42 U.S. Code § 3537a - Prohibition of advance disclosure of funding decisions
(a) Prohibited actions
During any selection process, no officer or employee of the Department of Housing and Urban Development shall knowingly disclose any covered selection information regarding such selection, directly or indirectly, to any person other than a person authorized by the Secretary to receive such information.
(b) Administrative remedies
If the Secretary receives or obtains information providing a reasonable basis to believe that a violation of subsection (a) of this section has occurred, the Secretary shall—
(1) in the case of a selection that has not been made, determine whether to terminate the selection process or take other appropriate actions; and
(2) in the case of a selection that has been made, determine whether to—
(A) void or rescind the selection, subject to review and determination on the record after opportunity for a hearing;
(B) impose sanctions upon the violating applicant selected, subject to review and determination on the record after opportunity for a hearing;
(c) Civil money penalties
(1) In general
Whenever any employee of the Department knowingly and materially violates the prohibition in subsection (a) of this section, the Secretary may impose a civil money penalty on the employee in accordance with the provisions of this subsection. This penalty shall be in addition to any other available civil remedy or any available criminal penalty and may be imposed whether or not the Secretary takes other disciplinary actions.
The amount of the penalty, as determined by the Secretary, may not exceed $10,000 for each violation.
(3) Agency procedures
The Secretary shall establish standards and procedures governing the imposition of civil money penalties under this subsection. The standards and procedures—
(i) shall provide for the Secretary or other official of the Department to make the determination to impose a penalty or to use an administrative entity to make the determination;
(ii) shall provide for the imposition of a penalty only after the employee has been given an opportunity for a hearing on the record; and
(B) Final orders
If no hearing is requested within 15 days of receipt of the notice of opportunity for hearing, the imposition of the penalty shall constitute a final and unappealable order. If the Secretary reviews the determination or order, the Secretary may affirm, modify, or reverse that determination or order. If the Secretary does not review the determination or order within 90 days of the issuance of the determination or order, the determination or order shall be final.
(C) Factors in determining amount of penalty
In determining the amount of a penalty under paragraph (2), consideration shall be given to such factors as the gravity of the offense, any history of prior disclosures of information on pending funding decisions made after December 15, 1989, ability to pay the penalty, injury to the public, benefits received, deterrence of future violations, and such other factors as the Secretary may determine in regulations to be appropriate.
(4) Judicial review of agency determination
(A) In general
After exhausting all administrative remedies established by the Secretary under paragraph (3)(A), an employee against whom the Secretary has imposed a civil money penalty under paragraph (1) may obtain a review of the penalty and such ancillary issues (such as any administrative sanctions under 24 C.F.R. part 25) as may be addressed in the notice of determination to impose a penalty under paragraph (3)(A)(i) in the appropriate court of appeals of the United States, by filing in such court, within 20 days after the entry of such order or determination, a written petition praying that the Secretary’s order or determination be modified or be set aside in whole or in part.
(B) Objections not raised in hearing
The court shall not consider any objection that was not raised in the hearing conducted pursuant to paragraph (3)(A) unless a demonstration is made of extraordinary circumstances causing the failure to raise the objection. If any party demonstrates to the satisfaction of the court that additional evidence not presented at such hearing is material and that there were reasonable grounds for the failure to present such evidence at the hearing, the court shall remand the matter to the Secretary for consideration of such additional evidence.
(C) Scope of review
(5) Action to collect penalty
If any employee fails to comply with the Secretary’s determination or order imposing a civil money penalty under paragraph (1), after the determination or order is no longer subject to review as provided by paragraphs (3)(A) and (4), the Secretary may request the Attorney General of the United States to bring an action in an appropriate United States district court to obtain a monetary judgment against the employee and such other relief as may be available. The monetary judgment may, in the court’s discretion, include the attorneys’ fees and other expenses incurred by the United States in connection with the action. In an action under this subsection, the validity and appropriateness of the Secretary’s determination or order imposing the penalty shall not be subject to review.
(6) Settlement by Secretary
The Secretary may compromise, modify, or remit any civil money penalty which may be, or has been, imposed under this subsection.
(d) Criminal penalties
Whoever willfully violates subsection (a) of this section by making a disclosure prohibited by subsection (a) of this section to any applicant, or any officer, employee, representative, agent, or consultant of any applicant, shall be imprisoned not more than 5 years, or fined in accordance with title 18, or both.
For purposes of this section:
The term “applicant” means any applicant or candidate that is being considered for receiving assistance.
The term “assistance” means any grant, loan, subsidy, guarantee, or other financial assistance under a program administered by the Secretary that provides by statute, regulation, or otherwise for the competitive distribution of such assistance. The term does not include any mortgage insurance provided under a program administered by the Secretary.
(3) Covered selection information
The term “covered selection information” means—
(A) any information that is contained in any application or request for assistance, or any information regarding the decision of the Secretary to make available assistance or other information that is determined by the Secretary to be information that is not generally available to the public (not including program requirements and timing of the decision to make assistance available); and
The term “knowingly” means having actual knowledge of or acting with deliberate ignorance of or reckless disregard for the prohibitions under this section.
The term “selection” means the determination of which applicants for assistance are to receive assistance under the program.
(6) Selection process
The term “selection process” means the period with respect to a selection for assistance that begins with the development, preparation, and issuance of a solicitation or request for applications for the assistance and concludes with the selection of recipients of assistance, and includes the evaluation of applications.
The Secretary shall issue such regulations as the Secretary deems appropriate to implement this section.