Friday, February 22, 2013

Update - DOJ Will Join Qui Tam Filed Against Lance Armstrong

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced today that it will intervene in the qui tam False Claims Act suit filed by relator Floyd Landis against Lance Armstrong and others: United States ex rel. Landis v. Tailwind Sports Corporation, et al.  According to the DOJ press release, the Government "notified the court that it was joining the lawsuit’s allegations as to Armstrong, Bruyneel, and Tailwind" and that it will file a formal complaint within 60 days.  DOJ, however, stated that it will not be intervening as to all the defendants named in the case.  The U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, Ronald C. Machen Jr., stated:  “Lance Armstrong and his cycling team took more than $30 million from the U.S. Postal Service based on their contractual promise to play fair and abide by the rules – including the rules against doping . . . . . The Postal Service has now seen its sponsorship unfairly associated with what has been described as ‘the most sophisticated, professionalized, and successful doping program that sport has ever seen.’ This lawsuit is designed to help the Postal Service recoup the tens of millions of dollars it paid out to the Tailwind cycling team based on years of broken promises. In today’s economic climate, the U.S. Postal Service is simply not in a position to allow Lance Armstrong or any of the other defendants to walk away with the tens of millions of dollars they illegitimately procured.”

The DOJ press release announcing its decision to intervene may be found here.

A. Brian Albritton
February 22, 2013

NBC Reports That DOJ Will Intervene Today in Qui Tam Against Lance Armstrong

NBC News along with other sources reports on its website that U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) will notify the Court today that it is intervening in the qui tam/False Claims Act suit brought by relator and ex-teamate Floyd Landis against Lance Armstrong and other defendants.

The Landis qui tam against Armstrong and others was unsealed by the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia just last month.  As previously featured here in the blog, the Wall Street Journal reported in mid-January 2013 that DOJ officials had recommended that the Government intervene.

NBC reports that Armstrong's attorney Robert Luskin has released a statement saying, in effect that the Postal Service had no losses deserving of compensation: "Lance and his representatives worked constructively over these last weeks with federal lawyers to resolve this case fairly, but those talks failed because we disagree about whether the Postal Service was damaged . . .The Postal's Services own studies show that the Service benefited tremendously from its sponsorship -- benefits totaling more than $100 million."

A. Brian Albritton
February 22, 2013

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Wells Fargo Strikes Out: Court Denies Motion to Enforce Consent Judgment to Stop SDNY False Claims Act Case

In November 2012, I wrote about the False Clams Act suit brought by the U.S Attorney for the Southern District of New York (SDNY) against Wells Fargo Bank, N.A. The SDNY case alleged that while participating in the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) Direct Endorsement Lender Program, Wells Fargo falsely certified thousands of loans to be eligible for FHA insurance and that as a result of Wells Fargo’s false certifications, the FHA paid hundreds of millions of dollars in insurance claims on thousands of mortgages that defaulted.  U.S. v. Wells Fargo Bank N.A.,12-cv-7527, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York

In April 2012 Wells Fargo previously settled with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and 49 states who together had sued Wells Fargo and other banks in D.C. District Court alleging that these banks engaged in abusive foreclosure practices. In settling that matter, Wells Fargo paid $5 billion and obtained a broad written release as part of a Consent judgement. When the SDNY filed suit against Wells Fargo in November 2012, the Company moved to enforce the Consent Judgment and release contained therein to "preclude" the SDNY from bringing its False Claims Act suit against Wells Fargo.

Yesterday, the D.C. District Court denied Wells Fargo's motion in an opinion found here:
United States et al., v. Wells Fargo et al., Civ. No. 12-361 (D.C. 2/12/13). While it brushed aside the DOJ's arguments that the Court lacked jurisdiction or that the abstention doctrine barred any injunction sought by Wells Fargo, the Court found that by its very terms the release did not stop the SDNY suit. Essentially, the Court found that the Consent Judgement released False Claims Act and FIRREA claims where the "sole basis" for such claims is that [Wells Fargo] submitted to HUD-FHA a false or fraudulent annual certification that the mortgagee had conformed to all HUD-FHA regulations necessary to maintain its HUD-FHA approval. Annual certifications, the Court observed, dealt with Wells Fargo's "company wide compliance." The Consent Judgment release also covered false individual loan certifications by Wells Fargo for HUD mortgage insurance but only if the individual loan did not contain a material violation of HUD-FHA requirements.  In short, the release precluded the DOJ from seeking to bring False Claims Act claims against Wells Fargo for claims based solely on false or fraudulent annual certifications --for individual loans, however, that was another matter and the release did not cover this retail type fraud.

Having interpreted the scope of the release, the Court refused to preclude or enjoin the SDNY case but it left open the question of whether the release could still be applied to portions of the SDNY case, observing that it "leaves the interpretation of the SDNY Amended Complaint to the court that has jurisdiction over it."

A. Brian Albritton
February 13, 2013