Recently, federal prosecutors have accused the international shipping company FedEx Corp. of having been part of a conspiracy to allow illegal prescription drugs to be shipped into the United States. 2 pharmaceutical companies also stand accused of conspiracy. The feds claim that FedEx took in approximately $820 million in revenue between 2000 and 2010 from delivering packages from pharmacies on the Internet. Seemingly, customers bought the drugs online and then FedEx shipped them unknowingly. FedEx stands to pay at least twice the amount they made in restitution and fines.
One of FedEx’s attorneys claims that there is already a federal law in place that allows for transportation companies possession of some illegal drugs because of the nature of the shipping business. In other words, FedEx has no way of knowing what their customers ship, within reason, and therefore cannot be held responsible for the contents of a shipper’s packages. This law was, in fact, intended to protect shipping companies for being prosecuted for this very misdeed, shipping illegal substances. In fact, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer believes that FedEx shipped the drugs knowingly, although it seems certain that Judge Breyer merely wants to avoid a situation in which any drug dealer can become a shipping company or get a carrier’s license and be protected from prosecution in this manner.
Prosecuting shipping companies on the off chance that they might have knowledge of illegal shipments of drugs (CA Health and Safety Code 11352) seems to have become a federal habit, however. Just 2 years ago, UPS (United Parcel Service) paid out a whopping $40 million to the U.S. government in order to avoid going to court on trumped up charges. Public outcry is certain to follow this latest spate of attempts by the U.S. Department of Justice, if companies like FedEx and UPS are held responsible for the contents of the packages they deliver, then there is only one solution for their protection: start opening up and examining each and every package that goes through their hands. In other words, shipping companies may begin opening up your private packages in order to avoid liability for their contents.