False Claims Act Amendments Gain Momentum In Bill to Combat Financial Fraud

New legislation to combat financial institution fraud, securities fraud, mortgage fraud, and other fraud and abuse is gaining momentum, and brings closer long-needed amendments to restore to its intended strength the nation’s major “whistleblower” law, the False Claims Act.

The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009 (S. 386) received support yesterday in a statement from the Administration:

The Administration strongly supports enactment of S. 386. Its provisions would provide Federal investigators and prosecutors with significant new criminal and civil tools and resources that would assist in holding accountable those who have committed financial fraud.

Specifically, the legislative enhancements would help the Department of Justice to combat mortgage fraud, securities and commodities fraud, money laundering and related offenses, and to protect taxpayer money that has been expended on recent economic stimulus and rescue packages. Further, the legislation would amend the False Claims Act (FCA) in several important respects so that the FCA remains a potent and useful weapon against the misuse of taxpayer funds. In general, this legislation would benefit U.S. taxpayers by both addressing existing fraud and deterring waste, fraud, and abuse of public funds. Moreover, S. 386 would provide needed resources to strained law enforcement agencies and prosecutors that would enable the Department and its partners to advance the pace and reach of the enforcement response to the current economic crisis. These additional resources will provide a return on investment through additional fines, penalties, restitution, damages, and forfeitures. With the tools and resources that S. 386 provides, the Department of Justice and others would be better equipped to address the challenges that face this Nation in difficult economic times and to do their part to help the Nation respond to this challenge.

We have written previously about the amendments to restore the False Claims Act to full strength, by clarifying various provisions that led some courts to weaken this important anti-fraud law.

The abuses now being exposed in the financial industry join the list of many other types of fraud designed to steal taxpayer funds–health care fraud,defense procurement fraud (especially in Iraq and Afghanistan), Hurricane Katrina fraud, and many other species of fraud and false claims.

With hundreds on billions of new federal spending underway in the TARP program and other “bailout” and “stimulus” efforts, the need is urgent to protect these funds with the most effective anti-fraud measures. That protection begins with the amendments to the False Claims Act, and we applaud this bipartisan effort to restore that critical law to its original intent.

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