By: Blaine Rawson
In response to the economic difficulties caused by COVID-19, the United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) has modified its approach to collecting outstanding civil penalties. According to a March 31, 2020 memo, the DOJ has suspended collection of outstanding civil penalties until at least May 31, 2020, with the possibility of an extension of that date. During this “temporary suspension,” civil penalty payments under any payment plan with DOJ are suspended and DOJ will halt efforts to begin new collection efforts.
However, according to a subsequent April 13, 2020 memo meant to clarify the March 31 memo, the DOJ will still enforce environmental laws to ensure compliance during this “temporary suspension” period, including commencing litigation to force compliance that could result in civil and criminal penalties in the future. Also, there is no suspension of the obligation to pay criminal fines and restitution. DOJ may also place liens on a debtor’s property.
Ray Quinney & Nebeker has been assisting clients in this area, including obtaining a deferral of civil penalty payment obligations for several months.