Regulatory Reform

Implementation of Selected Agencies' Civil Penalty Relief Policies for Small Entities Gao ID: GAO-01-280 February 20, 2001

One of the ways that federal regulatory agencies enforce applicable statutes and regulations is through the imposition of civil monetary penalties for violations of those statutes and regulations. The amounts of the penalties imposed can vary substantially, depending on the limits specified in the applicable statutes or regulations and the degree to which the agencies impose the maximum fines permitted. Congress provided agencies with substantial discretion in developing their Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act (SBREFA) policies. Not surprisingly, the agencies used that discretion and developed policies that vary substantially. The agencies also varied in how key terms were defined and in their policies' conditions and exclusions. This variability notwithstanding, all of the agencies' policies and programs that GAO reviewed were within the discretion afforded to them by the SBREFA Agencies were allowed to limit the scope of their programs to only a portion of their enforcement actions against small entities, and they could decide not to give small entities any additional penalty relief. Agencies were also allowed to establish whatever conditions or exclusions they wanted for participation in their programs, subject to the requirements and limitations in other statutes.


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