Peter B. Hutt II

Peter B. Hutt II

Subscribe to all posts by Peter B. Hutt II

Blowing the Whistle on a Breach of Contract? D.C. Circuit Addresses Scope of FCA’s Anti-Retaliation Rules

The False Claims Act has long protected relators from retaliation for preparing a qui tam complaint.  But what if an employee “blows the whistle” on a garden-variety problem — for instance, a laboratory that she believes is falling short of standards in a federal funding agreement?… Continue Reading

Supreme Court Shakes Up FOIA Exemption for Confidential Information

On Monday, the Supreme Court significantly altered how government agencies will treat confidential commercial information protected from disclosure by Exemption 4 of the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) — an issue that recurs repeatedly with respect to information submitted by contractors to government agencies.  Food Marketing Institute v. Argus Leader Media, No. 18-481 (U.S. June … Continue Reading

Supreme Court Extends Statute of Limitations for Relators in FCA Cases, in Limited Circumstances

As previously discussed on this blog, the Supreme Court announced last year that it would resolve a circuit split over when a relator needed to file a qui tam action under the False Claims Act (“FCA”).  Earlier this month, the Court decided in Cochise Consultancy Inc. v. United States ex rel. Hunt, that relators can … Continue Reading

New DOJ Cooperation Credit Guidelines a Welcome Sign, but Key Questions Remain Unresolved

This week, the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) released formal guidelines (“the Guidelines”) for awarding credit to entities that cooperate in False Claims Act (“FCA”) investigations. Frequently hinted at by DOJ officials in recent speeches and public statements, the Guidelines have been eagerly anticipated by practitioners in the FCA space. Despite the build-up, the Guidelines are … Continue Reading

Debate Over Qui Tam Constitutionality Resumes After 20-Year Hiatus

The motivating force behind the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733 (“FCA”) is its provision for qui tam enforcement, which authorizes private parties (aka relators) to initiate FCA cases on behalf of the United States. Id. § 3730(b)(1). Immediately after re-invigoration of the FCA in 1986, scholars and litigants questioned the constitutional validity of … Continue Reading

A Tale of Two Protests: Recent GAO Decisions Highlight Impaired Objectivity OCIs

Organizational conflicts of interest (OCIs) are perpetually thorny issues in federal procurement that contracting officers are required to identify and evaluate “as early in the acquisition process as possible.”[1] Although the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has identified several OCI categories,[2] two recent decisions highlight so-called impaired objectivity OCIs, which arise when a contractor’s ability to … Continue Reading

Time to Resolve a Question About Time: Supreme Court to Consider FCA’s Statute of Limitations

When does a private party need to file a qui tam action under the False Claims Act (“FCA”)?  Such a seemingly simple question has resulted in three different answers from six different courts.  This past Friday, November 16, 2018, the Supreme Court announced it would resolve that circuit split — by granting a request to … Continue Reading

Alleged Sales of Non-TAA-Compliant Products Under GSA Schedule Contracts Are Not False Claims, 7th Circuit Holds

Last year, we wrote about a trial court’s decision to dismiss a False Claims Act (“FCA”) complaint regarding alleged Trade Agreements Act (“TAA”) non-compliances because the relator failed to plead fraud with “particularity” under Rule 9(b).  That decision offered a sweeping rebuke of speculative FCA claims, and emphasized why it can be difficult to present … Continue Reading

Takeaways From Recent FCA Decisions On Buy American Act and Trade Agreements Act Compliance

Due to the government’s increased focus on domestic preference requirements – for example, through President Trump’s formal policy and action plan for agencies to “scrupulously monitor, enforce, and comply” with the so-called “Buy American Laws,” and Congress’s proposed legislation to make certain Buy American requirements more robust – contractors should not be surprised if there … Continue Reading

UPDATED: Covington’s Escobar Tracker

In Universal Health Services v. United States ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016), the Supreme Court changed the landscape for False Claims Act litigation. The Court endorsed implied certification liability in certain circumstances, but set a high bar for demonstrating the materiality of a violation of law, regulation, or contract to the government’s … Continue Reading

Trinity: Divine Fifth Circuit Ruling Gives FCA Defendants Reason for Praise

Last year, the Supreme Court’s watershed Escobar ruling altered the landscape of False Claims Act litigation when it declared that the FCA’s materiality requirement presented a “demanding” barrier to plaintiffs alleging contractual non-compliance. In the 15 months since that time, lower courts have issued a steady stream of rulings interpreting and refining this standard. In … Continue Reading

Introducing Covington’s Escobar Tracker

In Universal Health Services v. United States ex rel. Escobar, 136 S. Ct. 1989 (2016), the Supreme Court changed the landscape for False Claims Act litigation. The Court endorsed implied certification liability, but set a high bar for demonstrating the materiality of a violation of law, regulation, or contract to the government’s payment decision. More … Continue Reading

The FCA’s First-to-File Bar and The Enduring Importance of Textualism

Two years ago, in Kellogg Brown & Root Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Carter, the Supreme Court interpreted the “first-to-file” bar of the False Claims Act (“FCA”) in a manner that seemingly authorizes relators to pursue qui tam suits based upon the same allegations made in previously dismissed FCA actions.  On remand from … Continue Reading

The Perils of Bad Recordkeeping: A Lack of Country of Origin Documentation Results in Adverse Inference of Non-Compliance with the Trade Agreements Act

In a recent False Claims Act (“FCA”) case, United States ex rel. Louis Scutellaro v. Capitol Supply, Inc., the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia held that the defendant’s failure to retain Country of Origin (“COO”) documentation for the products it sold to the government entitled the relator and the government to an … Continue Reading

GAO Recommends Improvements to DOE’s Fraud Controls; DOE Fires Back

Earlier this month the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) released a report titled “Department of Energy: Use of Leading Practices Could Help Manage the Risk of Fraud and Other Improper Payments” (GAO-17-235) (the “Report”).  As the title suggests, GAO assessed the Department of Energy’s (“DOE”) internal controls to manage “the risk of fraud and improper … Continue Reading

First-To-File Rule of the False Claims Act Continues to Present Interpretive Challenges

Two years ago, when the Supreme Court addressed the “first-to-file” bar of the False Claims Act (FCA) in Kellogg Brown & Root Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Carter, it predicted that its holding might “produce practical problems,” as “[t]he False Claims Act’s qui tam provisions present many interpretive challenges, and it is beyond … Continue Reading

2017 NDAA’s Impact on Audits and Cost Accounting Standards

Section 820 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, Pub. L. No. 114-238, 130 Stat. 2000 (NDAA), makes three significant changes to the federal government’s future method of conducting audits and implementation of Cost Accounting Standards (CAS).  First, it empowers contractors to avoid Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) audits by employing private … Continue Reading

Reining in Regulation: New Year, New Administration, New Confusion

A new administration will often articulate its approach to the management of executive agencies through the issuance of an executive order.  President Clinton issued E.O. 12866 in the fall of 1993 and set forth both the process of regulatory review and a regulatory philosophy meant to guide executive agencies.  E.O. 12866 placed an emphasis on … Continue Reading

ISDC Reports a “Plateauing” in Suspension and Debarment Activity

Each year, the Interagency Suspension and Debarment Committee (ISDC) reports to Congress on the status of the Federal suspension and debarment system.  With its mission of assisting agencies to build and maintain efficient and effective suspension and debarment activities, the ISDC is uniquely situated to provide comments and insight on the status of suspension and … Continue Reading
LexBlog