August 24, Secretary of Commerce Wilbur L. Ross, Jr. announced the selection of Roscoe C. Howard, Jr. to be the Special Compliance Coordinator (SCC) for Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation, of Shenzhen, China and ZTE Kangxun Telecommunications Ltd. of Hi-New Shenzhen, China (collectively, ZTE). The Special Compliance Coordinator was selected after a rigorous search by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS). This appointment is the result of the historic settlement between the Department of Commerce and ZTE that includes a $1.761 billion fine, a ten-year probationary period, and the installation of the coordinator to conduct regular and comprehensive compliance supervision by a team answerable to BIS.
“Today’s appointment is the continuation of the unprecedented measures imposed on ZTE by the Department of Commerce,” said Secretary Ross. “Mr. Howard is exceptionally well-versed in corporate compliance, having tried more than 100 cases as a federal prosecutor, as well as helping those in the private sector on compliance and ethics issues.”
“I am honored to be selected for this critical role,” said Mr. Howard. “My team and I will be vigilant in efforts to ensure that ZTE complies with all U.S. export control laws and regulations.”
Mr. Howard is a Partner in Barnes & Thornburg’s Litigation Department in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of Brown University and earned his J.D. from the University of Virginia School of Law. He previously served as the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia from 2001-2004. Prior to his appointment, Mr. Howard was a tenured, full professor at the University of Kansas School of Law. He has twice served as an Associate Independent Counsel under both Republican and Democrat Presidents and was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the District of Columbia and in the Eastern District of Virginia. Howard has served as an Associate Independent Counsel on two occasions. During his first occasion serving as an Associate Independent Counsel, Howard served as a lead prosecutor for the Office of Independent Counsel (OIC) investigating questionable programs, officials and activities at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development under former Secretary Samuel R. Pierce, Jr. During his second occasion serving as an Associate Independent Counsel, Howard was lead trial counsel in the fraud, false statements and gratuities investigation and trial of former Secretary of Agriculture A. Michael Espy.
The Special Compliance Coordinator’s function will be to coordinate, monitor, assess, and report on compliance with U.S. export control laws by ZTE, its subsidiaries, and affiliates worldwide. As stated in the Superseding Agreement and Order, the coordinator will operate with unprecedented access across the company.
In addition to the requirement to retain the coordinator, the Superseding Agreement and Order imposed a $1.761 billion monetary penalty, a ten-year conditionally-suspended denial order, which BIS can activate in the event of additional violations during the ten-year probationary period, and a requirement that ZTE replace the entire board of directors and the senior leadership of the company.
On April 15, 2018, BIS activated the seven-year conditionally-suspended denial order against ZTE in response to ZTE’s admission that it made false statements to the U.S. Government during the probationary period when the company falsely stated that it would or had disciplined numerous employees responsible for the violations that led to the March 2017 settlement agreement. ZTE instead rewarded that illegal activity with bonuses. This action followed the March 2017 settlement agreement, in which ZTE agreed to a then record-high BIS civil penalty of $661 million, after engaging in a multi-year conspiracy to supply, build, and operate telecommunications networks in Iran using U.S.-origin equipment in violation of the U.S. trade embargo, and committing hundreds of U.S. sanctions violations involving the shipment of telecommunications equipment to North Korea. Moreover, ZTE also made false statements and obstructed justice by creating an elaborate scheme to prevent disclosures to and mislead the U.S. Government. In addition to monetary penalties, ZTE had agreed to a seven-year suspended denial of export privileges.
The Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Industry and Security is the principal agency involved in the implementation and enforcement of export controls for commercial technologies and many military items. The BIS Office of Export Enforcement detects, prevents, investigates, and assists in the sanctioning of illegal exports of such items.