On February 2nd, 2022, the United States Department of Justice announced it had secured around $5.6 billion in False Claims Act (“FCA”) recoveries during 2021. This amount represents the second-highest recovery on record and is only superseded by the $6.2 billion recovered in 2014. The fiscal year 2021 continues a long-time trend of having most of the recovery related to healthcare and life sciences companies. So healthcare fraud continues to be the leading cause of settlements and judgments.
Almost half of last year’s recoveries stem from a single October 2020 settlement with Purdue Pharma, LP, the manufacturer of the infamous opioid OxyContin. That settlement resolved the company’s criminal and civil liability suits over its drug promotion, encouraging providers to write unsafe, ineffective, and unnecessary prescriptions. The Department also secured a $225 million False Claims Act settlement with the Sackler family, Purdue’s founders, and owners.
Significant False Claims Act recoveries related to misuse of Covid-19 emergency funding are yet to materialize. However, the Department mentioned smaller recoveries, such as a payment of $287,000 which settled claims of an owner of a jet charter company using a Paycheck Protection Program loan to pay personal expenses. The DOJ does expect these pandemic-related FCA actions to recover more in the proceeding years, but as of yet, most remain unresolved.
The DOJ also mentioned whistleblowers as a vital part of the recovery process. Qui tam actions brought by whistleblowers recovered more than $1.6 billion in 2021, comparable to the amount of recoveries in 2020. The government paid out $237 million to whistleblowers who exposed fraud in the past year. However, the Department reported that whistleblowers filed 598 False Claims Act suits in 2021, down from 672 in 2020, marking the lowest number of cases filed since 2010.
“Our efforts to protect taxpayer funds benefit from the courageous actions of these whistleblowers, and they are justly rewarded under the False Claims Act,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Boynton.
The Department says that it remains committed to investigating and remedying fraud cases under the False Claims Act and that its top priority is ensuring that citizens’ tax dollars are protected from misuse. The DOJ is yet to release its annual statistical sheet detailing new cases in recoveries but stated that the False Claims Act recoveries now total more than $70 billion since the Act’s inception in 1986.