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On February 22, 2024, Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton delivered remarks at the 2024 Federal Bar Association’s Qui Tam Conference. During those remarks, Boynton announced another record year for DOJ’s False Claims Act enforcement efforts. Specifically, Boynton announced, in 2023 alone, nearly $2.7 billion was recovered under the FCA and included the resolution of 543 matters — the most FCA matters ever resolved by DOJ in a single year. Boynton further announced that, in 2023, DOJ began investigating 712 qui tam lawsuits (the third highest number ever) and opened, on its own, 500 new FCA matters­ (an all-time record high). He also took the opportunity to announce DOJ’s FCA enforcement priorities for 2024.

Enforcement Priorities

Moving into 2024, Boynton signaled that DOJ has no intention of slowing its efforts down and announced three primary categories of FCA enforcement priorities:

  • Cybersecurity fraud
  • COVID-19 fraud
  • Healthcare fraud

Cybersecurity Fraud

The first priority to make DOJ’s list was cybersecurity. Boynton expressed that DOJ intends to continue dedicating resources to the Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative and use the FCA as a mechanism to hold federal contractors accountable who fail to follow federal cybersecurity requirements. He not only announced that this will be an enforcement priority in 2024, but that he also anticipates it will be a “significant area of enforcement in the coming years.”

COVID-19 Fraud

The second priority announced by Boynton was COVID-19 fraud. He noted that the FCA has played “a critical part” in DOJ’s efforts to pursue various fraud schemes that have arisen as a result of the pandemic. In particular, he stated that a significant focus of this priority is fraud involving the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). While he acknowledged that many of the cases involving PPP are “fairly small,” he indicated that DOJ, nonetheless, intends to continue utilizing its resources and the FCA to pursue them.

Healthcare Fraud

Last, but certainly not least, of the three enforcement priorities announced, healthcare fraud remains a top priority for DOJ and the largest means of recovery under the FCA. Of the roughly $2.7 billion recovered in 2023, $1.9 billion of it related to healthcare fraud. In 2024, Boynton noted that DOJ is focused on claims based on financial inducements to generate healthcare referrals including, for example, violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute and the Stark Law. In line with this announced focus, he referred to a settlement reached by DOJ in December 2023 involving Community Health Network, who agreed to pay a staggering $345 million related to allegations that it violated the Stark Law — the largest ever settlement reached by DOJ based on Stark Law violations. In addition, Boynton announced a focus on healthcare fraud related to nursing homes and the Medicare Advantage Program.

Takeaway

Boynton’s remarks clearly indicate that DOJ does not intend to ease up on its FCA enforcement efforts. His remarks are a good reminder that, with the new year upon us, there is no better time to review corporate business practices and compliance programs to avoid becoming a target of one of DOJ’s 2024 enforcement actions.