Recently, a court in the Central District of California unsealed a qui tam complaint against several specialty pharmacies and their private equity fund owners. See United States ex rel. Webster v. BioMatrix Holdings, LLC, 2:18-cv-09333-PSG-PLA (C.D. Cal. Oct. 31, 2018). Relator, a former Vice President for Managed Care at BioMatrix Specialty Pharmacy, alleged that the specialty pharmacy defendants (collectively “BioMatrix”), with the knowledge of their private equity owners, employed a kickback scheme to increase the number and value of prescriptions for hemophilia medications filled through their pharmacies. (more…)
On December 2, 2021, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) issued a press release announcing that Flower Mound Hospital Partners (“Flower Mound”), a partially physician-owned hospital, agreed to pay just over $18 million to resolve allegations that it had violated the False Claims Act by submitting claims that violated the Stark Law and the Anti-Kickback Statute. (more…)
As we have discussed in prior posts (here), private equity investors in the healthcare and life sciences industries increasingly face direct risk under the FCA where they actively manage portfolio companies accused of regulatory noncompliance leading to the submission of false claims. In each of the cases discussed in these earlier actions the PE fund defendant was the sole or majority investor and DOJ and the courts relied on facts demonstrating that the funds were aware of and endorsed or otherwise participated directly in the underlying fraud. (more…)
This week, in a case we previously reported on here, a PE fund and two executives agreed to pay $25M to resolve claims that they caused the submission by a portfolio company mental health center of false claims for services that were not rendered in compliance with various state law and contractual requirements. (more…)
Late last week, Judge Patti Saris (D. Mass.) issued an opinion on cross-motions for summary judgment filed by a qui tam relator and Massachusetts and a group of defendants that includes South Bay Mental Health Center (“South Bay”) and its private equity fund owner, permitting the vast majority of plaintiffs’ claims to proceed to the jury. The opinion addresses important questions of law as to each of the elements of the FCA related to claims to Medicaid for services allegedly provided in violation of various state regulatory requirements. However, the opinion is most notable for being the first to hold at the dispositive motion stage that a private equity fund and its principals can act with the requisite scienter and cause the submission of false claims, and thus be exposed directly to the treble damages and statutory penalties of the FCA as a result of conduct by a healthcare provider portfolio company. As such, we may expect it to add momentum to DOJ’s stated intent to pursue FCA claims against PE investors in the industry, as we previously reported here.
A recent settlement reinforces the potential liability facing private equity investors in the life sciences industry. As we previously reported, late last year The Gores Group (“Gores”) entered into a $1.5 million settlement agreement with the United States to resolve claims that the alleged off-label promotion by its portfolio company of combination drug-medical device systems for pediatric patients resulted in the submission of false claims to federal healthcare programs. Last month, Gores entered into a separate $1.5 million settlement agreement with certain states to resolve claims that the same alleged conduct resulted in the submission of false claims to state Medicaid programs. See U.S. ex rel. Johnson v. Therakos, Inc., Case No. 12-cv-1454 (E.D. Pa., filed Mar. 22, 2012). The participating states in the more recent settlement have sixty days to agree to the terms of that agreement; thus far at least California has joined. The claims resolved in these settlements arose from a qui tam suit.
In line with an emerging trend of False Claims Act enforcement against private equity funds for the activities of their portfolio companies, the government and a private equity fund that formerly owned a medical device and pharmaceutical manufacturer recently settled a qui tam suit alleging violations of the False Claims Act. U.S. ex rel. Johnson v. Therakos, Inc., Case No. 12-cv-1454, E.D. Pa. The suit resolves allegations that from 2006 to 2015 the manufacturer promoted a cancer treatment for use in pediatric patients—a use that had not been approved by the Food and Drug Administration. As a result, the government contended, the private equity fund former owner caused the manufacturer to submit false claims to Medicaid, the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, and Tricare. The case remains under seal; as a result, it is not yet apparent whether the government has alleged that the private equity fund took an active role in the management of the portfolio company or other facts that would support FCA liability attaching to the investor. In settlement of the claims, but without admitting liability, the private equity fund agreed to pay the United States and participating states $1.5 million. The settlement agreements are available here.
We will continue to monitor the docket for this case and for further action by DOJ against private equity investors in the healthcare and life sciences industries.