- Posts by Daniel C. FundakowskiMember of the Firm
Attorney Daniel Fundakowski’s practice focuses on representing leading pharmaceutical and device manufacturers, retail pharmacy chains, compounding pharmacies, academic medical centers, skilled nursing facilities, and ...
- Lowest Total Recoveries Since 2008
- Record-Shattering Number of New Cases Filed
- Health Care and Life Sciences Cases Continue to Dominate
On February 7, 2023, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) released its annual False Claims Act (FCA) enforcement statistics for fiscal year (FY) 2022, which ended on September 30, 2022. While total recoveries exceeded $2.2 billion, this is a drop of more than 50 percent from the $5.7 billion recovered in FY 2021, marking the lowest annual reported recovery in 14 years. The total recoveries in fraud cases brought with respect to the health care and life sciences industries fell to the lowest level since 2009.
On April 20, 2022, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a nationwide coordinated enforcement action targeting COVID-19-related fraud involving charges against 21 individuals across nine federal districts, and over $149 million in alleged false claims submitted to federal programs.
This marks the first significant DOJ enforcement action since Attorney General Merrick Garland named Associate Deputy Attorney General Kevin Chambers as the Director for COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement on March 10, an appointment President Biden previewed in his State of the Union address on March 1.
With collections amounting to $5.6 billion, FY 2021 marks DOJ’s largest annual total FCA recovery since FY 2014, and more than twice the $2.3 billion received in FY 2020. FY 2021 was also a record-shattering year for DOJ as it relates to health care fraud enforcement; over $5 billion (90% of the total) was obtained from cases pursued against individuals and entities in the health care and life sciences industries.
On May 17, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced the establishment of a COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force (“Task Force”) to ramp up enforcement efforts against COVID-19-related fraud.
Organized and led by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, the Task Force convened its first meeting on May 28 and aims to “marshal the resources of the [DOJ] in partnership with agencies across government to enhance enforcement efforts against COVID-19 related fraud.” The Task Force will involve coordination among several DOJ components, including the Criminal and Civil Divisions, the Executive Office for United States Attorneys, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. “Key interagency partners” have also been invited to join the Task Force, including the Department of Labor, the Department of the Treasury, the Department of Homeland Security, the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Food and Drug Administration’s Office of Criminal Investigations, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Small Business Administration, the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Relief, and Pandemic Response Accountability Committee, among others.
In a move that reminds us that successful defendants can—and should—seek attorneys’ fees in the right case, a magistrate judge in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit awarded pharmaceutical company Aventis Pharma SA (“Aventis”) attorneys’ fees in a False Claims Act (“FCA”) case brought by a competitor, Amphastar Pharmaceuticals Inc. (“Amphastar”). The FCA contains a fee-shifting component, permitting prevailing parties to recover attorneys’ fees from the opposing party—but the playing field is not equal. This fee-shifting provision entitles a prevailing plaintiff to an award of reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs, regardless of whether the government elects to intervene in the case. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(d)(1)-(2). A defendant, on the other hand, can only be awarded attorneys’ fees in cases in which the government has declined to intervene and where the defendant can show that the opposing party’s action was “clearly frivolous, clearly vexatious, or brought primarily for purposes of harassment.” 31 U.S.C. § 3730(d)(4).
On April 8, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced the first charges brought in connection with alleged fraud on the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program, administered by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (“CMS”). According to the indictment, Francis Joseph, M.D., a Colorado physician, has been charged with misappropriating nearly $300,000 from three different COVID-19 relief programs: the Accelerated and Advance Payment Program, the Provider Relief Fund, and the Paycheck Protection Program.
Accelerated and Advance Payment Program
The Accelerated and Advance Payment Program is intended to provide emergency funds by way of expedited payments to health care providers and suppliers when there is a disruption in claims submission or claims processing. While CMS has historically utilized this program to provide targeted relief in response to national emergencies or natural disasters affecting certain portions of the country, the program was expanded in March 2020 to apply to a broader group of Medicare Part A providers and Part B suppliers nationwide due to the financial impact of COVID-19.
According to the indictment, Dr. Joseph allegedly submitted an Advance Payment Request Form for a medical practice of which he had relinquished control, and then transferred approximately $92,000 from the medical practice’s operating account to a personal bank account (approximately $87,000 of that amount was paid by the Medicare Administrative Contractor as an advance payment the previous day).
Provider Relief Fund
The Provider Relief Fund is a $178 billion measure appropriated under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act that offers aid to providers who were financially impacted by COVID-19 and treatment and other assistance to individuals suffering from COVID-19.
