DOJ Guidance Clarifies Cooperation Credit in FCA Matters

Morgan Lewis
Contact

Morgan Lewis

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) issued formal guidance on May 8 on how companies can earn cooperation credit and what conduct it considers in awarding credit in False Claims Act investigations.

The DOJ released highly anticipated guidance on May 7 detailing how defendants in False Claims Act (FCA) matters can receive cooperation credit. The guidance, set forth in the Justice Manual Section 4-4.112, identifies the conduct for which a company can receive cooperation credit and the type of credit that may be awarded.

The newly issued guidance is another in a line of significant FCA pronouncements that the DOJ began rolling out in 2018. (See our prior LawFlashes on the Granston Memo, the Brand Memo, and the  “No Piling-On” Policy).

VOLUNTARY SELF-DISCLOSURE

Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt’s statement on the new guidance makes clear that voluntary disclosure “is the most valuable form of cooperation.” A company seeking maximum cooperation credit in an FCA matter “should generally” undertake a fulsome and timely self-disclosure. During an investigation into government concerns, entities can also qualify for credit by self-disclosing any additional misconduct a company discovers during an internal investigation. The emphasis on the value of voluntary self-disclosure marks the latest in the DOJ’s ongoing efforts to encourage corporate disclosures and cooperation, and dovetails with the DOJ’s Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) Corporate Enforcement Policy, which creates a presumption of non-prosecution for companies that self-report FCPA violations. (See our November 29, 2017 LawFlash). As Assistant Attorney General Hunt stated, “The Department of Justice has taken important steps to incentivize companies to voluntarily disclose misconduct and cooperate with our investigations; enforcement of the False Claims Act is no exception.”

INDIVIDUAL ACCOUNTABILITY

In addition to voluntary disclosure, the new policy lists 10 other forms of cooperation that may lead to credit. The first measure identified for cooperation credit is identifying individuals “substantially involved” in or “responsible for” the misconduct at issue. The fact that this form of cooperation is at the top of the list signals the DOJ”s continuing focus on individual accountability in corporate investigations. In November 2018, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein emphasized that in every corporate investigation, the DOJ will prioritize pursuing individuals responsible for corporate wrongdoing. (See our November 30, 2018 LawFlash).

OTHER FORMS OF COOPERATION

The guidance recognizes that it is not possible to have a comprehensive list of all conduct for which DOJ will award credit. Nonetheless, it identifies nine additional measures—in addition to voluntary self-disclosures and identifying individuals involved in misconduct—that DOJ will take into account when awarding credit:

  • Disclosing relevant facts and identified opportunities for the government to obtain relevant evidence
  • Preserving and disclosing relevant documents beyond existing business practices or legal requirements
  • Identifying individuals with relevant information about operations, policies, and procedures
  • Making employees with relevant information available for meetings, interviews, or depositions
  • Disclosing facts gleaned during an internal investigation
  • Providing information on potential misconduct by third parties
  • Providing data in native format and assisting the government with review of data that requires specific technologies
  • Admitting liability or accepting responsibility
  • Assisting the government to determine the losses caused by the misconduct

As part of its evaluation of a company’s cooperation efforts, DOJ will evaluate the nature and extent of the assistance and whether it was useful to the government. DOJ will also assess whether the assistance was timely and voluntary and whether the information provided was true and complete.

REMEDIAL MEASURES AND AN EFFECTIVE COMPLIANCE PROGRAM

The guidance further provides that DOJ will consider how companies respond to FCA violations and whether a company has taken “appropriate remedial actions” in light of misconduct. Such measures include, among others, “implementing or improving an effective compliance program.” This continues to reflect DOJ’s focus on the importance of effective compliance programs and the role they play in ensuring that companies self-police for potential misconduct and are proactive about addressing misconduct internally and with the government. This cooperation guidance comes on the heels of the updated compliance guidance issued by the DOJ’s Fraud Section last week (see our May 1, 2019 LawFlash) regarding factors prosecutors should consider when analyzing the effectiveness of a corporate compliance program.

TYPE OF COOPERATION CREDIT DOJ MAY AWARD

Finally, the new guidance details the form that credit can take: most often, a reduction in the penalties or damages multiplier sought by the government. In some cases, the government may notify another agency of the company’s cooperation, publicly acknowledge the company’s cooperation, or assist the company in resolving pending qui tam litigation with a relator(s). These are welcome forms of credit, particularly in assisting with resolutions with other agencies and relators as those are often sticking points in any resolution of FCA matters.

TAKEAWAYS

The new policy provides clearer guidance from the DOJ on the steps companies can take to earn cooperation credit that could reduce liability in an FCA matter and provides a roadmap for defense and in-house counsel. The guidance, as well as numerous statements by the DOJ in recent months, highlights that a fundamental step towards reducing FCA liability (or avoiding it in the first place) is having an effective compliance program that allows companies to identify and respond to misconduct.

Read the DOJ press release.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Morgan Lewis | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Morgan Lewis
Contact
more
less

Morgan Lewis on:

Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Custom Email Digest
- hide
- hide

This website uses cookies to improve user experience, track anonymous site usage, store authorization tokens and permit sharing on social media networks. By continuing to browse this website you accept the use of cookies. Click here to read more about how we use cookies.