As those of you who've been reading this blog for a while already know, the Bureau of Industry and Security's FOIA reading room is a treasure trove of export violation data and one that I mine frequently. There is no better source of hard facts on the government's commercial export control enforcement priorities. Enforcement officials might say that a certain industry or practice is at the top of their list, but enforcement actions -- fines, denial orders, and other penalties -- are where the rubber meets the road.
There are some limits to the usefulness of these data. For starters, settlement agreements are a backward-looking indicator. Years may pass between when the alleged violation was committed (or even discovered by the feds) and a settlement is reached or penalty assessed. By the time a case is published to the web, OEE may well have reprioritized their workload and turned their attention from, say, crime control items to stuff useful in developing chemical weapons. And of course neither written or oral warnings nor charging letters which do not result in a penalty ever find their way to the web. (These usually remain under lock and key in some now-quite-relieved compliance manager's desk drawer.)
Still, with these caveats in mind, the violation data can be quite helpful in understanding what sorts of activities are likely to attract the most unwanted attention from federal law enforcement. There's just one further problem -- the BIS website only archives violation documents going back to February of 2000. For whatever reason, BIS removed the links to the earlier cases. That's unfortunate because there is undoubtedly much useful info in those documents. Wouldn't you like to know how often companies exporting products under the same ECCNs as yours have been penalized?
As a service to our readers, ECB has compiled about eighty of the earlier case documents (numbers E563-E644) dating as far back as January 1998 into a single 50 megabyte zip file. Go crazy.