[Federal Register: March 6, 2006 (Volume 71, Number 43)]
[Rules and Regulations]               
[Page 11158-11160]
From the Federal Register Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]
[DOCID:fr06mr06-5]                         

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DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE

28 CFR Part 50

[Docket No. CIV 105; AG Order No. 2807-2006]
RIN 1105-AA82

 
Minimum Qualifications for Annuity Brokers in Connection With 
Structured Settlements Entered Into by the United States

AGENCY: Department of Justice.

ACTION: Final rule.

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SUMMARY: This final rule sets forth the minimum qualifications an 
individual annuity broker must meet in order to be included on the list 
of annuity brokers, established by the Attorney General, for the 
provision of annuity brokerage services in connection with structured 
settlements entered into by the United States. The final rule also sets 
forth the procedures that annuity brokers must follow in order to be 
included on the list.

DATES: This rule is effective on April 5, 2006.

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: Roger D. Einerson, Assistant Director, 
Torts Branch, FTCA Staff, P.O. Box 888, Benjamin Franklin Station, 
Washington, DC 20044. 202-616-4250.

SUPPLEMENTARY INFORMATION: This rule implements section 11015(a) of 
Public Law 107-273, the 21st Century Department of Justice 
Appropriations Act, which provides: ``Not later than 6 months after the 
date of enactment of this Act, the Attorney General shall establish a 
list of annuity brokers who meet minimum qualifications for providing 
annuity brokerage services in connection with structured settlements 
entered by the United States.'' The Attorney General published an 
interim rule implementing section 11015(a) on April 15, 2003, at 68 FR 
18119. Public comments were due by no later than July 14, 2003. On May 
1, 2003, the Department of Justice transmitted to all United States 
Attorneys the first list of annuity brokers who had submitted timely 
Declarations demonstrating that they met the minimum qualifications for 
providing annuity brokerage services in connection with structured 
settlements entered into by the United States. The Department has 
transmitted new calendar-year lists since the original calendar-year 
list, as well as updates of each calendar-year list.
    The Department of Justice received four written comments and a 
number of oral comments in response to the interim rule. The comments 
were received from annuity brokers, an association representing annuity 
brokers, a federal agency, and several United States Attorneys' 
offices. The written comments were, for the most part, unrelated to 
either the minimum qualifications established by the Attorney General 
pursuant to section 11015(a) of Public Law 107-273, or the mandatory 
procedures that annuity brokers must follow in order to be included on 
the list or any updated list. The oral comments related almost 
exclusively to the organization of the May 1, 2003 list that was 
transmitted to all United States Attorneys' offices, the effective date 
of that list, and the application of that list.
    Rather than respond to each comment individually, the Department 
will respond to the subject matter of the concerns raised. The 
Department of Justice has considered the comments and responds as 
follows:
    1. One commenter suggested that the minimum qualifications 
established by the Attorney General should be more stringent in order 
to better protect the interests of the United States. The commenter 
suggested that an annuity broker should be required to be licensed with 
more than one annuity company in order to meet minimum qualifications, 
so that the United States could take advantage of competitive annuity 
pricing from more than one annuity company. The commenter also 
suggested that the minimum qualifications should require an annuity 
broker to be licensed with companies that qualify under the Uniform 
Periodic Payment of Judgments Act. While these may be valid 
considerations in selecting an annuity broker for a particular case, 
the qualifications established by the Attorney General, pursuant to 
section 11015(a) of Public Law 107-273, were only minimum 
qualifications. The enhanced qualifications suggested by the commenter 
go beyond minimum qualifications. The United States Attorneys or their 
designees may consider additional criteria in selecting a broker, 
including those suggested by the commenter. However, these suggestions 
will not be incorporated into the final rule as mandatory minimum 
qualifications.
    2. Some of the commenters noted that section 11015 and the interim 
rule did

[[Page 11159]]

not make clear which persons in the United States Attorneys' offices 
are authorized to select annuity brokers. Section 11015(b) provides: 
``In any structured settlement that is not negotiated exclusively 
through the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, the United 
States Attorney (or his designee) involved in any settlement 
negotiations shall have the exclusive authority to select an annuity 
broker from the list of such brokers established by the Attorney 
General, provided that all documents related to any settlement comply 
with Department of Justice requirements.'' Therefore, in any case that 
is being negotiated exclusively by the United States Attorney's office, 
the United States Attorney (or his or her designee) has exclusive 
authority to select a broker, provided that the broker appears on the 
list current at the time of the selection.
    3. Several commenters asked whether a plaintiff is permitted to 
make the selection of an annuity broker on behalf of the United States, 
or whether a plaintiff may insist that the United States Attorney's 
office use an annuity broker already selected by the plaintiff as his 
or her annuity broker in the case. Section 11015(b) clearly confers 
authority to select the broker to the United States Attorney or his or 
her designee. Nothing in section 11015(b) or any other law entitles a 
plaintiff to select an annuity broker on behalf of the United States, 
or to require that the United States use an annuity broker already 
selected by the plaintiff. As is true with any party in litigation, the 
United States has the right to select its own experts and consultants, 
including annuity brokers, and to engage in frank and confidential 
discussions with its experts and consultants.
    4. Several commenters questioned whether the United States 
Attorneys' offices may refuse to consider an annuity broker who appears 
on the list solely on the ground that the annuity broker has offered 
his or her services to plaintiffs in other cases in the past. Nothing 
in the rule either requires or prevents the selection of such an 
annuity broker by the United States Attorney or his or her designee.
    5. Some commenters asked whether the United States Attorneys' 
offices may select annuity brokers who do not appear on the list that 
is current at the time of the selection. It is clear that Congress 
intended section 11015 to limit the selection of brokers to the ``list 
of such brokers established by the Attorney General.'' Accordingly, as 
a matter of Department policy, the Attorney General expects United 
States Attorneys or their designees to select only brokers who appear 
on the list that is current at the time of the selection.
    The purpose of establishing a new list each calendar year, and 
updating the list during the calendar year, is to provide United States 
Attorneys with the names of annuity brokers who have demonstrated 
minimum qualifications by submitting a Declaration during the calendar 
year, and who have maintained those minimum qualifications during the 
year. With the transmittal of each new calendar year's list or of any 
update, all prior lists are superseded, and the most current list 
available is to be used when selecting a broker. The Civil Division's 
Web site will post the current list or current updated list. (The Civil 
Division's Web site is accessible by the public, including annuity 
brokers, at (http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/leaving.cgi?from=leavingFR.html&log=linklog&to=http://www.usdoj.gov/civil/home.html).)

    Although United States Attorneys or their designees should select 
from only those brokers whose names appear on the current list at the 
time of selection, they need not necessarily cease using a broker whose 
name does not appear on a subsequent list. For example, if a broker 
appeared on the May 1, 2003 list and was selected to work on a case 
while the May 1, 2003 list was the current list, section 11015(b) would 
create no impediment to the broker's continuing to work on that case 
even if the broker does not appear on a subsequent list. Similarly, if 
a broker was selected to work on a case before the May 1, 2003 list was 
established, the broker may continue to work on that case even if the 
broker did not appear on the May 1, 2003 list or any subsequent list.
    6. Several commenters inquired about the reason for organizing the 
May 1, 2003 list by state. The state-by-state format was employed 
because it was believed to be more useful to the United States 
Attorneys' offices than an alphabetical list of brokers. However, in 
practice, the organization by state appears to have caused considerable 
confusion. There was a concern that the state-by-state listing implied 
that United States Attorneys or their designees could select from only 
those annuity brokers who resided within their respective districts or 
states. Neither section 11015 nor the interim rule imposes such a 
limitation on the authority of United States Attorneys or their 
designees to select any broker who appears on a current list. In order 
to eliminate this concern and avoid any future confusion, annuity 
brokers will be listed in alphabetical order (i.e., last name, first 
name, middle name or initial), followed by each broker's city and state 
if that information is provided on the Declaration.
    7. Another question was whether an annuity broker who appears on 
the list must be selected. The list consists of annuity brokers who 
currently meet the minimum qualifications. In each case, the United 
States Attorney or his or her designee may consider a variety of 
factors in attempting to select the broker whom he or she believes will 
best serve the interests of the United States. Nothing in section 11015 
or any other law entitles an individual broker to be selected.
    8. At least one commenter questioned whether the United States 
Attorney's office assigned to handle a case for trial purposes must 
select the annuity broker if the actual negotiations are to be handled 
by a Civil Division attorney. By its terms, section 11015(b) applies 
only to structured settlements that are not negotiated exclusively 
through the Civil Division of the Department of Justice. Therefore, in 
a case where the negotiations are being handled exclusively by the 
Civil Division, the Civil Division attorney may select the annuity 
broker.
    9. At least one commenter suggested that the requirements of 
section 11015 be made to apply to other components of the Department of 
Justice, and not just to the United States Attorneys' offices. Section 
11015 on its face does not require Department of Justice components 
other than the United States Attorneys' offices to select brokers from 
the list. Accordingly, like section 11015 itself, the interim rule 
designed to implement that provision applies only to the selection of 
brokers by the United States Attorneys' offices.
    10. Some of the commenters questioned whether the Department's 
selection of annuity brokers violates federal procurement laws. The 
Department of Justice does not pay the annuity brokers it selects for 
the purpose of assisting in the settlement of a claim or suit against 
the United States. The annuity broker is paid a commission by the 
annuity company that issues an annuity contract in the event a 
settlement is reached that includes the purchase of an annuity. In 
addition, annuity brokers provide highly technical and professional 
services.
    11. There were comments regarding the longstanding practice of the 
United States to insist, in appropriate cases, that the United States 
retain a reversionary interest in some part of a settlement. These 
comments do not relate to either the minimum qualifications or the 
procedures for

