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State Enforcement Actions

Each state enforces its laws and defends its interests, and states often work with the federal government in investigating and prosecuting corporate frauds.  Whistleblowers with knowledge of fraud or wrongful conduct that involves state or local funds or programs may be able to bring a claim under a state or local False Claims Act, and may be eligible to receive a monetary reward and protection against retaliation.

Below are summaries of recent settlements, successful prosecutions, and enforcement actions by states. If you believe you have information about fraud which could give rise to a claim under a State or Local False Claims Act or other whistleblower reward provision, please contact us to speak with one of our experienced whistleblower attorneys.

February 1, 2024

One of the nation’s largest healthcare systems, Providence, has agreed to forgive more than $137 million in medical debt and refund more than $20 million to patients following a lawsuit by Washington State.  According to the Attorney General’s Office, between 2018 and 2023, Providence trained staff to demand payments from low income patients who were eligible for financial assistance, then sent some of those same patients to debt collectors even if they were Medicaid beneficiaries.  Almost 99,500 patients will receive relief as a result of this settlement, with the average refund amounting to about $478.  WA AG

February 1, 2024

Marketing firm Publicis Health, which was agency of record for all of Purdue Pharma’s branded opioid drugs as well as for other opioid manufacturers, has agreed to a $350 million national settlement for helping to fuel the prescription opioid crisis.  A government investigation found that the multinational company farmed data from recordings of conversations between patients and providers and used that data to develop Purdue’s sales tactics.  As part of this settlement, Publicis has also agreed to disclose thousands of internal documents detailing its work for opioid companies, such as Purdue, on a public website.  CA AG; NC AG; PA AG

February 1, 2024

Hikma Pharmaceauticals has reached a settlement in principle with multiple states for $150 million following allegations that the opioid manufacturer failed to monitor and report suspicious orders.  From the settlement proceeds, $115 million will be paid in cash, while the remaining $35 million will be allocated toward opioid addiction treatment medications.  CA AG; NC AG; VA AG

January 24, 2024

Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $149.5 million to Washington State for its role in fueling the opioid epidemic after the Attorney General Bob Ferguson rejected a 2021 settlement and chose to continue litigation.  The company was a top supplier of ingredients used to make opioid drugs, and marketed the drugs for chronic pain conditions that studies showed were not effectively treated by opioids.  This is the fifth national settlement that Washington State has rejected, and the third so far that has netted the state more than it would have received under the national settlement.  WA AG

January 10, 2024

National auto title lending company Community Loans of America (CLA) has agreed to pay $2.2 million in restitution and cancel $3.7 million in outstanding debt after an investigation by the Pennsylvania Attorney General’s Office found it subjected Pennsylvanian borrowers to unlawful lending practices and exorbitant interest rates.  Title loans are effectively prohibited in Pennsylvania because they are high-cost loans and lenders typically charge interest rates that are far above the state’s 25% annual interest limit.  CLA still managed to collect money and repossess vehicles from Pennsylvanian consumers by claiming to have offices in the state but redirecting consumers to locations in Delaware.  PA AG

January 10, 2024

In the largest civil penalty ever for a Clean Air Act case, engine manufacturer Cummins, Inc. of Indiana has agreed to pay $1.675 billion in penalties to the EPA, $164 million in penalties and $175 million in mitigation efforts to the California Air Resources Board (CARB), and $33 million in penalties to the California Attorney General’s Office to resolve charges of deliberately circumventing vehicle emissions control equipment in their engines.  Cummins allegedly installed illegal defeat devices in the engines of more than 600,000 pickup trucks nationwide.  Now, the company must recall those engines and update the control software within three years, and fully offset the excess NOx emissions from those trucks by funding certain mitigation efforts.  DOJ; CA AG

January 8, 2024

Invitation Homes, which owns and manages about 12,000 rental homes across California, has agreed to pay $2.04 million in civil penalties to resolve allegations of violating the state’s price gouging law and Tenant Protection Act (TPA).  California’s price gouging law prohibits landlords from increasing rent by more than 10% in the aftermath of a state of emergency, while the TPA prohibits increasing rent by more than 5% plus the percentage change in the annual cost of living.  Yet between 2019 and 2022, that is exactly what the company did.  In addition to paying civil penalties, Invitation Homes is required to restore lawful rental rates to California tenants and ensure compliance with all state and local laws.  CA AG

December 22, 2023

Christiana Care Health System has agreed to pay over $7.6 million to the State of Delaware for violating the federal and state False Claims Acts, and Delaware’s Patient Brokering and Anti-Kickback laws.  According to a qui tam whistleblower, who filed a case in 2017, the healthcare system provided free or below-market rate support services to doctors in exchange for referrals of Medicaid patients, then submitted false claims stemming from those referrals to Delaware’s Medicaid program.  DE AG

November 20, 2023

Hospital chain PeaceHealth, which operates in Washington State, has been ordered to refund more than 15,000 low-income patients up to $13.4 million after the Washington Attorney General’s Office found it billed patients without notifying them of their eligibility to obtain financial assistance.  PeaceHealth must also pay $2 million to the Attorney General’s Office to reimburse the cost of the government’s investigation.  WA AG

November 20, 2023

Student lender Prehired has been ordered to shut down permanently, pay more than $4.2 million in restitution, and void nearly $27 million in outstanding loans for allegedly trapping students with unlawful loans and employing abusive debt collection practices.  According to the CFPB and the attorneys general of 10 states, Prehired’s 12-week online training program made false promises about its ability to help students obtain six-figure paying jobs, while keeping them in the dark about key loan information.  CFPBDE AGNC AG
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