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July 2018

The DOJ’s Latest Opioid Crime-Fighting Tool: The Civil False Claims Act

By Nekia Hackworth Jones

Law Journal Newsletters Business Crimes Bulletin

The False Claims Act (FCA) (31 U.S.C. §§3729-3733) is often at the forefront of civil fraud cases. The statute serves as the government’s primary civil remedy to redress false claims for healthcare benefits, government funds and property under government programs and contracts relating to such areas as Medicare, defense and national security, food safety and inspection, federally insured loans and mortgages, small business contracts, and disaster assistance. FCA violators can be hammered with staggering monetary damages and penalties. One false claim alone carries a penalty ranging from $10,957 to $21,916 (82 FR 9131), and cases warranting the attention of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will likely involve thousands, if not millions, of claims. Defendants can also be ordered to pay treble the amount of the government’s damages. Between Oct. 1, 2016, and Sept. 30, 2017, the DOJ obtained more than $3.7 billion in settlements and judgments from civil FCA cases. More than 64% of these recoveries ($2.4 billion) involved the healthcare industry, including drug companies, hospitals, pharmacies, laboratories, and physicians.

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