Executives from several automotive parts manufacturers joined representatives of the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association (MEMA) Oct. 21 in a meeting to discuss the seriousness of the industry’s counterfeiting issue with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Under Secretary Asa Hutchinson and other members of his department. Hutchinson, who reports directly to Homeland Security Department Secretary Tom Ridge, noted during the meeting that the government will continue to devote resources behind fighting this growing problem and hopes that penalties for counterfeiters and those trafficking and selling counterfeit products will be increased. He also noted that seizures of counterfeit products has increased by more than 80 percent since 9/11 due to his department’s increased counter-terrorism efforts which have helped uncover counterfeit operations. "Getting a meeting with someone as high up in the government as Asa Hutchinson certainly proves that the profile of this issue is increasing and that the industry’s voice is being heard loud and clear," said Paul Foley, vice president of MEMA’s Automotive Aftermarket Suppliers Association, who moderated the meeting. "The Homeland Security Department, its Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) division and Customs and Border Protection have been extremely helpful in helping educate parts manufacturers how to protect their intellectual property and report violations. It’s also up to us to do the same for them; we must educate them about our industry and what we face," Foley added. "We applaud the government for providing the resources for suppliers to do something about counterfeiters. The ball is now in our court to understand and utilize those resources." Foley and other MEMA staff members were joined by several member companies, including Visteon Corp., Freudenberg-NOK and General Motors Service Parts Organization (GMSPO), who shared their experiences with fake parts and intellectual property violators. Counterfeit parts cost the U.S. automotive industry nearly $3 billion a year and cost the global industry $12 billion each year. Hutchinson also discussed the Bush administration’s recently announced Strategy Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP) program and other ways the department can address counterfeit products and intellectual property rights (IPO) violations. MEMA supports the STOP program, a comprehensive initiative which seeks to punish the criminal networks that traffic in fakes, stop trade in pirated and counterfeit goods at America’s borders, block counterfeit products around the world and help small businesses secure and enforce their rights in overseas markets. On Oct. 20, MEMA representatives attended a special invitation-only meeting in Washington, D.C., where U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft unveiled the findings of an anti-counterfeiting report created by a special task force of the U.S. Justice Department. Brian Duggan, director of international affairs for MEMA, and Tony Bol, GMSPO’s manager of investigations, were on hand with several leaders of other industries to hear Ashcroft’s review of the report that mentioned the auto parts industry several times.