Gcaptain made the right decision not to accept these scumbag mariner-pays recruiter ads, and I applauded them for it.
The term “acquitted” generally refers to a finding of “not guilty” in a criminal case. I see no indication of any criminal case involving Compass Marine. The seamen’s wage statute that prohibits withholding from a seamen’s wages is a civil violation that appears to specify a $5000 civil penalty for its violation. I see no indication that the US attorney brought any civil enforcement or civil penalty action against Compass Marine.
Compass Marine won a civil case in which it was found “not liable” for civil damages. Seaport won a similar case. It appears that most of the claims were decided on summary judgment (without trial). The Plaintiff’s (seamen) sued under General Maritime Law GML, not the federal wage statute. It appears that the statute does not create a private right of action. The 1th Circuit upheld the district court on appeal and affirmed the district court decision in favor of Compass Marine.
The court thought that is was unfair for the seaman to receive the benefit of Compass’s services, and then avoid paying anything based upon a technicality in the statute. The court was clear in its refusal to hold the employers liable for Compasses actions. The court also discussed the court’s duty to protect seamen under doctrine of seamen as the “wards of admiralty.” While not quite dead, the court suggests that the wards of admiralty concept is outdated and should be sparingly applied.
The cases turned on the legal distinction between the contracts being “voidable” under GML, as opposed to being “illegal” bAsed upon the statute. The court sees it as Congress’s problem, not the court’s to address this placement fee withholding issue, the 11th Circuit was not even interested enough in the cases to write its own opinion. I doubt whether this decision has too much precedential value, but it certainly has some in the 11th Circuit. Then next case with different facts, especially where the seamen objects and attempts to revoke the withholding agreement before the full placement fee is deducted might have a very different result. In any event, this decision is not binding outside of the 11th Circuit.
The MLC 2006 treaty, which the US has not ratified, clearly prohibits charging a mariner a fee for finding him a job, with good reason. It is embarrassing again, that US mariners do not receive basic third world seamen’s rights and protections from The US Government.
What Compass Marine did, charging the mariner a 14 days of gross pay placement fee and taking control of Mariner’s paychecks to collect it with a power of attorney apparently is not illegal under GML or Alabama law, at least not in the 11th Circuit. That does not mean that the same scheme might not be found to be illegal by some other court in some other place.
Don’t do business with dishonest overreaching money grubbing scumbags. If you are foolish enough to do so, don’t rely on the law or the government to help you.