The Department of Justice (DOJ) recently announced the creation of a Task Force on Market Integrity and Consumer Fraud. Relevant to the contracting and healthcare community, the task force is designed to strengthen the government's efforts to investigate and prosecute crimes of fraud committed against the U.S. Government. The task force will also focus on combating fraud against consumers, and in particular the elderly, service members and veterans.

Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein stated in public remarks that the task force will "focus on cases involving fraud against the government, the financial markets, and consumers; procurement and grant fraud; securities and commodities fraud; digital currency fraud; money laundering; healthcare fraud; tax fraud; and other financial crimes."

Contractors and healthcare providers should expect to see increases in both civil and criminal enforcement stemming from this task force. Rosenstein's announcement specifically mentioned the DOJ's affirmative civil enforcement function, through which cases brought under the False Claims Act are handled. This announcement follows the department's recent addition of nearly eight dozen Assistant United States Attorneys to serve in affirmative civil enforcement roles.

The task force, which was created by executive order, provides for the enhancement of enforcement activities through increased fraud enforcement initiatives, enhanced inter-agency cooperation, increased communication among Federal, state and local authorities, and changes to rules or policy needed to improve the investigation and prosecution of financial crimes. DOJ will lead the task force through representatives of the criminal division, civil division, tax division, antitrust division, FBI and the U.S. Attorneys' Offices. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission will also play a key role in the task force, per Rosenstein's announcement.

The focus of the task force echoes in part DOJ's National Procurement Fraud Task Force, which was implemented in 2006 and replaces the Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force created in 2009.

DOJ's task forces are worth watching. A similar joint effort known as the Health Care Fraud Prevention & Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) resulted in the Medicare Fraud Strike Force Team (MFSF), which actively pursues fraud cases. Just last month DOJ and the MFSF conducted the largest enforcement action in the healthcare space, charging 601 defendants, including doctors, nurses and other licensed medical professionals, for their alleged participation in healthcare fraud schemes. The financial services, government contracting and healthcare sectors could see similar activity stemming from the Market Integrity and Consumer Fraud task force.