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  • DOJ fines bank in "first-ever" FCA settlement over PPP loan

    Federal Issues

    On September 13, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas announced an agreement with a bank to pay approximately $18,600 to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act (FCA). This “is believed to be the nation’s first settlement with a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) lender pursuant to the [FCA],” the announcement said. As previously covered by a Buckley Special Alert, in March 2020, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, which provided a host of relief measures for small businesses, including $349 billion for Small Business Administration loan forgiveness, guarantees, and subsidies. According to the announcement, the bank approved and processed a $213,400 PPP loan for a clinic, despite knowing that the sole owner of the clinic was facing criminal charges arising from his practice of prescribing opioids and was therefore ineligible to apply for the PPP loan. The announcement noted that “the bank processed the application anyway and falsely granted the money to [the sole owner].” The bank received a 5 percent processing fee from the government, including $10,670 to which it was not entitled. The owner of the clinic entered a $523,000 settlement in November 2021, resolving allegations that he used false statements on his PPP application and allegedly submitted false claims for the placement of electroacupuncture devices. In 2022, the owner also repaid the PPP loan in full. According to the announcement, the settlement reflects the bank’s “efforts to cooperate with the government’s investigation and provide relevant facts along with its implementation of additional compliance measures.”

    Federal Issues DOJ CARES Act FCA Covid-19 Enforcement

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  • District Court denies defendants summary judgment over FCA violations

    Courts

    On March 16, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Texas denied a motion for summary judgment by a mortgage servicer relating to False Claims Act (FCA) claims alleging false certifications of compliance to obtain payment under three different government programs: Treasury’s Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP), FHA HAMP, and VA HAMP. According to the memorandum opinion and order, the relator, a former loss-mitigation specialist at the mortgage servicer, alleged that the mortgage servicer engaged in widespread dual tracking, continuously moving homeowners’ mortgages through the foreclosure process even as the defendants were supposed to be evaluating the mortgages for loss mitigation options and HAMP. The plaintiff further alleged that “the dual tracking led many homeowners to lose their homes in foreclosure when foreclosure should have been suspended during the resolution of modification and other workout processes,” and that the defendants “knowingly lacked adequate HAMP systems, processes, staffing, and training.”

    The defendants argued that, “notwithstanding industrywide difficulties, publicly available service assessments and third-party reviews show that [the mortgage servicer was] one of the highest-rated servicers participating in HAMP []. Further, though Treasury had the power to withhold incentives for HAMP non-compliance, Treasury never did so and consistently paid HAMP incentive payments to [the mortgage servicer] until the program expired.” The mortgage servicer also argued that summary judgment was appropriate for several reasons; (i) the court lacks jurisdiction to consider any of the relator’s claims under the FCA’s first-to-file bar; (ii) the relator’s claims fail because he cannot establish one or more of the required elements as to each claim; and (iii) the relator’s VA claim fails because the he cannot cite to any evidence of a certification by the mortgage servicer to the VA, and thus cannot demonstrate a false statement or fraudulent conduct. The court held that, pursuant to Fifth Circuit precedent, the first-to-file rule is inapplicable here because this case was filed by the same relator in a New York district court. With respect to the remaining claims, the court held that summary judgment is inappropriate where, as here, there exist genuine issues of material fact.

    Courts FCA Mortgages Mortgages Servicing Loss Mitigation Consumer Finance Foreclosure HAMP Department of Treasury FHA Department of Veterans Affairs

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