Our clients face compliance obligations under a myriad of requirements imposed by federal law, regulations and policy adopted by the various jurisdictional regulatory agencies. Our firm has been able to use our extensive knowledge of the industries in which we practice to assist our clients in successfully navigating compliance and enforcement issues.
Whether defending clients already in trouble or proactively helping them develop a compliance and risk management regime to prevent trouble, the lawyers of Spiegel & McDiarmid LLP understand municipal utilities and airports, and the agencies that regulate them. Our clients trust our expertise, insights and track record to guide them through the enforcement process and help them avoid the process before it even begins.
Municipal utilities are highly vulnerable to new powers exercised by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to investigate and enforce regulatory violations in areas such as market manipulation and tariffs. Our lawyers use their extensive knowledge of this industry and this regulator to help our clients comply with the law and deal with the consequences of direct and inadvertent violations.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and so we provide our clients with in-depth regulatory compliance training. Conveniently delivered at the client’s place of business and preceded by thorough risk-assessment telephone interviews of management and staff, these interactive training sessions explain FERC’s compliance requirements and counsel clients on whether various incidents could create enforcement exposure.
We also help clients set up programs to prevent rule violations, training employees to recognize aspects of daily activities that could have market enforcement implications. By designing formal compliance policies, we help create an institutional framework for internal compliance reporting within the company. It is worth noting that FERC will mitigate penalties for companies with compliance policies in place.
FERC also treats self-reported violations more leniently than if a broken rule is revealed through an external investigation or whistle-blowing. Should a client realize that it might have committed a violation, we advise on next steps, which could include self-reporting to mitigate penalties. This is often a complicated high-risk decision, one that companies should not undertake without expert legal counsel.
Nor should a client try to navigate a full-blown FERC investigation by itself. We defend clients in these situations through discovery and depositions in front of commissioners and courts as necessary. Down the road, we anticipate emerging challenges from increased North American Reliability Corporation (NERC) compliance, more Regional Transmission Organization (RTO) rules, and the possibility that FERC will start requiring some municipal utilities to file electronic quarterly reports detailing their wholesale transactions.
The firm's Transportation Practice regularly counsels airport proprietors on compliance issues under federal aviation law, airport grant assurances, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations, and Department of Transportation (DOT) policy. By maintaining regular contact with FAA Airport Compliance and Field Operation staff at the agency's headquarters and its various regional and airport district offices, as well as with the attorneys from FAA's Office of Chief Counsel, we often are able to quickly and informally resolve airport compliance questions. Ultimately, however, if and when allegations of compliance violations are brought forward, we have the experience and expertise to represent our airport clients in agency enforcement actions, such as FAA Part 16 investigatory proceedings and compliance audits.