Government Enforcement

With a new presidential administration promising vigorous antitrust enforcement, and a new Democratic majority in Congress seeking to make drastic changes to U.S. antitrust laws, the technology and healthcare industries have found themselves the main targets of increased antitrust scrutiny.  Though companies engaging in government contracting, particularly in the aerospace and defense industries, already have had to deal with a range of antitrust issues – for example, the Department of Justice, Antitrust Division (the “DOJ”) launched the Procurement Collusion Strike Force (“PCSF”) in 2019 (discussed in more detail here), which focused on “deterring, detecting, investigating and prosecuting antitrust crimes … in government procurement, grant and program funding” – they may find themselves subject to increased antitrust enforcement in 2021.  In fact, on February 23, 2021 PCSF Director Daniel Glad confirmed he is “focus[ed] on three things in 2021: expanding our platform with PCSF building out our data analytics program; and bringing investigations to the recommendation/disposition stage.”
Continue Reading How a New Era in Antitrust Enforcement May Impact Government Contractors

A recent enforcement action offers a glimpse of the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority’s (“FINRA”) expectations for firms conducting anti-money laundering (“AML”) due diligence and transaction monitoring.  On July 27, 2020, FINRA settled with broker-dealer JKR & Company (“JKR”) over allegations that the firm failed to detect, investigate, and report suspicious activity in four customer accounts in violation of FINRA Rules 3310(a) and 2010.  JKR agreed to a $50,000 fine and a censure to resolve the matter.  The settlement is notable in that FINRA applied transaction monitoring and due diligence expectations common in the banking industry to a broker-dealer.  It also serves as a reminder that FINRA expects member firms to not only establish written AML policies and procedures, but also to put their AML programs into practice in order to meet their regulatory obligations.
Continue Reading FINRA Settlement Highlights Importance of Anti-Money Laundering Due Diligence and Monitoring

On July 15, 2020, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) charged Andrew Marnell with bank fraud in connection with $8.5 million worth of Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) loans he obtained for fake business expenses, that were then spent on gambling and stock market bets, incurring millions of dollars in losses.  See United States v. Marnell, No. 2:20-mj-03313-DUTY (C.D. Cal. Jul. 15, 2020).
Continue Reading DOJ Cracks Down on COVID-Relief Fraud

Whistleblowers are a common character in investigations into governmental abuse.  They famously have exposed covert government surveillance programs, political corruption scandals, and even led to the impeachment of the president of the United States.  Some statutes also empower whistleblowers to bring claims against private businesses on behalf of the government for financial misconduct involving fraud, waste, and abuse.  In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, we expect to see a surge of new whistleblower claims alleging misconduct under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act).  Whistleblower claims could be detrimental or even fatal for businesses already struggling to recover from the economic impact of COVID-19.  Now more than ever, businesses must understand the risks and prepare for the inevitable emergence of whistleblowers to protect themselves from future claims.  
Continue Reading Prepare for a Perfect Storm of COVID-19 Whistleblower Claims

With the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) decision to drop charges against Michael Flynn, materiality has come to the forefront of popular legal discourse.  At the same time, prosecutors and whistleblowers will carefully consider enforcement/false claims actions against entities who may have wrongfully received relief funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Recovery, and Economic Stability Act (CARES Act).  Such actions likely will turn on whether alleged misrepresentations were materially false.  Those applying for CARES Act funds, such as those under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), must ensure all of their representations and certifications are truthful.  However, those accused of making misrepresentations in order to receive government funds may find refuge in a more narrow view of the materiality requirement.
Continue Reading Materiality Concerns For CARES Act Enforcement Cases

The devastating economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic already has set in, with the future of thousands of businesses hanging in the balance.  Big and small businesses alike are finding it difficult to cope with the downturn.  The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (“CARES Act”) provisions related to small business loans provide a glimmer of hope.  Among other forms of economic relief, the CARES Act created the $349 billion Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”) to provide funding to assist small businesses impacted by the pandemic.  After the initial allocation of PPP funds was exhausted the President signed a bill providing an additional $484 billion in relief, including $310 billion for the PPP, on April 24, 2020[1].  It may turn out for some businesses, however, that these provisions will be nothing more than fool’s gold.  The U.S. Small Business Administration (“SBA”) loan programs, including the PPP under the CARES Act, only are available to qualifying businesses that strictly comply with complex rules related to the size of the business, including its employee count, financial condition, affiliations, control and ownership, and industry classifications.  Businesses that reflexively jumped at the SBA money grab without discipline or compliance are at risk of aggressive government enforcement that surely will follow.
Continue Reading Small Business Money Grab Under the CARES Act Brings Enforcement Risks

This month, and with great fanfare, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced its creation of a Procurement Collusion Strike Force.  We know what you’re thinking, and no – this
Continue Reading A Few Thoughts on DOJ’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force

To gain insight into where the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”) have been focusing their oversight and what their priorities will be in 2020, look no further than their recent words and deeds. A common thread running through the recent public statements and enforcement activity of both agencies is a commitment to maximizing the resources at their disposal to expedite resolutions, whether by leveraging technology, deploying multi-pronged approaches, engaging in industry outreach, or coordinating with fellow regulators.
Continue Reading Regulatory Moves Show Financial Watchdogs Working Smarter, if Not Harder

U.S. regulators, in particular the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (“CFTC”), are intently pursuing market manipulation enforcement. The September 30 end of the 2019 fiscal year brought with it a flurry of press releases from four different agencies announcing settlements of spoofing-related enforcement actions against trading firms, banks, interdealer brokers, and traders.
Continue Reading Spoofing Enforcement Intensifies