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Brokers Group Wants CBP to Modify Rules on Confidentiality of Importer Information

Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The National Customs Brokers and Forwarders Association of America sent to U.S. Customs and Border Protection Aug. 16 a letter requesting the revocation or modification of six interpretive rulings issued over the last decade that the group believes have created an overly strict confidentiality standard.

According to the NCBFAA, these rulings have interpreted 19 CFR 111.24 to preclude brokers from disclosing the most basic client information to any third party (including affiliated businesses) without first obtaining a confidentiality waiver from the client. The letter argues that this interpretation “requires brokers to confidentially maintain information that is readily available to the public” by unregulated entities within the supply chain. Moreover, the letter states, brokers today are often responsible for routing importers’ freight and “it is simply impossible” to do this without sharing information found on customs records with third parties, none of which are subject to similar confidentiality restrictions. Finally, CBP’s current interpretation does not allow brokers to disclose information to a third party (e.g., an attorney or surety) when necessary in the context of defending themselves against an importer’s claim for damages.

The NCBFAA is therefore asking CBP to:

- narrow the interpretative scope of 19 CFR 111.24 so that only truly confidential information is required to be kept confidential;

- permit brokers to disclose to third parties confidential information that could otherwise be made publicly available; and

- permit brokers to share transactional information that might otherwise be considered confidential with an attorney or liability carrier when the broker is forced to defend itself against a claim from the importer.

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