October 19, 2021

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Justice Department Resolves Lawsuit Alleging Disability-Based Discrimination at 46 Multifamily Housing Complexes in North Carolina and South Carolina

12 min read
<div>The Justice Department announced that Pendergraph Development LLC and several related entities have agreed to pay $300,000 to settle claims that they violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to build 46 multifamily housing complexes in North Carolina and South Carolina with required accessible features for people with disabilities.</div>
The Justice Department announced that Pendergraph Development LLC and several related entities have agreed to pay $300,000 to settle claims that they violated the Fair Housing Act and the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to build 46 multifamily housing complexes in North Carolina and South Carolina with required accessible features for people with disabilities.

More from: September 30, 2021

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  • Supplemental Security Income: SSA Faces Ongoing Challenges with Work Incentives and Improper Payments
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found The Social Security Administration (SSA) has undertaken several efforts to encourage employment for individuals with disabilities who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and who would like to work, but few benefit from these supports. Work incentives and supports for transition-age youth. SSA administers work incentives and other employment supports for transition-age youth (ages 14 to 17) on SSI. These supports encourage work by allowing these youth to keep at least some of their benefits even if they have earnings. In 2017, GAO analysis of SSA data from 2012 to 2015 found that less than 1.5 percent of SSI youth benefitted from these incentives. According to SSA and other officials, this may be because SSI youth and their families are often unaware of or do not understand the incentives, and may fear that work will negatively affect their benefits or eligibility. Work incentives for working-age adults. The Ticket to Work and Self-Sufficiency Program (Ticket) is a voluntary program that was established to assist individuals with disabilities in obtaining and retaining employment, and help reduce dependency on benefits. Preliminary GAO analysis of Ticket indicates that SSI recipients participated more often than other disability beneficiaries, and benefited modestly from the program. GAO analysis of SSA data from 2002 to 2015 found, 5 years after participating in Ticket, about 4 percent of SSI participants had left the disability rolls due to earnings from work, compared with 2 percent of nonparticipants who were similar in characteristics such as age, disability type, and education. However, earnings for SSI Ticket participants remained low. GAO's analysis of data from 2002 to 2018 shows that average earnings for SSI Ticket participants, 5 years after participating, were $3,940 per year, including 57 percent who did not report any earnings at all. GAO's preliminary work also indicates that Ticket participants face a number of challenges to returning to work, including their primary disabling condition, which may not improve sufficiently to allow for fulltime employment, and disincentives to work such as the loss of cash and medical benefits. Prior and ongoing GAO work has identified issues with SSA's efforts to reduce improper payments, including overpayments, to SSI beneficiaries in general and beneficiaries who are working in particular. Overpayments can occur when beneficiaries who work do not timely report earnings to SSA or SSA delays in adjusting their benefit amounts. SSA reported that SSI's overpayment rate in fiscal year 2019 was estimated at 8.13 percent, higher than other SSA programs. Further, SSA reported it made approximately $4.6 billion in SSI overpayments in fiscal year 2019. Overpayments may have to be repaid, which may be burdensome for recipients, especially those who were not aware that they were overpaid and already spent the money. While SSA has taken steps to reduce overpayments, SSA's Office of Inspector General found that SSA had not resolved lags in updating information on beneficiaries' earnings. In addition, SSA has not implemented a 2020 GAO priority recommendation that it develop and implement a process to measure the effectiveness of its corrective actions for improper payments, including overpayments. Why GAO Did This Study SSI is a federal assistance program administered by SSA that provides cash benefits to certain individuals who are elderly, blind, or have a disability. SSI acts as a safety net for individuals who have limited resources and little or no other income. As such, SSI is a means-tested program. As of July 2021, approximately 71 percent of SSI beneficiaries were children or working-age individuals with disabilities. SSA faces longstanding challenges related to administering SSI and its other disability programs. GAO has issued multiple reports with recommendations on how SSA might address these challenges. This testimony describes SSA's challenges with (1) incentivizing employment for SSI recipients who wish to work, and (2) preventing improper payments to SSI recipients, including overpayments. This statement is based primarily on prior GAO reports issued between 2010 and 2021, as well as preliminary observations from an ongoing GAO review of the Ticket program. To conduct the work for these reports and the ongoing review, GAO used a variety of methods including analyzing data; reviewing relevant federal laws, regulations, and guidance; reviewing key agency documents, such as SSA's strategic plan and annual SSI stewardship reports; and interviewing experts and SSA officials. For more information, contact Elizabeth H. Curda at (202) 512-7215 or curdae@gao.gov.
