Melvin S. Schwechter

Partner

Washington, D.C.
T 202.861.1559  |  F 202.861.1783

"[Mel is] 'a walking encyclopedia - he can recite different cases and has a wealth of knowledge.' He is also valued for his 'sincere desire to help his clients to achieve what they need to achieve.'"

— Chambers USA 2013

Mel Schwechter has more than 30 years of experience handling complex international trade legal matters. He is well-known and respected in the business and legal communities, and provides practical, seasoned advice for clients in order to achieve sought-after results regarding export controls, trade, economic and financial sanctions and embargoes, customs, and related matters.

Mel is ranked in Chambers USA: America’s Leading Lawyers for Business in the areas of "International Trade: Customs" and "International Trade: Export Controls and Economic Sanctions," as well as in Who's Who Legal 100 in the area of "Trade & Customs." He is the National Team Leader of BakerHostetler's International Trade-Compliance Practice.

Select Experience

  • Mel has conducted more than 150 internal investigations, import, export and sanctions self-assessments, and compliance audits to identify compliance shortcomings, and recommend corrections, which he helps implement. His extensive experience in performing these services enables Mel to advise clients on establishing best practices, putting in place effective compliance procedures, and taking advantage of duty savings opportunities. 
  • Mel represented a number of clients, including a leading metals producer, in the Harbor Maintenance Tax Litigation. He was appointed Co-Chair of the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee, and, in this capacity, Mel oversaw more than $1 billion in refunds of Harbor Maintenance Taxes paid on exports by several thousands of companies. A unanimous Supreme Court found that the taxes were unconstitutional as a violation of the Constitution's "Export Clause."
  • Mel has appeared in more than 40 anti-dumping, countervailing duty, "escape clause," and related trade remedy proceedings. In one such proceeding, Mel represented a titanium sponge distributor in a "changed circumstances" review he brought of a 30-year-old anti-dumping duty order on imports of titanium sponge from Russia. His innovative arguments and his ability to convince a major consumer of titanium sponge to support his positions persuaded a unanimous International Trade Commission to revoke the order, making Mel's case, at the time, only the second of its kind to be successful.
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Experience

Compliance –  Export Controls, Economic Sanctions, and Embargoes and Customs
  • In one of the largest customs civil penalty cases ever brought by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) involving valuation, country of origin and marking issues, Mel was able to settle the case for his client, and then worked with the company to improve its compliance practices. When that same client was audited by CBP five years later, it received the highest compliance score the audit team had ever awarded.
  • Mel has conducted more than 150 internal investigations, import, export and sanctions self-assessments, and compliance audits to identify compliance shortcomings, and recommend corrections, which he helps implement. His extensive experience in performing these services enables Mel to advise clients on establishing best practices, putting in place effective compliance procedures, and taking advantage of duty savings opportunities. 
  • Mel conducted an extensive internal investigation and prepared responses to OFAC subpoenas regarding certain embargoed county activities in which his client was involved, which OFAC ultimately decided not to pursue as a penalty matter. 
  • Mel was designated by the State Department to conduct a full-scale audit of a company’s compliance with export control requirements on shipments of "defense articles" following its submission of a voluntary disclosure identifying certain violations. 
  • In an effort to take advantage of duty savings opportunities presented by NAFTA, Mel worked with his client on setting up a comprehensive program to qualify its products for the free trade agreement benefits properly, resulting in significant annual savings. 
  • Mel set up a foreign trade subzone for a client to take advantage of an inverted tariff situation, which resulted in significant savings per year for the client. 
  • Through the preparation and submission of prior and voluntary self-disclosures of violations, Mel helps clients minimize, and potentially prevent, penalty exposure. These disclosures have involved clients in the aerospace, metals, electronics, bio-pharma, chemicals, industrial equipment, auto parts, and telecommunications industries. 
  • Mel works with clients to establish corporate compliance and recordkeeping programs to satisfy government expectations, and conducts related training. He has prepared import/export compliance procedures manuals for several clients in a variety of industries. 
  • In the context of corporate acquisitions, Mel conducts due diligence to identify import/export/sanctions/FCPA compliance issues. He addresses any issues identified to facilitate closing, develops protective contract provisions, obtains needed licenses and other clearances, and interacts with the responsible government agencies, as required.
  • Mel regularly counsels clients on international trade compliance matters, particularly in cases where the law is rapidly evolving, such as with Iran sanctions.
International Trade Litigation
  • Mel represented a number of clients, including a leading metals producer, in the Harbor Maintenance Tax Litigation. He was appointed Co-Chair of the Plaintiffs' Steering Committee, and, in this capacity, Mel oversaw more than $1 billion in refunds of Harbor Maintenance Taxes paid on exports by several thousands of companies. A unanimous Supreme Court found that the taxes were unconstitutional as a violation of the Constitution's "Export Clause."
Foreign Investment
  • Mel represents clients in connection with national security reviews of foreign acquisitions of U.S. businesses by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS). In this connection, he has represented a variety of companies in the energy, software, and transportation industries.
Trade Remedies
  • Mel has appeared in more than 40 anti-dumping, countervailing duty, "escape clause," and related trade remedy proceedings. In one such proceeding, Mel represented a titanium sponge distributor in a "changed circumstances" review he brought of a 30-year-old anti-dumping duty order on imports of titanium sponge from Russia. His innovative arguments and his ability to convince a major consumer of titanium sponge to support his positions persuaded a unanimous International Trade Commission to revoke the order, making Mel's case, at the time, only the second of its kind to be successful.

Recognitions

  • Chambers Global: International Trade: Export Controls & Economic Sanctions
  • Chambers USA "Leading Lawyer" (2010 to present) 
    • International Trade: Customs Band 2 
    • International Trade: Export Controls and Economic Sanctions Band 2
  • Who's Who Legal 100 (Trade & Customs)
  • Law360 International Trade editorial advisory board

Memberships

  • Customs and International Trade Bar Association 
    • President (2004 to 2006) 
  • Export Committee: Chair (2010 to present)
  • The Historical Society of the U.S. Court of International Trade 
    • Trustee 
    • Vice President
  • American Association of Exporters and Importers 
    • Board of Governors 
  • Export Compliance and Facilitation Committee: Co-Chair (2004 to 2010)

Services

Prior Positions

  • North American Free Trade Agreement, Chapter 19 Dispute Resolution: Eligible Panelist 
  • U.S. Department of Commerce: Staff Attorney responsible for export control program (1974 to 1979) 
  • Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law: Adjunct Professor of International Trade Law (1983 to 1999)

Admissions

  • U.S. Court of Appeals, Federal Circuit
  • U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York
  • U.S. Court of International Trade
  • U.S. Supreme Court
  • U.S. Court of Federal Claims
  • New York
  • District of Columbia

Education

  • J.D., New York University School of Law, 1974
  • M.A., Harvard University, 1971
  • A.B., Brandeis University, 1969
  • B.J.Ed., Hebrew College, 1968