Thursday, July 26, 2012
The Collection Gap
Along with Ezra Ross (now of UCI), I have started a new blog, The Collection Gap, which deals with regulatory enforcement failure. The blog was inspired by our article, The Collection Gap: Underenforcement of Corporate and White Collar Fines and Penalties, 29 Yale L. & Pol'y Rev. 453 (2011), which found that agencies are leaving billions of dollars in criminal, civil and administrative fines and penalties uncollected, even where offenders have the ability to pay.
One of the things that drove us to pursue this topic was the fact that, while there was much debate about whether or how much to fine corporations, there was little if any discussion about whether the fines that were imposed were ever actually collected--which obviously impacts deterrence and institutional legitimacy, among other things. Agencies like the EPA get the benefit of announcing big headlines ("Biggest fine ever against polluter X..."), but are not held accountable for failing to follow through. Part of the problem is simply resources, but we believe that to a large extent it has to do with insufficient incentives at the institutional and individual levels.
I would welcome thoughts or suggestions about other situations in which problems with policy implementation threaten to undermine the policies themselves. It's the type of thing that often doesn't get much attention, but could have a lot of practical impact regarding how government actually operates and affects people's lives.
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Martin - Great topic. I did NLRA (labor law) compliance work at the NLRB regional office level in Philadelphia and it was often incredibly frustrating. Much of the difficulty in that context came from the agency's mandate and what could -- or more vexingly could not -- actually be done by law at the local level in the case of non-agreement over gritty details. Often agencies have to run back to court for the most mundane problems and because of very limited resources resist doing so and therefore put blinders on concerning collection failures. Moreover, the structure of an agency can feed into this kind of paralysis if local officials have a limited day-to-day mandate and are insufficiently support by national officials in large national undertakings.
Posted by: Michael Duff | Jul 26, 2012 10:19:27 AM
interesting project! There is a well-documented disparity in the fines assessed for environmental violations in environmental justice communities when compared with other (wealthier and/or whiter) communities. You have now made me wonder if that disparity is then exacerbated by differing levels of collection once those fines are assessed.
Posted by: rebecca bratspies | Jul 26, 2012 11:59:23 AM
Don't forget to look at the tax implications too.
Posted by: Dan Markel | Jul 26, 2012 12:01:08 PM
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