Proposed FCA Amendments Blocked from Senate Infrastructure Bill
The recently proposed amendments to the False Claims Act have stalled out for now. As discussed here and here, these bipartisan proposed amendments—led by Senator Grassley—would have made four changes to the FCA, and most notably, would have radically altered the burden of proof for establishing materiality.
But after making a sudden appearance on Friday in the Senate infrastructure bill, last night those amendments were excluded. This means that the amendments’ proponents will need to consider other vehicles, particularly “must pass” bills such as the budget resolution. The Senate is expected to consider amendments to the budget resolution later this week.
We will continue to monitor developments regarding this proposed legislation.
FCA Amendments Resurface in Senate Infrastructure Bill
As discussed further here, a bipartisan group of senators, led by Senators Grassley (R-IA), Leahy (D-VT), Wicker (R-MI), Durbin (D-IL), and Kennedy (R-LA), recently introduced proposed amendments to the False Claims Act. Those amendments have now been incorporated into the infrastructure bill currently being debated in the Senate. (more…)
Bipartisan Legislation Introduced To Overhaul FCA To Further Hamstring Defendants
A bipartisan group of senators, led by Senators Grassley (R-IA), Leahy (D-VT), Wicker (R-MI), Durbin (D-IL), and Kennedy (R-LA), has introduced the False Claims Amendments Act of 2021. This legislation is worth watching not just because it would significantly amend the FCA, but because Senator Grassley has a successful track record of shepherding through to passage legislation reversing gains made by defendants in FCA cases.
Court Sanctions DOJ and Defendants For Discovery Violations In False Claims Act Case
On July 10, 2020, a federal magistrate judge in the District of Minnesota issued a 39-page decision sanctioning DOJ (and the defendants) for various discovery violations in an FCA case based on alleged violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute.
As previously reported here, the Defendants Paul Ehlen (“Ehlen”), the majority owner of Precision Lens, and Cameron-Ehlen Group (conducting business as Precision Lens) (collectively, the “defendants”) are involved in the distribution of intraocular lenses and other products for ophthalmic surgeries. DOJ alleges that the defendants provided physicians with expensive trips, meals, and other in-kind remunerations at no cost or below fair market value. DOJ further alleges that, in exchange, these physicians purchased the Defendants’ products and used them during surgeries, which were subsequently billed to Medicare, in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute and the False Claims Act. DOJ and the defendants filed motions seeking sanctions against the other in connection with inadequate preparation of 30(b)(6) designees and potential spoliation of information, documents, and electronically stored information. DOJ also filed a motion to compel the production of additional potentially relevant documents.
Minnesota District Court Orders Government to Identify Specific False Claims and Provide Witness Interview Materials
A recent decision from the District of Minnesota denied the government’s appeal of a federal magistrate judge’s order requiring that, as part of discovery, the government detail specific false claims and turn over notes and reports of witness interviews. The underlying case is a qui tam alleging that Precisions Lens and its founder provided kickbacks to physicians to induce the use of its eye surgery products.
New Jersey Supreme Court Curtails Attorney General’s Subpoena Power in FCA Action
On June 7, 2017, the New Jersey Supreme Court, in a 3-2 decision affirming the decision of the Appellate Division, found that the Attorney General’s administrative subpoena power under New Jersey’s False Claims Act is limited to the 60 day period (which may be extended by motion) in which the Attorney General must make his or her intervention decision. “[A]fter the Attorney General declines to intervene in a qui tam action and leaves that action in the relator’s control, the Attorney General loses the authority to issue administrative subpoenas.” In the Matter of the Enforcement of New Jersey False Claims Act Subpoenas, A-5-16 (No. 077506). (more…)
Fourth Circuit Affirms Defense Summary Judgment Based on Government Declarations
As we previously discussed here, the government’s continued payment despite knowledge of contractual or regulatory noncompliance has become a powerful defense argument post-Escobar. The Fourth Circuit recently affirmed summary judgment in favor of government contractors after they obtained declarations from responsible government officials that undercut the relator’s theories of liability. See United States ex rel. Searle v. DRS C3 & Aviation Co., No. 15-2442 (4th Cir. Feb. 23, 2017).
Court Rejects DOJ Attempt to Insulate Prior Payment Practices from Discovery
Historical government payment practices have gained new importance following the Supreme Court’s guidance in Escobar that such practices can preclude a finding that regulatory compliance was material to the payment of an allegedly false claim. Evidence regarding the government’s prior knowledge of regulatory violations and continued payment can also bear on the mens rea element of an FCA claim. Perhaps not surprisingly in light of the importance of this evidence, DOJ recently tried—unsuccessfully—to block a defendant’s efforts to discover information relating to historical payment determinations by CMS Medicare Administrative Contractors (“MACs”). See United States ex rel. Ribik v. HCR ManorCare, Inc., No. 09-cv-13 (E.D. Va. Feb. 3, 2017).
District Court Rejects Argument That CID Should Be Quashed Because Government Has Unofficially Decided to Intervene
This month, a judge for the United States District Court for the Western District of Virginia rejected the argument of a private party, Beam Brothers Trucking, Inc. (“Beam”), that a Civil Investigative Demand (“CID”) issued by the United States should be quashed because the United States had already effected a de facto intervention in a qui tam action, despite neither formal intervention nor confirmation of the existence of the suit. See In re Civil Investigative Demand 15-439, No. 5:16-mc-3 (W.D. Va. Aug. 12, 2016). The government had been investigating Beam, which had government contracts for the transport of mail, to determine if Beam had used government-issued credit cards for non-government deliveries. Approximately thirty federal agents executed a search warrant on Beam’s offices in February 2013, after which Beam met with civil and criminal government officials regarding the investigation. Beam argued to the Court that the government recovered contracts and corporate records in the search that were responsive to the later-issued CID at issue before the Court.
Court Holds Lack of Knowledge Defense Waives Attorney-Client Privilege
A District of Nevada magistrate judge has ruled that an FCA defendant’s assertion that it complied with “all applicable legal requirements” constitutes a “good faith” defense that waives the attorney-client privilege. The opinion highlights the thin line between a mere denial of scienter (which should not waive the privilege) and an affirmative good faith defense (which may), and illustrates the difficult choices FCA defendants face when deciding how best to respond to an allegation that they knowingly attempted to commit fraud.