Over-Enforcement

The evolution of over-enforcement is impacting various issues including the False Claims Act, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and State Attorneys General.  Recently released research, Enforcement Gone Amok: The Many Faces of Over-Enforcement in the United States frames the over-enforcement landscape:

All elements of American society benefit when the legal system is used as intended by our Founders—namely, to prosecute and punish genuine wrongdoers whose actions have violated the law and caused injury or damage, guided by due process and the Eighth Amendment principle that the punishment should fit the crime. However, recent events have shown that government enforcement actions increasingly overstep reasonable bounds. Read More...

Other notable points include:

  • Over-enforcement occurs when individual government agencies exercise unfettered discretion to rely on novel or expansive interpretations of laws to coerce settlements. Companies that are targets of this practice cannot be certain that the courts will set aside these actions, given the often vague and broad statutory language that confers authority on these agencies.
  • Over-enforcement also occurs when the prosecution of wrongdoing is carried out by multiple regulators conducting duplicative investigations and legal actions, either simultaneously or in succession, which are directed at the very same conduct. Faced with these multiple assaults, companies often have little choice but to agree to whatever settlements those various government officials demand, even if the company has meritorious arguments against the underlying charges.
  • One consequence of both coercive and “pile-on” over-enforcement is large and duplicative fines and penalties that too often are disproportionate to the alleged wrongdoing. The fact that over-enforcement targets are typically corporations and not individuals does not excuse the abusive nature of the practice—“justice for all” must apply across the board.

Critical Reforms Road Map

Limits on multiple, duplicative investigations and prosecutions are essential to preserve fairness in our system of justice and our overall economy. One way to control government overreaching in this context is by ensuring that enforcement officials’ discretion is appropriately channeled in order to reduce their ability to make unjustified prosecutorial decisions. This should include:

  • Clear rules of the road so that individuals and businesses know what is legal and what is not, and prosecutors cannot impose retroactive liability based on vague standards.
  • Defendants should be given a fair chance to defend themselves, rather than being subjected to multiple, overlapping enforcement actions that leaves no choice and results in an unfair and unjust settlement.
  • Punishments should fit the offense and prohibit excessive demands that coerce settlements from the innocent.

Click below for detailed information on issues impacted by over-enforcement:

Suggested Resources

Research
  • Enforcement Gone Amok: The Many Faces of Over-Enforcement in the United States

    Enforcement Gone Amok: The Many Faces of Over-Enforcement in the United States

    May 26, 2016

    This paper documents compelling examples of over-enforcement abuses, and offers details of the wide-ranging and interrelated ways government enforcement actions impact American businesses. Read More

  • ILR Research Review - Fall 2017

    ILR Research Review - Fall 2017

    November 30, 2017

    This special double-issue of the ILR Research Review features a wealth of insight and analysis on the world's rapidly changing litigation environment. The research contained in this issue targets exploitative litigation at home and abroad, examining numerous developments ranging from hyper-aggressive trial lawyer advertising in the U.S. to the imminent expansion of class actions in Europe. Read More

Additional Resources

All Results for Over-Enforcement

  1. In the News Today - December 7, 2018

    December 07, 2018 | News

    President Trump to Nominate William Barr as Attorney General... Read More

  2. Department of Justice Announces Major Changes to "Yates Memo"

    November 30, 2018 | Blogs

    The holiday season is in full swing, but the Department of Justice (DOJ) isn't letting visions of sugar plums get in the way of conducting business. ... Read More

  3. Deputy AG Rosenstein Announces Revisions to Policies on Individual Accountability

    November 30, 2018 | News

    U.S. Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein announced new polices yesterday that National Law Journal says will "give prosecutors more discretion to award credit to companies even when they do not identify every employee who might be potentially culpable."... Read More

  4. In the News Today - November 29, 2018

    November 29, 2018 | News

    "FCPA Compliance 1 Year After DOJ Revised Policy"... Read More

  5. ILR Research Review - Fall 2018

    November 20, 2018 | Research

    ILR's Fall 2018 research cycle was about two things: spotting new, destructive legal trends before they become unstoppable, and highlighting concrete progress in addressing long-standing litigation challenges. The 2018 Fall Research Review reveals the exploding costs of the U.S. tort system, and examines developments in securities litigation, forum shopping, False Claims Act policy reform, and the European Commission's project to implement class actions.... Read More

  6. New Compliance Guidance Shows The DOJ's Continued Commitment to Defending Rule of Law

    October 18, 2018 | Blogs

    While some of the U.S. is caught up in post-season baseball, the legal community is paying close attention to the Department of Justice (DOJ), which keeps knocking out policy home runs.... Read More

  7. In the News Today - October 15, 2018

    October 15, 2018 | News

    DOJ Official Says Department Wants Prosecutors With Compliance Experience; "Breaking Down The Prop 65 Trial That Has Starbucks On Edge"... Read More

  8. In the News Today - October 4, 2018

    October 04, 2018 | News

    Report: MDL Cases Have Tripled In Last 25 Years; SEC Enforcement Co-Director Says Year-End Stats Are "Counter-Productive"... Read More

  9. In the News Today - October 1, 2018

    October 01, 2018 | News

    DOJ Official: Department and Business Should Be "Partners, Not Adversaries;" "Dismissing FCA Cases: The Granston Memo In Action;" DOJ Objects to Bankruptcy Trust Appointment; Find Out What's Trending at ILR's Summit XX: Law, Policy, Politics... Read More

  10. In the News Today - September 27, 2018

    September 27, 2018 | News

    Other Agencies Seem to Be Following DOJ's Lead... Read More