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Federal Compliance and Defense Representation for Importers

June 22, 2020

Legal Representation for Importers in Federal Compliance and Defense Matters

Companies in the U.S. that import products from other countries face a slew of federal compliance obligations. The same holds true for companies that obtain technology transfers, software licenses, and other intellectual property assets from foreign entities. If your business is subject to federal import controls, our lawyers and former federal agents can work with you on all aspects of federal compliance. We are equipped to represent your company if it has become subject to a federal audit or investigation.


As consumers, none of us gives a thought to ordering products that we want from businesses around the world. Nevertheless,  as a business, importing products – tangible and intangible ones alike – takes on a completely different dimension. Federal import compliance can be a formidable undertaking for companies of all sizes, and the repercussions of non-compliance can be severe. 


Here at Spodek Law Group, our client roster includes companies across the country in the realm of federal import compliance. We help foreign businesses with import control compliance also. Whether you are just beginning to create an import compliance program or you have run into a difficult situation with the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), or any other federal agency, we can steer you through your situation.  We will use our skills to help you avoid sanctions and other penalties.


Complying With Federal Import Rules: What Is Required to Lawfully Import Products into the United States?

There are numerous aspects to federal import compliance in this country. Many different laws and regulations can potentially apply to your company.  The specific obligations to your business operations will be determined based on details including (i) the type(s) of products you import, (ii) the nation from which you are importing, and (iii) possibly even the company from which you are purchasing the products. 


Our federal import compliance counsel can steer you away from compliance mistakes that could result in problems with CBP, OFAC, and other agencies. We provide our clients with custom-tailored compliance regiments. We also furnish comprehensive legal representation for all federal import compliance needs.


Import Compliance Program Development and Implementation 

For companies based in the U.S. that import tangible and intangible products (including software and technology licenses) from foreign entities, compliance is paramount. We can provide full-service compliance representation, from assessment of needs to training and implementation:


  1. Needs Assessment for Import Compliance

Ahead of implementing an import compliance program, you need to determine what compliance measures are necessary. Companies’ import compliance requirements are extremely circumstantial, and what is necessary for one company could be completely irrelevant for the next. Before we take any measures toward creating a compliance program, we carry out a comprehensive needs assessment in order to make certain that we are doing all that is required without wasting time and resources on anything that isn’t necessary.


  1. Policies and Procedures for Import Compliance

As soon as we determine what your company requires, then we can get to work crafting compliance policies and procedures that are uniquely tailored to your company’s import operations. Our federal import compliance team will draft clear and practical compliance documents that your company can employ in an effort to avoid unwanted federal scrutiny. The compliance documents will cover all applicable import laws and regulations; and, if you wish, we can integrate these documents with the existing policies and procedures already in force in your business.



  1. Due Diligence and Contracting Involving Third-Parties

Third-party due diligence is a critical aspect of import compliance. Businesses in the United States need to make certain that the foreign entities from which they are buying, their import brokers, and the other third parties with whom they transact business are not exposing them to risk for federal enforcement action. Our attorneys can perform efficient and comprehensive due diligence prior to your company doing business with a new third-party supplier or broker.  Also, we can peruse and negotiate the terms of your company’s commercial contracts to ensure that they do not leave out any key terms or otherwise bring up any import compliance concerns. 


  1. Compliance Matters with CBP, OFAC, and Other Federal Agency

Our lawyers can help your company with OFAC general and specific licensing, CBP rulings, and other federal agency compliance issues as well. In various circumstances, before beginning to  import products into the United States, notification of federal authorities is necessary and you need to seek advance approval. We can help you figure out when these types of measures are required.  In addition, we can help you adopt protocols crafted to make sure that these requirements are never overlooked, and we can seek the requisite rulings, licenses, and approvals on behalf of  your company. 


  1. Training and Implementation and Import Compliance Program

Once we have fully addressed your company’s import compliance requirements through policy documentation, the next stage is to train your company’s staff and launch your new compliance initiatives on a company-wide scale. The amount of effort this involves will rely on your company’s size and the scope of its import operations.  We can custom-tailor our training and implementation efforts to work with your company’s specific needs. 


