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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.

December 12, 2019

A ring of companies led by Orbital Publishing Group, Inc. has been ordered to pay $16 million for defrauding more than 68,000 New Yorkers on subscriptions to leading magazine and newspaper publications.  According to the Attorney General of New York, Orbital and its affiliates sent unauthorized solicitations claiming to offer the lowest rates on subscriptions—despite cease and desist letters from the publishers—when in fact they charged more than double what publishers would have charged customers directly.  Additionally, they failed to clearly indicate subscription expiration dates, causing customers to not only pay more but also renew subscriptions that had not yet expired.  The same ring of companies had been the target of a 2016 FTC enforcement action that led the State of Oregon to impose a $8.9 million judgment.  NY AG

November 22, 2019

Ave Maria Family Practice PLLC and its principal, Dr. Dorothy Agbafe-Mosley, have agreed to pay $1.25 million to the State of North Carolina to resolve claims that they falsely billed the state's Medicaid program for addiction treatment services allegedly provided to Medicaid beneficiaries.  In fact, the services were not medically necessary, had no supporting clinical documentation, or were otherwise performed in violation of Medicaid policy.  NC

November 15, 2019

Pharmaceutical manufacturer Lupin Limited and related entities, together with company executives Vinita Gupta and Robert Hoffman, will pay $63 million to Texas to resolve claims under the Texas Medicaid Fraud Prevention Action that they reported inflated drug prices to the state's Medicaid program in order to receive excess reimbursements.  The investigation of Lupin was initiated by a whistleblower lawsuit filed by Expess Med Pharmaceuticals, Inc.  TX

October 28, 2019

The State of Illinois has reached a settlement with more than a dozen drug manufacturers alleged to have published inflated "average wholesale prices" for drugs whose purchase was reimbursed by Illinois's Medicaid program at prices based on those false AWPs.  The settlement for $242 million includes Abbott Laboratories, Inc.; Aventis Pharmaceuticals Inc.; Aventis Behring LLC, n/k/a ZLB Behring; B. Braun Medical Inc.; Forest Laboratories, Inc.; GlaxoSmithKline LLC; Johnson & Johnson, Inc.; Janssen Pharmaceutical Products, LP; McNeil-PPC, Inc.; Ortho Biotech Products, LP; Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical, Inc.; Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation; Pfizer Inc.; Pharmacia Corporation; and TAP Pharmaceutical Products, Inc.  In total, Illinois has settled inflated AWP claims against more than four dozen manufacturers (see, e.g., January 2019 settlement with TEVA Pharmaceuticals), recovering $678 million in total.  IL AG  

October 17, 2019

Johnson & Johnson and its subsidiary, Ethicon, Inc., have agreed to pay $116.9 million to 41 states and the District of Columbia for endangering the health of women nationwide by deceptively marketing transvaginal surgical mesh devices and failing to adequately disclose possible serious complications.  A multistate investigation found that both Johnson & Johnson and Ethicon knew of the risks—including chronic pain and inflammation, fistula formation, incontinence, and mesh extrusion and erosion into the body—yet failed to warn consumers or their physicians.  As part of the settlement, the companies must refrain from falsely describing the mesh as “FDA approved,” as well as provide full disclosure of the device’s risks.  DE AG; PA AG; MI AG; NY AG; SC AG; TX AG

October 2, 2019

Brokerage firms BGC Financial LP and GFI Securities LLC will pay $15 million and $10 million, respectively, to the CFTC, and $7.5 million and $5 million, respectively, in penalties under New York's Martin Act based on the admitted practices of their brokers in posting sham bids and offers on foreign exchange options in emerging markets currencies referred to as EFX options.  This so-called "flying" of prices was done to create a false appearance of greater liquidity in the EFX options market. In addition, the brokers engaged in the "printing" of fake trades on EFX options, falsely representing that trades had occurred at particular levels and prices in an effort to induce follow-on trades at the same levels.  In addition to the monetary penalties, the brokerage firms have agreed to additional compliance, monitoring, and oversight.  CFTCNY

September 5, 2019

Dentist Santa Maria McKibbens has agreed to pay North Carolina $375,000 to resolve allegations that she submitted false claims to the North Carolina Medicaid Program by billing for dental restorations that were not medically necessary, had no supporting clinical documentation, or were otherwise performed in violation of Medicaid policy.  NC

September 4, 2019

Google and its subsidiary, YouTube, will pay a record $170 million to the FTC and New York for allegedly violating the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) Rule, which requires that websites and services directed at children under 13 obtain parental consent prior to collecting personal information.  According to the complaint, YouTube allegedly monitored, tracked, and served targeted ads to children under 13 without parental consent.  FTC, NY AG

August 1, 2019

The United States and 15 states have settled with Cisco Systems, Inc. for $8.6 million in the first cybersecurity whistleblower case ever successfully brought under the False Claims Act.  Cisco was accused of selling a video surveillance software to the U.S. government and state purchasers – including the military, FEMA, Homeland Security, and the Secret Service -- that could be easily exploited by hackers, and doing nothing to resolve or report the issue for years after the vulnerability was identified.  AG NY; AG VA

July 25, 2019

Douglas MacKinnon of Buffalo, New York, and associated individuals and entities in the debt collection business, including Northern Resolution Group, LLC, Enhanced Acquisitions LLC, Delray Capital, LLC, and Mark Gray, will pay more than $66 million in restitution and penalties in a settlement reached with New York state and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.  The companies routinely engaged in unlawful and predatory debt collection practices, including: misrepresenting to consumers that they owed sums they did not owe or were not obligated to pay, or that the companies did not have a legal right to collect; falsely threatening consumers with legal action that the collectors had no intention of taking; and, impersonating law enforcement and other government officials.  The settlement permanently bans MacKinnon and Gray and their defendant companies from the debt collection industry. CFPB, NY
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