Houston Companies Face Increased Scrutiny Over Export Violations

Washington is taking a tough line with Houston companies that trade with countries under U.S. sanctions. That's a change from previous years.


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The Commerce Department keeps a list of goods that are not to be exported to certain countries under any circumstances. Selling oil and gas drilling equipment to Iran, for example, is verboten.

During his eleven-plus years with the Justice Department, Jeffrey Vaden was responsible for dealing with such export control violations at the Port of Houston.

“For many years, you would have a company or individual that would run afoul of the law that, assuming they cooperated and it wasn’t something too egregious, it could be handled administratively.”  

Vaden joined Bracewell & Giuliani last year, defending companies he once would have prosecuted. These days, he says, they need defending.

“Now, in a matter of deterrence, they’re much more likely to pursue a criminal case.”

Vaden says Houston prosecutors enjoy better coordination with federal law enforcement than in the past. That’s making it much tougher for local companies to get away with shipping violations.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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