  1. Reevaluation and Reinvigoration of YourImport Compliance Program

Import compliance is not a one-time situation. When your company has implemented a compliance regiment, for the program to continue to be effective, companies constantly need to monitor their personnel’s adherence to the program.  Continual reassessment of their needs on an ongoing basis is wise. Because of the specific nature of numerous import compliance regulations, even minor shifts in business functions can have drastic compliance implications; and, as a result, companies need to be agile enough to update and modify their import compliance programs to suit. 


  1. Internal Compliance Audits and Event Response

So as to determine whether an import compliance initiative is working (and to see if there are any gaps in documentation or implementation that need to be addressed), companies should be auditing their compliance efforts. Our lawyers conduct internal compliance audits on our clients’ behalf.  Such audits are protected by the attorney-client privilege.  When it becomes necessary, we assist our clients with addressing and remedying import compliance violations. 


Responding to All Federal Import Laws and Regulations that Apply to Your Business

Learning what your company’s needs are in terms of an import compliance program isn’t a simple feat. Companies must make their way through a complex web of federal rules and regulations, and also abide by the rules of a multitude of federal administrative and law enforcement agencies. At Spodek Law Group, our lawyers rely on extensive federal experience to spot the issues that are pertinent to our clients’ businesses, which may encompass:


  • Certification Under the Customs-Trade Partnership Against Terrorism (C-TPAT)  
  • OFAC General and Specific Licenses,Customs Rulings, and Other Necessary Authorizations and Approvals
  • Exemptions, Duty Reduction, and Reconciliation 
  • Exclusions and Exemptions Under Tariff Statutes and Various Federal Import Laws and Regulations
  • Compliance with NAFTA (USMCA) and Other Free Trade Agreement
  • Compliance with Harmonized Tariff Schedule (HTS) Classifications
  • Technology Transfers, Software Licensing, Importer of Record (IOR), and Other Special Compliance Issues 


What Does it Take to Avoid Administrative, Civil, and Criminal Penalties in Federal Import Control Audits and Investigations?

In spite of the most well intentioned efforts to comply, companies can nonetheless find themselves subject to federal audits and investigations targeting alleged statutory and regulatory violations. Such audits and investigations can arise in numerous contexts, from regular agency reviews to whistleblower claims and criminal fraud accusations.


In addition to helping our clients with federal compliance, we also furnish strategic representation for federal import control audit and investigation defense. If your business is being targeted, or if a trade partner or competitor is subject to an investigation and you are concerned that your company might be next, we encourage you to reach out to us right away. 


Companies that face federal import control audits and investigations can rely on us for services including:


  1. Preliminary Risk Assessment

Import control investigations and audits can target numerous administrative, civil, and criminal violations. Our first order of business will be to determine the scope, nature, and severity of the issue(s) at hand. 


  1. Intervening in the Audit or Investigation

Our lawyers will quickly intervene in the audit or investigation to make the federal agency (or agencies) aware that your company is represented. Also, this can slow down the process and give us a window to implement a tactical and targeted defense. 


  1. Proactive Defense Representation 

As the audit or investigation carries on, our focus will be on putting the matter to rest without any further law enforcement action. We will liaise with the relevant agency(ies) to deal with any deficiencies, show them your company’s good-faith compliance efforts, and demonstrate to them that your company is committed to compliance going forward. 


  1. Avoiding Federal Charges and Indictments

In any event, we are commited to making sure that your company, its owners, and executives never get charged civilly or criminally. As of this writing, we have resolved the vast majority of the audits and investigations our clients have faced without charges being filed. 


  1. Defending You Against Charges in Administrative and Judicial Proceedings

If, after all we have done, it still becomes necessary, we will rely on the centuries of combined experience that our attorneys have gained on both sides of federal law enforcement matters to defend your company, its owners, and executives in court. We will work dilligently toward a favorable pre-trial resolution while also getting ready for the possibility of trial.



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