12 CFR § 622.7 - Conduct of hearings.

§ 622.7 Conduct of hearings.

(a) Authority of presiding officer. All hearings governed by this subpart shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions of chapter 5 of title 5 of the United States Code. The presiding officer designated by the Board to preside at any such hearing shall have complete charge of the hearing, shall have the duty to conduct it in a fair and impartial manner and shall take all necessary action to avoid delay in the disposition of the proceeding. Such officer shall have all powers necessary to that end, including the following:

(1) To administer oaths and affirmations;

(2) To issue subpoenas and subpoenas duces tecum, as authorized by law, and to revoke, quash, or modify any such subpoena;

(3) To receive relevant evidence and to rule upon the admission of evidence and offers of proof;

(4) To take or cause depositions to be taken;

(5) To regulate the course of the hearing and the conduct of the parties and their counsel;

(6) To hold conferences for the settlement or simplification of issues or for any proper purpose; and

(7) To consider and rule upon, as justice may require, all procedural and other motions appropriate in a proceeding under this subpart, except that a presiding officer shall not have power to decide any motion to dismiss the proceeding or other motion which results in a final determination of the merits of the proceeding. This power rests only with the Board. Without limitation on the foregoing, the presiding officer shall, subject to the provisions of this subpart, have all the authority set forth in 5 U.S.C. 556(c).

(b) Prehearing conference. The presiding officer may, on his or her own initiative or at the request of any party, direct counsel for all parties to meet with him or her at a specified time and place prior to the hearing, or to submit suggestions to him or her in writing, for the purpose of considering any or all of the following:

(1) Simplification and clarification of the issues;

(2) Stipulations, admissions of fact and of the contents and authenticity of documents;

(3) Matters of which official notice will be taken; and

(4) Such other matters as may aid in the orderly disposition of the proceeding.

At the conclusion of such conference(s) the presiding officer shall enter an order which recites the results of the conference. Such order shall include the presiding officer's rulings upon matters considered at the conference, together with appropriate directions, if any, to the parties. Such order shall control the subsequent course of the proceeding, unless modified at the hearing for good cause shown.

(c) Exchange of information. Thirty (30) days prior to the hearing, parties shall exchange a list of the names of witnesses with a general description of their expected testimony, and a list and one copy of all documents or other physical exhibits which will be introduced in evidence in the course of the proceeding.

(d) Attendance at hearings. All hearings shall be private and shall be attended only by the parties, their counsel or authorized representatives, witnesses while testifying, and other persons having an official interest in the proceeding. However, if the Board, in its discretion, after fully considering the views of the party afforded the hearing, determines that a public hearing is necessary to protect the public interest, the Board may in its sole discretion order that the hearing be public.

(e) Transcript of testimony. Hearings shall be recorded. A copy of the transcript of the testimony taken at any hearing, duly certified by the reporter, together with all exhibits accepted into evidence shall be filed with the presiding officer. The presiding officer shall promptly serve notice upon all parties of such filing. The parties shall make their own arrangements with the person recording the testimony for copies of the testimony and exhibits. The presiding officer shall have authority to correct the record sua sponte with notice to all parties and to rule upon motions to correct the record. In the event the hearing is public, transcripts will be furnished to interested persons upon payment of the cost thereof.

(f) Continuances and changes or extensions of time and changes of place of hearing. Except as otherwise provided by law, the presiding officer may extend time limits prescribed by these rules or by any notice or order issued in the proceedings, may change the time for beginning any hearing, continue or adjourn a hearing from time to time, and/or change the location of the hearing. Prior to the appointment of a presiding officer and after the filing of a recommended decision pursuant to § 622.12, the Board may grant such extensions or changes. Subject to the approval of the presiding officer, the parties may by stipulation change the time limits specified by these rules or any notice or order issued hereunder.

(g) Closing of hearing. The record of the hearing shall be closed by an announcement to that effect by the presiding officer when the taking of evidence has been concluded. In the discretion of the presiding officer, the record may be closed as of a future date in order to permit the admission into the record, under circumstances determined by the presiding officer, of exhibits to be prepared.

(h) Call for further evidence, oral arguments, briefs, reopening of hearing. The presiding officer may call for the production of further evidence upon any issue, may permit oral argument and submission of briefs at the hearing and, upon appropriate notice, may reopen any hearing at any time prior to the filing of his or her recommended decision. The Board may reopen the record at anytime permitted by law.

(i) Order of procedure. The FCA shall open and close.

(j) Ex parte communications.

(1) No person shall make or knowingly cause to be made an ex parte communication relevant to the merits of the proceeding to the presiding officer or anyone who is or may reasonably be expected to be involved in the decisional process.

(2) No person who is or may reasonably be expected to be involved in the decisional process shall make or knowingly cause to be made an ex parte communication relevant to the merits of the proceeding to any person.

(3) Except as authorized by law, the presiding officer shall not consult anyone on any fact in issue, unless upon notice and opportunity for all parties to participate. The presiding officer shall not be responsible to, or subject to the supervision or direction of, any officer, employee, or agent of the FCA engaged in the performance of investigative or prosecuting functions. An officer, employee or agent engaged in the performance of such functions in any case shall not, in that case or a factually related case, participate or advise in the decision of the presiding officer, except as a witness or counsel in the proceedings, or as otherwise authorized by law.

(4) If an ex parte communication is made or knowingly caused to be made, all such communications, and any responses, shall be placed in the record.

(5) Upon receipt of a communication knowingly made or caused to be made in violation of paragraph (j) of this section, the responsible party may be required to show cause why such party's claim or interest should not be dismissed, denied, or otherwise adversely affected. To the extent consistent with the interests of justice, a knowing violation of paragraph (j) of this section may be grounds for a decision adverse to a party in violation.

(6) The prohibitions against ex parte communications apply from the time a proceeding is noticed for hearing. However, when the person responsible for the communication has knowledge that the proceeding will be noticed, the prohibitions apply from the time such knowledge is acquired.