US Company Agrees to Settle Allegations of TAA Violations
The United States (US) Department of Justice (DoJ) has announced that Direct Resources Inc. (Direct Resources) “has agreed to pay the government [US]$450,000 to resolve allegations that the company falsely claimed payment in violation of the Trade Agreements Act (TAA), which prohibits the sale of products to federal agencies from countries that do not have a reciprocal trade agreement with the [US]“. Direct Resources “allegedly knowingly sold products from China”, which is not part of the designated list of countries deemed to trade fairly with the US. Therefore, Direct Resources allegedly acted in contravention of its contract with the General Services Administration (GSA). GSA inspector general Brian Miller stated that “[p]assing off unauthorized foreign products to GSA contract users cheats them out of the products they actually contracted for”.
DoJ’s media release (8 May 2012)
SEC Investigates Who Priceline is Doing Business With
The Securities and Exchange Commission contacted Priceline.com Inc. (Priceline) last fall for details regarding its business in Iran, Syria, Sudan, and Cuba. In a letter from Priceline’s General Counsel Peter Millones responding to the SEC’s inquiry, the company denies its ‘relatively insignificant” activities in Iran, Syria, and Sudan violated U.S. law. It also stated the company was unaware of any business being conducted in Cuba. The four nations are designated as sponsors of terrorism by the U.S. government which allows the U.S. to impose sanctions on them and restrict the business that U.S. companies can conduct in those countries.
Wall Street Journal: SEC Requests Details Of Priceline Activities (21 March 2012)
(Source: Wall Street Journal)
Government Warns Companies Will Pay the Price for Unauthorised Increases
Europe, Middle East and Africa
United Arab Emirates Ministry of Economy (MoE) will investigate and take action against retailers suspected of engaging in price manipulation or price increases without prior approval. MoE consumer protection department director-general Hashim Saeed Al Nuami reportedly stated that “[s]uppliers, traders or services providers are not allowed to increase their prices whenever they want unless they [can] justify the reason [behind the] increase to get an approval from the [MoE]“. Dr Al Nuami also reportedly warned that companies found to have manipulated or increased prices without approval faced fines of between Dh5,000 to Dh100,000. According to Gulf News, special teams have been employed to monitor prices throughout the country, while a barcode system that is linked to the Department of Customs is being introduced to some major retailers in order to track prices and the movement of goods.
Gulf News: Government to crack down on arbitrary price increases (15 February 2012)
(Source: Gulf News)
Three Firms Penalised for Violating Iran Sanctions Act
The Department of State (DoS) has announced that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has imposed penalties on three firms under the Iran Sanctions Act for conducting business with Iran’s energy sector. According to the DoS, the three firms, Zhuhai Zhenrong Company (China), Kuo Oil (S) Pte Ltd (Singapore), and Fal Oil Company Ltd (UAE), provided gasoline and refined petroleum to Iran worth “significantly more” than the thresholds set under US law. All three have been barred from receiving US export licences, US export-import bank financing, and loans over US$10 million from US financial institutions.
DoS’s media release (12 January 2012)
(Source: DoS; Department of the Treasury)
Dutch Appeal Court Upholds Pollution Penalty on Oil Co
The Jurist reports that the Amsterdam Appeals Court has upheld the July 2010 decision of the Amsterdam District Court to impose a one million euro fine on oil company Trafigura “for shipping hazardous waste to the Netherlands and illegally exporting the waste to the Ivory Coast in 2006″. The waste reportedly caused 15 deaths and led to thousands of people near the Ivory Coast becoming ill. Reportedly, the captain of the boat was found guilty of co-delivering the waste, as well as forgery in order to conceal the nature of the waste.
Jurist: Dutch appeals court upholds fine on oil trading company (26 December 2011)