Affirmative Civil Enforcement Unit for VFATA claims
Following on the heels of my last post – which covered the Virginia Medicaid Fraud Control Unit receiving the Honest Abe Award from Taxpayers Against Fraud as well as General Herring’s new Complaint in intervention against a number of large banks – I am pleased to report that the Commonwealth also took a major step forward in the last legislative session.
Specifically, legislation was introduced to provide funding for an affirmative civil enforcement unit for non-health care claims in the Office of the Attorney General. This is of course one of the major things the Commonwealth’s OAG had been lacking, as discussed repeatedly on this blog for more than six years.
Senate Bill 660 provided for the creation of an enforcement unit in the Division of Debt Collection, and also provided that the unit is entitled to retain 30% of the money it recovers to fund future enforcement of non-health care investigations and prosecutions. As the fiscal impact statement prepared by the Senate indicates, the bill has no negative impact on the budget of the OAG, and will very much help the budget.
The legislative history indicates that SB 660 passed the Senate unanimously and was sent to the House of Delegates. The bill also fared well there, passing out of Committee — again, unanimously — out of Subcommittee 4 on General Laws and from the full Subcommittee.
And there, on March 4, 2014, the bill died. My guess is that the General Assembly got so distracted by the Medicaid expansion fight that everything else sort of dropped by the wayside. With so much support in both houses of the General Assembly, I am sure the bill will be re-introduced next year and hopefully it will pass.
My only real concern with SB 660 is the authority given to the position in the reporting structure of the OAG. There is no question that the lawyers in charge of non-health care qui tam actions will struggle with various agencies in state government from time to time, just like the United States Department of Justice struggles with federal agencies. Government agencies can be difficult clients in general, and this is especially true when a government agency may feel like it screwed up.
Without question the person (or persons) handling non-health care VFATA claims will need to be creative in his or her navigation of the Commonwealth’s government agencies…and the non-health care enforcement unit will also need to be able to twist arms from time to time.
Stay tuned for more to follow….
Virginia Qui Tam Law.com – The first blog dedicated to the Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act and to qui tam litigation in Virginia