Matthew J. Thomas
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Matthew J. Thomas has more than twenty years of experience in international trade, transport and maritime regulation and government affairs, representing leading energy and commodities companies, shipowners, governments, insurers, investors, ports, shipyards, and marine terminal operators.
Mr. Thomas works extensively in the areas of trade sanctions and export controls. He has represented maritime, energy and industrial clients around the world on compliance and investigations in connection with sanctions on Iran, Syria, Sudan and other targets, and has guided leading energy firms through the implementation of U.S. sanctions on Russia, and counsels companies in connection with the gradual opening of the Cuban market. He has investigated numerous cases of smuggling and money laundering in the commodities and shipping sector.
In addition, Mr. Thomas has extensive expertise in the container shipping sector. He has represented leading carriers, terminals, and logistics providers in regulatory proceedings before the Federal Maritime Commission (“FMC”), where he formerly served as the Assistant General Counsel for International Affairs, and is experienced in global container operators’ merger and integration projects.
He also counsels private companies and foreign governments on matters of international law and diplomatic strategy, particularly in defending national sovereignty or combating international trade barriers. During his government tenure, he was responsible for the FMC’s relations with foreign shipping regulators and multilateral bodies, such as the European Union (“EU”), World Trade Organization (“WTO”), and Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (“OECD”).
Mr. Thomas works with leading maritime and marine terminal clients on a broad range of compliance issues, including environmental, safety, citizenship and “Jones Act” coastwise compliance. He has represented leading energy companies in key Jones Act rulings and investigations that have shaped domestic petroleum trade, and structured complex Jones Act compliance ownership structures.
Throughout his career, Mr. Thomas has built strong relationships with U.S. government officials, trade associations, and the local legal and lobbying community. He guides international businesses in their dealings with the Departments of State, Treasury, Commerce, Transportation, as well as independent regulatory agencies and Congress.
In addition to his professional experience in maritime and international trade, Mr. Thomas has also served as a federal lobbyist and led successful lobbying efforts on the behalf of local governments, advising on federal affairs and managing relations with congressional offices.
Maritime and International Transport Sector
- Advised and represented a broad range of shipping, energy and commodities clients in connection with U.S. trade sanctions (on Iran, Cuba, Sudan, Syria, North Korea, and others), export compliance, money laundering and related matters.
- Represented container terminals in connection with FMC regulatory proceedings, assessing lease rights, public-private partnerships, and other programs.
- Advised major energy and commodity companies on Jones Act matters, including petroleum export, trade, and blending regulatory matters.
- Advised public ports on innovative programs to reduce harmful air emissions.
- Represented and advised foreign governments in connection with Vienna Convention diplomatic rights and immunities in various matters.
- Represented global shipping lines in connection with federal regulatory matters, compliance planning and training, lobbying, and responding to investigations, including practice before the FMC, U.S. Coast Guard, Maritime Administration, Customs and Border Protection, and other agencies.
- Advised international lenders and investment funds on the liability, citizenship, regulatory compliance, and vessel documentation aspects of maritime financing transactions.
- Represented a major grain exporter in connection with an agricultural trade dispute in a WTO dispute settlement proceeding.
- Served as the Washington lobbyist for a large California county and other clients.
Government Sector Maritime Experience
- Served as an advisor on maritime and transport matters to the U.S. delegation at the Uruguay Round of WTO negotiations.
- Served as the program lead in investigations and trade disputes between the U.S. and other countries (including China, Japan, and Brazil) over maritime sector market access and restrictions.
- Played a lead role in advising congressional committees and drafting and implementing rulemakings in connection with a deregulation of liner shipping.
- Participated in a month-long staff exchange with the European Commission, learning the fundamentals of EU transport and competition laws and regulations.