Customs & International Trade

Customs and international trade law is a complex field of statutes and regulations that is frequently changing and violations can lead to detained, excluded, and seized shipments as well as severe civil and criminal penalties. The Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act of 2015 (TFTEA) granted new authority to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to enforce U.S. Customs laws and regulations, including through the Enforce and Protect Act (EAPA) which gives CBP authority to investigate allegations of antidumping/countervailing duty evasion.

While CBP continues to focus attention on traditional trade enforcement priorities such as forced labor and intellectual property rights, it is also enforcing newer trade remedies relating to Section 232 duties on steel and aluminum products, Section 301 duties on goods of Chinese-origin, as well as the regulations relating to the import and export of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and other COVID-19-related products and enforcement of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA).

The number of criminal cases investigated and charged relating to alleged violations of import laws has grown significantly in recent years. There also has been a sharp increase in False Claims Act/Qui Tam litigation arising from relating to violations of import and related laws. If the matter involves suspected criminal activity, the firm’s attorneys are experienced in all facets of the case from investigation and grand jury subpoena responses through declination, indictment, non-prosecution and plea agreements, trial, appeal, and post-conviction relief.

Flannery | Georgalis attorneys advise and represent U.S. and foreign companies on a full range of matters involving the import and export of goods into and from the United States, representing clients before U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations (ICE/HSI), the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC), the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR), the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA), and Mexico’s Servicio de Administración Tributaria (SAT), U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, as well as various federal courts throughout the United States.

The firm’s attorneys respond to a wide-range of sensitive inquiries, requests for information, proposed notices of action, liquidated damages notices, negligence, gross negligence, fraud, wood packing materials, and other civil penalty notices, administrative and grand jury subpoenas, notices of detention, seizure, and forfeiture, as well as conduct internal investigations, prepare complex and high-dollar prior disclosures, litigate duty and penalty enforcement actions and other Customs law disputes.

The firm also prepares ruling requests, including country of origin ruling requests for U.S. Government Procurement compliance with the Buy American Act and Trade Agreements Act, scope ruling requests, analyzes classification, country of origin, and valuation issues, conducts due diligence reviews in connection with merger and acquisitions, and advises on duty-saving strategies.

Flannery | Georgalis is trusted and we frequently receive referrals from and work with licensed customs brokers, freight forwarders, trade consultancies, and accountants to handle sensitive Customs and international trade matters for their clients.

Our Customs & International Trade Practice frequently intersects with the firm’s other practices, most notably our Anti-Money Laundering and Financial Regulatory Compliance, False Claims Act/Qui Tam Actions, Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Investigations, Government Contracts, International Litigation & Dispute Resolution, and White Collar Criminal Defense practices.

Our Experience

Representing target of Operation Stolen Promise, led by ICE/HSI, investigating smuggling allegations relating to importation of COVID-19 test kits.

Representing several importers in U.S. Court of International Trade litigation challenging the validity of USTR’s Section 301 duties on Chinese-origin goods.

Defended business owner and assisted in the defense of an employee in a criminal antidumping duty evasion case, resulting in dismissal of all charges against the employee and a successful non-incarceration sentence for the owner, with no restitution ordered.

Advising project management services company on Customs regulations and importation issues, Made in USA claim, and contract matters relating to the importation of Chinese-origin components for the U.S. manufacture of cryptocurrency mining machines.

Representing customs brokerage in prior disclosure submitted to CBP relating to the entry of goods from Canada for trade shows and U.S. and foreign goods returned compliance.

Representing U.S. subsidiary of Australian communications equipment manufacturer before CPB on country of origin ruling for U.S. Government procurement.

Advising former company officer on potential individual criminal civil and criminal liability exposure on undervaluation of Chinese-origin goods.

Advising U.S. developer of sensor and automation systems on wide-range of importation issues, including eligibility of products under Nairobi Protocol and defending position before CBP to secure decision and avoid Section 301 duties under Chapter 98 of HTSUS.

With Mexican co-counsel, represented U.S. manufacturer in NAFTA Verification proceedings conducted by SAT.

Successfully represented U.S. and non-resident importers in high-dollar prior disclosures submitted to CBP, resulting in penalties limited to accrued interest on underpaid duties.

Successfully negotiated high-dollar promissory notes with CBP’s National Finance Centers for importers with significant outstanding antidumping duties, avoiding national sanctions.

Defended U.S. and non-resident importers in high-dollar CBP civil penalties and U.S. Department of Justice duty and penalty enforcement litigation in cases involving allegations of fraud, gross negligence, and negligence (‘592 penalties) successfully resolving cases for amounts less than allegedly due.

Represent U.S. and non-resident importers before CBP in responding to investigations and assertions of goods being subject to antidumping/countervailing duties, including successfully demonstrating certain goods as outside the scope of orders or within scope exclusions, avoiding evasion allegations.

Defended Wood Packaging Materials (WPM) penalties assessed by CPB, significantly mitigating penalties to minimal amounts.

Represented importer in ICE criminal investigation of alleged undervaluation and misclassification of imported goods from China and Korea, resulting in declination of any criminal charges against business owners and successfully defended CBP ‘592 civil penalty case, negotiating settlement of same under terms of promissory note.