases, or multiple civil cases, and may therefore be of limited utility as precedent for future cases, particularly those not involving a global settlement.

B. Specific Mitigating and Aggravating Factors: In addition to the general factors described above, BIS also generally looks to the presence or absence of the following mitigating and aggravating factors in determining what sanctions should apply in a given settlement. Where a factor admits of degrees, it should accordingly be given more or less weight. Thus, for example, one prior violation should be given less weight than a history of multiple violations, and a previous violation reported in a voluntary self disclosure by an exporter whose overall export compliance efforts are of high quality should be given less weight than previous violation(s) not involving such mitigating factors.

Some of the factors listed below are designated as having “great weight.” When present, such a factor should ordinarily be given considerably more weight than a factor that is not so designated.

Mitigating Factors

1. The party made a voluntary self-disclosure of the violation, satisfying the requirements of §764.5. (GREAT WEIGHT)

2. The party has an effective export compliance program and its overall export compliance efforts have been of high quality. In determining the presence of this factor, BIS will take account of the extent to which a party complies with the principles set forth in BIS's Export Management System (EMS) Guidelines. Information about the EMS Guidelines can be accessed through the BIS Web site at http://www.bis.doc.gov. In this context, BIS will also consider whether a party's export compliance program Start Printed Page 54405uncovered a problem, thereby preventing further violations. (GREAT WEIGHT)

3. The violation was an isolated occurrence or the result of a good-faith misinterpretation.

4. Based on the facts of a case and under the applicable licensing policy, required authorization for the export transaction in question would likely have been granted upon request.

5. Other than with respect to antiboycott matters under part 760:

a. The party has never been convicted of an export-related criminal violation;

b. In the past five years, the party has not entered into a settlement of an export-related administrative enforcement case with BIS or another U.S. Government agency or been found liable in an export-related administrative enforcement case brought by BIS or another U.S. Government agency;

c. In the past three years, the party has not received a warning letter from BIS; and

d. In the past five years, the party has not otherwise violated the EAR.

Where necessary to effective enforcement, the prior involvement in export violations of a party's owners, directors, officers, partners, or other related persons may be imputed to a party in determining whether these criteria are satisfied.

6. The party has cooperated to an exceptional degree with BIS efforts to investigate the party's conduct.

7. The party has provided substantial assistance in BIS investigation of another person who may have violated the EAR.

8. The violation was not likely to involve harm of the nature that the applicable provisions of the EAA, EAR or other authority (e.g., a license condition) were intended to protect against; for example, a false statement on an SED that an export was “NLR,” when in fact a license requirement was applicable, but a license exception was available.

9. At the time of the violation, the party: (1) Had little or no previous export experience; and (2) was not familiar with export practices and requirements. (Note: The presence of only one of these elements will not generally be considered a mitigating factor.)

Aggravating Factors

1. The party made a deliberate effort to hide or conceal the violation(s). (GREAT WEIGHT)

2. The party's conduct demonstrated a serious disregard for export compliance responsibilities. (GREAT WEIGHT)

3. The violation was significant in view of the sensitivity of the items involved and/or the reason for controlling them to the destination in question. This factor would be present where the conduct in question, in purpose or effect, substantially implicated national security or other essential interests protected by the U.S. export control system, in view of such factors as the destination and sensitivity of the items involved. Such conduct might include, for example, violations of controls based on nuclear, biological, and chemical weapon proliferation, missile technology proliferation, and national security concerns, and exports proscribed in part 744. (GREAT WEIGHT)

4. The violation was likely to involve harm of the nature that the applicable provisions of the EAA, EAR or other authority (e.g., a license condition) are principally intended to protect against, e.g., a false statement on an SED that an export was destined for a non-embargoed country, when in fact it was destined for an embargoed country.

5. The quantity and/or value of the exports was high, such that a greater penalty may be necessary to serve as an adequate penalty for the violation or deterrence of future violations, or to make the penalty proportionate to those for otherwise comparable violations involving exports of lower quantity or value.

6. The presence in the same transaction of concurrent violations of laws and regulations, other than those enforced by BIS.

7. Other than with respect to antiboycott matters under part 760:

a. The party has been convicted of an export-related criminal violation;

b. In the past five years, the party has entered into a settlement of an export-related administrative enforcement case with BIS or another U.S. Government agency or has been found liable in an export-related administrative enforcement case brought by BIS or another U.S. Government agency;

c. In the past three years, the party has received a warning letter from BIS; or

d. In the past five years, the party otherwise violated the EAR. Where necessary to effective enforcement, the prior involvement in export violations of a party's owners, directors, officers, partners, or other related persons may be imputed to a party in determining whether these criteria are satisfied.

8. The party exports as a regular part of the party's business, but lacked a systematic export compliance effort.

In deciding whether and what scope of denial or exclusion order is appropriate, the following factors are particularly relevant: the presence of mitigating or aggravating factors of great weight; the degree of willfulness involved; in a business context, the extent to which senior management participated in or was aware of the conduct in question; the number of violations; the existence and seriousness of prior violations; the likelihood of future violations (taking into account relevant export compliance efforts); and whether a monetary penalty can be expected to have a sufficient deterrent effect.

IV. How BIS Makes Suspension and Deferral Decisions

A. Civil Penalties: In appropriate cases, payment of a civil monetary penalty may be deferred or suspended. See §764.3(a)(iii). In determining whether suspension or deferral is appropriate, BIS may consider, for example, whether the party has demonstrated a limited ability to pay a penalty that would be appropriate for such violations, so that suspended or deferred payment can be expected to have sufficient deterrent value, and whether, in light of all of the circumstances, such suspension or deferral is necessary to make the impact of the penalty consistent with the impact of BIS penalties on other parties who committed similar violations.

B. Denial of Export Privileges and Exclusion from Practice: In deciding whether a denial or exclusion order should be suspended, BIS may consider, for example, the adverse economic consequences of the order on the respondent, its employees, and other parties, as well as on the national interest in the competitiveness of U.S. businesses. An otherwise appropriate denial or exclusion order will be suspended on the basis of adverse economic consequences only if it is found that future export control violations are unlikely and if there are adequate measures (usually a substantial civil penalty) to achieve the necessary deterrent effect.

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Dated: September 9, 2003.

Kenneth I. Juster,

Under Secretary of Commerce for Industry and Security.

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[FR Doc. 03-23499 Filed 9-16-03; 8:45 am]

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