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News
October 21, 2014

U.S. Chamber Legal Reform Summit Highlights Explosion of Duplicative Enforcement, Calls for a Return to Principles of Justice

New Research Examines Litigation Quagmire Facing Employers
Due to ‘Swarm’ Enforcement


WASHINGTON, D.C.
— Duplicative and overlapping civil and criminal enforcement by a multitude of federal, state, and local agencies is threatening the U.S. civil justice system and will ultimately hurt consumers, employers, and the economy, according to new research presented today by the U.S. Chamber Institute for Legal Reform (ILR).

A new report, Unprincipled Prosecution: Abuse of Power and Profiteering in the New “Litigation Swarm,” released at ILR’s 15th Annual Legal Reform Summit examines how state attorneys general, regulators, and federal agencies acting in their own self-interest often pursue redundant prosecutions against businesses. The report also explores how these actions at the state and municipal level are taken through litigation by private plaintiffs’ attorneys.

“Some federal, state, and even local officials are launching legal crusades against business,” said Lisa A. Rickard, president of ILR. “They are using the justice system in an unprincipled way in order to attract headlines and raise revenue for the government in the form of mind-staggering fines and penalties.”

Unprincipled Prosecution details how public officials politicize enforcement decisions in order to seek higher office, plug budget shortfalls, and impose new regulations as a way to circumvent the normal legislative and regulatory processes. As the report shows, plaintiffs’ lawyers themselves often conceive of and market enforcement lawsuits to government officials and then profit from them through lucrative contingency fee contracts.

The paper also outlines several principles for reforming America’s enforcement system, including connecting a single enforcement action to a specific set of facts, establishing standards for monetary sanctions, regulating the use of contingency fee counsel, and prohibiting states from entering into settlements that regulate conduct in other states.

At the summit, ILR also released research about social media law and the workplace; enforcement of the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act (FIRREA); and the importation of transnational lawsuits to the U.S.

Additionally, ILR honored key individuals and organizations working to improve America’s litigation environment with its annual Legal Reform Awards.

More information on ILR’s research and award recipients is available here.

ILR seeks to promote civil justice reform through legislative, political, judicial, and educational activities at the national, state, and local levels.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the world’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.

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