ICC's Enforcement Program Can Be More Effective in Halting Violations and Preventing Their Recurrence

CED-80-57: Published: May 19, 1980. Publicly Released: May 19, 1980.

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The Interstate Commerce Commission's (ICC) enforcement program has encountered problems in deterring violations of interstate commerce legislation through use of its most common enforcement tools; civil penalty settlements and court actions.

ICC uses civil penalties more often that any other enforcement tool, yet they cannot be used for some major violations, are not obtained in a timely manner, and result in small settlements. ICC could improve the timeliness of civil penalty settlements by making sure that its attorneys follow Federal claim collections standards and by establishing and implementing policies for terminating negotiations. ICC lacks the authority to file civil court actions to collect penalties, and some ICC attorneys are reluctant to press for higher penalties knowing that if the violator resists, the case must be referred to the U.S. attorney for collection. Referrals result in only slightly larger average penalties, and ICC attorneys believe that referral substantially delays completion of the case. The use of court actions, essential to stimulate compliance where civil penalties may not provide a strong enough deterrent, is limited because of ICC problems with U.S. attorneys' handling of criminal court actions and lack of an ICC followup investigation program. Lack of a program for timely reinvestigations following successful court actions may jeopardize the deterrent value of such actions.

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