Author: howard-woltmann

Last week, there was a court ruling that was issued in a case that has far-reaching implications for individuals who serve on corporate boards or as corporate compliance officers in their companies.

The case, US vs. Trek Leather, investigated the issue of whether or not a member of Trek’s board (the President) could be held jointly liable with the company for a penalty.

Issued on September 16th, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit reversed an earlier ruling, determining that the individual did cause the importation of undervalued merchandise and can be held liable for gross negligence.

You can read the decision here, but the early takeaway is that where individuals previously could have been shielded from a penalty and prosecution by Customs, that could be off the table if the individual was discovered to have played a material role in causing the violation.


It is an honor to serve as the Board member representing the JFK Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association before our industry’s trade association, the National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America, or NCBFAA. As one of eighteen elected individuals from around the United States who serves with the four-person executive committee, we tackle the issues which face our industry ranging from technology to management to interacting with government agencies whose activities and practices are so varied across every port in the United States that there are never a shortage of issues to be addressed.

The board meets quarterly (January, April, June and September) and the September meeting is always immediately before their Government Affairs Conference.

Held annually in Washington, DC, this is the time when industry professionals from around the country descend on our nation’s Capitol to hear about, and hear from, the agencies who regulate us and the Congress who writes the laws that govern us and them. On Tuesday, we then disperse across Capitol Hill, visiting offices of Senators and Congressman to discuss and seek their support on the issues which are impacting our industry.

The time spent in Washington is valuable for two reasons. First, it allows me to connect with my peers from around the country to hear what is happening in their individual ports and help me understand locally what is impacting our customers. Second, it allows me to network on behalf of the JFK Association, as well as Overton, to stress the importance of free and open trade, border security and fairness from the many government agencies with whom we work.