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  • Bankruptcy: Enhanced Authority Could Strengthen Oversight of Executive Bonuses Awarded Before a Bankruptcy Filing
    In U.S GAO News
    What GAO Found Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows a company (debtor) to restructure its debt—so that it may continue to operate—and generally retain its executives. Section 503(c) of the Bankruptcy Code (Code) restricts retention bonuses for executives and, to a lesser extent, executive and non-executive incentive bonuses during bankruptcy. For instance, to pay an executive a retention bonus, the Code requires the debtor to meet three requirements, including that the executive has another job offer at the same or greater compensation. Also, debtors must obtain court approval to pay employee bonuses during bankruptcy—a process that gives creditors an opportunity to raise objections. However, the Code generally does not govern executive retention bonuses paid before a bankruptcy filing (pre-bankruptcy bonuses). Academics and attorneys GAO interviewed largely viewed Section 503(c) as less-than-effective because debtors can work around its restrictions on executive retention bonuses both before and during bankruptcy. For example, debtors can pay retention bonuses before filing (when there are generally no restrictions), or they can pay incentive bonuses during bankruptcy (that have fewer restrictions). Some stakeholders viewed Section 503(c) as overly restrictive, but others viewed it as helping to prevent abusive bonuses. Nearly all stakeholders GAO interviewed viewed pre-bankruptcy bonuses as problematic. For example, they said that these bonuses reduce the debtor estate's value for creditors but are awarded without notice to creditors or court approval. Based on court dockets for the approximately 7,300 companies that filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in fiscal year 2020, GAO found the following: Less than 1 percent (70) of debtors requested court approval to pay employee bonuses, and the courts approved nearly all the requests. Debtors awarded around $571 million to more than 16,600 executive and non-executive employees through court-approved bonuses. Creditors or U.S. Trustees (who administer and monitor Chapter 11 cases) raised objections in 50 percent of all bonus requests, including 68 percent of executive incentive bonus requests, which frequently led debtors to modify their plans (for example, by lowering bonus amounts). None of the debtors requested court approval for executive retention bonuses during bankruptcy; 42 debtors awarded pre-bankruptcy retention bonuses—totaling about $165 million—from 5 months to 2 days before filing. According to some attorneys GAO interviewed, Section 503(c) makes it nearly impossible to award executives retention bonuses during bankruptcy, so debtors use pre-bankruptcy bonuses as a workaround. As noted above, GAO found that none of the 7,300 Chapter 11 debtors that filed in fiscal year 2020 requested executive retention bonuses during bankruptcy but 42 awarded such bonuses shortly before filing. This practice may undermine Section 503(c)'s restrictions and decrease the ability of creditors, U.S. Trustees, and the courts to prevent bonuses that are inconsistent with the section's requirements. Why GAO Did This Study In response to potential abuses involving executive bonuses, Congress amended the Code in 2005 to restrict debtors in Chapter 11 from paying executives retention bonuses for staying through bankruptcy and, to a lesser extent, incentive bonuses to achieve performance targets. Recently, some large companies have paid their executives considerable bonuses during bankruptcy. House Report 116-455 included a provision for GAO to review Code provisions on bonuses and a selected number and amount of court-requested and approved bonuses in fiscal year 2020. This report reviews (1) Bankruptcy Code provisions on employee bonuses, (2) selected stakeholder views on such provisions, and (3) employee bonuses awarded by companies before or after filing for bankruptcy in fiscal year 2020. GAO reviewed the Code, academic literature, and legal analyses; interviewed 12 academics, attorneys, and an organization selected for their bankruptcy expertise; and analyzed bankruptcy filings and related data using Westlaw Edge and other sources.
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  • Justice Department and EPA Reach Clean Air Act Settlement with Gear Box Z for Selling Defeat Devices
    In Crime News
    Arizona-based Gear Box Z (GBZ) has agreed to stop manufacturing and selling aftermarket automotive products widely known as “defeat devices,” that, when installed, bypass, defeat or render inoperative Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-certified emission controls on motor vehicles thereby increasing emissions and harming air quality.
