Certain individuals who work for corporations engaging in international trade, particularly imports, now have an excuse to ask for a raise. On September 16, 2014 Court of Appeals for Federal Circuit in U.S. v. Treck Leather held defendant-officer Mr. Shadadpuri personally liable for gross negligence while introducing merchandise into the commerce of United States under 19 U.S.C. § 1592(a). While requesting the raise, following arguments may be helpful:
- Any ‘person’ who engages in the behavior prohibited by 19 U.S.C. § 1592(a) is liable thereunder regardless of whether that ‘person’ is the importer of record or not. U.S. v. Treck Leather, pg. 11.
- Person includes human beings, partnerships, associations, corporations, consignees, consignors, sellers, owners, importers, agents, and other persons. U.S. v. Treck Leather, pp. 13-14.
- Corporate liability could not have been incurred but for direct involvement of a person. U.S. v. Treck Leather, pg. 11 (“Trek’s gross negligence . . . could not have been conceded but for the direct involvement of Mr. Shadadpuri.”).
- Person imports merchandise through one or more companies owned by that person. U.S. v. Treck Leather, pg. 19 (He “imported men’s suits through one or more of his companies.”).
- Person’s own acts are enough, no piercing of corporate veil is necessary. U.S. v. Treck Leather, pg. 19 (“Applying the statute to Mr. Shadadpuri does not require any piercing of the corporate veil. Rather, we hold that Mr. Shadadpuri’s own acts come within the language of subparagraph (A).”).
- It is longstanding agency law that an agent who actually commits a tort is generally liable for the tort along with the principal, even though the agent was acting for the principal. U.S. v. Treck Leather at pg. 19 citing Restatement (Second) of Agency § 343 (1958); Restatement (Third) of Agency § 7.01 (2006).
- That rule [in ¶6] applies, in particular, when a corporate officer is acting for the corporation. U.S. v. Treck Leather at pg. 19 citing 3A Fletcher Cyc. Corp. § 1135 (2014).
- Person who personally commits a wrongful act is not relieved of liability because the person was acting for another. U.S. v. Treck Leather at pg. 19 citing United States v. Matthews, 533 F. Supp. 2d 1307, 1314 (Ct. Int’l Trade 2007), aff’d, 329 F. App’x 282 (Fed. Cir. 2009); United States v. Appendagez, Inc., 560 F. Supp. 50, 54–55 (Ct. Int’l Trade 1983).
What about the boss or the board or others who prefer not to give a raise to that demanding individual? One obvious answer is to follow the law. Of course the interpretation is not always obvious. It is puzzling, how court gets away with statement that “Applying the statute to Mr. Shadadpuri does not require any piercing of the corporate veil,” while saying just a few paragraphs earlier that “He imported men’s suits through one or more of his companies.” U.S. v. Treck Leather, pg. 19. If one imports through the company, then the courts needs to do away with the legal person prior to getting to natural one. The only way to reconcile court’s statement would be to focus on “He” part. I.e. it is not the company that does the imports, but “He.” How can next defendant, then, rebut the statement “He imported men’s suits through one or more of his companies”? In other words, how can the next defendant state that it is not him importing the stuff through the company, but rather the company itself is importing the stuff for its own purposes? I think this story is to be continued in the years to come.