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.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should amend interstate commerce legislation to (1) make civil penalties applicable to all types of motor carrier violations as well as to shippers and others that aid and abet these violations, and (2) establish a minimum civil penalty for motor carrier violations and increase the maximum penalty.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: The Chairman, ICC, should uniformly follow Federal claim collection standards, establish and adhere to specific criteria for terminating settlement negotiations and initiating court collections in a timely manner, and document and use as many identified violations as are feasible to support civil penalty claims. Further, the Chairman and the Attorney General, Department of Justice, should reach an agreement authorizing ICC attorneys to handle civil penalty collections when their out-of-court negotiations are exhausted. The Chairman and the Attorney General should enter into an agreement which would ensure more timely and effective judicial handling of criminal actions. The agreement should designate, where possible, a senior ICC attorney in each region with authority to prosecute ICC criminal court actions whenever U.S. attorneys' workloads or other factors prevent timely handling; and develop a procedure for bringing unresolved problems between U.S. attorneys' offices and ICC field offices promptly to the attention of the Attorney General and the Chairman for disposition. The Chairman should establish a followup investigation system in each region to timely monitor compliance of those who have received civil injunctions, contempt actions, or criminal fines whenever it appears that violations may continue or be resumed.

    Agency Affected:


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