The Government’s Duty to Preserve Evidence in a Non-Intervened “Qui Tam” Case

Stephen_Wood_03032014Featured Expert Contributor, False Claims Act

Stephen A. Wood, Chuhak & Tecson, P.C.

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Every civil litigator and trial lawyer knows (or should know) that a party to litigation has a duty to preserve evidence and documents for use in discovery and trial.  The rule applies to all litigants, whether public or private entities or persons.  It may even be applied to non-parties in certain circumstances, although typically non-parties face more limited obligations.

The False Claims Act qui tam provisions present a unique set of challenges bearing on the government’s duty to preserve.  Qui tam complaints are filed under seal to facilitate the government’s investigation after which it may elect to take the case over.  When it declines to intervene in the qui tam case, the government typically considers itself to be a non-party, eschewing any duty to preserve evidence.  Yet, for many reasons, the government should be treated as a party for purposes of the duty to preserve evidence in those cases in which it has declined to intervene.  And in the face of a breach of that duty, both the government and the qui tam relator should face the prospect of sanctions as the circumstances warrant. Continue reading “The Government’s Duty to Preserve Evidence in a Non-Intervened “Qui Tam” Case”

U.S. ex rel. Rose v. Stephens Institute: The Ninth Circuit Considers Escobar and its Materiality Mandate

Stephen_Wood_03032014Featured Expert Contributor, False Claims Act

Stephen A. Wood, Chuhak & Tecson, P.C.

Ed. Note: This is Mr. Wood’s inaugural post as the WLF Legal Pulse‘s latest Featured Expert Contributor. Mr. Wood is a Principal in Chuhak & Tecson’s Chicago, IL office and chairs the litigation practice group. He has authored numerous WLF publications over the past five years on the False Claims Act and other complex litigation matters.

Ever since the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016), the lower courts have wrestled with the interpretation and application of the Supreme Court’s holding. The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit became one of the latest reviewing courts to consider Escobar and its effect on that Circuit’s existing False Claims Act precedent.  The result in United States ex rel. Rose v. Stephens Institute, No. 17-15111, 2018 WL 4038194 (9th Cir. Aug. 24, 2018) was mixed.  The Court of Appeals held that Escobar overruled one precedent, but, in a sharply divided opinion, not another, thus demonstrating that Escobar continues to divide courts, especially over the element of materiality, foreshadowing further Supreme Court involvement in False Claims Act jurisprudence.  That involvement could come soon given that a petition for writ of certiorari is pending based on the Ninth Circuit’s decision in United States ex rel. Campie v. Gilead Sciences, Inc., 862 F.3d 890 (9th Cir. 2017), a case that also turned on whether the defendant’s claimed violations were material.  Continue reading U.S. ex rel. Rose v. Stephens Institute: The Ninth Circuit Considers Escobar and its Materiality Mandate”

False Claims Act Enforcement Tea Leaves Read at WLF Webinar

Fried Frank Of Counsel and author of the leading False Claims Act treatise, John T. Boese (on left), and his partner Douglas W. Baruch, offered insightful analysis on two recent Department of Justice policy documents (the “Granston Memo” and the “Brand Memo”) and their impact on FCA actions by both qui tam relators and federal prosecutors.

The slide presentation Boese and Baruch followed can be downloaded here.

The speakers also authored a February 2018 Working Paper for WLF on three new possible constitutional challenges to the FCA’s qui tam provisions, which can be found here.

DOJ Memo and Court Opinion Show Trend in Damming Flood of False Claims Act Suits

11th CircuitBusinesses that routinely contract with the government know that while the relationship comes with high financial rewards, it also can expose those companies to massive civil liability.  Under the False Claims Act (FCA), government contractors can find themselves sued for hundreds of millions of dollars based on mere technical violations of complex regulatory schemes.

