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False Claims Act Under Trump Administration – What Does Attorney General Nominee Sessions Think?

As discussed previously, efforts to curb fraud, waste and abuse are generally “bi-partisan.” Given the significant monetary recoveries the Government enjoys through enforcement of the federal False Claims Act (“FCA”), we have predicted that efforts in this arena will continue under a Trump administration. However, this is dependent, in part, on the priorities of the new administration and the resources it devotes in this arena. To this end, the testimony of Attorney General nominee Sessions during his confirmation hearing on January 10th may have given us some insight into how he views the FCA.

Notably, as part of his opening testimony, Attorney General nominee Sessions said:

“Further, this government must improve its ability to protect the United States Treasury from waste, fraud, and abuse. This is a federal responsibility. We cannot afford to lose a single dollar to corruption and you can be sure that if I am confirmed, I will make it a high priority of the Department to root out and prosecute fraud in federal programs and to recover any monies lost due to fraud or false claims.”

During questioning by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley (R. IA.), Sessions elaborated on his intent to focus on the FCA. When asked whether he would “pledge to vigorously enforce the False Claims Act and devote adequate resources to investigating and prosecuting False Claims Act cases,” Sessions testified:

“In the qui tam provisions and the part of that, I’m aware of those. I think they are valid and an effective method of rooting out fraud and abuse. I even filed one myself one time as a private lawyer…. It has saved this country lots of money and probably has caused companies to be more cautious because they can have a whistleblower that would blow the whistle on them if they try to do something that’s improper. So, I think it’s been a very healthy thing…”

In addition, after commenting that, in his opinion, some qui tam cases remain under seal for an “awfully long time,” Sessions testified that, if confirmed, he would provide Congress with “regular timely updates on the status of…. False Claims Act cases including statistics as to how many are under seal and the average length of seal time.”

Sessions’ testimony seems to have offered something to those on “both sides” of the FCA. His statements suggest that he recognizes the value of the FCA and its qui tam provisions; indeed, we learned that he even brought a qui tam case when he was in private practice. However, his testimony also reflects concern about unreasonably long seal periods, which are a significant problem for defendants in FCA cases. Extended seal periods plainly provide a unilateral litigation advantage to the Government and qui tam Relators by allowing extensive time to investigate while providing defendants no corresponding opportunity. Instead, extended seal periods often force defendants to be relegated to face aged claims once they are finally able to defend themselves. (Most FCA actions are filed under whistleblower, or qui tam, provisions. According to the Department of Justice, whistleblowers filed 702 qui tam suits in fiscal year 2016—an average of 13.5 new cases every week.) Only time will tell if a Justice Department under Attorney General Sessions will press to expedite consideration of FCA cases and improve the “playing field” in the process.

©2017 Epstein Becker & Green, P.C. All rights reserved.

TRENDING LEGAL ANALYSIS


About this Author

George Breen, Health Care Attorney, Epstein Becker Law Firm
Board of Directors/Member of the Firm

GEORGE B. BREEN is a Member of the Firm in the Health Care and Life Sciences and Litigation practices. He is Chair of the firm's National Health Care and Life Sciences Practice Steering Committee and a member of the firm's Board of Directors.

Mr. Breen:

  • Defends clients undergoing investigation for health care fraud by the Department of Justice, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, and other state and federal governmental authorities
  • ...
202-861-1823
Melissa Jampol, Epstein Becker Law Firm, Health Care Attorney
Member

Melissa Jampol is a Member of the Firm in the Health Care and Life Sciences and Litigation practices, in the New York office of Epstein Becker Green. A former federal and state prosecutor, Ms. Jampol represents health care organizations, and their officers and directors, in a variety of enforcement matters at both the state and federal levels.

During her tenure as an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey, Ms. Jampol served in the Health Care and Government Fraud, Violent Crime, and Organized Crime & Gang Units, where she led significant, complex investigations and prosecuted a broad range of high-profile criminal cases, including those involving health care fraud, money laundering, mail and wire fraud, tax fraud, Anti-Kickback Statute violations, child abuse, violations of racketeering (RICO) statutes, and securities fraud. She previously served as an Assistant District Attorney at the New York County (Manhattan) District Attorney's Office, where she investigated and prosecuted sex crimes and violent crimes and led investigative teams on money-laundering and tax-evasion cases.

212-351-4760
Hanna Fox, Epstein Becker Law Firm, Life Sciences and Litigation Attorney
Member

HANNA FOX is a Member of the Firm in the Health Care and Life Sciences and Litigation practices, in the New York office of Epstein Becker Green, and serves as co-leader of the firm’s Government Enforcement Service Team. She represents various health care clients, including health care systems, hospitals, long-term care facilities, medical device manufacturers, and other health care businesses.

Ms. Fox:

  • Represents clients in litigation, internal investigations, and governmental...
212-351-3710
Jonathan K. Hoerner, Epstein Becker, Life Sciences Associate, Washington D.C.,
Associate

JONATHAN K. HOERNER is an Associate in the Health Care and Life Sciences practice, in the Washington, DC, office of Epstein Becker Green.

202-861-1826