So far this month, the Department of Justice has filed three collection suits against importers accused of negligently importing goods subject to antidumping and countervailing orders. The new cases include:

  • U.S. v. 3A Industrial Supply, LLC, CIT Ct No. 14-242, seeking penalties in conjunction with one entry of butt-weld pipe fittings from China.
  • U.S. v. AMW Trading, CIT Ct. No. 14-251, seeking antidumping duties and penalties with respect to 11 entries of wire garment hangers from China.
  • U.S. v. Six Star Wholesale, Inc., CIT Ct. No. 14-252, seeking antidumping duties and penalties regarding 27 entries of Chinese wire hangers and 14 entries of Chinese polyethylene retail carrier bags.

Prior to bringing these new penalty collection claims, the U.S. government had filed only six penalty actions so far this year, just one of which involved an AD/CVD violation (relating to Chinese petroleum wax candles). But even these figures represented a significant increase over 2013, when DOJ filed only three penalty claims, just one of which involved an alleged antidumping or countervailing duty violation.

Besides showing a renewed focus on trade order violations, these cases reflect an upward trend in customs actions involving relatively low value penalty amounts. U.S. v. 3A Industrial Supply covers only a single entry, and DOJ has sought a penalty equal to the domestic value of the merchandise – approximately $77,000. And in the petroleum candle case filed earlier this year, the penalty sought was $15,000.

What does all this add up to? The government has shown itself increasingly willing to sue on small values rather than forego duties and penalties owed to the Treasury. Antidumping/countervailing duty actions are no different. The Department of Justice is sending the trade a clear signal—negligence over even a few entries will not be ignored.