*The title of this post has been corrected to clarify the BIS Undersecretary’s decision.
In an unusual decision, the Undersecretary for the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security (“BIS”) remanded a civil penalty of $31,425,760 assessed by an Administrative Law Judge (“ALJ”) against Nordic Maritime Pte. Ltd., (“Nordic Maritime”) a Singapore-based marine seismic company and its chairman for violations of the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR”). While agreeing with the seriousness of the charges, the Undersecretary found that the statutory maximum penalty—double the value of the contract underlying the violations—was disproportionate in comparison to other BIS cases. The Undersecretary’s decision is available here.
The decision offers a rare public view into the BIS enforcement process involving ALJs, which differs from other agencies such as the Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”), while demonstrating that the U.S. government continues to accept limits on reasonable penalties for violations of sanctions and export control regulations, notwithstanding the administration’s otherwise intense policy focus on Iran and other sanctioned territories.