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THE LATEST ON GOVERNMENT INQUIRIES AND ENFORCEMENT ACTIONS

Government Investigations and White Collar Litigation Group

McGuireWoods LLP

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Elizabeth Holmes of Theranos Found Guilty of Making False Representations to Investors

Fraud, Deception and False Claims
Elizabeth Holmes, founder of Theranos, was convicted of three counts of wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The verdict follows a high-profile, fifteen-week trial in federal court in San Francisco.  Holmes was alleged to have defrauded investors, medical professionals, patients, and the public by exaggerating and making false statements about… Continue Reading

SEC Advisory Fees Focus Continues as Reflected in Division of Examinations Risk Alert and Chair Gensler Comments

Securities and Commodities
Recent comments from U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chair Gensler at the Institutional Limited Partners Association Summit and an SEC Division of Examinations (EXAMS) Risk Alert published on the same day highlight the ongoing focus of the SEC on advisory fees, both in the institutional and retail spaces. In Chair Gensler’s remarks, he expressed… Continue Reading

The Perils of Global Expansion: World’s Largest Ad Agency Sanctioned $19 Million for FCPA Violations, Insufficient Controls

Anti-Bribery and Corruption, Sanctions, Trade Embargo, and Export Controls, Securities and Commodities
Global expansion without adequate controls is asking for trouble. That’s the lesson of a $19 million settlement between WPP, the world’s largest advertising agency, and the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to resolve alleged violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). According to an SEC order memorializing the settlement, WPP’s trouble began when… Continue Reading

Department of Justice Announces National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team

Enforcement and Prosecution Policy and Trends, Financial Institution Regulation
On October 6, 2021, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced its plans for increased scrutiny of the cryptocurrency market with the creation of a National Cryptocurrency Enforcement Team (NCET) to pursue criminal investigations and actions against cryptocurrency misuse. The NCET will focus on “crimes committed by virtual currency exchanges, mixing and tumbling services, and… Continue Reading

Department of Justice Announces Increased FCA Enforcement Through New Civil Cyber-Fraud Initiative

Enforcement and Prosecution Policy and Trends, Fraud, Deception and False Claims
On October 6, 2021, the Department of Justice (DOJ) announced a new Civil Fraud Cyber Initiative to “combine the department’s expertise in civil fraud enforcement, government procurement and cybersecurity to combat new and emerging cyber threats to the security of sensitive information and critical systems.”… Continue Reading

Gleanings From DOJ’s 2021 Healthcare Takedown Announcement

Compliance
On Sept. 17, the U.S. Department of Justice released the results of its 2021 Healthcare Takedown — an annual announcement aggregating months of investigations and indictments across the country involving fraud in the healthcare and life sciences industries. Read on for details and analysis of criminal charges against 138 defendants, including 42 medical professionals, related… Continue Reading

DOJ Announces Plan for Coordinated Civil Rights Response to COVID-19

Compliance
On April 2, 2021, Pamela S. Karlan, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights at the U.S. Department of Justice Civil Rights Division (DOJ), issued a public statement regarding the Division’s intent to lead a coordinated civil rights response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. The statement, which attached a resource guide, is intended… Continue Reading

Courts Adopt Varying Approaches to Implementing Due Process Protections Act

Compliance, Enforcement and Prosecution Policy and Trends
In a December 2020 article, we highlighted in this blog the amendment of Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 5(f) in the new Due Process Protections Act (“DPPA” or “the Act”). The Act requires federal courts to enter a Brady order at the outset of all criminal cases and may prompt courts to enter orders setting… Continue Reading

U.S. Supreme Court Declines to Clarify False Claims Act Falsity Standard

Fraud, Deception and False Claims, Government Contracts
The U.S. Supreme Court recently declined to address a circuit split regarding the standard for establishing that a statement material to a claim for payment is false under the False Claims Act (FCA); specifically, whether the FCA requires pleading and proof of an “objectively false statement,” or whether liability can be based on allegedly false… Continue Reading

Responses Matter: Securities Fraud Sentence Shows the Value of a Sound Response to a Government Investigation

Fraud, Deception and False Claims, Securities and Commodities
It’s an old lesson in government investigations, but one worth repeating. Conduct during an investigation can matter as much as the conduct under investigation – sometimes even more. High-profile prosecutions of the past have shown the severe consequences of mistakes in responding to government investigations. Martha Stewart went to prison not for insider trading but… Continue Reading

Pitfalls to Avoid in Investment Adviser Compliance Programs: SEC OCIE Risk Alert

Compliance, Securities and Commodities
On November 19, 2020, the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) issued a risk alert, OCIE Observations: Investment Adviser Compliance Programs, to provide the industry with insights regarding their findings in their examinations relating to Rule 206(4)-7 under the Investment Advisers Act of 1940 (“Advisers Act”) or the Compliance Rule.… Continue Reading

