The Department of Justice has always pursued individuals for export control violations. However, the administering agencies have historically been less aggressive in referring cases that involve violations by employees making exports on behalf of their employers. In these cases, agencies typically sanctioned the employer for the employee actions under the legal doctrine of respondeat superior. In recent times, agencies advised of a change in enforcement philosophy — that they will now seek enforcement actions against both employers and against individual employees for violations in appropriate cases.
Because of the heightened enforcement focus on employees, employer and employee interests are more likely than ever to diverge during internal investigations. To reduce this risk, employers should maintain an effective compliance program with a significant focus on employee training.