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EXCLUSIVE: Choice of shipping exec for post reviewed
APL spokesman Mike Zampa said Mr. Agron’s role as a lobbyist should not affect his work with the government on the advisory committee. Mr. Zampa said Mr. Agron could not speak with The Times because he was “out of the country and had limited access to his cellular.”
“His job is maritime security. His role on the committee is advising the government,” Mr. Zampa said. “I see nothing wrong with his role on the committee. He’s considered an expert.”
Mr. Agron has “dedicated a lot of his time and energy to helping our government and the maritime industry to secure global trade. I think he’s to be commended and the company to be commended for allowing one of its executives to spend so much time in support of the goals of the government and the maritime industry,” Mr. Zampa said.
APL continues to contract with the Defense Department despite the lawsuit settlement.
“It was the settlement of a contract dispute,” Mr. Zampa said. “It was not a declaration of wrongdoing by anyone. We settled to put the issue behind us and keep our energy focused on the strong and long-standing relationship we’ve had with the military.”
Sharon Woods, director of the Pentagon’s Defense Criminal Investigative Services, who aided prosecutors with the case against APL, said in February when the case was settled: “This particular fraud was directly related to the supply lines supporting our brave soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines and U.S. civilians in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Ms. Woods said the settlement with APL was made possible by intense investigations that uncovered the fraud.
The committee on which Mr. Agron serves advises the government on maritime security issues. Such issues, for example, could include policies on how to best inspect cargo for terrorist weapons or how to protect ships from Somali pirates.
Mr. Agron is a part-time appointee. His is not a paid position, although travel and other expenses are reimbursed by the government.
Coast Guard spokeswoman Lisa Novak said Mr. Agron was appointed because of his experience and expertise in the shipping industry.
“Mr. Agron’s service on the committee is as an individual and in this role he does not represent his company,” Ms. Novak said. “We are working to ensure his role as a security official at APL does not disqualify him from continued service on the panel as it relates to this case.”
In February, APL agreed to pay more than $26 million to the U.S. government to settle allegations that the company had inflated prices on shipping invoices for cargo headed to military bases in Afghanistan and other countries.
The settlement against APL was considered an early victory for Justice Department prosecutors under the new administration and for the Defense Department’s Criminal Investigative Service, which aided in the investigation.
Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said the APL settlement was the largest the U.S. has exacted from a shipping company for fraud.
The government claimed Oakland, Calif.-based APL inflated its invoices by billing in excess of the rate it paid to plug refrigerated containers holding perishable cargo into a source of electricity at a port in Karachi, Pakistan.
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