Luckily, as highlighted in several of our previous posts, the U.S. Supreme Court has recently reinforced the high evidentiary threshold FCA plaintiffs need to meet to bring a successful claim under the most common theory of FCA liability.  A recently disclosed U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) memo and a recent opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit might similarly lead to fewer baseless claims against government contractors. Continue reading “DOJ Memo and Court Opinion Show Trend in Damming Flood of False Claims Act Suits”

FCA “Qui Tam” Relator Sanctioned for Lawyers’ Scheme to Manufacture Evidence

ethicsBy Bailey McGowan, a 2017 Judge K.K. Legett Fellow at Washington Legal Foundation who will be entering her third year at Texas Tech University School of Law in the fall.

A double agent, an undercover operation, and deceit: No, these aren’t the well-worn plot elements of the latest James Bond movie. They are some of the tactics in a law firm’s scandalous attempt to manufacture the proof needed to survive a motion to dismiss in a False Claims Act (FCA) case, Leysock v. Forest Laboratories. The elaborate scheme exhibits the lengths to which deputized FCA plaintiffs and their lawyers will go to pursue their cut of a qui tam lawsuit’s routinely lucrative recovery. The federal court’s sanction for such behavior—barring the use of information fraudulently obtained in the plaintiff’s opposition motion—was an appropriate and laudable response, one that should embolden inspire other judges overseeing big-money litigation to take similar action against such blatant misconduct. Continue reading “FCA “Qui Tam” Relator Sanctioned for Lawyers’ Scheme to Manufacture Evidence”

After SCOTUS’s “Escobar” Decision, Courts Increasingly Sink Implied-Certification FCA Suits

scales of justiceOver the last two decades, the False Claims Act (FCA) has become a popular tool for plaintiffs—and qui tam attorneys—to enrich themselves at the expense of government contractors.  To keep the profits flowing, private plaintiffs, called relators, have invented new legal theories under which to bring their claims. As they test the FCA’s bounds, defendants have urged courts to maintain the law’s traditional limits. Last June, the US Supreme Court addressed one of FCA relators’ more successful liability expansions: the “implied-certification” theory. As a recent WLF Legal Backgrounder notes, though the Court affirmed the availability of this liability theory in Universal Health Services v. US ex rel. Escobar, it also urged lower courts to carefully scrutinize relators’ complaints as a way of limiting the implied-certification claims. Federal appellate courts have begun taking the Supreme Court at its word and have rejected claims that cannot establish materiality or satisfy the FCA’s scienter requirement. Continue reading “After SCOTUS’s “Escobar” Decision, Courts Increasingly Sink Implied-Certification FCA Suits”

FEDERAL REGULATORY READING LIST: Resources for New Leaders at DOJ

DOJ*Note: This is the third in a series of posts compiling Washington Legal Foundation papers, briefs, regulatory comments, and blog commentaries relevant to critical legal and constitutional issues facing new senior leaders at specific federal regulatory agencies. To read posts addressing other federal agencies, click here.

As the federal government’s primary prosecutor, the Department of Justice (DOJ) serves an important role in enforcing criminal penalties.  However, DOJ frequently oversteps its bounds and advances overzealous enforcement policies.

Through its public-interest litigation, publishing, and other advocacy, WLF influenced debates over DOJ’s recent policies and actions with timely papers and blog commentaries, and weighed in directly through amicus briefs.  Those activities have resulted in an impressive body of reference materials that are instructive for new leadership in the agency.  This post provides a summary of and links to those documents below to simplify access to relevant work product from WLF in each of those areas.

Overcriminalization Timeline

In November 2015, WLF released the third edition of its Timeline: Federal Erosion of Business Civil Liberties (Overcriminalization Timeline).  Each category in the Timeline reflects a separate concern with DOJ’s approach to white-collar criminal enforcement: mens rea, DOJ criminal enforcement, attorney-client and work product privileges, deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements, and criminal sentencing. Continue reading “FEDERAL REGULATORY READING LIST: Resources for New Leaders at DOJ”