A wholesale produce merchant and two of its owners lost their petition today to overturn sanctions under the Perishable Agricultural Commodities Act for bribing a federal produce inspector. The petitioners argued that PACA only prohibits merchants from lying to each other and doesn’t cover fraud resulting from a false inspection certificate. The D.C. Circuit held that a vice president’s bribery of the inspector supported the Secretary of Agriculture’s decision to revoke the merchant’s license to sell fresh fruit and vegetables and to ban the owners from the industry. Coosemans Specialties, Inc. v. Dept. of Agriculture, No. 06-1199 (D.C. Cir. Apr. 9, 2007).
The vice president, by the way, bribed the inspector to give poor ratings to produce that the vice president’s company wanted to buy. The inspector’s certificates allowed the company to negotiate a lower price with the seller. But — as the veep, his employer, and its owners found to their chagrin — the inspector had gone under cover and turned them in.