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False Claims Act Statistics, News & Analysis

Taking Out the Trash: District Court Grants Summary Judgment Where Federal Agencies Continued to Pay for Waste Removal Services Following Regulatory Violation

A Pennsylvania district court recently weighed in on the question of whether the government’s continued payment after the filing of a qui tam action defeats materiality under Escobar. In a decision helpful to FCA defendants, the court in United States ex rel. Cressman v. Solid Waste Services, Inc. granted the defendant summary judgment where the government continued to pay the defendant after the plaintiff filed his FCA action and DOJ declined to intervene.

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Mikes v. Straus "Particularity" Requirement May Be Dead, But Materiality is Alive and Well Among District Courts in the Second Circuit

A New York district court recently held in United States v. Strock that Escobar’s materiality standard applies, at a minimum, to express false certification and fraudulent inducement FCA theories in addition to the implied false certification theory at issue in Escobar. The court further held that the government failed adequately to plead materiality under Escobar and dismissed the case.

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Three's A Crowd: Potential Third Party Liability in FCA Suits

So often more is merrier, but when it comes to FCA liability, three can be a crowd. The government rarely pursues third-party liability in FCA cases despite the routine involvement of consultants, auditors, and investors with companies alleged to have defrauded the government. In what appears to be an effort to expand the scope of FCA liability to a new class of defendants, the government in February pursued FCA claims against two third parties. On February 16, the government intervened in United States ex. rel. Medrano v. Diabetic Care RX, LLC, No. 15-cv-62617 (S.D. Fla. Feb. 16, 2018) alleging that Riordan, Lewis & Harden, Inc. (“RLH”), the private equity sponsor of the pharmacy now known as Patient Care America (“PCA”), through two RLH partners who oversaw the investment, was responsible in part for an illegal kickback scheme designed to obtain increased prescriptions for compounded creams and vitamins, and thus greater reimbursement from TRICARE. A week later, on February 28, the government announced a $149.5 million settlement with Deloitte & Touche LLP (“Deloitte”) for knowingly deviating from traditional auditing standards which the government argued allowed the mortgage originator Taylor Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corporation to defraud the government. Though these cases are not directly related, the timing suggests that third-party FCA liability may be a focus of the DOJ moving forward.

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Risky Business: Reverse FCA Allegations Against Medicare Advantage Insurer Survive

In an early mixed valentine for both the government and a defendant Medicare Advantage Plan insurer, a district court in California on February 12 denied a motion to dismiss reverse FCA claims alleging the failure to correct known invalid diagnosis codes submitted for risk adjustment payments to Medicare. The court did dismiss, however, the government’s claims that the insurer’s false statements as to the validity of the diagnosis codes also violated the FCA. Poehling v. Unitedhealth Group, Inc., No. 2:16-cv-08697 (C.D. Cal. Feb. 12, 2018).

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Escobar Matters for Discovery, Too: District Court Emphasizes Right to Broad Materiality Discovery

While most post-Escobar decisions have involved the merits, Escobar also has significant implications for the scope of materiality discovery under the FCA. Last week, in United States ex rel. California v. Paramedics Plus LLC, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas became one of the first courts to directly tackle that issue in a written opinion, holding that Escobar affords FCA defendants the ability to broadly discover how the government has actually handled the disputed issue, both in that case and in other analogous situations.

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Two Courts Confirm Penalties Not Yet Issued Do Not Support Reverse False Claims

The D.C. Circuit and the Tenth Circuit recently joined several other circuits, including the Fifth, Sixth, and Eighth, in holding that liability for reverse false claims cannot be based on contingent obligations to pay the government (meaning obligations to pay that may arise after future discretionary actions), reaffirming that when Congress amended the FCA in 2009 to define the term “obligation,” it intended that liability would result for reverse false claims only where there are failures to pay specific, definite obligations owed to the government.

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