Cartwright and Posey Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Make Federal Agency Settlements More Transparent
Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representatives Matt Cartwright (PA-17) and Bill Posey (FL-08) re-introduced the bipartisan Truth in Settlements Act of 2015. The legislation would require federal agencies to publicly disclose the terms of non-confidential settlements obtained from offenders. U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (MA) and James Lankford (OK) have introduced the legislation in the Senate.
This legislation would require federal agencies to disclose whether any portion of a non-confidential settlement is potentially tax deductible and post information about these settlements on their websites. Additionally, federal agencies would be required to provide an explanation if a settlement is deemed confidential.
Federal agencies often tout the topline amount of settlements obtained from offenders. All too often, this value is misleading because tax deductions built into the settlement reduce the settlement’s true value. Worse, agencies can deem settlements confidential without explanation, preventing public scrutiny altogether.
“This much needed legislation would compel transparency from both corporations and federal agencies,” said Rep. Cartwright. “Government has an obligation to disclose information when it is pertinent to the public’s interest and well-being. If an agency chooses to reach a settlement with an offender, then that agency must be willing to disclose the terms of the agreement or come up with a good reason for not doing so. We must hold offenders accountable for their actions.”
“Federal agencies have an obligation to operate in the sunshine, especially when enforcing federal laws,” said Rep. Posey. “When the law is broken and federal agencies decide to settle cases and impose massive fines, the public has a right to know why and what the details of such settlement agreements are. This legislation will provide a more transparent process and lead to more accountability for wrong doing in both the private and public sectors.”
"When government agencies reach settlements with companies that break the law, they should disclose the terms of those deals to the public," said Senator Warren. "Anytime an agency decides that an enforcement action is needed, but it is not willing to go to court, that agency should be willing to disclose the key terms and conditions of the agreement. Increased transparency will shut down backroom deal-making and ensure that Congress, citizens and watchdog groups can hold regulatory agencies accountable for strong and effective enforcement that benefits the public interest."
“I applaud Congressmen Matt Cartwright and Bill Posey for introducing this important legislation in the House,” said Senator Lankford. “The Truth in Settlements Act is needed to hold the federal government accountable for the investigations and settlements that it negotiates on behalf of American taxpayers. An open and transparent government will lead to an accountable government. Federal agencies should not hide behind top-line settlement figures – the taxpayers deserve to access how settlement decisions are made, what the true post-tax settlement dollar amount is, and why confidentiality is justified in a case.”