Photo of Lindsey Fetzer

Lindsey Fetzer, a member in the Washington, D.C. office, represents clients in connection with government and internal investigations and litigations involving alleged violations of the False Claims Act (FCA), Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS), Foreign Corrupt Practice Act (FCPA), and other criminal and civil regulations. Lindsey has represented clients in foreign and domestic matters involving the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ), U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), and other primary enforcement agencies.

As developments related to COVID-19 continue to unfold, Bass, Berry & Sims attorneys are monitoring the situation and providing guidance through a series of video chats entitled, “COVID-19 Compliance Conversations.”

In this episode, Lindsey Fetzer and John Kelly provide a brief overview of compliance considerations related to conducting internal investigations remotely. Watch the video

Despite the mounting pressures on healthcare entities related to the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic and recent announcements of regulatory waivers and flexibility in particular areas, regulators are still showing interest in the enforcement of federal requirements for life safety and emergency and infectious disease control preparedness for long-term care facilities.

OIG Medicaid Nursing Home Life Safety and Emergency Preparedness Reviews

On March 23, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) updated its Work Plan in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Please see this post for more information about all of the OIG Work Plan updates. One of the areas that the OIG Office of Audit Services will focus on is Medicaid Nursing Home Life Safety and Emergency Preparedness Reviews.

OIG’s rationale for focusing on this is, in part, because the patient population in long-term care (LTC) facilities is especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and other disease outbreaks. The focus of the audit is LTC facilities’ compliance with federal requirements for life safety and emergency preparedness, as well as 2019 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) expanded guidance on emerging infectious disease control.

Continue Reading Increased Oversight of Long-Term Care Facilities Related to COVID-19

The financial relief programs enacted by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act stand ready to provide crucial financial support to people and businesses impacted by the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the resulting economic downturn.   These new federal programs recognize the scale of the challenges presented by the COVID-19 outbreak.

While decisions made by companies seeking CARES Act or similar relief may not be scrutinized today, we are likely to see a wave of COVD-19-related criminal and civil enforcement actions in the coming months and years.  Impacted individuals and businesses should remember that the urgent need for relief does not eliminate the importance of compliance or the likelihood of significant regulatory oversight in the future.

More specifically, applicants for CARES Act relief must certify or attest to certain facts relevant to their eligibility to participate in the CARES Act’s various programs.  Because false certifications or attestations potentially expose an applicant to liability under the federal False Claims Act (FCA), it is critical that impacted individuals and entities take reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of information and certifications contained in any applications for federal aid.

Continue Reading The CARES Act and Risk of FCA Exposure

As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, the federal government is preparing to take unprecedented action to curb its effects on the nation’s health and economy by freeing up federal dollars for private businesses, manufacturers and healthcare entities of all types. But, those receiving these dollars, directly or indirectly, should continue to monitor updates to and maintain compliance with all applicable laws and regulations as this unprecedented economic response comes with heightened scrutiny and potential enforcement and regulatory risk.

DOJ Prioritizes COVID-19 Wrongdoing

On March 16, the United States Attorney General issued a memorandum to all U.S. Attorneys prioritizing the detection, investigation and prosecution of wrongdoing “related to the current pandemic.”  Attorney General Barr also issued a press release on March 20 urging the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19. Among the schemes, Attorney General Barr encouraged the public to report were any medical providers “fraudulently bill[ing]” tests and procedures.

Continue Reading COVID-19 and the False Claims Act

As the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread, the federal government is preparing to take unprecedented action to curb its effects on the nation’s health and economy by freeing up federal dollars for private businesses, manufacturers, and healthcare entities of all types. But, those receiving these dollars, directly or indirectly, should continue to

In a remarkable move, the Department of Justice (DOJ) recently sought dismissal of 11 False Claims Act (FCA) cases, each of which assert that patient assistance services supplied by pharmaceutical manufacturers constitute unlawful kickbacks. The 11 complaints were brought against various pharmaceutical companies by what DOJ described as “shell companies” backed by the National Healthcare Analysis Group, a company formed for the purpose of filing FCA cases. In seeking dismissal, DOJ argued that the suits ran counter to government interests and wasted “scarce government resources.”

