The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was intended to provide a fast influx of assistance to small businesses during the economic shock created by the COVID-19 pandemic. The speed with which loans were distributed to businesses nationwide was striking, and so was the speed with which the Department of Justice (DOJ) began prosecuting those abusing the program. Reports of corporations and individuals seeking to take advantage of the PPP prompted a vigorous law enforcement response that has broadened its scope in recent months. As we highlighted last year, the DOJ has taken aggressive action to pursue those who engaged in misconduct involving the PPP and other CARES Act stimulus programs.
Continue Reading PPP Enforcement Actions Gather Steam

Please join us for the Compliance & Government Investigations Seminar hosted by Bass, Berry & Sims and FTI Consulting. Due to ongoing COVID-19 concerns, this event will be virtual only.

We are excited for this year’s complimentary CLE program, which will provide the same caliber of practical advice, insight into government developments, and thoughtful discussion from industry panelists you have come to expect from this seminar. This year’s topics include:

  • Inside Scoop: Top Issues In-House Counsel Currently Face
  • Update on International Trade Regulations and Enforcement
  • SEC Update: Key Enforcement and Regulatory Priorities
  • Running an Investigation
  • Antitrust Is Back: DOJ and FTC Signal Significant Increase in Antitrust Enforcement
  • Data Privacy Update
  • Healthcare Fraud Enforcement Updates
  • Hot Topics in Procurement Fraud in 2021 and Beyond
  • COVID-19 Funding Fallout: Preparation for Government Scrutiny

This year’s seminar will be held from 8:30 a.m.–3:45 p.m. CDT on Tuesday, September 28. To register, please click here.

Click here to view the agenda.Continue Reading [Virtual Event] 8th Annual Compliance & Government Investigations Seminar

During the COVID-19 pandemic, many healthcare providers have relied on telehealth options to provide patients access to care. But, as I discussed in a recent article for Physicians Practice, “As long as utilization of telehealth services remains high, corresponding scrutiny and government enforcement efforts will remain focused on this area.”

In the article, I recommend ways that physicians and other providers can prepare for this additional scrutiny:Continue Reading Telehealth Scrutiny Following COVID-19 Pandemic

In the last year, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has brought more than 100 criminal cases relating to Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Fraud.  These criminal prosecutions started at a blistering pace, with the first indictments coming within the very first months of the program’s inception. This wave of criminal prosecutions and convictions related to some of the more flagrant abuses – individuals who fraudulently obtained funds from the program and then went on spending sprees for things like Lamborghinis, mansions, and private jet travel.

These prosecutions focused on individuals and organized groups who obtained or used PPP funds fraudulently, often including charges for false statements (18 U.S.C. § 1001), aggravated identify theft (18 U.S.C. § 1028A(a)(1)), false statements in a loan application (18 U.S.C. § 1014), wire fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1343), bank fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1344), and Title 26 tax charges. Along with these prosecutions came significant resources, including new fraud coordinators and data analytics teams across the country.

Now, we are starting to see the first civil enforcement actions relating to the program. This signals a new phase of enforcement for the DOJ and all organizations who benefited from the program must pay close attention.Continue Reading PPP Investigations, Settlements and Litigation on the Horizon

In our previous article, we outlined steps companies can take now to protect themselves during later government investigations and enforcement actions related to COVID-19 relief funding. These steps include: leverage compliance resources, document the application/funding process, document how money is used, schedule an interim internal review, and respond to employee complaints. In this article we focus specifically on the health care industry and how companies can protect against inevitable government scrutiny after receiving COVID-19 relief funding.

The health care industry must be particularly vigilant about protecting against future enforcement risks because it is a highly regulated industry facing an enforcement perfect storm—fast cash, poor guidance and retrospective review. Congress allocated $175 billion to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act Provider Relief Fund (Relief Fund). To support an industry hurt by COVID-19-related patient surges, stay-at-home driven closures and elective procedure treatment delays, HHS adopted a strategy to release relief funds quickly and perform reconciliation on the back end. As a result, HHS released what it touted as “no strings attached” relief funds through a series of general and targeted allocations each with a list of somewhat vague terms and conditions. The only other guidance available were application instructions, where applicable, and a continuously evolving set of frequently asked questions.

Of course, no government funding comes with “no strings attached.” The government inevitably will review whether recipients of HHS relief funds met the eligibility requirements and complied with the terms and conditions for using relief funds. Given that any deliberate omission, misrepresentation or falsification of information related to the HHS relief funds comes with potentially severe consequences—including but not limited to revocation of Medicare billing privileges; exclusion from federal health care programs; and/or the imposition of fines, civil damages and/or imprisonment—health care companies should consider the following steps to support their acceptance and use of the funds:Continue Reading How Health Care Companies Can Protect Against Government Scrutiny of COVID-19 Relief Funding

This article is the first in a series addressing what companies can do now to protect themselves during later government investigations and enforcement actions related to COVID-19 relief funding. In this article, we provide general practice tips applicable to all industries. Future articles will target compliance issues related to specific areas and industries—healthcare, finance, government contracting, and labor and employment—and what companies can do to reduce the risk when accepting government aid. Don’t miss the second article in this series that discusses what companies can do now to protect themselves during later government scrutiny related to COVID-19 relief funding.

Unprecedented Funding

The government has distributed an unprecedented amount of money in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, for example, the government is providing over $1 trillion through loans, grants and tax credits. Companies in the healthcare and financial industries, government contractors and many other businesses have all received government help.

The government, to its credit, has moved quickly to make funding available to companies in need. As a result, many government agencies have shifted their focus to responding to the pandemic and distributing allocated funds—with all requests and distributions of money completed as quickly as possible.Continue Reading The Government Is Here to Help—For Now: What Your Company Should Be Doing Today to Protect Against Inevitable Government Scrutiny of COVID-19 Relief Funding

Earlier this month the Northern District of California unsealed a criminal complaint filed against the president of a medical technology company, charging him with one count of conspiracy to commit healthcare fraud and one count of securities fraud. This case is one of the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) first notable healthcare fraud prosecutions related to the COVID-19 pandemic and is the government’s first COVID-19-related prosecution for securities fraud.

Arrayit Corporation, a California-based medical technology company providing allergy testing, purported to use a “microarray technology,” which the company likened to the headline-making Theranos nanotainer technology, to test finger-prick drops of blood placed on a paper card and mailed to Arrayit’s laboratory. Defendant and company President Mark Schena describes himself as the “Father of Microarray Technology,” and Arrayit touted through social media that its microarray testing can use a drop of blood 250,000 times smaller than that used by Theranos.Continue Reading DOJ Brings COVID-19-Related Fraud Charges Against Tech Company President

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