Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently issued a memorandum rolling out a new policy prohibiting settlement payments to third parties. The policy, which is effective immediately, prohibits DOJ attorneys from entering into settlement agreements that include payments to non-governmental organizations or third-party organizations that were not parties to the dispute. The memorandum aims to ensure that settlement funds are used to compensate victims, redress harm, or punish and deter unlawful conduct.
In the environmental context, this policy appears to be aimed at supplemental environmental projects in which the terms of a settlement agreement may require direct payment to third party environmental non-government organizations to implement a negotiated project with environmental benefits. The memo does provide a narrow set of exceptions for payments to provide restitution to victims or to directly remedy the harm the case sought to redress, including harm to the environment, payment for legal or professional services rendered in connection with the case, or where such payments are explicitly authorized by statute.
The memorandum directs that existing resources, including the U.S. Attorneys’ Manual, be revised to conform to this policy.
The Sessions memo is available here.