Department of Justice Temporarily Suspends Collection of Stipulated Payments During Pandemic

(April 17, 2020) – The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) recently issued two memos – one on March 31 and one on April 13 – outlining its policy to temporarily suspend certain affirmative civil debt collection and enforcement activities, including those related to environmental consent decrees and settlement agreements, through May 31, 2020 to “mitigate the financial impact of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.” 

Pursuant to the memos, while voluntary payments are still permitted, DOJ will not seek to collect payments from parties such as those subject to stipulated penalty payments under consent decrees, including wet weather decrees, until after May 31, subject to extension depending on future circumstances related to the pandemic.  However, interest will still accrue on any payments owed, and on-going investigations, litigation and settlement actions will continue.

The policy also states that if the terms of settlement agreements are breached, DOJ may still pursue the remedies outlined in the agreement including default judgments, though no default judgments will be executed until after May 31.  Additionally, the policy does not apply to any criminal restitution, fines, and penalties. 

For questions about DOJ’s policy, please contact Nathan Gardner-Andrews, NACWA’s General Counsel & Chief Advocacy Officer.