The Justice Department has secured $2.4 billion in settlements and judgments through False Claims Act cases through the end of September, marking the second largest annual recovery of civil fraud claims in history.
"It's no secret that health care fraud is a top priority of the Civil Division of the Department of Justice and the administration," Assistant Attorney General Tony West, head of the Civil Division, told reporters today. West said $1.6 billion represents cases that involve health care fraud recovery.
West said Justice is using the “full panoply” of tools to combat health care fraud both on the civil and criminal front. Last week, West and Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer, who leads the Criminal Division, said the department is stepping up Foreign Corrupt Practice Act enforcement against the pharmaceutical industry.
West today dismissed criticism from the plaintiffs’ bar that Justice is sitting on health care fraud cases, creating a backlog. “When you think of a backlog you think there’s somebody’s inbox with a about a thousand files and they just have to go one by one to look at them,” West said. There are nearly 1,000 cases that are under active investigation, he said, and the Justice Department tends to announce allegations simultaneously with a settlement.
In his meeting with reporters today, West addressed other topics—including the Justice Department’s position in a high-profile Defense of Marriage Act case in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
The suit against the government challenges the federal Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. Under the law, states are not required to recognize same sex marriages that are performed in states where such marriages are allowed. Justice moved to dismiss the suit, which was tossed on jurisdictional grounds in August.
“It’s no secret that this administration’s policy and Department of Justice policy … is that we think DOMA ought to be repealed. We think it’s discriminatory. We hope that it will be repealed,” West told reporters. “We also … have an independent institutional responsibility not to pick and choose to defend those cases with which we may agree or disagree but to defend the constitutionality of statutes when reasonable arguments can be made.”