At the “Advanced Health Law” seminar on October 9, attorneys prosecuting and defending cases of alleged health care fraud will discuss the important new amendments to the False Claims Act. I am honored to be the panelist who will discuss these important new provisions from the perspective of representing whistleblowers (known as “relators”) who bring qui tam whistleblower cases under the False Claims Act.
These significant changes to the False Claims Act took effect on May 20, 2009, when the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009 became law. Among the most important changes, Congress corrected and clarified the False Claims Act by legislatively overruling certain court decisions that sought to limit the scope of the Act, including Allison Engine Co. v. United States ex rel. Sanders, 128 S. Ct. 2123 (2008); United States ex rel. Totten v. Bombardier Corp., 380 F.3d 488 (D.C. Cir. 2004), cert. denied, 544 U.S. 1032 (2005); and United States ex rel. DRC, Inc. v. Custer Battles, LLC, 376 F. Supp. 2d 617 (E.D. Va. 2005), rev’d, 562 F.3d 295 (4th Cir. 2009).
The False Claims Act, as amended, now has these provisions:
1. The amendments expand the definition of “claim,” and fraud directed against government contractors, grantees and other recipients is now covered by the law.
2. Funds administered by the United States government (such as in Iraq) are now protected.
3. Retaining overpayments of money from the government is now an explicit basis of liability, which will be a source of concern for health care providers, among others.
4. Liability for “conspiracy” to violate the Act is broader than before.
5. Protection of whistleblowers and others against “retaliation” now extends not only to “employees,” but also to “contractors” and “agents”; and persons other than “employers” potentially may be held liable for retaliation.
6. In investigating, the government now has authority to use “Civil Investigative Demands” more broadly, and to share information more with state and local authorities and with whistleblowers/relators.
7. A standard definition of what is “material” now applies in False Claims Act cases.
8. The statute of limitations has been clarified to allow the government to assert its own claims.
Health care fraud lawyers on this October 9 panel include government counsel Christopher J. Huber (Assistant U.S. Attorney, Atlanta); defense counsel Richard L. (“Rick”) Shackelford (King & Spalding LLP, Atlanta); and this whistleblower lawyer blog author Michael A. Sullivan (Finch McCranie, LLP, Atlanta). Our moderator will be Summer H. Martin (McKenna Long Aldridge LLP, Atlanta). The program will be chaired by Tracy M. Field, Chair, Health Law Section, State Bar of Georgia (Arnall Golden Gregory LLP, Atlanta). I look forward to working with this distinguished group.
These health care attorneys will discuss which aspects of the amendments to the False Claims Act will be most significant to hospitals, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, and others in the health care industry.
It has been interesting to discuss with our colleagues which of the changes are likely to have the greatest impact, not only in health care fraud cases, but in cases involving contractor fraud in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars and reconstruction, other military contracts, NASA programs, Hurricane Katrina and other disaster relief, the new TARP and “Stimulus” programs (the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act), and other federal contracts, which are among the cases clients have brought to our firm.