On Monday, Senator Grassley (R-IA) expressed his support for the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009 (S. 386) saying “we simply cannot allow unscrupulous individuals to defraud the government and rip off taxpayers.” The bill provides new tools for the federal government to fight fraud and makes much needed amendments to the Federal False Claims Act.
Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers bring lawsuits against companies who defraud the federal government. As a reward for their courageous actions, whistleblower receive a portion of the amount the federal government recovers. As Senator Grassley correctly pointed out in his floor statement, “we would not have the case or the money returned if it wasn’t for the information of the whistleblower.” This law has been used to recover more than $22 billion since 1986 and has deterred an incalculable amount of fraud.
The amendments to the False Claims Act correct loopholes created by recent court decisions, including the Allison Engine case, which allow companies to avoid liability for fraud. These amendments are absolutely necessary to protect taxpayer dollars – especially in light of the billions of dollars spent in the economic stimulus and TARP legislation. However, Senator Grassley reminds us “you’re going to find those same special interests that have been around for the last 20 years, trying to gut the legislation. Why? Because it’s one of the most effective tools against fraud.” We will be following this legislation and will keep you updated on its progress.
In addition to the amendments to the False Claims Act, the bill authorizes funding for law enforcement and prosecutors, makes changes to federal criminal laws, redefines “financial institution” to include mortgage lending businesses, and adds commodities futures to the securities fraud statute. The bill also makes it illegal to make false statements on mortgage applications and appraisals and ensures that economic relief funds and TARP funds are included in criminal law prohibiting fraud against the government.