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Wildlife and Timber Trade Enforcement & Compliance

Global trade in wildlife and timber is regulated by a complex framework of national laws and regulation and international treaties, including numerous laws on the conservation of natural resources. Arnold & Porter's Wildlife and Timber Trade Enforcement & Compliance practice routinely represents and advises clients on a wide variety of legal issues relating to their imports and supply chains. Recognizing the risks in international commerce, our deep expertise and multidisciplinary approach helps companies and individuals navigate the legal frameworks governing trade in wildlife and timber, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), the Lacey Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Migratory Bird Act, US ivory regulations, and more. Arnold & Porter also routinely helps companies develop tailored, state-of-the-art compliance programs. And, when the need arises, Arnold & Porter has vast experience in helping companies conduct internal investigations and in defending themselves against civil and criminal enforcement actions concerning the trade of wildlife and timber.

  • Republic of South Africa in the collection of restitution to South Africa following the investigation and prosecution of a massive international scheme to smuggle illegally harvested Chilean sea bass and rock lobster into the United States in violation of the Lacey Act. Worked closely with South African authorities following groundbreaking court of appeals decision on the rights of victims of environmental crime.

  • United Nations in connection with international wildlife trafficking, including running workshops and providing advice on conservation issues and the tracing of the proceeds of wildlife trafficking.

  • Global Plywood and Lumber Trading in a Lacey Act investigation regarding importation of timber from the Peruvian Amazon into the United States. The matter was resolved very favorably, with a misdemeanor for the company and no charges against any individuals.

  • International cosmetics company on compliance with the 2008 Amendments to the Lacey Act.

  • International Wood Products Association and numerous U.S. wood importers in connection with U.S. Government sanctions on Burma.

  • Nonprofit research organization in an investigation into allegation that third party scientific collaborator paid bribes in connection with efforts to obtain license to export animal samples from Madagascar for research in the United States. We assisted entity in conducting remedial measures, including training.

  • US wood importers on the requirements of Lacey Act and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) with respect to both particular shipments of wood as well as general compliance issues.

  • US wood importers in legal proceedings in connection with issues of legality of certain wood imported from Peru and Brazil.

  • Chinese wood exporter in discussions with US importer on issues of legality of harvest and imports into the United States.

  • Retail furniture manufacturer in connection with internal investigation into legality of wood sourcing in furniture; helped institute worldwide compliance program.

  • Prominent research university biologists in efforts to import bird specimens from Australia.

  • Collector in effort to import ancient ivory statue into US for donation to museum.

  • International auction house on issue arising out of compliance with Migratory Bird Treaty Act.

Key Contacts

Marcus Asner is co-chair of Arnold & Porter’s White Collar Defense and Investigations practice group. Before joining the firm, Marcus was an Assistant United States Attorney in New York, where he was Chief of the Major Crimes Unit for two years, and served in the Public Corruption Unit. As a prosecutor, Marcus led the US prosecution of United States v. Bengis, one of the largest and most significant trafficking cases in History, which involved a massive scheme to import illegally harvested lobster from South Africa into the US. Marcus presently works in private practice in New York where he routinely counsels clients on a wide variety of environmental and wildlife trafficking issues, and writes and speaks frequently on international wildlife trafficking and corruption. Marcus has worked closely on wildlife trafficking issues with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the International Conservation Caucus Foundation and End Wildlife Crime; has given training to Interpol and other law enforcement entities on wildlife trafficking; serves on the Wildlife Justice Commission Council; has testified on trafficking issues before the US House of Representatives; and has conducted briefings for the US Congress on wildlife trafficking and related issues. Marcus served on President Obama’s Advisory Council on Wildlife Trafficking, where he co-chaired the Subcommittee on Enforcement.

Sam Witten is Counsel in Arnold & Porter’s Global Law and Public Policy Practice and a former senior legal and policy official with the US Department of State. He assists US wood importers on regulatory matters related to the importation of wood into the United States, including the Lacey Act, CITES, and economic sanctions. Acting on behalf of the International Wood Products Association, he successfully obtained licenses from the U.S. Department of the Treasury to allow US wood importers to trade with Burma. More generally, his practice includes regulatory compliance, economic sanctions, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, international law enforcement cooperation, forced labor issues, and corporate social responsibility. Before joining the firm in 2010, he served at the US Department of State for 22 years, including as Deputy Legal Adviser supervising 35 lawyers in areas including international environmental and business matters; as Assistant Legal Adviser for Law Enforcement and Intelligence, supervising the negotiation of US treaties on law enforcement cooperation; and as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for international refugee programs. Earlier in his career, he was a Trial Attorney at the US Department of Justice Antitrust Division and worked in the corporate and regulatory practices of another international law firm.

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