Leslie Caldwell, DOJ Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, spoke to the qui tam relators’ bar at a Taxpayers Against Fraud conference last month, stating a new DOJ policy for criminal and civil division coordination of qui tam cases, starting with intake.
Taxpayers Against Fraud is an organization of whistleblowers and their counsel, which seeks to combat fraud against the government. Caldwell encouraged TAF members to reach out to the criminal division, and its 40 attorney Health Care Fraud unit, in qui tam cases that could potentially involve criminal conduct. Stating that “qui tam cases are a vital part of the Criminal Division’s future efforts,” she outlined a newly implemented procedure so that all new qui tam cases will be shared by the Civil Division with the Criminal Division as soon as they are filed. “Those prosecutors then coordinate swiftly with the Civil Division and U.S. Attorney’s Offices about the best ways to proceed in the parallel investigations.”
Early civil-criminal coordination of qui tam cases has been standard practice for some time in several U.S. Attorney’s Offices, including locally in the Eastern District of New York. As early as 1997, Attorney General Janet Reno issued a Memorandum on Coordination of Parallel Criminal, Civil and Administrative Proceedings. In the 1997 Memo, Attorney General Reno recognized the necessity of coordinating criminal, civil and administrative investigative and litigative resources, stating that “every United States Attorney’s office and each Department Litigating Division should have a system for coordinating the criminal, civil and administrative aspects of all white-collar crime matters within the office.” In 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder updated this policy in a Memorandum on Coordination of Parallel Criminal, Civil, Regulatory and Administrative Proceedings. Attorney General Holder stressed that this coordination should operate at all stages of fraud investigations, including intake, investigation and resolution.
Healthcare providers can expect DOJ to continue to expand its aggressive efforts in combatting healthcare fraud. DOJ has signaled that it intends to increase its coordination of civil and criminal investigations and remedies for maximum deterrence and collection of healthcare dollars. Providers facing scrutiny from the government will need to be aware that, behind the scenes, there is likely an organized and coordinated effort that includes civil, criminal, regulatory, and administrative resources.