In a December 2020 speech, Deputy Assistant Attorney General Michael Granston warned that cybersecurity fraud could see enhanced enforcement under the False Claims Act (“FCA”). On October 6, 2021, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco announced that the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) would be following through on that warning with the launch of the DOJ’s Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative. The key component of the initiative is the use of the FCA against Government contractors and subcontractors that fail to comply with cybersecurity requirements, including information security standards and cyber incident reporting obligations, imposed by contract, statute, or regulation.
Under the FCA, the Government can recover treble damages and penalties from federal contractors and subcontractors that knowingly submit false claims for payment. Notably, the FCA incentivizes private citizens (relators), including contractor employees, to file qui tam suits on behalf of the Government by guaranteeing them between 15 and 30 percent of the recovery. DOJ stated that it intended to work with federal agencies, subject matter experts, and law enforcement partners on the Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative. Recently, Assistant Attorney General Brian Boynton confirmed that this initiative was also intended to incentivize relators and the aggressive relators’ bar to focus their attention on potential cybersecurity noncompliance as the basis for qui tam actions.