The indictment marks the second time that DOJ has brought charges related to misuse of Provider Relief Fund distributions (DOJ announced the first charges in February 2021 against a home health provider). According to the indictment, Dr. Joseph’s former medical practice met the criteria for a Provider Relief Fund distribution of $31,782, but Dr. Joseph allegedly transferred those funds from the medical practice’s operating account to a personal bank account.
On March 26, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) reported on the agency’s heightened criminal and civil enforcement activities in connection with COVID-19-related fraud. As of that date, DOJ had publicly charged 474 defendants with criminal offenses in connection with COVID-19-related schemes across 56 federal districts to recover more than $569 million in U.S. government funds.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (“CARES”) Act is a federal law, enacted on March 29, 2020, designed to provide emergency financial assistance to the millions of Americans who are suffering the economic effects caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The CARES Act provides relief through a number of different programs, including the Paycheck Protection Program (“PPP”), Economic Injury Disaster Loans (“EIDL”), the Provider Relief Fund, and Unemployment Insurance (“UI”). With the promulgation of these programs, DOJ has ramped up efforts in identifying and investigating fraud to protect the integrity of the $2.2 trillion in taxpayer funds appropriated under the CARES Act.
Criminal Enforcement Activities
The majority of fraud cases brought by DOJ have originated in the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, accounting for at least 120 defendants charged with PPP fraud. The PPP allows qualifying small businesses and other organizations to receive loans with a maturity of two years and an interest rate of 1 percent. PPP loan proceeds must be used by businesses for payroll costs, interest on mortgages, rent, and utilities. Most of these defendants are facing charges for allegedly misappropriating loan payments for prohibited purposes, such as luxury purchases, while another significant portion are charged in connection with allegedly inflating payroll expenses in order to obtain larger PPP loans.
DOJ also announced that it has seized over $580 million in fraudulent application proceeds in connection with the EIDL program, which is designed to provide loans to small businesses and agricultural and nonprofit entities. DOJ’s primary concerns with respect to this program have related to fraudulent applications for EIDL advances and loans on behalf of shell or nonexistent businesses.
In response to a rise in UI fraud schemes, DOJ has established the National Unemployment Insurance Fraud Task Force to investigate domestic and international organized crime groups targeting unemployment funds through the use of identity theft. Since the start of the pandemic, over 140 defendants have been publicly charged with federal offenses related to UI fraud.
Our colleagues Stuart Gerson and Daniel Fundakowski of Epstein Becker Green have a new post on SCOTUS Today that will be of interest to our readers: "Court Declines Resolving Circuit Split on What Constitutes a 'False' Claim, but Will Consider Legality of Trump Abortion Gag Rule."
The following is an excerpt:
While this blog usually is confined to the analysis of the published opinions of the Supreme Court, several of this morning’s orders are worthy of discussion because of their importance to health care lawyers and policy experts. Guest editor Dan Fundakowski joins me in ...
On October 26, 2015, the Federal Trade Commission ("FTC") and the Antitrust Division of the U.S. Department of Justice ("DOJ") (collectively the "Agencies") issued a joint statement to the Virginia Certificate of Public Need ("COPN") Work Group encouraging the Work Group and the Virginia General Assembly to repeal or restrict the state's certificate of need process. The Virginia COPN Work Group was tasked by the Virginia General Assembly to review the current COPN process and recommend any changes that should be made to it.
Thirty-six states currently maintain some form of ...
[caption id="attachment_2360" align="alignright" width="206"] Nathaniel M. Glasser and Daniel C. Fundakowski[/caption]
Last month, in United States ex rel. Helfer v. Associated Anesthesiologists of Springfield, Ltd., No. 3:10-cv-03076 (N.D. Ill. Jan. 14, 2016), the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Illinois held that the retaliation provision of the False Claims Act (“FCA”) requires a whistleblower to show that protected activity was the “but-for” cause of the alleged adverse action.
The FCA’s retaliation provision entitles an employee to ...
On December 14, 2015, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas denied the Texas Medical Board's ("TMB") motion to dismiss an antitrust lawsuit brought by Teladoc, one of the nation's largest providers of telehealth services. Teladoc sued the TMB in April 2015, challenging a rule requiring a face-to-face visit before a physician can issue a prescription to a patient. Following two recent Supreme Court cases stringently applying the state action doctrine, this case demonstrates the latest of the continued trend where state-sanctioned boards of market ...
When evaluating the various legal and regulatory hurdles associated with telehealth—such as licensure, reimbursement, and privacy—one hurdle that often goes overlooked is the corporate practice of medicine. Many states have enacted laws which directly or indirectly are viewed as prohibiting the “corporate practice” of medicine. While variations exist among states, the doctrine generally forbids a person or entity, such as a general business corporation, other than a licensed physician, professional corporation (“PC”) or a professional limited liability ...
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