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By: Samantha L. Skolnick
On January 10, 2018, an internal Department of Justice memorandum (the “Granston Memo”) was leaked to the public, turning heads. The Granston Memo included an in-depth analysis of the DOJ’s position on evaluating dismissals pursuant to the False Claims Act (FCA). The Granston memo outlined the DOJ’s position on FCA claims brought by whistleblowers. Under the FCA, a whistleblower may bring what is known as a “qui tam” action on behalf of the government, which potentially allows said whistleblower to receive a share of any government recovery. The Granston memo is particularly significant, as it provides those faced with claims of False Claims Act violations with insight into the DOJ’s stance on a range of factors for dismissing these qui tam actions.
Under the FCA, the Attorney General can dismiss a whistleblower’s qui tam action, so long as the whistleblower is given the opportunity to be heard. 31 U.S.C. § 3730(c)(2)(A). Despite this provision, the DOJ noted that this dismissal option has not been actively utilized by the DOJ. The Granston Memo specifically addresses seven enumerated circumstances where the DOJ should be considering moving to dismiss these qui tam actions:
(1) curbing meritless qui tams;
(2) preventing parasitic or opportunistic qui tam actions;
(3) preventing interference with agency policies and programs;
(4) controlling litigation brought on behalf of the United States;
(5) safeguarding classified information and national security interests;
(6) preserving governmental resources; and
(7) addressing egregious procedural errors.
Of course, the factors above are not mutually exclusive or exhaustive. The DOJ could move to dismiss these actions for multiple or other reasons.
The Granston Memo also sheds light on the increased number of whistleblower filings per year, which appears to have triggered this concern by the DOJ of the underutilized dismissal provision of the FCA. Indeed, the Granston memo mentions the possible negative consequences of the Government’s failure to use the dismissal provision, including generating adverse decisions which affect the government’s ability to enforce the FCA.
Companies or persons facing FCA claims should be particularly aware of the Granston memo, and should argue to the DOJ and/or to the whistleblower themselves that any such claim is subject to dismissal based on the seven factors above. In some circumstances where the government has decided not to intervene, the whistleblower can obtain permission and voluntarily dismiss a qui tam action.
For more information, contact Samantha Skolnick at [email protected]