Earlier this year, we posted our 2019 Corporate Compliance & Litigation Outlook.  In the post, we said the following with respect to tariffs:

2018 was the year of the “tariff” for manufacturers.  You could not read a manufacturing news story without mention of it.  There is a lot of hype around tariffs and other trade regulations.  Some companies have been able to absorb the costs by passing it on to their customers and others have not.  In 2019, I expect that these discussions will continue.

Today, Industry Week posted a story from Bloomberg entitled “A Year On, Trump’s Metals Tariffs Have More Losers Than Winners.”   The key points in the story are that while U.S. steelmakers have seen profits, U.S. producers of aluminum have not.  And, the story references large losses by buyers of steel and aluminum as examples of how U.S. companies have lost due to the tariffs.  While the Bloomberg story focuses on large companies (such as Caterpillar) there is no discussion of how tariffs have impacted small to medium sized companies within the supply chain.

Recently, I hosted a manufacturing executives’ dinner for privately held manufacturers.  Notably, when the subject of tariffs came up, many of the CEOs indicated that either the tariffs were not impacting their sub-sector of the marketplace and/or that the costs were being passed on to the customer.  As a result, I think it is safe to say that the hype about tariffs will continue, but I think it is too early to make generalized predictions about how tariffs are impacting all manufacturers.


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Photo of Jeffrey White Jeffrey White

I am a partner at Robinson+Cole who handles corporate compliance and litigation matters for both domestic and international manufacturers and distributors that make and ship products around the world. My clients have ranged from publicly traded Fortune 500 companies to privately held and/or family owned manufacturers. For those looking for my detailed law firm bio, click here.

I am often asked why I have focused a large part of my law practice on counseling manufacturers and distributors. As with most things in life, the answer to that question is tied back to experiences I had well before I became a lawyer. My grandfather spent over 30 years working at a steel mill (Detroit Steel Company), including several years in its maintenance department. One of my grandfather’s prime job duties was to make sure that the equipment being used was safe. In his later years, he would apply those lessons learned in every project we did together as he passed on to me his great respect and pride for the manufacturing industry.

Because of these experiences, I not only feel comfortable advising executives in a boardroom, but also can easily transition to the factory floor. My experience has involved a range of industries, including aerospace and defense, chemicals, energy, pharmaceuticals and life sciences, nutritional and dietary supplements, and retail and consumer products. While I have extensive experience in litigation (including product liability and class actions), I am extremely proactive about trying to keep my clients out of the courtroom if at all possible. Specifically, I have counseled manufacturers and distributors on issues such as product labeling and warranties, product recalls, workplace safety/OSHA, anti-trust, and vendor relations, among other things. I always look for the business-friendly solution to a problem that may face a manufacturer or distributor and I hope this blog will help advance those efforts.