Introduction

Federal and state governments are ready to roll out over one trillion dollars in funding in response to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.  As past is often prologue, we expect this new round of massive government spending to someday be subjected to strict government oversight, targeted audits and investigations, and whistleblowers all searching for potential fraud, waste and abuse.  Economic downturns and the unfortunate necessity of layoffs may also lead to an increased risk of whistleblower claims by former employees.  Flooding the healthcare industry and other negatively impacted industry streams with hundreds of billions in aid will no doubt prove too tempting for the ever-present fraudsters in society who are always looking to take advantage.  As we have learned from past crises, however, when government enforcement eventually gets around to casting its False Claims Act (FCA) nets far and wide in search of potential fraud and abuse, many unwary businesses may be ensnared along with the usual fraudsters because of their sloppy or reckless practices. Deficient practices today could trigger an FCA investigation or enforcement action tomorrow along with all of its draconian treble damages and penalties.  This article details the risks businesses face under the FCA when responding to COVID-19, and provides guidance on how to guard against them now.


Continue Reading Guard Against False Claims as Massive Government Spending Rolls Out to Combat COVID-19

On January 25, 2018, Associate Attorney General Rachel Brand issued a memorandum (the “Brand Memo”) limiting the use of agency guidance documents in affirmative civil enforcement cases. The memorandum builds on Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ November 16, 2017 memorandum prohibiting DOJ from promulgating guidance documents that create rights or obligations that are binding on regulated parties. When DOJ issues a guidance document with voluntary standards, it must also contain a statement that noncompliance is not subject to future DOJ enforcement actions. The Brand Memo makes clear that this principle also applies to other agencies’ guidance documents. In other words, agency guidance, in and of itself, cannot create new binding legal requirements.
Continue Reading “Brand Memo” Prohibits US DOJ From Converting Agency Guidance Into Binding Legal Obligations In Civil Enforcement Actions

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

By David Gallacher

Nearly three years ago, on September 27, 2010, the President signed into law the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (“Jobs Act”), which directed the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) to implement a variety of small business size and integrity requirements. As noted in our prior blog posting discussing many of these requirements, many of these provisions posed a significant threat to government contractors – both large and small businesses alike. On October 7, 2011, the SBA published its blueprint for implementing the statutory requirements. See 76 Fed. Reg. 52313 (the “Proposed Rule”). The Proposed Rule contained language that many industry participants and observers found alarming, particularly the requirements that:


Continue Reading Threats and Vulnerabilities – What Every Contractor Should Know About The SBA’s New “Presumed Loss” and “Deemed Certification” Rules

The First Circuit has added its say on the meaning of the False Claims Act’s “first to file” rule (31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(5)) by holding that a first-filed complaint will preclude a later-filed suit, even when the first complaint is found insufficient under Rule 9(b) particularity requirements. See United States ex rel. Heineman-Guta v. Guidant Corp., 2013 WL 2364172 (1st Cir. May 31, 2013). There is already a circuit split on this issue between the Sixth Circuit and the D.C. Circuit, and the First Circuit’s recent decision further deepens this split. Time will tell if the U.S. Supreme Court will ultimately weigh in on the issue.
Continue Reading An FCA Kerfuffle: First Circuit Reaffirms the Intent of the “First to File” Rule and Deepens Circuit Split

By Christopher Loveland and Jonathan Aronie 

While multi-million dollar False Claims Act (FCA) settlements paid by Government contractors get the lion’s share of the press, those with an attentive eye will have noticed a recent steady stream of more “contractor friendly” FCA decisions flying just under the national press’s radar. These cases, all arising in the context of the GSA Multiple Award Schedule program, serve as timely reminders that the FCA is not a blank check for opportunistic relators (plaintiffs/whistleblowers), and that relators must be in possession of facts actually supporting their allegations before walking into court. [1]


Continue Reading Common Sense Prevails Once Again: District Court FCA Ruling Serves As Reminder That Whistleblowers Need to Prove Recklessness Too

By John Hynes

On November 2, 2012, the Sixth Circuit held that a 2009 amendment Congress made to the liability provisions of the False Claims Act ("FCA") applies retroactively to civil FCA cases pending as of June 7, 2008. U.S. ex rel. Sanders v. Allison Engine Co., Nos. 10-3818/10-3821, at *17-20 (6th Cir. Nov. 2, 2012).


Continue Reading Sixth Circuit: FERA False Claims Act Amendment Applies Retroactively to Cases Pending as of June 7, 2008

By Joseph Barton

In 1995, the U.S. Air Force awarded Lockheed Martin the RSA II Contract (the “Contract”) for the provision of software and hardware used to support space launch operations at Vandenberg Air Force Base and Cape Kennedy. Importantly, the Contract is a cost-reimbursement type contract whereby a contractor is paid for the allowable expenses it incurs plus an additional payment to allow for a profit.


Continue Reading Predicating False Claims Act Liability On False Cost Estimates May Impact Contractors’ Willingness to Take On Projects Involving Next Generation Technologies

By Christopher Loveland and Jonathan Aronie

While the False Claims Act (“FCA”) generally is understood to be a “whistleblower” statute, it has been a tool of choice in recent years for opportunistic qui tam relators who lack any inside information regarding the very companies they sue. Not surprisingly, this lack of inside information has resulted in many qui tam cases being dismissed either because they merely mimic the allegations of a previously-filed case or do not plead their allegations of fraud with sufficient particularity.


Continue Reading Another U.S. District Court Follows The Lead Of The D.C. Circuit In Addressing The “First-To-File Bar” Circuit Split And Pushes Back Against An Opportunistic Relator

By Joseph Barton

On May 2, 2012, Federal agents with the Department of Justice’s (“DOJ”) special task force made the biggest Medicare bust in U.S. history, and a splash in the media, when it cracked down on a number of unrelated Medicare fraud schemes across the country that resulted in an alleged $450 million in false claims being submitted to Medicare over the past six years. A total of 107 people were arrested, including doctors, nurses, social workers, office managers, and patient recruiters. Charges ranged from submitting false billing for home healthcare, mental health services, HIV infusions, and physical therapy, to money laundering and receiving kickbacks.


Continue Reading The Federal Government Takes Aim at Medicare Fraud

By Robert M. P. Hurwitz

The Supreme Court recently heard oral argument in a case testing the scope of the False Claims Act’s public disclosure bar. The False Claims Act (“FCA”) is the government’s primary weapon against waste, fraud, and abuse in government contracting.  Penalties for FCA violations are harsh: actual damages are trebled, and each false claim (such as an individual invoice) triggers a penalty of up to $11,000. Under the FCA’s qui tam provisions, whistleblowers (formally called relators) can bring lawsuits on behalf of the government. Whistleblowers receive a significant bounty for acting as private prosecutors: they are entitled to between 15 and 30 percent of the government’s proceeds from the litigation. This is a substantial sum, as the trebling and penalty provisions catapult many modest matters into multimillion dollar actions.
 


Continue Reading The Supreme Court To Decide Whether FOIA Responses Trigger The False Claims Act’s Public Disclosure Bar