Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross today announced that Zhongxing Telecommunications Equipment Corporation, of Shenzhen, China (“ZTE Corporation”) and ZTE Kangxun Telecommunications Ltd. of Hi-New Shenzhen, China (“ZTE Kangxun”) (collectively, “ZTE”) has agreed to severe additional penalties and compliance measures to replace the U.S. Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) denial order imposed as a result of ZTE’s violations of its March 2017 settlement agreement. Under the new agreement, ZTE must pay $1 billion and place an additional $400 million in suspended penalty money in escrow before BIS will remove ZTE from the Denied Persons List. These penalties are in addition to the $892 million in penalties ZTE has already paid to the U.S government under the March 2017 settlement agreement.
ZTE will also be required by the new agreement to retain a team of special compliance coordinators selected by and answerable to BIS for a period of 10 years. Their function will be to monitor on a real-time basis ZTE’s compliance with U.S. export control laws. This is the first time BIS has achieved such stringent compliance measures in any case. ZTE is also required under the new agreement to replace the entire board of directors and senior leadership for both entities. Finally, the new agreement once again imposes a denial order that is suspended, this time for 10 years, which BIS can activate in the event of additional violations during the ten-year probationary period. These collectively are the most severe penalty BIS has ever imposed on a company.
“Today, BIS is imposing the largest penalty it has ever levied and requiring that ZTE adopt unprecedented compliance measures,” said Secretary Ross. “We will closely monitor ZTE’s behavior. If they commit any further violations, we would again be able to deny them access to U.S. technology as well as collect the additional $400 million in escrow. The first settlement with ZTE set a record for civil and criminal penalties in an export control case. This new settlement agreement sets another record, and brings the total penalties assessed on ZTE to $2.29 billion.”
The purpose of this settlement is to modify ZTE’s behavior while setting a new precedent for monitoring to assure compliance with U.S. law. Embedding compliance officers into the company vastly improves the speed with which the Department of Commerce can detect and deal with any violations.
On April 15, 2018, BIS activated the suspended denial order against ZTE in response to ZTE falsely informing the U.S. Government 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. They also made false statements and obstructed justice by creating an elaborate scheme to prevent disclosures to and affirmatively mislead the U.S. Government. In addition to monetary penalties, ZTE had agreed to a seven-year suspended denial of export privileges, which could be activated if any aspect of the agreement was not met and/or if the company committed additional violations of the Export Administration Regulations.
The Commerce Department’s BIS 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. For more information, please visit us at www.bis.doc.gov