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Kevin J. Wolf

Partner – Akin Gump

Former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration – BIS
Kevin J. Wolf is a partner in the international trade practice. His experience encompasses the laws, regulations, policies and international arrangements pertaining to national security, foreign policy and other controls over the export, reexport and transfer of military, dual-use and other commodities, technologies, software and services to various destinations, end uses and end users. His work focuses on the U.S. regulations implementing these controls, including the Export Administration Regulations (EAR), the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), sanctions administered by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), antiboycott regulations, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and multilateral trade controls.

Practice & Background

Prior to joining Akin Gump, Mr. Wolf served for seven years (2010-2017) as Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration in the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) at the Department of Commerce, where he developed and implemented policies pertaining to Export Administration issues and provided overall direction to, and management of, BIS’s national security, nonproliferation, foreign policy, national defense and strategic industrial resource functions.

Working closely with his colleagues at the departments of Defense and State, and the National Security Council, Mr. Wolf was the primary strategist, negotiator and implementer of President Obama’s Export Control Reform (ECR) Initiative. The reform initiative was a massive, seven-year interagency effort to substantially rewrite the defense trade and most dual-use export controls to accomplish various national security and foreign policy objectives. This reform has resulted in the transfer to the Commerce Department from the State Department of responsibility for regulating most direct commercial defense trade transactions. As a result of these efforts, most of the new content of the EAR and the ITAR reflects strategic direction, policy goals and negotiations between Mr. Wolf and other agencies. In addition, he led the communication efforts involved in rolling out and implementing the new system, which included outreach to U.S. and foreign companies, foreign governments, and other U.S. government departments and agencies.

Mr. Wolf directed BIS’s Office of Strategic Industries and Economic Security (SIES), the Office of Nonproliferation and Treaty Compliance (NPTC), the Office of National Security and Technology Transfer Controls (NSTTC), the Office of Exporter Services (OExS) and the Office of Technology Evaluation (OTE). The chairs of the interagency Operating Committee, which handles staff-level licensing disputes, and the interagency End User Review Committee, which manages the Entity List, reported directly to Mr. Wolf. As a result, Mr. Wolf was directly responsible for negotiating and having drafted hundreds of amendments to the export control and related regulations; administering a licensing system that now processes nearly 40,000 license applications a year; supervising an extensive outreach and education organization; directing BIS’s role in the multilateral export control and arms control treaty organizations; managing the completion of thousands of commodity classifications, license determinations and positions on commodity jurisdiction determinations; and managing the analysis of export licensing and trade data, including the gathering of data on critical technologies and defense-related industrial sectors.

Mr. Wolf represented the Commerce Department on multiple interagency committees. In particular, he was the Commerce representative to the committee responsible for addressing commodity jurisdiction disputes and the many other committees established over the years to set policy for particular countries, end users, end uses and items. Mr. Wolf chaired the Advisory Committee on Export Policy, which meets regularly to resolve interagency disputes pertaining to licenses and the placement of entities on the Entity List. He also worked closely with law enforcement officials in the departments of Commerce, Justice and Homeland Security on enforcement matters, investigations and related policy issues.

Mr. Wolf also consulted with domestic and international industry groups, trade associations and technical advisory committees to assess the impact of export controls and sanctions on industry and explore how the regulations could be improved. His international efforts involved working with foreign counterparts to share best practices for running export control systems, exchange information about entities and technologies of concern, seek changes in their systems, and respond to their issues with the U.S. export control system and related U.S. policies.

Mr. Wolf was also responsible for the coordination with OFAC of BIS regulations and licensing policies pertaining to the countries subject to economic sanctions, principally Russia, Iran and Cuba.

Prior to his joining the Obama administration, Mr. Wolf was a partner in the Washington, D.C. office of another global law firm, where he focused on international trade law. His experience prior to government service also included matters involving international sanctions and the FCPA. His work involved compliance advice, as well as significant, high-profile, multi-year white collar corporate and civil defense matters pertaining to export control, sanctions and other areas. From late 1995 to early 1997, he was the Assistant Special Counsel to the House Committee on Standards of Official Conduct, investigating then Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich. He was also part of special outside monitor teams addressing document retention and regulatory compliance issues for large U.S. entities.

Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States

Mr. Wolf was the primary Commerce Department senior official responsible for working with the interagency Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), which is authorized to review, investigate and recommend blocks of transactions or investments that could result in the control of any U.S. business that may raise national security or critical infrastructure concerns. While representing a national security bureau within the Commerce Department, he often played a material role in getting interagency consensus on complex cases. He possesses considerable insight into the CFIUS process that is not generally obvious to outside parties involved in CFIUS cases.

Public Policy

As a result of his experience at BIS and his years of law practice before entering government service, Mr. Wolf is adept at navigating the regulatory and legislative processes. He has a unique understanding of the concerns and approaches of career staff in the departments of Commerce, State, Defense, Energy, Treasury, Justice and Homeland Security, as well as other federal agencies and non-U.S. agencies involved in multilateral export control arrangements.

Mr. Wolf has significant experience working with Congress to pass legislation. He has briefed members of Congress and their staffs on specific licensing issues, policies and disputes; enforcement matters pertaining to sanctioned entities; draft legislation pertaining to export control and sanctions; the congressional notification process; and all the specific changes to the categories of controlled items brought about as part of the ECR effort. He has also testified before Congress on a variety of issues, such as policy regarding cyber intrusion controls and the impact of controls on small businesses, as well as the reform effort.

During his time as Assistant Secretary, Mr. Wolf was a prolific public speaker, giving more than 400 public speeches or presentations in the United States and abroad, and conducting more than 200 public conference calls to answer questions about export controls.

Public Service

  • Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Export Administration, U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of Industry and Security (2010–2017)