Government Enforcement

On September 9, 2021, President Biden signed an Executive Order (EO) to implement COVID safety protocols for Federal service contractors. While the EO did not identify specific safety protocols, it did direct a Federal task force (the “Safer Federal Workforce Task Force,” created by Executive Order in January 2021) to issue COVID-19-related workplace safety guidance for prime contractors and subcontractors in the near future. Specifically, the Task Force is charged with issuing contractor guidance by September 24, 2021, including definitions of relevant terms, specific workplace safety protocols, and applicable exceptions.

Continue Reading COVID-19 Oversight and Enforcement: President Biden’s COVID Executive Order

On July 30, 2021, the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (“SIGPR”), Brian D. Miller, submitted his quarterly report to Congress.  SIGPR was created as an independent watchdog of the Department of the Treasury under the CARES Act.  It is tasked with investigating fraud and abuse of federal stimulus funds in response to COVID-19, and works in collaboration with law enforcement and U.S. Attorney’s Offices throughout the country.  These investigative efforts have resulted in civil and criminal enforcement actions against recipients of federal funding throughout the country, and such enforcement action investigations are sure to continue.  The quarterly report showed that the federal government has been active in investigating fraud and abuse related to stimulus funds, and its call for additional funding signals an increase in future enforcement against recipients of federal stimulus funds.

Continue Reading The Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery Calls For Increased Funding and Expanded Jurisdiction In Its Quarterly Report To Congress

On August 5, 2021, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled that a French banker may seek dismissal of an indictment  without having to physically appear in the United States.  The decision limits the application of the “fugitive disentitlement” doctrine – which has long prevented foreign nationals from challenging criminal prosecutions without appearing in the United States to do so.

Continue Reading The Second Circuit Court of Appeals Finds That French Banker Need Not Travel to the United States to Seek Dismissal of Her Indictment

In Securities & Exchange Comm’n v. Fowler, No. 20-1081, 2021 WL 3083655 (2d Cir. July 22, 2021), the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit upheld a lower court judgment awarding the Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) civil penalties, disgorgement, and injunctive relief in a securities fraud action against a broker engaged in unsuitable and unauthorized high-frequency trading.  The district court entered its judgment following a jury trial finding the defendant guilty of violations of Section 10(b) of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934, Rule 10b-5 promulgated thereunder, and Sections 17(a)(1), 17(a)(2), and 17(a)(3) of the Securities Act of 1933.  On appeal, defendant asserted that the action was subject to a five-year statute of limitations imposed by 28 U.S.C. § 2462 despite the parties having entered into tolling agreements.  Defendant also argued that the civil penalties assessed against him were excessive, and the disgorgement award failed to properly account for legitimate business expenses as required by Liu v. Securities & Exchange Comm’n, 140 S. Ct. 1936 (2020).  After reviewing its text and legislative history, the Second Circuit concluded in this matter of first impression that § 2462 is non-jurisdictional and, therefore, the district court had the power to hear the case in light of the parties’ tolling agreements.  The decision is important because it reaffirms the enforceability of tolling agreements between the SEC and its investigative quarries.  The court also rejected defendant’s arguments alleging improper civil penalty and disgorgement calculations.

Continue Reading Second Circuit Upholds Enforceability of SEC Tolling Agreements

In Van Buren v. United States, No. 19-783 (U.S. June 3, 2021), the United States Supreme Court issued an opinion drastically limiting the application of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) (18 U.S.C. § 1030 et seq.), holding that the “exceeds authorized access” clause of the Act applies only to those who obtain information from particular areas in the computer—such as files, folders, or databases—to which the individual is not authorized to access under any circumstances. However, the Supreme Court excluded application of the clause to individuals who misuse their access to obtain information otherwise available to them for an unauthorized purpose.
Continue Reading Supreme Court Resolves Circuit Split Over CFAA

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