case would encourage litigants, whether or not they had a colorable claim, to contest every administrative ruling whenever possible and thus to delay resolution of disputes. The plaintiff enjoyed the use of the overcharges during the time its case was in dispute, and it must now return the money it made as a result.
Although the plaintiff may not be relieved of its obligation to pay prejudgment interest, the Court is troubled by the unwarranted delay that occurred during the administrative process. MAPCO had a right to contest the overcharges before DOE and before FERC, and it was entitled to receive intermediate decisions from the agencies in a timely fashion. Cf. 5 U.S.C. § 555(b) ("With due regard for the convenience and necessity of the parties or their representatives and within a reasonable time, each agency shall proceed to conclude a matter presented to it."). The Court became aware of at least one specific instance of agency-caused delay when MAPCO filed an action in this court in 1988, seeking to expedite FERC's decision. This Court dismissed that action while simultaneously urging FERC to act promptly. See MAPCO v. FERC, No. 88-1130 (D.D.C. 1988). From the record in this case, it appears that FERC took between two and three years to issue a final decision. Since an award of prejudgment interest is made pursuant to the Court's equitable authority, the Court will take into account and disallow interest for any period of time when it believes the prevailing party has not acted as expeditiously as it should have.
When an agency takes an undue amount of time to decide a matter submitted to it, the Court believes interest would be tolled during the inordinate length of time used by the agency. There may be some question as to what amount of time constitutes indordinate delay. The Court believes six months should be ample time for an agency to issue a decision. By way of analogy, the Court looks to legislation Congress has recently passed expressing its view on delay resulting from the adjudicative process. See 28 U.S.C. §§ 471-482 (Civil Justice Reform Act). Congress discouraged federal courts from allowing matters to remain pending for longer than six months. See 28 U.S.C. § 476. It appears that it would be appropriate to apply the same principle to this case and use a six month standard for the assessment of prejudgment interest in this case. Accordingly, the amount of prejudgment interest owed by the plaintiff will be adjusted for those periods of time when either DOE or FERC took longer than six months to decide a pending matter in this litigation.
Interest will be charged at the rates authorized by the Department of Energy policy. See 46 FR 21412 (April 10, 1981). These rates have been recognized by judicial authority as appropriate. See United States v. Ladd Petroleum, 843 F.2d 506, 510 (Temp. Em. Ct. App. 1988). The Court finds no compelling reason for adopting the rates proposed by the plaintiff.
An appropriate order accompanies this opinion.
United States District Court
ORDER - May 11, 1992, Filed
For the reasons set forth in the accompanying opinion, it is this 7 day of May, 1992, hereby
ORDERED that the defendants are awarded prejudgment interest on their counterclaim; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that
(1) Interest shall begin to accrue from the first date in August of 1978 on which there was a violation.
(2) Interest shall continue to accrue during the entire period of the controversy except that it shall be tolled for any period in which a defendant had a decision in this proceeding pending before it for longer than six months.
(3) Administrative appeals, petitions for review, and similar requests filed by parties other than than MAPCO will have no affect on the calculation of prejudgment interest owed by the plaintiff.
(4) Civil actions filed in court, other than this action, No. 91-769, will have no affect on the calculation of prejudgment interest owed by the plaintiff;
and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that prejudgment interest shall be calculated at the rates proposed by the defendants; and it is
FURTHER ORDERED that the parties shall have twenty-one days to provide the Courts with their calculations of the prejudgment interest due as calculated pursuant to the order of this Court.
United States District Court
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