[[Page 11160]]

inclusion on the list, and thus are beyond the scope of the interim 
rule.
    12. Some commenters questioned the Department's use of standardized 
settlement documents. These comments likewise do not relate to either 
the minimum qualifications or the procedures for inclusion on the list, 
and thus are beyond the scope of the interim rule. Indeed, these 
comments appear to contradict section 11015(b), which affords United 
States Attorneys the exclusive authority to select a broker from the 
list, ``provided that all documents related to any settlement comply 
with Department of Justice requirements.''
    13. Finally, some commenters raised questions about the 
Department's valuation of settlements. These comments likewise do not 
relate to either the minimum qualifications or the procedures for 
inclusion on the list, and thus are beyond the scope of the interim 
rule.
    In summary, the only comment that addressed the minimum 
qualifications established by the interim rule suggested that the 
qualifications should be more stringent. Because section 11015(a) 
requires only that the Attorney General establish a list of annuity 
brokers who meet minimum qualifications, the Attorney General is 
adopting the interim rule as a final rule without amendment. The other 
comments concerned the operation or effect of the interim rule and, for 
the most part, are addressed by the language of section 11015. The 
format of the annuity broker list has been changed from an alphabetical 
listing by state to an alphabetical listing by the last name of the 
broker.

Executive Order 12866

    This rule has been drafted and reviewed in accordance with 
Executive Order 12866, Regulatory Planning and Review, section 1(b), 
``The Principles of Regulation.'' The Attorney General has determined 
that this rule is a significant regulatory action under section 3(f), 
``Definitions,'' and accordingly this rule has been reviewed by the 
Office of Management and Budget. The Attorney General also has assessed 
both the costs and benefits of this rule as required by section 
1(b)(6), and has made a reasoned determination that the benefits of 
this regulation justify its costs. The costs considered in this 
connection included the costs attendant to the submission of 
declarations by annuity brokers who desire to make their services 
available to United States Attorneys in connection with structured 
settlements entered by the United States. Costs considered also 
included the establishing and maintaining of a list of brokers and the 
transmitting of the lists, including updated lists, to United States 
Attorneys. The benefits of the rule clearly outweigh the costs because 
the costs are the lowest costs feasible to comply with the requirement 
that a list be established, as required under section 11015(a) of 
Public Law 107-273.

Executive Order 13132

    This rule will not have substantial, direct effects on the States, 
on the relationship between the national government and the States, or 
on the distribution of power and responsibilities among the various 
levels of government. Therefore, in accordance with Executive Order 
13132, it is determined that this rule does not have sufficient 
federalism implications to warrant the preparation of a federalism 
assessment.

Civil Justice Reform

Executive Order 12988

    This rule meets the applicable standards set forth in sections 3(a) 
and 3(b)(2) of Executive Order 12988.

Paperwork Reduction Act

    The information collection requirement contained in this final rule 
has been submitted to the Office of Management and Budget for review 
and approval under 5 CFR 1320.13.

Regulatory Flexibility Act

    The Attorney General, in accordance with the Regulatory Flexibility 
Act (5 U.S.C. 605(b)), certifies that this rule will not have a 
significant economic impact on a substantial number of small entities. 
The cost of completing the declaration required by this rule will be 
minimal. Brokers are required to submit a new declaration each calendar 
year if they want to be included on the list. The declaration is a two-
page document that requires the broker to (i) review the minimum 
qualification criteria in the rule; (ii) complete the declaration by 
providing his or her name and address, and by signing and dating the 
declaration; and (iii) mail the document to the Department of Justice. 
The economic impact is not expected to be significant for purposes of 
the Regulatory Flexibility Act (5 U.S.C. 605(b)).

Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 1995

    This rule will not result in the expenditure by State, local, and 
tribal governments, in the aggregate, or by the private sector, of 
$100,000,000 or more in any one year, and it will not significantly or 
uniquely affect small governments. Therefore, no actions were deemed 
necessary under the provisions of the Unfunded Mandates Reform Act of 
1995.

Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996

    This rule is not a major rule as defined by section 251 of the 
Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, 5 U.S.C. 
804. This rule will not result in an annual effect on the economy of 
$100,000,000 or more; a major increase in costs or prices; or 
significant adverse effects on competition, employment, investment, 
productivity, innovation, or on the ability of United States-based 
companies to compete with foreign-based companies in domestic and 
export markets.

List of Subjects in 28 CFR Part 50

    Administrative practice and procedure, Annuities, and Brokers.

PART 50--[AMENDED]

    Accordingly, the interim rule amending 28 CFR part 50, which was 
published at 68 FR 18119 on April 15, 2003, is adopted as a final rule 
without change.

    Dated: February 28, 2006.
Alberto R. Gonzales,
Attorney General.
[FR Doc. 06-2079 Filed 3-3-06; 8:45 am]
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