Among the many 2009 changes to strengthen the False Claims Act is one whose impact is about to be experienced: greater use of “civil investigative demands” to gather evidence.
Civil investigative demands allow to government to require any person believed to have documents or information relevant to a False Claims Act investigation to do the following:
(A) to produce such documentary material for inspection and copying,
(B) to answer in writing written interrogatories with respect to such documentary material or information,
(C) to give oral testimony concerning such documentary material or information, or
(D) to furnish any combination of such material, answers, or testimony. (31 U.S.C. § 3733 (a)).
Until now, civil investigative demands were theoretically available, but seldom used, as they required authorization by the Attorney General. Now, as the 2009 amendments permit, the U.S. Attorney General has just delegated that authority to local U.S. Attorneys.
The result should be far greater use of these valuable investigative tools, which are now more available to the line prosecutors who investigate False Claims Act cases. Although reporting requirements apply, the change gives a leg up to aggressive investigators in gathering evidence.
Another significant 2009 change is that prosecutors are now authorized to share with qui tam relators or whistleblowers the information or documents obtained by CIDs, if they deem it necessary. This change will enhance the important “collaboration” between government counsel, the whistleblower, and the whistleblower’s counsel that has proved extremely effective in prosecuting qui tam cases under the False Claims Act.
As time will tell, of all the 2009 amendments, this change may have the greatest impact on False Claims Act investigations. It should allow the government lawyers and investigators who actually work cases to take sworn testimony and require answers to interrogatories and document requests, before suit is commenced.