By Lawrence A. Kogan*
An April 20, 2017 WLF Legal Pulse post on the need for a new strategy for federal wetlands regulation presented a long-running enforcement action against a small Erie, Pennsylvania farmer as indicative of the harm wrought by the government’s deeply flawed current approach to “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). Two recent developments—an order by a federal magistrate judge in the US District Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania and the filing of three Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA) claims by the targeted farmer, Robert Brace—might significantly change the course of this 30-year law-enforcement misadventure.
The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) first initiated a lawsuit under § 404 of Clean Water Act (CWA) against Brace in 1990 (United States v. Brace). The suit claimed Brace unlawfully failed to obtain a US Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) dredge-and-fill permit for drainage-tilling activities undertaken on government-designated wetlands. The suit came after Brace, a well-known property rights advocate, had endured three years of being served with EPA, Corps, and US Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) administrative-violation notices. Continue reading
By Andrew J. Morris, a Partner with Morvillo LLP. Mr. Morris authored a March 10, 2017 WLF Legal Backgrounder, Is the Clock Running out on SEC’s Unchecked Pursuit of Disgorgement Penalties?
In Kokesh v. Securities and Exchange Commission, the US Supreme Court ruled that SEC actions for disgorgement are governed by the five-year statute of limitations for penalties. This decision is a real blow to the SEC: It ends the practice of using disgorgement actions to obtain massive sanctions for conduct that took place many years in the past, outside the limitations period for penalties and forfeitures. The decision also invites defendants to make further challenges to SEC enforcement actions by litigating several related issues.
Implications for Enforcement Proceedings
The Court’s opinion, written by Justice Sotomayor, is summarized in a WLF Legal Pulse post authored last week by UCLA School of Law Professor Stephen Bainbridge. The gist of the decision is that disgorgement is a form of penalty because it involves a defendant who has violated a public law and must pay money to the United States Treasury; this contrasts with non-penalty cases, where the defendant has injured a particular victim and must pay compensation to that victim. And because disgorgement is a penalty, the Supreme Court held, disgorgement actions are covered by 28 U.S.C. § 2462, the five-year statute of limitations for penalties. Continue reading
Antitrust & Competition — US Department of Justice
Anthony W. Swisher, a Partner in the Washington, DC office of Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP.
One of the principles underlying merger analysis has always been that mergers provide value to society. Historically, this idea has seen practical expression in a degree of humility on the part of the antitrust enforcement agencies, and a reluctance to intervene too hastily in a deal, lest they disrupt the benefits that might flow from it. Another practical expression of the recognition of merger-specific benefits is the availability of the efficiencies defense. Under the Horizontal Merger Guidelines, the Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division and the Federal Trade Commission will consider the degree to which a deal will permit the merging parties to obtain efficiencies that would not be available to them individually. Continue reading
*Note: This is the third in a series of posts compiling Washington Legal Foundation papers, briefs, regulatory comments, and blog commentaries relevant to critical legal and constitutional issues facing new senior leaders at specific federal regulatory agencies. To read posts addressing other federal agencies, click here.
As the federal government’s primary prosecutor, the Department of Justice (DOJ) serves an important role in enforcing criminal penalties. However, DOJ frequently oversteps its bounds and advances overzealous enforcement policies.
Through its public-interest litigation, publishing, and other advocacy, WLF influenced debates over DOJ’s recent policies and actions with timely papers and blog commentaries, and weighed in directly through amicus briefs. Those activities have resulted in an impressive body of reference materials that are instructive for new leadership in the agency. This post provides a summary of and links to those documents below to simplify access to relevant work product from WLF in each of those areas.
In November 2015, WLF released the third edition of its Timeline: Federal Erosion of Business Civil Liberties (Overcriminalization Timeline). Each category in the Timeline reflects a separate concern with DOJ’s approach to white-collar criminal enforcement: mens rea, DOJ criminal enforcement, attorney-client and work product privileges, deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, and criminal sentencing. Continue reading
On the eve of the inauguration, many industries and businesses await the changes a new administration will bring. In particular, payday lenders are hoping that they will once again be able to enjoy unrestricted banking access, as for the past several years their banking relationships have slowly been severed as a result of a government initiative known as “Operation Choke Point.”
Operation Choke Point began—without any Congressional approval or even knowledge—as a product of President Obama’s 2009 executive order to eliminate fraudulent and illegal businesses. Not surprisingly, however, the initiative quickly expanded. By 2013, the Department of Justice (DOJ) had started quietly launching the now-infamous federal initiative unconstitutionally cutting off countless legitimate businesses from banking services. Continue reading
Featured Expert Contributor — Antitrust & Competition, U.S. Department of Justice
Anthony W. Swisher, a Partner in the Washington, DC office of Squire Patton Boggs (US) LLP
In April of this year President Obama issued an executive order designed to “protect American consumers and workers and encourage competition in the U.S. economy … .” The order aimed to expand competition policy beyond just the Justice Department Antitrust Division (DOJ) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), and encouraged every federal agency to consider ways to enhance competition when drafting and enforcing each given agency’s regulations. A notable element of the President’s executive order was the promotion of competition in labor markets. The order asserted that the economic growth that flows from competitive markets “creates opportunity for American workers,” and that anticompetitive practices can reduce those opportunities. Continue reading