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Columbia Partner John Kuppens Testifies
on Civil Penalty Issues at CPSC Hearing

June 29, 2016
John F. Kuppens

Manufacturers, importers, and retailers of consumer products are keenly aware that the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is being increasingly active in its efforts to pursue civil penalties against them, and both the frequency and amounts of these civil penalties continue to rise. So far this year, there have been four civil penalties over $2 million, with the highest being $15,450,000. At the same time, many in the regulated community feel that there is a need for better communication from the CPSC staff and more guidance regarding how decisions are made. Even some of the Commissioners agree that the current framework needs a fresh look. In a recent statement addressing the $15.45 million civil penalty, Commissioner Joseph Mohorovic said, “By itself, the number is virtually meaningless, just a very large trophy on the wall. What gives the number meaning and the power to change behavior is context. If other companies better understand the behavior that drew our ire in this instance, they can better understand what behavior they should avoid.”

Indeed, many in the regulated community find the process in which civil penalty investigations are initiated and negotiated unnecessarily mysterious, and they crave more guidance as they seek to remain in compliance. Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough partner John Kuppens was among a small group of private practitioners who testified about these issues before the Commissioners at the CPSC’s June 15 “Public Hearing on Fiscal Years 2017 and 2018 Commission Agenda and Priorities,” asking that, as the agency develops its strategic priorities for the next two fiscal years, it commit to studying ways to improve communication, and provide better guidance. Click here for the full text of his comments.