(a) If the defendant does not file an answer within the time prescribed in Sec. 521.9(a), the reviewing official may refer the
complaint to the ALJ.
(b) Upon the referral of the complaint, the ALJ shall promptly serve on defendant in the manner prescribed in Sec. 521.8, a notice that an initial decision will be issued under this section.
(c) If the defendant fails to answer, the ALJ shall assume the facts alleged in the complaint to be true, and, if such facts establish liability under Sec. 521.3, the ALJ shall issue an initial decision imposing the maximum amount of penalties and assessments allowed under the statute.
(d) Except as otherwise provided in this section, by failing to file a timely answer, the defendant waives any right to further review of the penalties and assessments imposed under paragraph (c) of this section, and the initial decision shall become final and binding upon the parties 30 days after it is issued.
(e) If, before such an initial decision becomes final, the defendant files a motion with the ALJ seeking to reopen on the grounds that extraordinary circumstances prevented the defendant from filing an answer, the initial decision shall be stayed pending the ALJ's decision on the motion.
(f) If, on such motion, the defendant can demonstrate extraordinary circumstances excusing the failure to file a timely answer, the ALJ shall withdraw the initial decision in paragraph (c) of this section, if such a decision has been issued, and shall grant the defendant an opportunity to answer the complaint.
(g) A decision of the ALJ denying defendant's motion under paragraph (e) of this section is not subject to reconsideration under Sec. 521.38.
(h) The defendant may appeal to the Director the decision denying a motion to reopen by filing a notice of appeal with the Director within 15 days after the ALJ denies the motion. The timely filing of a notice of appeal shall stay the initial decision until the Director decides the issue.
(i) If the defendant files a timely notice of appeal with the Director, the ALJ shall forward the record of the proceeding to the Director.
(j) The Director shall decide expeditiously whether extraordinary circumstances excuse the defendant's failure to file a timely answer based solely on the record before the ALJ.
(k) If the Director decides that extraordinary circumstances excused the defendant's failure to file a timely answer, the Director shall remand the case to the ALJ with instructions to grant the defendant an opportunity to answer.
(l) If the Director decides that the defendant's failure to file a timely answer is not excused, the Director shall reinstate the initial decision of the ALJ, which shall become final and binding upon the parties 30 days after the Director issues such decision.