Tuesday, February 21, 2012

LA Shippers Settle Fraud Charges

Two Los Angeles area shipping companies have agreed to pay fines to the Federal Maritime Commission to settle allegations that they’d engaged in fraud or unfair practices.

The parties settled and agreed to penalties, but did not admit to violating the Shipping Act or Commission regulations. Staff attorneys with the FMA’s Bureau of Enforcement negotiated the agreements.

“If you defraud customers, mislabel cargo, or otherwise violate the Shipping Act (the FMA’s enforcement bureau) will be looking for you,” Maritime Commission Chair Richard A. Lidinsky, Jr. said in a Feb. 15 statement regarding the settlements.

The agreed penalties resulted from investigations conducted by the Commission area representatives in New York, Seattle and Los Angeles.

The two California companies fined were OEC Los Angeles, a freight forwarder and licensed non-vessel-operating common carrier (NVOCC) based in Cerritos; and Solex Logistics, a licensed and bonded NVOCC located in Inglewood.

The FMC had alleged that Solex violated section 10 of the Shipping Act by knowingly and willfully “mis-describing” cargo under applicable service contracts, and charged inapplicable NVOCC rates.

The Commission also said that OEC Los Angeles violated the Shipping Act by knowingly and willfully applying reduced rates in service contracts, contrary to contract provisions.

OEC Los Angeles agreed to pay a $235,000 fine; Solex was assessed a $105,000 penalty.

They were among eight companies that agreed to pay a combined $490,000 in penalties, according to the Maritime Commission. Of other six companies penalized as part of the investigation, five are based in New York, and one in the Virgin Islands.