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2016 was a big year for the False Claims Act (FCA).  Total government recoveries were up; total new matters filed were up; and total new government-led FCA matters were up.  The Supreme Court issued multiple decisions relating to the FCA, including one—Universal Health Services, Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016)—which will have dramatic ramifications for litigation relating to the FCA’s materiality standard.  The Supreme Court also denied certiorari in an important FCA case—U.S. ex rel. Purcell v. MWI, Inc., 807 F.3d 281 (D.C. Cir. 2015), reh’g en banc denied, cert. denied, 580 U.S. ___ (2017)[1]—in which the D.C. Circuit held that when a defendant adopts an objectively reasonable or plausible interpretation of an ambiguous regulatory term and the agency has not warned the defendant away from its interpretation via authoritative guidance, the FCA’s scienter element cannot be established.  (Note: We previously covered the Purcell decision on our FCA blog.  You can view our article, here.)  Although some of these developments may seem concerning, there is plenty of silver lining here for government contractors.
Continue Reading What’s Past is Prologue: How The FCA’s Eventful Year in 2016 Will Affect Government Contractors

Effective August 1, 2016, the False Claims Act’s (FCA) civil penalty will double.  As it currently stands, the FCA’s civil penalty ranges from $5,500 to $11,000 per violation.  But as of August 1, the FCA’s civil penalty range will almost double to a minimum of $10,781 and a maximum of $21,563.

The increase is the result of an interim final rule issued yesterday by the Department of Justice.  81 Fed. Reg. 42491 (June 30, 2016).  Although the increase was expected, it still reflects a dramatic increase in risk to those doing business with the federal government.  Health care providers are uniquely at risk, because those entities are often sending thousands of claims to the federal government for reimbursement.  When thousands of claims are at issue, the civil penalty can easily add up.


Continue Reading DOJ Rule Increases FCA Penalties to Over $20,000 Per Claim

On August 11, 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a writ of mandamus supporting the robust applicability of the attorney-client privilege and attorney work product doctrines in the context of False Claims Act (“FCA”) investigations conducted under the direction of corporate and outside counsel. This marks a continuation of its repudiation of a 2014 lower-court decision that significantly eroded these privileges. Interpreting the scope of the privileges in the context of internal investigations of potential FCA violations is especially tricky because of the unique roles played by the parties (the Government as a potential plaintiff, the relator as a bounty hunter, and the corporation-as-defendant). This latest ruling from the D.C. Circuit, in a case arising out of wartime contracts in Iraq run by Kellogg, Brown & Root, Inc. (“KBR”)(formerly part of Halliburton), is a breath of fresh air for companies doing business with the Federal Government. The ruling from the Court of Appeals also sends a signal to the trial court that an overly narrow view of the attorney-client privilege and attorney work product doctrine creates unacceptable uncertainty that will ultimately be rejected on appeal.
Continue Reading Whew! That Was Close – D.C. Circuit Reaffirms Application of Attorney-Client Privilege and Attorney Work Product Doctrine in Internal Investigations

In an opinion released May 26, 2015, Kellogg Brown & Roots Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Carter, the U.S. Supreme Court unanimously held that whistleblowers cannot extend the statute of limitations for war-related civil false claims under the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (“WSLA”), reinstating an already generous statute of limitations period under the civil False Claims Act (“FCA”).  The Court also settled a split between the U.S. Courts of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit and the Fourth Circuit.  For purposes of the FCA’s “first-to-file” bar, the FCA only limits a lawsuit based on the same underlying facts as another case that is actually open and pending when the later lawsuit is filed.  In reaching these holdings, the Court relied heavily on the plain meaning of the statutory language, simultaneously handing a victory to both Defendants (on the statute of limitations issue) and Plaintiffs (on the first-to-file issue).  But, the holding relating to the WSLA may prove to be the greatest legacy from the KBR decision, reigning in aggressive whistleblowers and government lawyers who would try to allege a case of “fraud” decades after the conduct occurred, and long after a Defendant is able to defend itself effectively.
Continue Reading SCOTUS: No Unlimited Suspension of the Statute of Limitations Under the False Claims Act; “First-to-File” Doctrine Does Not Bar Related Suits in Perpetuity

The federal crop insurance program is an often overlooked area of potential liability under the False Claims Act (“FCA”).  The program, which is governed by a substantial body of regulatory law, is subject to intense oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice.  So much so that the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Risk Management Agency maintains and keeps public a long list of DOJ prosecutions for fraud and violations of the False Claims Act.  See DOJ Prosecutions.  These prosecutions include criminal charges brought against North Carolina tobacco farmers, Texas peanut growers, and California fruit and vegetable producers for fraudulently filing claims against the USDA crop insurance program.
Continue Reading When it Comes to Crop Insurance, the FCA Bears Fruit

Under the “implied certification” theory of liability, a government contractor can violate the False Claims Act (“FCA”) by submitting a mere invoice for payment.  The theory is that the invoice’s submission impliedly certifies compliance with contract conditions.  If a contractor is not complying with material contract requirements and — despite the contractor’s noncompliance — submits an invoice for payment, then the Government or a relator might argue that the contractor has violated the FCA. 
Continue Reading The Fourth Circuit Strengthens the FCA’s Implied Certification Theory in Triple Canopy

In early December 2014, the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit reaffirmed that circuit’s broad interpretation of the False Claims Act’s “first-to-file” bar, 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(5), in United States ex rel. Ven-a-Care of the Fla. Keys v. Baxter Healthcare Corp., 772 F.3d 932 (1st Cir. 2014).[1]  The first-to-file bar, as we have discussed in previous posts, prohibits a second relator from going forward with a False Claims Act (“FCA”) case that is similar to an earlier relator’s case.[2]
Continue Reading First Circuit Reaffirms FCA’s “First-to-File” Bar as a Broad Jurisdictional Limit

This blog post is a preview of a presentation Mr. Turetzky will be giving at the American Bar Association Public Contracts Law Section’s Fall Meeting in Miami, Florida on November 1, 2014.     

The False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733, enables whistleblowers—also known as qui tam relators— to file fraud suits on behalf of the United States against private government contractors.  With the assistance of qui tam relators, the United States government has recovered billions of dollars in False Claims Act settlements and judgments.  Allowing private persons to litigate on the government’s behalf, however, often encourages parasitic, unmeritorious lawsuits.  For this reason, Congress has limited the power of qui tam litigants in a number of ways.


Continue Reading Recent Developments in Cases Dealing with the False Claims Act’s First-to-File and Public Disclosure Bars

A.  EPA Adopts Final Rule: EPA-Specific Past Performance Regulations (79 Fed. Reg. 15921-24) (3/21/2014)

The EPA is deleting EPA-specific past performance regulations in the EPA Acquisition Regulation (EPAAR) because they are no longer necessary to meet the agency’s needs in light of recent updates to the FAR.  See 79 Fed. Reg. 46783 (Aug. 1, 2013).  The new FAR requirements mirror current EPA policies for collecting and maintaining contractor past performance, so there is no longer a need for an EPA-specific supplement.  FAR subpart 42.15, combined with the CPARS guidance and reference material included at the CPARS web site (www.cpars.gov) provides sufficient policy, procedures, and guidance to satisfy the EPA’s needs.  Thus, the EPA deleted EPAAR sections 1542.15, 1552.242-71, and 1553.209.


Continue Reading What’s New Out There? Highlights from the March 2014 Federal Register