We are nearly six months into the Biden administration and its civil and criminal enforcement policies are taking shape. Under the Trump administration, the government’s enforcement focus shifted away from white collar crimes and violations towards immigration, violent crimes, opioids, and the like. Environmental enforcement in particular dipped dramatically. Although the Biden administration has not formally announced enforcement priorities, it is expected to shift back and renew the government’s focus on corporations and certain white collar crimes. This likely will be true for the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) as well as at the agency level, as agency heads are expected to be given a high degree of independence and agencies to be empowered to pursue enforcement actions and refer serious cases to the DOJ.
The Biden administration also has made some major policy changes with respect to environmental enforcement. Earlier this year, the Deputy Assistant Attorney General sent a memorandum to the heads of each section in the DOJ’s Environmental and Natural Resources Division, which includes the sections that bring civil and criminal maritime environmental cases referred to the DOJ by the U.S. Coast Guard (“USCG”) and the Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”). The memorandum revoked nine policy directives that had been in place under the Trump administration. It also stated that the Biden administration will be focusing on climate change and environmental justice.
What does all of this mean for the maritime industry? There are a few key takeaways: 1) enforcement of MARPOL Annex I cases will continue and we may see an increased focus on MARPOL Annex VI and EPA emissions standards, as well as on ballast water; and 2) we also expect a continued focus on non-environmental enforcement areas that have long posed significant risks to the industry: sanctions, anti-corruption, anti-money laundering, and antitrust. This is not a complete list of the risks facing our very heavily regulated industry, but it captures the enforcement trends and what are, in our view, the most critical risks.Continue reading “Criminal Enforcement under the Biden Administration”