United States Senator Jeff Sessions testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 10 during the first day of his confirmation hearings for his nomination as United States Attorney General.
Senator Sessions shed some light on how the U.S. Department of Justice could enforce the False Claims Act under his leadership. An excerpt from Senator Sessions opening remarks:
[T]his government must improve its ability to protect the United States Treasury from waste, fraud, and abuse. This is a federal responsibility. 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.
This mirrors the President-Elect’s campaign promise to go after the “tremendous waste, fraud, and abuse” in order to help balance the budget.
Senator Chuck Grassley later questioned Sessions about 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.
Senator Sessions testimony indicates that, if confirmed, we can expect continued vigorous enforcement of the FCA in the District of South Carolina, including qui tam intervention. The silver lining for FCA defendants is a potentially shorter seal period brought about by greater transparency.