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In this episode, hosts Jason Crawford and Mana Lombardo talk with Rebecca Ricigliano and Steve Byers, both partners in the firm’s White Collar & Regulatory Enforcement Group, about key considerations for navigating parallel criminal and civil False Claims Act proceedings. “Let’s Talk FCA” is Crowell & Moring’s podcast covering the latest developments with the False Claims Act.

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In Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, 136 S.Ct. 1989 (2016) (discussion by C&M attorneys here), the Supreme Court held that an implied false certification can be a basis for False Claims Act (FCA) liability, “at least where two conditions are satisfied:” (1) the claim makes specific representations about the goods or services provided and (2) the defendant’s failure to disclose noncompliance with material statutory, regulatory, or contractual requirements makes those representations misleading half-truths.  (Emphasis added).

Continue Reading Ninth Circuit’s Rose Decision Could be a Thorn in the Side of Relators (At Least for Now)

In this episode, hosts Mana Lombardo and Jason Crawford talk with Gail Zirkelbach, partner in the firm’s Government Contracts Group and vice-chair of the Investigations practice, about practical tips for managing internal False Claims Act Investigations. “Let’s Talk FCA” is Crowell & Moring’s podcast covering the latest developments with the False Claims Act.

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In this episode, hosts Mana Lombardo and Jason Crawford are joined by Will Chang and Laura Cordova, both partners in the firm’s Health Care and White Collar & Regulatory Enforcement groups, to discuss recently announced reforms to False Claims Act enforcement. “Let’s Talk FCA” is Crowell & Moring’s podcast covering the latest developments with the False Claims Act.

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In this episode, hosts Mana Lombardo and Jason Crawford are joined by Tully McLaughlin, co-chair of the firm’s False Claims Act Practice, to discuss some of the unique considerations for trying False Claims Act cases. “Let’s Talk FCA” is Crowell & Moring’s podcast covering the latest developments with the False Claims Act.

ListenCrowell.com | PodBean | SoundCloud | iTunes 

“Let’s Talk FCA” is Crowell & Moring’s podcast covering the latest developments with the False Claims Act. In this episode, hosts Mana Lombardo and Jason Crawford interview Will Chang, a partner in the firm’s Health Care and White Collar & Regulatory Enforcement groups and a former trial attorney at the DOJ Criminal Division, Fraud Section, on health care fraud and FCA issues.

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On March 22, 2018, an Indiana state trial court judge granted a motion to dismiss in State of Indiana ex. rel Harmeyer v. The Kroger Co. et al. Relator Harmeyeran attorney and Kroger patron—alleged that the grocery chain knowingly failed to collect and remit state sales tax on hundreds of goods throughout the state.  Under Indiana law, the state’s gross retail tax does not apply to “food and food ingredients” but it does apply to candy, soft drinks, dietary supplements, and prepared foods.  Relator’s sixth amended complaint identified more than 1,400 food items that relator alleged were mischaracterized as tax-exempt based on the ingredients and food preparation.  For example, relator alleged that a protein bar should be classified as taxable candy rather than nontaxable food.  By classifying items as tax-exempt, relator alleged that the grocery chain cost the state millions of dollars in tax revenue each year.

The superior court judge dismissed relator’s complaint with prejudice holding that the complaint failed to meet the heightened pleading requirement of 9(b) because Harmeyer failed to allege the time, place, and method by which misrepresentations were made to the state.  The court also noted that Harmeyer, whose similar case against a grocer in another state had been dismissed, was not an employee of Kroger, had no inside knowledge of what took place within the company, and merely presumed, as he had in his other case, that the defendant’s characterization of the items as tax-exempt was false and done with reckless disregard of the truth.  While Harmeyer argued that the allegation of 1400 mischaracterizations was sufficient to plead recklessness, the court could not determine from the complaint whether this was a substantial percentage of the products sold by defendant and therefore could not presume recklessness from that number. The judge dismissed the case with prejudice, and the relator filed a notice of appeal on April 13.

Continue Reading Court Dismisses FCA Suit Alleging that Grocery Chain Failed to Collect Sales Tax

On December 21, 2017, the Department of Justice announced that it recovered more than $3.7 billion in settlements and judgments from civil False Claims Act (FCA) cases in Fiscal Year 2017. The FY 2017 figures reflect the government’s continued trend of annually amassing multi-billion dollar recoveries under the FCA.  This recovery is the fourth largest total in thirty years, and the eighth consecutive year that recoveries have exceeded $3 billion.

At the industry level, DOJ reported $2.47 billion in recoveries from the health care sector, and $220 million from defense companies.  The largest health care industry recoveries in FY 2017 came from the drug and medical device industry.  In the procurement fraud arena, the bulk of the recovery came from two large settlements, one involving charges to the Department of Defense and the other involving charges to the Department of Energy.  The government collected approximately $1 billion from the remaining industries, including national security, food safety and inspection, federally insured loans and mortgages, highway funds, small business contracts, agricultural subsidies, disaster assistance, and import tariffs.

The change in presidential administration appears to have had little effect on FCA activity.  DOJ continued its pursuit of individual owners and executives of private corporations under the FCA.  It entered into numerous settlements wherein individuals agreed to joint and several liability with their company.  DOJ also obtained over $60 million in FCA settlements and judgments with individuals that did not involve joint and several liability with the corporate entity.  Also, the number of new FCA actions in FY 2017 remained high with relators bringing 674 new qui tam matters and DOJ initiating 125 matters on its own.  Of the $3.7 billion recovery, $3.4 billion related to suits initiated by whistleblowers, and over $3 billion of that came from suits where the government either intervened or otherwise pursued the matter.  These numbers are consistent with the prior five years and suggest that the FCA will remain an active area for investigations and litigation in 2018.

On May 16, 2017, the Fourth Circuit issued a decision in United States ex rel. Omar Badr v. Triple Canopy, holding that the Government had properly alleged an implied certification claim under the standard articulated by the Supreme Court in Universal Health Servs. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016).  In the eleven months following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling on the implied certification theory of liability, Escobar has been cited in nearly 100 court opinions. (Our recent Feature Comment in the Government Contractor highlights some of the key cases and developing trends).

In Badr, the relator alleges that a security contractor responsible for ensuring the safety of an air base in a combat zone employed Ugandan guards who were unable to meet the required marksmanship scores on a U.S. Army qualification course. According to the relator, Triple Canopy knowingly falsified marksmanship scorecards and presented claims to the government for payment for those guards.

Continue Reading It’s the Cover-Up That Gets You