ALCOA fined $1,000,000 for not reporting fluoride exports

The Federal Register, August 5, 1999, reports that ALCOA was fined $1,000,000 for not reporting exports of sodium fluoride and potassium fluoride. The exports were made to Suriname and Jamaica.

[Federal Register: August 5, 1999 (Volume 64, Number 150)] [Notices] [Page 42641-42651]

From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [] [DOCID:fr05au99-47]

ALCOA has been fined $1,000,000 for committing 100 violations of the Export Administration Regulations (“EAR'') between 1991 and 1995. CHARGES 1-50: On 50 separate occasions between June 14, 1991, and December 7, 1995, ALCOA exported potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride from the United States to Jamaica and Suriniam, without obtaining from BXA the validated export licenses required by Section 772.1(b) of the former regulations. By exporting U.S.--origin commodities to any person or to any destination in violation of or contrary to the provisions of the Act or any regulation, order, or license issued thereunder, ALCOA violated Section 7878.6 of the former Regulations on 50 separate occasions, for a total of 50 violations. CHARGES 51-100: In connection with the exports described in Charges 1-50 above, on 50 separate occasions between June 14, 1991, and December 7, 1995, ALCOA used Shipper's Export Declarations, as defined in Section 770.2 of the former regulations, on which it represented, potassium fluoride and sodium fluoride, qualified for exports from the United States to Jamaica and Surinam under general license G-DEST. These chemicals required a validated license for export from the United States to both of those destinations. During the review period, the water treatment facility in Suriname used sodium fluoride to treat drinking water. Suralco's water treatment facility was located in the powerhouse which supplied electricity to and was located at Suralco's bauxite mine in Moengo, Suriname. In March 1994, Suralco sold its Moengo powerhouse and water treatment facility to Energie Bedrijven Suriname (EBS), a utility company owned by the government of Suriname. In conjunction with the sale of the powerhouse and water treatment facility, Suralco agreed to continue operating the water treatment facility for one year. Consequently, Suralco personnel were on-site at the water treatment facility at all times when ALCOA's Export Supply Division shipped sodium fluoride to Suralco. Also as part of the powerhouse sale agreement, Suralco agreed to provide the chemicals used in the water treatment facility for a period of two years following the sale. Excerpts from the ruling: " Of all the aggravating factors in this case, one is particularly damming--that the Respondent, over a period of four and one-half (4.5) years, made 50 separate exports of potassium fluoride and/or sodium fluoride in violation of the Export Administration Regulations (emphasis added). Importantly, ALCOA is not a new or small company that doesn't understand the foreign export regulatory process. Quite to the contrary, the Respondent is a large multinational corporation which had a separate division (Export Supply Division) specifically dedicated to receiving requisitions, locating suppliers, purchasing products, and shipping the requested items in accordance with applicable export licensing requirements. Thus, ALCOA's conduct, under this backdrop, was flatly inexcusable and the fact that the violations were not intentional or willful is only relevant to the fact that a federal criminal indictment was not handed down. Respondent's failure to comprehend the change in the Federal Register Notice, given the existence of its Export Supply Division, is also particularly troubling. Moreover, the fact that the unlawful shipments consisted of precursors for chemical weapons, regardless of the lack of any potential diversion in these instances, is not something that should be viewed as a technical oversight and is clearly an aggravating factor....The Respondent also argues that all of the precursor chemicals were entirely consumed at the refineries of the Respondent's subsidiary companies in Jamaica and Suriname. Once again, ALCOA misses the point. The crucial point here is that the government was deprived of possible vital information in its fight to control terrorism. In other words, if the world-wide export of chemicals/ biological agents were a puzzle being put together by a U.S. Department of Commerce security team, this information constituted 50 pieces of that puzzle that the government did not have. While it turned out that there was no problem, the fact remains that the government did not have the whole picture. Without the whole picture, or in this case, all of the information about precursor chemical exports, catastrophic errors in preventative decision- making could have occurred." " Importantly, the government voluntarily lowered the sanction bar all the way down to the level of an administrative civil penalty in this case. That having been done, the Respondent argues that the government is being harsh and should lower the bar further. In effect, the Respondent is attempting to have the government negotiate with itself. This is wrong. Based upon the detailed discussion set forth above, I find the appropriate sanction for each of these unlawful shipments is $10,000. The Respondent is a huge multi-national corporation. As such, a $10,000 penalty per violation is minuscule for ALCOA who describes itself as “one of the world's leading producers of aluminum”. At no time during this proceeding, did ALCOA's counsel raise financial hardships for mitigating any civil penalty. At some point, ALCOA has to stand up and take responsibility for it's gross and long-standing breach of legal duty. Conversely, the United States government must set its civil penalties at a high enough level to insure that large multi- national corporations don't ignore the law and if they get caught, merely consider the fine as a cost of doing business. Accordingly, it is ordered that Aluminum Company of America, having been found by preponderant evidence to have one hundred violations of the Export Administration Regulations, pay a civil penalty in the amount of $10,000 per violation for a total of $1,000,000."

Archive-Name: gov/us/fed/nara/fed-register/1999/aug/05/64FR42641A/part1, Posting-number: Volume 64, Issue 150, Page 42641A (1999)