Bassett Mirror Company pays $10.5 million to settle whistleblower False Claims case for evaded customs duties on goods from China

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Bassett Mirror Company, has agreed to pay the United States $10.5 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly making false statements on customs declarations to avoid paying antidumping duties on wooden bedroom furniture imported from the People’s Republic of China (PRC), the Justice Department announced today.   

The United States says that between January 2009 and February 2014, Bassett Mirror evaded duties owed on wooden bedroom furniture that the company imported from the PRC by knowingly misclassifying the furniture as non-bedroom furniture on its official import documents.  Antidumping duties protect against foreign companies “dumping” products on the U.S. market at prices below cost.  The Department of Commerce assesses, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection collects, these duties to protect U.S. businesses and level the playing field for domestic products.  Imports of PRC-made wooden bedroom furniture have been subject to antidumping duties since 2004.  At the time of the alleged conduct in this case, wooden bedroom furniture from the PRC was subject to a 216 percent antidumping duty; non-bedroom furniture was not subject to an antidumping duty.

“Those who import and sell foreign-made goods in the United States must comply with the laws meant to protect domestic companies and American workers from illegal foreign trade practices,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Chad A. Readler for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “The Department of Justice will pursue those who seek an unfair advantage in U.S. markets by evading the duties owed on goods imported into this country.”

“CBP is appreciative of information received from the public regarding fraudulent trade activity.  This type of blatant disregard for trade laws and regulations severely impacts the US economy by giving these bad actors an unfair advantage over legitimate importers,” said Donald F. Yando Director of Field Operations for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Atlanta Field Office. “CBP is committed to working with our partners both inside and outside the government to help bolster the US economy by putting an end to this type of illegal activity.”

The settlement with Bassett Mirror resolves a lawsuit filed under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, which permits private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and share in a portion of the government’s recovery.  The civil lawsuit was filed in the Southern District of Georgia and is captioned United States ex rel. Wells v. Bassett Mirror Company, Inc. et al., Civil Action No. 4:13-CV-000165.  As part of today’s resolution, Ms. Wells will receive approximately $1.9 million.

The investigation was handled by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Georgia, with assistance from the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations.   

 

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers