FMC nixes settlement with NVOs
The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission has reversed a decision by an administrative law judge to approve a settlement between the FMC's Bureau of Enforcement and with several businesses acting as non-vessel-operating common carriers without a license, proof of financial responsibility or public tariff.
'Given the respondents' alleged flagrant conduct in this proceeding, as outlined in the Order of Investigation, we are unable to conclude that the proposed settlements are in the public interest, without the benefit of further elaboration on the existence of the purported section 10 violations and whether the claims of the injured shippers were resolved,' the commissioners wrote.
'While the commission generally encourages settlements, the gravity of offenses alleged to have been committed in this proceeding prompted the commission to seek injunctive relief in U.S. District Court,' the FMC said.
Since the settlement might 'provide the framework for future settlements,' the commissioners said they were remanding the proceeding 'with instructions to explain whether and to what extent the shippers' complaints have been resolved. In addition, it is necessary to further elaborate upon the alleged section 10 violations.'
The commission received more than 250 complaints from shippers claiming that they hired one of nine household goods moving companies that appear to be related to one another to transport their goods from various locations within the United States to foreign destinations.
The FMC said the complaints alleged that the moving companies:
* Failed to deliver cargo and refused to return pre-paid ocean freight.
* Lost cargo.
* Charged for marine insurance but never actually obtained coverage.
* Misled shippers regarding location of cargo.
* Charged shippers substantially inflated rates after cargo was tendered and subsequently threatened to withhold the cargo unless the increased freight was paid.
* Failed to pay the common carrier hired as an intermediary.
Companies named in the order included Moving Services LLC; Worldwide Relocations Inc.; International Shipping Solutions Inc.; Dolphin International Shipping Inc.; All-in-One Shipping Inc.; Boston Logistics Corp.; Around the World Shipping Inc.; Tradewind Consulting Inc.; and Global Direct Shipping.
The FMC said it was 'unable, based upon the record before us, to conclude that approval of the settlements would be in the public interest.' It said it was unclear if any of the complaints were resolved favorably for shippers by, for example, locating misplaced cargo and delivering it to injured shippers, returning pre-paid ocean freight or making refunds for inflated charges.
The FMC said the administrative law judge should 'develop the record to support a finding that any settlement entered into in this proceeding is in the public interest' and 'determine whether and to what extent the consumer complaints giving rise to this proceeding have been resolved.'