Government’s Extensive Knowledge of a Defendant’s Wrongful Conduct May Preclude a Finding that the Defendant Possessed the Necessary Knowledge to Submit a False Claim

By: Joel Androphy, Rachel Grier and Stephanie Gutheinz

To establish liability for submitting false claims under the FCA, it must be shown that the defendant acting knowingly.  Knowing conduct can be demonstrated by showing that the defendant either acted (1) with actual knowledge that the information was false, (2) with deliberate ignorance of the truth or falsity of the information, or (3) with reckless disregard of the truth or falsity of the information. 

A finding of knowing action on the part of the defendant may be precluded, however, if it can be shown that the government had ample knowledge of the defendant’s conduct.  The burden of proof required to obviate a defendant’s liability based on government knowledge is considerable and can only be satisfied with evidence that the defendant and the government had an ongoing dialogue about the activities underlying the submission of the false claims. 

It must also be shown that the defendant completely cooperated and shared all information with the government in such a way that it would not have been possible for the defendant to knowingly submit false claims.  Mere allegations that the government had some knowledge of the defendant’s conduct, audited the defendant, or even reviewed thousands of documents related to the claims are not sufficient to negate the defendant’s liability.  Rather, courts will only find as a matter of law that the defendant could not have possessed the requisite state of mind to be liable under the FCA where the government approved of the defendant’s conduct, or where the government had extensive knowledge of the defendant’s conduct.  United States ex rel. Maxwell v. Kerr-McGee Oil & Gas Corp., 2009 WL 3161828 (D. Colo. Sept. 30, 2009).

Posted in Defenses, False Claims, Federal False Claims Act, Government Knowledge, Mens ReaNo Comments

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