Zoom and Legal Practice Under the False Claims Act

We’ve all been stuck inside the new normal of life for a long time now, but cases to fight fraud still must continue. One thing clients wonder about is if and how False Claims Act matters can in fact go forward and be conducted with Coronavirus restrictions in virtually every court. Can they get the chance to meet with the Government after they file their case?

I’m happy to say that the answer in this area is pretty much yes. All agencies and parties, of course, can site difficulties with the virus to extend deadlines. There are restraints and Courts have granted more time in case investigations on this basis. In the meantime, like most lawyers, I’ve attended interviews of my clients via some form of secure link to the Department of Justice and generally it goes pretty smoothly as have most related events.

As we all get used to this I wonder if we’ll go back?

Whistleblower reward law is mostly a nation-wide area of practice squeezed into local jurisdictions. Of course, to file a case in a court in which a lawyer is not barred one must work with a lawyer in that jurisdiction. Most of the law is national with local differences, but you have to wonder if the lines are going to get blurred as the technology is making nationwide work more possible. After all, many courts are finding ways to accept even sealed case filings electronically.

Reflecting the new reality the biggest False Claims Act Legal Conference of the year is going to be conducted virtually this year. The SEC is holding a hearing on whistleblower reward rules next week remotely as well.

As a lawyer who regularly files cases in other jurisdictions with the aid of co-counsel, the idea that I don’t necessarily have to get on a plane to handle a meeting is attractive and makes it possible to be more productive.

It may mean, that we can be more helpful to the government in pursuing these matters. We can join forces around the country and look a little farther afield to work with our clients.

The False Claims Act itself allows for nationwide jurisdiction, and was amended years ago to allow a nationwide scheme with many state claims to be filed as a consolidated action, so the idea that we can work with co-counsel to file a case anywhere in the country has always been something those of us in this area take into consideration. The IRS, SEC and CFTC whistleblower reward programs likewise work on a nationwide basis and generally do not require a lawyer to be barred in any one particular jurisdiction (somewhere of course) at least not to fie an initial case with those agencies.

Yes, of course, we all want to get back to a situation when it is easier to meet face to face. When that happens though, these new protocols may make it more possible to be more productive.