09.22.15

Senator Lankford’s Truth in Settlements Act Passes the Senate

WASHINGTON, DC – The Truth in Settlements Act (S.1109), bipartisan legislation to increase transparency around major settlements reached by federal agencies, introduced by Senator James Lankford (R-OK) and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in April, passed the Senate by unanimous consent late Monday. 

“I am grateful to my colleagues in the Senate for supporting legislation that ensures the American taxpayer has full access to review settlements negotiated on their behalf,” said Lankford. “The Truth in Settlements Act will create accountability and transparency for federal agencies to follow and provide specific details to the public regarding decisions made by agencies. This bill will also shed light onto settlements that result in new federal regulations, especially when taxpayers are forced to pay the cost for reimbursing legal fees for private parties that sue the government.”

“The idea behind this bill is straightforward: If the government is going to cut deals on behalf of the American people, the American people are entitled to know what kind of a deal they're getting,” said Warren. "I’m glad the Senate unanimously passed the Truth in Settlements Act to provide more transparency around government settlements. This legislation 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."

When federal agencies close investigations and settle cases, they release the dollar amount obtained from the offender, but in many cases the amount is misleading because of tax deductions and other ‘credits’ built into the settlement that reduce the settlement's true value. Sometimes agreements are deemed confidential, with key details or even the fact of a settlement hidden from the public. The Truth in Settlements Act will require more accessible and detailed disclosures about agreements to allow the public to hold regulators accountable for the true value of the settlement to the taxpayers. Additionally, the bill will bring more transparency to the costs and regulatory impact of certain settlements, such as citizen suits, that result in new regulations by requiring annual reports from federal agencies on settlements in rulemaking or regulatory changes, attorney fees, costs and expenses paid by an agency to non-federal entities.

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