A consent order is governed by federal and state laws, which vary by jurisdiction. It is generally a voluntary agreement worked out between two or more parties to a dispute. It generally has the same effect as a court order and can be enforced by the court if anyone does not comply with the orders.
Consent orders may also be issued by administrative agencies. For example, a licensing commission may issue a consent order to a licensee in which the licensee agrees to the imposition of certain disciplinary sanctions, such as reprimand or the suspension or revocation of his or her license. The use of a consent order allows the licensing agency and the parties involved to resolve a disciplinary proceeding initiated by the agency without the time and expense required by a formal administrative hearing.
The following is an example of a federal law governing consent orders dealing with penalties under ERISA:
For 502(c)(5) civil penalty proceedings, the following shall apply in lieu of Sec. 18.9 of this title.
(a) In general. At any time after the commencement of a proceeding, but at least five (5) days prior to the date set for hearing, the parties jointly may move to defer the hearing for a reasonable time to permit negotiation of a settlement or an agreement containing findings and an order disposing of the whole or any part of the proceeding. The allowance of such deferment and the duration thereof shall be in the discretion of the administrative law judge, after consideration of such factors as the nature of the proceeding, the requirements of the public interest, the representations of the parties and the probability of reaching an agreement which will result in a just disposition of the issues involved.
(b) Content. Any agreement containing consent findings and an order disposing of a proceeding or any part thereof shall also provide:
(c) Submission. On or before the expiration of the time granted for negotiations, but, in any case, at least five (5) days prior to the date set for hearing, the parties or their authorized representative or their counsel may:
(d) Disposition. In the event that a settlement agreement containing consent findings and an order is submitted within the time allowed therefore, the administrative law judge shall issue a decision incorporating such findings and agreement within thirty (30) days of receipt of such document. The decision of the administrative law judge shall incorporate all of the findings, terms, and conditions of the settlement agreement and consent order of the parties. Such decision shall become a final agency action within the meaning of 5 U.S.C. 704.
(e) Settlement without consent of all parties. In cases in which some, but not all, of the parties to a proceeding submit a consent agreement to the administrative law judge, the following procedure shall apply: