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Is Double Brokering Freight Illegal? Penalties for Freight Fraud

Resources > Is Double Brokering Freight Illegal? Penalties for Freight Fraud
Double brokering is a fraudulent and illegal practice in the freight industry. Find out the penalties for those found guilty of double brokering.
Is Double Brokering Illegal?   |   Can You Go to Jail for Double Brokering?   |   Penalties for Double Brokering
Published: December 11, 2023
Last Modified: December 12, 2023
Author: Josh Kimble

Whether or not double brokering is considered illegal can be a complicated question to answer, as it can vary on a case-by-case basis. That being said, at its core, it is not a legal practice.

Double brokering is an unethical, fraudulent, and illegal practice in the freight industry. It is considered a breach of contract between a broker and a shipper, and is a violation of MAP-21 laws.

All parties involved in a freight transaction should work hard to avoid double brokered loads to prevent unintended consequences – both legal and otherwise. 

A freight broker wonders if double brokering freight is illegal.

Is Double Brokering Illegal?

The short answer is: Yes, double brokering freight is illegal, depending on the jurisdiction. But to get to the heart of why double brokering is not considered a legal practice, you need to take a closer look.

Double brokering, the practice of outsourcing the transportation of goods to another broker without the shipper’s awareness or consent, is widely regarded as an unethical and risky maneuver within the transportation industry. 

Although it might not be explicitly illegal in every jurisdiction, it raises serious legal concerns that can lead to contractual breaches and potential legal consequences for those involved.

One primary issue arises from the breach of contracts between freight brokers and shippers. Shippers typically enter into agreements with brokers to ensure the smooth and reliable transportation of their goods. 

Engaging in double brokering without the shipper’s knowledge can be seen as a violation of these contractual obligations, potentially resulting in legal action.

From a regulatory perspective, federal agencies such as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in the United States oversee and regulate interstate transportation. 

In addition to the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century (MAP-21) laws, which prohibit double brokering, the practice could also be deemed a violation of federal regulations emphasizing transparency and disclosure in transportation dealings.

Beyond contractual and regulatory concerns, double brokering introduces:

  • Element of risk
  • Uncertainty in the transportation process
  • Lack of transparency

This ambiguity increases the likelihood of legal disputes and can further complicate an already intricate logistics landscape.

Moreover, engaging in double brokering without the shipper’s knowledge raises questions about honesty and trust within the business relationship. It can be viewed as a fraudulent and deceptive practice, undermining the foundational trust that shippers place in brokers to handle their shipments responsibly and ethically.

While the legal status of double brokering may vary depending on jurisdiction, the broader consensus within the industry is that it poses significant legal and reputational risks. 

The potential consequences, both in terms of contractual obligations and regulatory compliance, make it imperative for brokers to prioritize transparency and ethical business practices to maintain trust and integrity within the transportation sector.

A pair of handcuffs and a gavel after a freight broker is found guilty of double brokering.

Can You Go to Jail for Double Brokering?

Double brokering can indeed result in the possibility of criminal charges and imprisonment. While the legal ramifications can vary depending on jurisdiction and the specific circumstances of the case, certain actions associated with double brokering may be deemed criminal offenses.

The fraudulent nature of double brokering, particularly when brokers intentionally deceive shippers or engage in practices that violate federal regulations, can lead to criminal charges. Fraudulent activities such as misrepresentation, forgery, or intentional deception may trigger legal actions that go beyond civil penalties.

Criminal charges related to double brokering may be pursued under various statutes, including those governing fraud, theft, or white-collar crimes. The severity of the charges and the potential for imprisonment depend on the scale and impact of the double brokering activities, as well as the laws in the relevant jurisdiction.

In addition to criminal charges, individuals involved in double brokering may also face civil lawsuits, regulatory fines, and the loss of operating authority. These legal consequences collectively underscore the serious nature of double brokering and the potential for both criminal and civil liabilities.

It is crucial for brokers in the transportation industry to understand the legal risks associated with double brokering and to prioritize ethical and transparent business practices to avoid criminal charges, imprisonment, and other severe legal consequences.

A freight broker is distraught after finding out the penalties for double brokering.

What are the Penalties for Double Brokering?

Brokers involved in double brokering expose themselves to a spectrum of penalties with significant implications. 

1. Fines

Firstly, breaching contracts with shippers may result in contractual fines, where brokers could be held financially liable for damages incurred due to the unauthorized outsourcing of transportation services. This immediate financial repercussion underscores the gravity of violating agreements and erodes the financial stability of the broker.

2. Legal Consequences

Legal consequences represent another facet of the penalties associated with double brokering. Shippers, feeling aggrieved by the breach of trust, may pursue legal action against the broker. This legal action can translate into substantial financial damages awarded to the shipper. 

Additionally, as previously stated, if the double brokering is deemed to have crossed legal boundaries, such as theft or fraud, jail time and imprisonment are possible penalties as well.

3. Civil Penalties

Regulatory bodies overseeing the transportation sector, such as the FMCSA, may impose civil penalties in the way of fines for violating transportation regulations, particularly those related to transparency and disclosure. 

According to Chris Burroughs, VP of Government Affairs for the TIA, penalties for double brokering can include a fine of $10,000 per incident. Though not always properly enforced, this fine is based off of MAP-21 laws, which govern aspects of national transportation policy in the United States.

That fine would typically be levied by the FMCSA, however, due to both a lack of investigators and clarity in an administrative law ruling from 2019, the agency does not currently enforce it.

4. Loss of Operating Authority

Brokers engaging in double brokering may face the loss of operating authority. Regulatory bodies have the authority to suspend or revoke a broker’s operating license, thereby prohibiting them from conducting business in the transportation sector. This measure is not only a significant setback, but can also lead to the cessation of the broker’s operations.

5. Reputation Damage

Reputation damage is perhaps one of the most enduring and far-reaching penalties. The transportation industry relies heavily on trust, and brokers found guilty of double brokering may find it challenging to rebuild their reputation. 

Severed business relationships and a tainted professional image can result in difficulty securing future contracts and collaborations. The long-term impact on the broker’s standing within the industry is immeasurable and can hinder growth and sustainability.

6. Legal Defense Costs

Beyond the immediate financial and regulatory penalties, brokers may incur additional costs in the form of legal defense expenses. Navigating through legal proceedings and regulatory investigations demands financial resources, contributing to the overall economic burden of double brokering.

7. Operational Disruptions

Operational disruptions represent a tangible consequence of this practice. Legal disputes and regulatory actions divert time and resources away from routine business activities, leading to operational inefficiencies and potential business setbacks.

8. Increased Insurance Costs

Lastly, increased insurance costs add to the overall financial strain. Brokers involved in high-risk practices like double brokering may be viewed as higher liabilities by insurers, resulting in elevated insurance premiums.

In essence, the penalties for double brokering encompass financial, regulatory, reputational, and operational dimensions, making it a perilous practice with far-reaching consequences for brokers in the transportation industry.

Stay in the Clear with USA Truckload Shipping

At USA Truckload Shipping, powered by R+L Global Logistics, we know just how damaging the illegal practice of double brokering can be to all parties involved, which is why we do not participate in it under any circumstances. 

In fact, by using our tracking software, Global Vision, you’ll have full visibility of your shipment and complete transparency regarding the transportation of your freight.

Complete a Request for Proposal to learn how you can partner with us for your freight shipping, or fill out a quote for a one-time move. If you have any questions, just give us a call at (866) 353-7178.

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