Qui Tam Filings are Abundant around Washington, D.C., Home of Most of the Nation’s Federal Agencies
I was born and raised in Manhattan, Kansas. The Little Apple, as it is affectionately called. A wonderful place to grow up. Now, the Washington, D.C. metro area is home for me and has been for the last 18 years. In fact, I have lived nowhere else for a longer duration.
I moved here in 2002 to attend law school, graduated three years later, and have been practicing in the D.C. metro area for my entire legal career. At first, my practice was not focused on the False Claims Act (FCA), but it eventually found me, and my career became fully dedicated to helping whistleblowers reveal fraud.
In my experience, the D.C. area United States Attorney’s Offices are particularly adept at handling False Claims Act cases. This is largely because the federal courts (the District Courts for the District of Columbia, Eastern District of Virginia, and District of Maryland) see a high volume of cases filed. These districts have within their jurisdictions a number of federal agencies and a high concentration of government contractors.
Federal agencies plus federal contractors equal fraud against the government!
The District of Maryland is a Hotbed of Healthcare Fraud
The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (commonly known as CMS) are headquartered in Maryland. Healthcare fraud accounts for the highest percentage of monetary recoveries by industry under the FCA. Therefore, the Maryland federal courts and U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO) see a high number of healthcare fraud cases and are particularly skilled at handling these cases and the corresponding investigations.
According to its website, the USAO for Maryland has announced nine healthcare fraud case settlements since January 1, 2019. For the fiscal year 2019 alone, the USAO for Maryland recovered more than $67 million in civil cases and another $10 million in criminal cases.
Maryland also has its own state FCA, the Maryland False Health Claims Act, which went into effect in 2010. It largely mirrors the federal FCA, except that it only applies to healthcare (Medicaid) fraud claims.
Another key difference between the Maryland statute and the federal FCA is that if the Maryland Attorney General does not intervene in the case, the individual whistleblower does not have a private right to litigate the case. Upon declination by the Maryland Attorney General, the case is simply dismissed. This is the only state false claims act with such a provision.
The Eastern District of Virginia is Well-Suited for Defense Contractor Fraud Cases
Similar to Maryland, Virginia has unique characteristics that affect the type of cases filed in the Eastern District of Virginia. For one thing, many defense contractors are located in the Virginia suburbs of D.C., so defense contractor fraud cases are often filed here.
In April of 2019, the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia announced a $46 million recovery in a defense contracting case. A contractor provided false test results on aluminum it sold to both NASA and the Department of Defense’s Missile Defense Agency, among others, to increase profits.
Virginia also has a state false claims act. The Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayer Act is almost identical to the federal FCA. Unlike Maryland’s state statute, Virginia’s statute applies to any type of fraud, not just healthcare, and private whistleblowers may litigate a declined case similar to the federal FCA. There are very few differences between Virginia’s statute and the federal statute.
The District of Columbia Takes On Federal Agency Fraud Allegations
The District of Columbia is, of course, the epicenter of our federal government. Many federal agencies are headquartered in D.C., including the Department of Justice, which monitors every False Claims Act case filed around the country, and sometimes investigates and litigates them with the help of the local U.S. Attorney.
The USAO for D.C. investigates a wide array of fraud matters and is very successful in those FCA cases it pursues. Earlier this year, the USAO for D.C. announced the $29 million settlement of an FCA case that involved bid-rigging.
Usually, bid-rigging refers to contractors that should be in competition with one another conspiring to raise their prices. In this unusual case, the conspirators sought to suppress bids at an auction for a government asset. The fraudster applied pressure to two other would-be bidders of a non-performing Department of Energy loan. The conduct resulted in the Department of Energy not getting market value for the loan and allowed the company to win the bid at far less than market value.
While D.C. is not a state, it does have its own false claims act. The District of Columbia False Claims Act became effective in 2011. It is very similar to the federal FCA. However, liability under the D.C. statute is broader than that of the federal statute.
In addition to the liability standards in the federal FCA, the D.C. FCA attaches liability for: benefiting from an accidental false claim submission to the District; discovering that the claim is false and failing to report the false claim to the District; and being accidentally overpaid by the District, discovering the overpayment, and failing to return the overpayment to the District.
Trust Bracker & Marcus LLC with Your False Claims Act Case
The False Claims Act is an unparalleled tool for recovering taxpayer dollars that were fraudulently procured. My home jurisdictions in the D.C. metro area are vigilant in their investigations of FCA cases brought by whistleblowers. It is my pleasure to work with the local offices on these cases, and I look forward to many more years of representing whistleblowers in D.C. and nationwide.