On January 10, Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions faced the Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearings. As expected, he supported the False Claims Act (FCA) and its qui tam provisions. Demonstrating a familiarity with the FCA, his opening statement was very positive.
Senator Sessions affirmed that the government:
…must improve its ability to protect the United States Treasury from waste, fraud, and abuse…we cannot afford to lose a single dollar to corruption and you can be sure that if I am confirmed, I will make it a high priority of the department to root out and prosecute fraud in federal programs and to recover any monies lost due to fraud or false claims.
He also gave credit where credit continues to be due:
I want to address personally the fabulous men and women in the Department of Justice. That includes personnel in main justice but also the much larger number that faithfully fulfill their responsibility every day. As United States attorney, we worked together constantly. The federal investigative agencies represent the finest collection of law officers in the world. I know their integrity and professionalism. I pledge to them a unity of effort that is unmatched. Together we can and will reach for the highest standards and the highest results. It would be the greatest honor to lead these fine public servants.
During the hearing, FCA champion Senator Chuck Grassley questioned Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions. Senator Sessions remarks demonstrated support and familiarity with the False Claims Act:
Senator Grassley: In 1986, ten years before you came to the United States Senate, I got the False Claims Act passed. It has brought 53 billion dollars back into the federal treasury since then. If you’re confirmed, will you pledge to vigorously enforce that act and devote adequate resources to investigating and prosecuting False Claims Act cases?
Senator Sessions: And the qui tam provisions that are part of that?
Senator Grassley: Yes.
Senator Sessions: I am aware of those. I think that they are a valid and effective method of rooting out fraud and abuse. I even filed one myself one time as a private lawyer. So these are important issues that you have been a leader on. It has saved this Country lots of money. And probably has caused companies to be more cautious because they could have a whistleblower that would blow the whistle on them if they try to do something that’s improper. So I think it’s been a very healthy thing and you are to be congratulated for that and I do support that Act.
Senator Grassley: You took care of the second question I was going to ask you on qui tam and you said that whistleblowers are very important. I am glad to hear you say that. I don’t think that they get enough support. I hope you give priority to that because the great number of the qui tam cases come from the outside, not from the inside. Will you provide Congress with regular, timely updates on the status of FCA cases including statistics as to how many are under seal and the average length of seal time?
Senator Sessions: I would do that. My experience is that sometimes [the seal period] is an awfully long time.
Senator Grassley: That’s exactly why I am asking the question. Updates from time to time I think will keep people within your Department more responsive and responsible.
Senator Sessions: I understand that. I don’t know if a report is required now but I don’t see why it would be particularly difficult to provide that to you.
More information for potential qui tam whistleblowers is located at the Nolan Auerbach & White website.