May 5, 2017

DOJ Catch of the Week — Import Merchandising Concepts

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

This week’s Department of Justice “Catch of the Week” goes to Import Merchandising Concepts L.P.  On Monday, the Texas-based importer (and two affiliated individuals) agreed to pay $275,000 to settle charges of violating the False Claims Act by evading customs duties on imports of wooden bedroom furniture from China.  The company imports, among other things, bedroom furniture for use in university student housing.  See DOJ Press Release.

According to the government, the company evaded antidumping duties by misclassifying the imported bedroom furniture as non-bedroom furniture on its official import documents.  Antidumping duties protect against foreign companies “dumping” products on the U.S. market at prices below cost to protect U.S. businesses and level the playing field for domestic products.  At the time of the imports challenged in this case, wooden bedroom furniture from China was subject to a 216 percent antidumping duty, while non-bedroom furniture was not subject to any antidumping duty.

In announcing the settlement, the government made clear that importers of foreign goods “must comply with the law, including laws intended to protect domestic companies and American workers from unfair foreign competition.”  And in a warning shot to other would-be violators, the government stressed its “commitment to pursue those who seek to evade import duties owed on goods manufactured abroad thereby gaining an unfair advantage in U.S. markets.”

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