According to the DOJ, the 11 lawsuits involved “essentially the same theories of FCA liability” concerning “white coat marketing,” free “nurse services,” and “reimbursement support services.” Specifically, in a motion to dismiss filed on December 17, 2018, in the Eastern District of Texas, DOJ seemingly defended these manufacturer programs noting the government’s “strong interest” in ensuring that “patients have access to basic product support related to their medication, such as access to a toll-free patient-assistance line or instructions on how to properly inject or store their medication.” The government further argued that the allegations “conflict with important policy and enforcement prerogatives” of federal healthcare programs, and asserted that the relators “should not be permitted to indiscriminately advance claims…against an entire industry that would undermine common industry practices the federal government has determined are, in this particular case, appropriate and beneficial to federal healthcare programs and their beneficiaries.”

Continue Reading DOJ Moves to Dismiss 11 Patient Assistance Services FCA Cases

On November 30, 2018, the Solicitor General of the United States filed an amicus curiae brief in the closely watched False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit, Gilead Sciences Inc. v. U.S. ex rel. Campie. In what appears to be an unprecedented move, the Solicitor General stated in an amicus brief filed with the Supreme Court – without any prior indication – that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will move to dismiss the relator’s complaint if the case is remanded back to the district court because allowing the case to proceed “would impinge on agency decision making and discretion and would disserve the interests of the United States.”

Defendant Gilead Seeks Review of Ninth Circuit Decision

Two relators filed an FCA lawsuit against Gilead Sciences, Inc. in 2010 alleging that the pharmaceutical manufacturer misrepresented to the government that it obtained an active ingredient in three of its HIV drugs from specifically approved facilities. The relators also allege that Gilead provided false or inaccurate information to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in an attempt to gain approval to receive ingredients from an alternate facility. The relators argue that the government would not have reimbursed Gilead for the drugs at issue had it known the truth about the source of the drugs’ active ingredients.
Continue Reading DOJ Informs Supreme Court that It Will Dismiss FCA Case if Remanded to District Court

Civil Investigative Demands (CIDs) are powerful pre-litigation tools the government frequently utilizes to investigate potential allegations of FCA liability. CIDs can be broad and invasive, time-consuming and expensive.  What’s a company to do upon receipt of a CID?  Is there any recourse?  Unfortunately, neither case law nor published guidance offers the recipient much in the way of a formal, timely mechanism to challenge the scope or appropriateness of a CID.  Nevertheless, there are certain practical steps one can take to reduce a CID’s scope that, in turn, will reduce disruption and expenses associated with CID compliance.

Continue Reading The Civil Investigative Demand: An Increasingly Aggressive Investigative Tool and Common-Sense Scope-Reduction Strategies

In recent months, relators’ qui tam complaints have been subject to increased scrutiny by criminal prosecutors. In addition to civil FCA liability, individuals doing business with the federal government face potential criminal liability under various criminal fraud-related statutes. Potential charges for fraudulent activities are not limited to a criminal fraud charge, but also include bribery, false statements, conspiracy to defraud, wire fraud, mail fraud, and identity theft, among others. Most of these crimes are felonies and carry substantial penalties, including fines, freezing of assets and imprisonment. Especially in the healthcare industry and defense procurement space, many criminal investigations originate as civil qui tam filings only later adopting a criminal component. These parallel investigations typically involve the DOJ and may include other enforcement agencies.

Recent DOJ rhetoric encourages an increased use of such parallel investigations. In September 2014, Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the DOJ, Leslie Caldwell, announced that the Criminal Division would be “stepping up” its review to look for potential criminal liability in qui tam complaints, noting that such complaints “are a vital part of the Criminal Divisions’ future efforts.”[1] Consistent with this message, Caldwell encouraged the relator’s bar to notify the Criminal Division directly when a complaint is filed instead of coordinating only with the local U.S. Attorney’s Office. As part of the new process, the Criminal Division will receive and review new complaints so that prosecutors may determine the nature and extent of any criminal exposure.

Continue Reading New DOJ Qui Tam Protocols Likely to Lead to Increased Parallel Criminal Investigations