(Reuters) — The U.S. Department of Commerce has banned American companies from selling components to leading Chinese telecom equipment maker ZTE for seven years for violating the terms of a sanctions violation case, U.S. officials said on Monday.
The U.S. action, first reported by Reuters, could be devastating to ZTE since American companies are estimated to provide 25 percent to 30 percent of the components used in ZTE’s equipment, which includes networking gear and smartphones.
The ban is the result of ZTE’s failure to comply with an agreement with the U.S. government after it pleaded guilty last year in federal court in Texas to conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions by illegally shipping U.S. goods and technology to Iran.
The Chinese company, which sells smartphones in the United States, paid $890 million in fines and penalties, with an additional penalty of $300 million that could be imposed.
“If the company is not able to resolve it, they may very well be put out of business by this. Many banks and companies even outside the U.S. are not going to want to deal with them,” said Eric Hirschhorn, a former U.S. Undersecretary of Commerce who was heavily involved in the case.
As part of the agreement, Shenzhen-based ZTE Corp promised to dismiss four senior employees and discipline 35 others by either reducing their bonuses or reprimanding them, senior Commerce Department officials told Reuters. But the Chinese company admitted in March that while it had fired the four senior employees, it had not disciplined or reduced bonuses to the 35 others.
Under terms of the ban, U.S. companies cannot…