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  • Haiti Reconstruction: Factors Contributing to Delays in USAID Infrastructure Construction
    In U.S GAO News
    On January 12, 2010, a powerful earthquake struck Haiti, resulting in an estimated 230,000 deaths, including more than 16,000 Haitian government personnel, and the destruction of many ministry buildings. In addition to immediate relief efforts, in July 2010, Congress appropriated $1.14 billion in supplemental funds for reconstruction, most of which was provided to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Department of State (State). USAID and State are administering about $412 million in supplemental and regular fiscal year appropriations for infrastructure construction activities. In May 2011, in response to a congressional mandate, GAO reported on overall U.S. plans for assistance to Haiti. This report addresses infrastructure construction activities, including (1) USAID and State obligations and expenditures; (2) USAID staffing; (3) USAID planning; and (4) potential sustainability challenges USAID faces. GAO reviewed documents and interviewed U.S. officials in Washington, D.C., and Haiti, and visited ongoing and planned construction sites in Haiti..USAID and State have obligated and expended a small amount of funds for infrastructure construction activities in six sectors: energy, ports, shelter, health, food security, and governance and rule of law. As of September 30, 2011, USAID and State had allocated almost $412 million for infrastructure construction activities, obligated approximately $48.4 million (11.8 percent), and expended approximately $3.1 million (0.8 percent). Of the almost $412 million, about 87 percent was allocated from the 2010 Supplemental Appropriations Act and 13 percent from regular fiscal year appropriations. USAID accounts for about 89 percent of the $412 million, including funds for construction in the energy, ports, shelter, health, and food security sectors. State activities in the governance and rule of law sector account for the remaining 11 percent. USAID had difficulty staffing the Haiti mission after the earthquake, a factor that has contributed to delays in infrastructure construction activities. Soon after the earthquake, 10 of the 17 U.S. citizen Foreign Service Officers, known as U.S. direct-hire staff, in Haiti left. USAID, lacking a process for expediting the movement of staff to post-disaster situations, had difficulty replacing them and recruiting additional staff. These staff included key technical personnel such as engineers and contracting officers needed to plan and implement infrastructure activities in sectors such as energy and ports, where the mission had not previously worked. With limited U.S. direct-hire staff on board, the mission relied heavily on temporary staff, and remaining staff assumed duties outside their normal areas of expertise. The mission plans to have all U.S. direct-hire staff on board by February 2012. Since infrastructure activities will continue until at least 2015, the mission will need to maintain sufficient staff for several years to manage the activities supported by the increase in Haiti reconstruction funds. USAID and State are planning activities in Haiti, but various challenges have contributed to some of USAID's delays. As of October 2011, USAID had drafted eight Activity Approval Documents (AADs) that include planned activities, costs, risks, and assumptions. AADs for the education, energy, food security, governance and rule of law, health, and shelter sectors have been approved. The AAD process has been more comprehensive and involved than is typical for such efforts, according to USAID officials. Although USAID made progress in planning, construction of some activities was delayed for various reasons, and some activities do not yet have planned start dates. For example, the mission was delayed in awarding contracts in the shelter sector due to issues such as identifying sites for shelter and obtaining land title. The sustainability of USAID-funded infrastructure depends, in part, on improvements to the Haitian government's long-standing economic and institutional weaknesses. USAID has considered various sustainability issues and is planning institutional strengthening activities, such as management reform of the power utility, but USAID planning documents acknowledge that these reforms will be challenging and that infrastructure activities face risks. These challenges are consistent with prior GAO reports that address sustainability of U.S. infrastructure projects in other countries. To facilitate USAID's progress in planning and implementing its many post-earthquake infrastructure construction activities in Haiti over the next several years, particularly those requiring key technical staff, GAO recommends that the USAID Administrator ensure that U.S. direct-hire staff are placed at the mission within time frames that avoid future staffing gaps or delays. USAID described certain actions it is currently taking that, if continued, could address the recommendation.
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  • Fire Extinguisher Manufacturer Ordered to Pay $12 Million Penalty for Delay and Misrepresentations in Reporting Product Defects
    In Crime News
    A federal judge today ordered Walter Kidde Portable Equipment Inc. (Kidde) to pay a $12 million civil penalty in connection with allegations that the company failed to timely inform the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) about problems with fire extinguishers manufactured by the company, the Department of Justice announced.
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  • Company’s Vice President Pleads Guilty to Negligently Releasing Asbestos
    In Crime News
    A New York man pleaded guilty today to negligently releasing asbestos and thereby exposing victims to an increased risk of death or serious bodily injury.
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    In Justice News
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    In Crime News
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  • Man Charged with Attempting to Provide Material Support to a Foreign Terrorist Organization
    In Crime News
    A Washington man was arrested on Friday, May 28, at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport on criminal charges related to his alleged efforts to join Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), a designated foreign terrorist organization, in order to engage in violent acts of terrorism in the Middle East or the United States.
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  • Nord Stream 2 and European Energy Security 
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Antitrust Division and Fellow Members of the Multilateral Pharmaceutical Merger Task Force Seek Public Input
    In Crime News
    The U.S. Department of Justice’s Antitrust Division is pleased to be a part of the Multilateral Pharmaceutical Merger Task Force (Task Force), along with its counterpart competition enforcement agencies — the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Canadian Competition Bureau, the European Commission Directorate General for Competition, the United Kingdom’s Competition and Markets Authority, and Offices of State Attorneys General.
