If you are licensed by IDFPR and receive a notice of an “informal conference,” STOP and digest this next sentence before proceeding:
An IDFPR informal conference is not at all informal. It can result in very serious ramifications to your license, including censure and suspension. Treat it with the same seriousness as IDFPR and consider retaining legal counsel.
IDFPR describes an informal conference as:
“The purpose of an informal conference is for the parties to informally negotiate and discuss a case to determine if a resolution can be made prior to a formal administrative hearing. You have the right to be represented by an attorney at an informal conference and are strongly advised to seek representation.”
The law further provides:
“The respondent shall have an opportunity at the informal conference to make an oral statement and to present any documents that might be relevant to the matter.”
68 Ill. Adm.Code 1285.220(a), (e) (2005). See also Wolin v. Department of Financial Professional Regulation, 2012 IL App (1st) 112113.
These conferences are confidential, and no court reporter will be present. What is important about these conferences is that they can lead to very positive results such as consent orders, restorations of licenses or even dismissal of complaints. However, these conferences can also result in the IDFPR not wanting to resolve a matter and rather deciding to take the matter to an administrative hearing. Administrative hearings are generally not good for IDFPR licensees as discussed below.
At the administrative hearing, IDFPR will have one or two attorneys present in addition to licensed members of the applicable professional board. Respondents should strongly consider having their own attorney present. Attorneys who are familiar with IDFPR procedures, consent decrees, and the administrative process can help respondents present mitigating evidence and legal arguments to assist in resolving the matter favorably to the licensed professional.
Why do you want to avoid administrative hearings? Generally, if IDFPR brings a case to an administrative hearing, it is seeking more severe sanctions against a respondent, including larger fines, suspension or revocation of license, or other disciplinary action. Administrative hearings are also public hearings, so while not often covered by the media or attended by the public, these hearings are open, and decisions of the Administrative Law Judge are also open and easily accessible by the public.
While informal conferences may sound nice in comparison to an administrative hearing, you must remember that IDFPR staff are not your friends. IDFPR attorneys are prosecutors and represent the State of Illinois; their client is the people of the State. While you are waiting on the 9th floor for the conference to start all the way until the time you leave the State of Illinois building, you should not lower you guard, avoid small talk, and remember that everything you say may be used against you.
With proper representation, informal conferences can be an efficient and cost-effective way to resolve licensing disputes quickly and confidentially. However, if you are not properly prepared or represented, an informal conference can turn into an expensive nightmare.
Take your informal conference notice seriously, and you most likely won’t be headed toward a costly and potentially damaging administrative hearing.
The information in this blog post is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. You should not make a decision whether or not to contact an attorney based upon the information in this blog post. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied. If you require legal advice, please consult with an attorney licensed to practice in your jurisdiction.
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