Audit, Compliance and Risk Blog

Federal Enforcement Falls in President Trump’s First Year

Posted by Jon Elliott on Tue, Aug 28, 2018

AuditPresident Trump and his agency heads have been clear about their intent to reduce regulatory “burdens” on individuals and organizations. Meanwhile, however, they have tended to talk tough on crime. However, a new report shows that civil and criminal enforcement against corporations fell dramatically during their first year in office, compared with enforcement during President Obama’s term. In July, the nonprofit advocacy group Public Citizen published “Corporate Impunity – ‘on Crime’ Trump Is Weak on Corporate Crime and Wrongdoing.”

What Does the Report Say?

According to the report, the dollar value of finalized civil penalty proceedings during 2017 at agencies led during most of that year by a Trump appointee fell at 11 of 12 agencies, compared to President Obama’s last year, as follows:

  • Environmental Protection Agency -94%

  • Department of Justice -90%

  • Federal Communications Commission -85%

  • Commodity Futures Trading Commission -80%

  • Securities and Exchange Commission -68%

  • Federal Trade Commission -65%

  • Office of the Comptroller of the Currency -53%

  • Consumer Product Safety Commission -43%

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission -19%

  • Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement -13%

  • Aviation Consumer Protection Division -11%

  • Office of Foreign Assets Control +465%

The overall total for the 12 agencies fell from nearly $124 billion to just over $12 billion. Numbers of completed cases also fell at 10 of the 12 agencies:

  • Environmental Protection Agency – 2106 vs, 1847

  • Department of Justice – 308 vs. 241

  • Federal Communications Commission – 49 vs. 30

  • Commodity Futures Trading Commission – 51 vs. 36

  • Securities and Exchange Commission – 207 vs. 116

  • Federal Trade Commission - 27 vs. 14

  • Office of the Comptroller of the Currency – 10 vs. 10

  • Consumer Product Safety Commission – 6 vs. 4

  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – 171 vs. 125

  • Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement – 27 vs, 25

  • Aviation Consumer Protection Division – 28 vs 18

  • Office of Foreign Assets Control - 11 vs. 13

Public Citizen drew this information from the agencies’ enforcement reporting (where available), and from agencies press releases and other public notifications.

What are the Implications?

President Trump and his enforcement and regulatory leaders have been very clear that they are working tor reduce regulatory burdens on regulated agencies. This new report suggests strongly that they also are reducing enforcement “burdens.” Generally, organizations can be expected to calibrate their activities to avoid triggering expensive enforcement actions but otherwise to save money by reducing compliance activities when the likelihood and likely expense of enforcement fall.

Self-Evaluation Checklist

Has the organization been subject to federal enforcement actions during any of all of the past 3 years?

Where Can I Go For More Information?

* Public Citizen report “Corporate Impunity – ‘on Crime’ Trump Is Weak on Corporate Crime and Wrongdoing” -

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About the Author

Jon Elliott is President of Touchstone Environmental and has been a major contributor to STP’s product range for over 25 years. He was involved in developing 13 existing products, including Environmental Compliance: A Simplified National Guide and The Complete Guide to Environmental Law.

Mr. Elliott has a diverse educational background. In addition to his Juris Doctor (University of California, Boalt Hall School of Law, 1981), he holds a Master of Public Policy (Goldman School of Public Policy [GSPP], UC Berkeley, 1980), and a Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering (Princeton University, 1977).

Mr. Elliott is active in professional and community organizations. In addition, he is a past chairman of the Board of Directors of the GSPP Alumni Association, and past member of the Executive Committee of the State Bar of California's Environmental Law Section (including past chair of its Legislative Committee).

You may contact Mr. Elliott directly at:

photo credit: Coast Guard News Pollution assessments in the wake of Hurricane Irma via photopin (license)

Tags: Business & Legal, Environmental risks, Environmental, EPA, corporate social responsibility