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

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

We previously reported on the viability of the “implied certification” theory of FCA liability based on oral argument before the Supreme Court in Universal Health Services, Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. Escobar.  We concluded that the theory—under which a claim for payment can be false without an express certification, but because the government contractor has not complied with an applicable statute, regulation, or contractual provision—did not appear to be headed for extinction.  It turns out we were right.
Continue Reading FCA’s “Implied Certification” Theory Survives

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has issued a ruling bringing to an end the long-running False Claims Act (“FCA”) case filed by relator Brady Folliard and providing useful guidance to resellers servicing the Federal government through the GSA Multiple Award Schedule program.[1]  In affirming the district court’s decision to grant Govplace’s motion for summary judgment and dismiss the case, the Court of Appeals found that Govplace did not knowingly violate the FCA because it reasonably relied on Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”) certifications from its distributor.  The holding of the Court of Appeals that “a contractor like Govplace is ordinarily entitled to rely on a supplier’s certification that the product meets TAA requirements” has broader implications than just the claims asserted against Govplace: it ratifies the long-standing industry practice of small business resellers leveraging the resources of their suppliers to comply with the requirements of their GSA Schedule Contracts.
Continue Reading DC Circuit Ruling Confirms Reasonableness Of Resellers Relying On TAA Certifications From Suppliers

In a trio of speeches given at separate events on September 17, 2014, Department of Justice (“DOJ”) officials announced new initiatives and points of emphasis in the Government’s ongoing efforts to hold corporations and corporate officers criminally liable in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis.  Among the issues addressed by Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Marshall Miller, and Attorney General Eric Holder were increased coordination between the Civil and Criminal Divisions on qui tam False Claims Act (“FCA”) cases, an emphasis on corporations’ cooperation in prosecuting culpable individuals, and the importance of whistleblowers and cooperating witnesses in the government’s investigations.
Continue Reading Recent Remarks By Officials Reinforce DOJ’s Focus On Criminal Fraud Investigations And Prosecutions Of Culpable Individuals

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 Louis Victorino and Jonathan Aronie (originally published in the San Diego Business Journal)

It has been noted, the more things change, the more they stay the same. In the world of Government Contracts Law, however, the more things change, the more the phone rings. And while we’re only a few weeks into 2013, the phone has been ringing off the hook. Here are a few of the reasons why.


Continue Reading What Does 2013 Have In Store for Government Contractors and Their Lawyers?