Blog Post

Exporters Take Note: The Commerce Department Really, Really Wants You to Disclose Suspected Violations of the EAR—Both Yours, and Your Competitors’ Too

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We wrote earlier this year about the growing web of regulation and enforcement attention around export controls. In another key development in this area, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) issued a memo to all of its export enforcement employees on April 18,2023, both reemphasizing the importance of corporate export control compliance, and clarifying its enforcement policies in two key areas. These two developments—one a stick and one a carrot—are designed to promote more (and more significant) disclosures to BIS with respect to violations of the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”).

The first item in the memo addresses what happens when a company discovers, but does not report, a “significant possible violation” of the EAR. This marks a major policy change. Going forward, the deliberate non-disclosure of such “significant” possible violations of the EAR will be treated as an aggravating factor when BIS considers penalties. The memo explains that “significant” violations are those that “reflect potential national security harm” as compared to more technical violations. This policy emphasizes the BIS settlement guidelines that focus on the adequacy of a company’s export control program. BIS cautions companies that they face sharply increased risks if they do not make a voluntary disclosure after discovering a “significant” suspected violation.

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