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In June of 2017, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo prohibiting the Department of Justice from directing settlement payments to non-governmental third parties that are “neither victims nor parties to the lawsuits” when the Department is engaged in litigation. The memo halted a practice that was utilized by the Bush and Obama administrations and now may make a return under the Biden administration.

Some view these third-party payments in government litigation settlements as an unconstitutional encroachment on Congress's spending power that should remain proscribed, but some see them as a legitimate measure to advance policy goals, particularly when it comes to environmental enforcement.

On April 14, the Federalist Society's Regulatory Transparency Project and Practice Groups hosted a webinar featuring experts on both sides of the issue discussing the practice and whether it will – and should – be utilized once again by the new administration.


  • Ryan Dean Newman, Former Acting Assistant Attorney General, Office of Legal Policy, United States Department of Justice
  • Justin A. Savage, Global Co-Lead, Environmental Team, Sidley Austin LLP
  • John Shu, Attorney and Legal Commentator
  • [Moderator] Annie Donaldson Talley, Partner, Luther Strange and Associates

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