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
  • Lighting the Way: FCA Reform and Compliance Program Credit

    Lighting the Way: FCA Reform and Compliance Program Credit

    June 27, 2018

    This paper contends that in order to encourage companies to create and sustain a culture of consistent compliance, particularly with regard to the federal False Claims Act, the U.S. Department of Justice should formalize a policy of offering credit for companies that implement effective compliance and ethics programs. Read More

  • The Great Myths of State False Claims Acts

    The Great Myths of State False Claims Acts

    February 28, 2018

    The 2018 update to "Great Myths of State False Claims Acts" shows that the whistleblowers' bar is continuing to capitalize on state qui tam False Claims Acts (FCAs), harvesting windfall awards from states and the federal government. The paper also points out that the dubious benefits of implementing a state FCA turn into a clear financial net negative when states allow their FCAs to fall out of compliance with federal standards. Read More

Additional Resources

All Results for Over-Enforcement

  1. 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

  2. 2018 Legal Reform Summit Video Showcase

    October 24, 2018 | Video | Watch

  3. 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

  4. 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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. In the News Today - September 27, 2018

    September 27, 2018 | News

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

  8. Department of Justice Guides the Way on Enforcement

    September 14, 2018 | Blogs

    In January, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a memo by then-Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand which prevents DOJ attorneys from turning agency guidelines into binding legal rules in enforcement actions. This was a welcome-and much needed-development for businesses, and a signal the DOJ is committed to promoting the rule of law. ... Read More

  9. Defense Attorneys Examine "Circuit Split" on False Claims Act Dismissals

    August 22, 2018 | News

    In a Law360 analysis piece, two defense attorneys from Wiley Rein LLP examine the growing circuit split on the U.S. Department of Justice's authority to dismiss False Claims Act lawsuits in light of its January Granston memo.... Read More

  10. In the News Today - August 2, 2018

    August 02, 2018 | News

    ILR Files Comments with Australian Law Review Commission; "DOJ Expands Efforts To Encourage FCPA Self-Reporting"... Read More