SCOTUS Revives Qui Tam Actions

Until this decision I had assumed that Qui Tam actions were essentially dead in relation to the mortgage meltdown. Now I don’t think so.

The question presented is whether actions brought by a private person acting as a relator on behalf of a government entity can bring claims for damages under the False Claims Act. Such actions are barred by the statute of limitations, which requires a violation to be brought within six years of the violation or three years “after the date when facts material to the right of action are known or reasonably should have been known by the official of the United States charged with responsibility to act in the circumstances.”[3] 

In a unanimous decision the Court held that the tolling period applies to private relator actions. This does not by any stretch of the imagination create a slam dunk. Relators must have special knowledge of the false claim and the damage caused to the government. It will still be necessary to argue in an uphill battle that the true facts of the securitization scheme are only now unfolding as more evidence appears that the parties claiming foreclosure are neither seeking nor receiving the benefit of sale proceeds on foreclosed property.

Some claims might relate back to the origination of mortgages and some relate to the trading of paper creating the illusion of ownership of loans. Still others may relate to the effect on local and State government (as long as the Federal government was involved in covering their expenses) in the bailout presumably for losses incurred as a result of default on mortgage loans in which there was no loss to the party who received the bailout, nor did such bailout proceeds ever find the investors who actually funded the origination or acquisition of loans.

And remember that a relator needs to prove special knowledge that is arguably unique. The statute was meant to cover whistleblowers from within an agency or commercial enterprise but is broader than that. The courts tend to restrict the use of Qui Tam actions when brought by a relator who is not an “insider.”

See https://www.natlawreview.com/article/supreme-court-recognizes-longer-statute-limitations-qui-tam-plaintiffs-false-claims

See Review of False Claims Act 18-315_1b8e

See Cochise Consultancy, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Hunt

I also find some relevance in the decision penned by J. Thomas writing for the court as it applies to TILA Rescission, FDCPA claims, RESPA claims and other claims based upon statute:

Because a single use of a statutory phrase generally must have a fixed meaning, see Ratzlaf v. United States, 510 U. S. 135, 143, interpretations that would “attribute different meanings to the same phrase” should be avoided, Reno v. Bossier Parish School Bd., 528 U. S. 320, 329. Here, the clear text of the statute controls. Cochise’s reliance on Graham County Soil & Water Conservation Dist. v. United States ex rel. Wilson, 545 U. S. 409, is misplaced. Nothing in Graham County supports giving the phrase “civil action under section 3730” in §3731(b) two different meanings depending on whether the Government intervenes. While the Graham County Court sought “a construction that avoids . . . counterintuitive results,” there the text “admit of two plausible interpretations.” Id., at 421, 419, n. 2. Here, Cochise points to no other plausible interpretation of the text, so the “ ‘judicial inquiry is complete.’ ” Barnhart v. Sigmon Coal Co., 534 U. S. 438, 462. Pp. 4–8. (e.s.)

Point of reference:

I still believe that local governments are using up their time or might be time barred on a legitimate claim that was never pursued — that the trading of loans and certificates were transactions relating to property interests within the State or County and that income or revenue was due to the government and was never paid. A levy of the amount due followed by a lien and then followed by a foreclosure on the mortgages would likely result in either revenue to the government or government ownership of the mortgages which could be subject to negotiations with the homeowners wherein the principal balance is vastly reduced and the government receives all of the revenue to which it is entitled. This produces both a fiscal stimulus to the State economy and much needed revenue to the state at a cost of virtually zero.

In Arizona, where this strategy was first explored it was determined by state finance officials in coordination with the relevant chairpersons of select committees in the State House and Senate and the governor’s office that the entire state deficit of $3 Billion could have been covered. Intervention by political figures who answered to the banks intervened and thus prevented the deployment of this strategy.

I alone developed the idea and introduced it a the request of the then chairman of the House Judiciary committee. We worked hard on it for 6 months. Intervention by political figures who answered to the banks intervened and thus prevented the deployment of this strategy. It still might work.

See also

http://www.mondaq.com/unitedstates/x/809786/White+Collar+Crime+Fraud/False+Claims+Act+Statute+of+Limitations+Relators+Now+Get+Up+to+10+Years+to+File+Suit

The Court also held that the relator’s knowledge does not trigger the limitations period. The statute refers to knowledge of “the official of the United States charged with responsibility to act in the circumstances[.]” Had the Court interpreted this provision to include relators, fears of protracted tolling by relators would largely dissipate because the qui tam action would have to be filed within three years of the relator’s knowledge or six-years of the violation, whichever is later. The Court rejected this approach, finding the express reference to “the” government official excludes private citizen relators. The Court held it is the government’s knowledge that triggers the limitations period.

The Court, however, left unanswered the question of which government official’s knowledge triggers the limitations period. The government argued in its briefs and at oral argument that such official is the Attorney General or delegate. As we have noted in prior posts (see Holland & Knight’s Government Contracts Blog, “ Self-Disclosure and the FCA Statute of Limitations: Cochise Consultancy, Inc. v. United States v. ex. rel. Billy Joe Hunt,” March 27, 2019), there is a broader question as to whether knowledge by governmental actors outside of DOJ, including knowledge trigged by self-disclosure, should start the limitations period. The Court did not rule on this question, though its decision hints at an interpretation that includes only the Attorney General. If true, DOJ becomes the sole repository for disclosures that trigger the limitations period. That is, unless defendants can argue that DOJ “should have known” of the violation when investigative bodies such as the Office of Inspector General or the FBI have actual knowledge of the violation … more on this latter issue is sure to come.

5 Responses

  1. ANON- sharp questions- is like to know that timing also. And is it ope. To interpretation? Or is it set in stone ? (Not that most judges would care)

  2. good post. do you have a cite for this case? also can you cross post on my blog at http://www.marygsykes.com which is all about court corruption. thanks

  3. Don’t worry if all of your efforts in the end are reduced by these thieves and politicians. In the end it is the effort towards the good that God sees and enters .
    .

    Carrie M.

  4. What is an example of an intervention by a political figure?

  5. This is interesting Neil. But, – “no longer than ten years after the act occurred” is still an obstacle. This is because the “acts” for private label non-bank origination “trusts” occurred largely more than ten years ago.

    Are you implying that the “act” is the foreclosure itself? That is, is the foreclosure the starting point for the ten years, or is the act of false securitization the starting point?

    It is my belief that fraud began at origination – for many reasons. And, what if people paid for many years, and then “modification” is denied, or foreclosure is initiated. Does the paying period (that is each payment) count as a continuing tort — or is the original beginning act still considered to be timing for the ten years?

    Does doctrine of continuing tort apply to the ten years? .

    Thank you.

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