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  • Critical Infrastructure Protection: Treasury Needs to Improve Tracking of Financial Sector Cybersecurity Risk Mitigation Efforts
    In U.S GAO News
    The federal government has long identified the financial services sector as a critical component of the nation's infrastructure. The sector includes commercial banks, securities brokers and dealers, and providers of the key financial systems and services that support these functions. Altogether, the sector holds about $108 trillion in assets and faces a variety of cybersecurity-related risks. Key risks include (1) an increase in access to financial data through information technology service providers and supply chain partners; (2) a growth in sophistication of malware—software meant to do harm—and (3) an increase in interconnectivity via networks, the cloud, and mobile applications. Cyberattacks that exploit risks can occur against either public or private components of the sector. For example, in February 2016, hackers were able to install malware on the Bangladesh Central Bank's system through a service provider, which then directed the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to transfer money to accounts in other Asian countries. This attack resulted in the theft of approximately $81 million. Several industry groups and firms are taking steps to enhance the security and resilience of the U.S. financial services sector through a broad range of cyber risk mitigation efforts. These efforts include coordinating within the sector through groups such as the Financial Services Sector Coordinating Council and the Financial Systemic Analysis and Resilience Center, conducting industrywide incident response exercises, sharing threat and vulnerability information, developing and providing guidance in conducting risk assessments, and offering cybersecurity-related training. The Departments of Homeland Security and the Treasury and federal financial regulators are also taking multiple steps to support cybersecurity and resilience through risk mitigation efforts. Among other things, federal agencies provide cybersecurity expertise and conduct simulation exercises related to cyber incident response and recovery. Treasury, as the designated lead agency for the financial sector, plays a key role in supporting many of the efforts to enhance the sector's cybersecurity and resiliency. For example, Treasury's Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions serves as the chair of the committee of government agencies with sector responsibilities, and Treasury coordinates federal agency efforts to improve the sector's cybersecurity and related communications. However, Treasury does not track efforts or prioritize them according to goals established by the sector for enhancing cybersecurity and resiliency. Treasury also has not fully implemented GAO's previous recommendation to establish metrics related to the value and results of the sector's risk mitigation efforts. Further, the 2016 sector-specific plan, which is intended to direct sector activities, does not identify ways to measure sector progress and is out of date. Among other things, the sector-specific plan lacks information on sector-related requirements laid out in the 2019 National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan . Unless more widespread and detailed tracking and prioritization of efforts occurs according to the goals laid out in the sector-specific plan, the sector could be insufficiently prepared to deal with cyber-related risks, such as those caused by increased access to data by third parties. For decades, the federal government has taken steps to protect the nation's critical infrastructures. The financial services sector's reliance on information technology makes it a leading target for cyber-based attacks. Recent high-profile breaches at commercial entities have heightened concerns that data are not being adequately protected. Under the Comptroller General's authority, GAO initiated this review to (1) describe the key cyber-related risks facing the financial sector; (2) describe steps the financial services industry is taking to share information on and address risks to its sector; and (3) assess steps federal agencies are taking to enhance the security and resilience of the sector. GAO analyzed relevant reports and information to determine risks and mitigation efforts and compared agency efforts against federal policies and guidance. GAO also interviewed officials at 16 private sector entities, two self-regulatory organizations, and eight federal agencies, including the Department of the Treasury. GAO is making recommendations to Treasury to track and prioritize the sector's cyber risk mitigation efforts, and to update the sector's plan with metrics for measuring progress and information on how sector efforts will meet sector goals and requirements, including those contained within the National Cyber Strategy Implementation Plan. Treasury generally agreed with the recommendations. For more information, contact Nick Marinos at (202) 512-9342 or marinosn@gao.gov or Michael Clements at (202) 512-7763 or ClementsM@gao.gov.
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    In Travel
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  • Former President of Nuclear Transportation Company Sentenced to Prison for Foreign Bribery and Other Offenses
    In Crime News
    The former president of Transport Logistics International Inc. (TLI), a Maryland-based transportation company that provides services for the transportation of nuclear materials to customers in the United States and abroad, was sentenced today to 48 months in prison and three years of supervised release for his role in a scheme to bribe a Russian official in exchange for obtaining contracts for the company.
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  • Saint Lucia Independence Day
    In Crime Control and Security News
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  • Justice Department Observes National Missing Children’s Day
    In Crime News
    As part of the 38th annual commemoration of National Missing Children’s Day, the Department of Justice today honored nine courageous individuals for their extraordinary efforts to recover missing children and bring sexual predators to justice. This year’s award recipients include four detectives and a sergeant from Fresno, California; two coordinators in the Missing Child Center-Hawaii in Honolulu; a sergeant from Addison, Illinois; and a U.S. Postal Service employee from Columbia, Maryland.
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  • Negative COVID-19 Test Required for Travel to the United States Beginning January 26
    In Crime Control and Security News
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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    In Crime Control and Security News
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