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EAR Violations and BIS Policy Shift: Incentivized Self-Disclosure; Aggravated Punishments; Third-Party Whistleblowing

Weighing the Risks and Benefits of Filing a VSD; Making a Whistleblower Complaint

Recording of a 90-minute CLE video webinar with Q&A

This program is included with the Strafford CLE Pass. Click for more information.
This program is included with the Strafford All-Access Pass. Click for more information.

Conducted on Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Recorded event now available

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This CLE webinar will address the U.S. Department of Commerce's recent policy shift that increases the incentives for companies to voluntarily self-disclose (VSD) possible EAR violations, particularly when "significant," or risk serious penalties. The policy also incentivizes companies to report on others when violations are suspected (e.g., competitors). The panel will discuss what may qualify as "significant" possible violations and how to decide whether to file a VSD, and/or to blow the whistle on others. The panel will also describe best practices for limiting liability in cases of significant EAR violations.


The U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) recently released guidance regarding a policy shift that sharpens the incentives for VSDs by companies, particularly of significant EAR violations, as well as reporting others' violations. This policy shift comes at a time of increased enforcement activity and record fines, such as the $300 million penalty against Seagate Technology L.L.C. in April, the largest standalone administrative penalty in BIS history and an unprecedented extraterritorial enforcement action based on the "foreign direct product" rule.

Prior to the policy shift, companies could receive mitigation of civil penalties if they filed a VSD, yet they were not formally penalized if they did not come forward. Now, however, a party's choice not to file a VSD when they've discovered a significant possible violation of the EAR can be considered an aggravating factor, resulting in increased penalties. In addition to incentivizing self-disclosure, the policy shift also encourages whistleblowing. Reporting others' violations can now be considered a mitigating factor if the reporting party is subsequently under investigation.

Listen as our expert panel discusses the effects of the BIS policy shift on companies, what companies and their counsel should consider when determining whether to file a VSD or blow the whistle on others, and best practices for compliance to limit liability.



  1. Overview of the BIS guidance and increased enforcement activity
  2. VSDs
    1. "Significant" possible violations
    2. Benefits and risks of filing a VSD
  3. Incentivized whistleblowing
    1. Benefits (and risks) to the reporting party
  4. Best practices for compliance and risk assessment


The panel will review these and other important considerations:

  • What are "significant" possible violations as compared to minor or technical infractions?
  • What are best practices for addressing possible EAR violations and determining whether they are "significant" enough to file a VSD?
  • What should counsel and their clients consider when determining whether and when to file a VSD?
  • How does the BIS policy shift benefit whistleblowers and what risks are involved?


Baj, Alexandra
Alexandra (Alex) Baj

Steptoe & Johnson

Ms. Baj focuses her practice on export controls and economic sanctions laws and regulations, anti-corruption...  |  Read More

Thaddeus R. McBride

Bass Berry & Sims

Mr. McBride represents companies and individuals in international trade regulatory, compliance, investigative, and...  |  Read More

Sagrans, Mark
Mark Sagrans

International Trade and Compliance Counsel
E.I. DuPont de Nemours

Mr. Sagrans has over 25 years of experience in trade and related regulatory and government compliance including EAR,...  |  Read More

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