OCIE Finds Supervision Failures at Multiple-Branch Office Investment Advisers

Compliance, Financial Institution Regulation, Securities and Commodities
On November 9, 2020, the SEC’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (“OCIE”) announced the results of its examination of nearly 40 SEC-registered investment advisers that operate multiple branch offices (the “Risk Alert”). Most of the firms examined conducted their advisory business out of at least 10 branch offices. OCIE observed a wide range of… Continue Reading

SEC Enforcement Co-Directors Issue Statement on Insider Trading

Compliance, Enforcement and Prosecution Policy and Trends, Financial Institution Regulation, Securities and Commodities
Under the leadership of U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Jay Clayton, the SEC’s Division of Enforcement has made the protection of Main Street investors its overarching priority.  On March 23, 2020, Division of Enforcement Co-Directors Stephanie Avakian and Steven Peikin issued a statement to financial market participants re-emphasizing the SEC’s commitment to safeguard the… Continue Reading

FINRA 2.0: FINRA Releases Its 2020 Risk Monitoring and Examination Priorities

Compliance, Securities and Commodities
FINRA’s examination program has undergone its most significant reorganization in decades. As stated in a press release, Oct. 1, 2018, FINRA’s goal for the reorganization was to “consolidate its Examination and Risk Monitoring Programs, integrating three separate programs into a single, unified program to drive more effective oversight and greater consistency, eliminate duplication and create… Continue Reading

SEC 2020 National Exam Program Examination Priorities

Compliance, Securities and Commodities
On January 7, 2020, the Securities and Exchange Commission’s Office of Compliance Inspections and Examinations (OCIE) released its 2020 examination priorities.  OCIE is prioritizing practices, products, and services that it believes present heightened risks to investors or market integrity.  The examination priorities are organized around seven themes, many of which build on OCIE’s priorities from… Continue Reading

SEC Continues Compensation Disclosure Focus With FAQs and Enforcement

Enforcement and Prosecution Policy and Trends, Financial Institution Regulation, Securities and Commodities
On Oct. 18, 2019, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Division of Investment Management staff published Frequently Asked Questions Regarding Disclosure of Certain Financial Conflicts Related to Investment Adviser Compensation (FAQs). Many in the industry view the FAQs as overdue SEC guidance in an area that has been a focus of the SEC Division of… Continue Reading

D.C. Circuit Vacates SEC Sanctions, Says Negligent Omissions Are Not ‘Willful’ Under Advisers Act

Securities and Commodities
On April 30, the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated a Securities and Exchange Commission order imposing sanctions. The court held that an investment advisory firm and its owners did not violate Section 207 of the Investment Advisers Act of 1930, 15 U.S.C. § 80b-7, by negligently omitting material facts from the… Continue Reading

Key Lessons for Colleges and Universities from Operation Varsity Blues

Enforcement and Prosecution Policy and Trends, Fraud, Deception and False Claims
On March 12, 2019, the United States Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts announced federal criminal charges in “Operation Varsity Blues,” the largest college admissions case ever prosecuted by the Department of Justice. Fifty people have been charged for their involvement in what prosecutors describe as a nationwide conspiracy to get the children of… Continue Reading

Positive FCA Enforcement Trend for Defense Contractors: DOJ Reaffirms Commitment to Exercise Statutory Authority to Dismiss

Compliance
Following recent changes to Department of Justice policy regarding individual accountability in government investigations of corporate wrongdoing, DOJ has recently further demonstrated its willingness to consider a flexible approach in applying the False Claims Act. In a January 28, 2019 speech by Deputy Associate Attorney General Stephen Cox to the 2019 Advanced Forum on False Claims… Continue Reading

Congressional Investigations: Beyond Sensational Headlines — Incoming House Leaders Announce Broad Investigative Priorities Targeting Business Community

Election and Political Law, Enforcement and Prosecution Policy and Trends
In the politically explosive atmosphere of Washington, the talk of the town is focused on congressional investigations: who will be called before Congress, and when. Newspaper headlines blare the latest controversy — from use of personal emails for government business, to numerous investigations alleging corruption of current and former government employees, including several cabinet secretaries,… Continue Reading

Ninth Circuit Ruling Weakens Materiality Standard under the FCA

Fraud, Deception and False Claims
Last year in Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar et al. (discussed on this blog), the Supreme Court reminded litigants that the False Claims Act “is not an all-purpose antifraud statute.” In that case, the Court expanded upon the FCA’s materiality standard, calling it both “rigorous” and “demanding.” How demanding that… Continue Reading

SEC Opens Cease-and-Desist Order Proceeding against Broker-Dealer and Chief Compliance / AML Officer

Anti-Money Laundering, Enforcement and Prosecution Policy and Trends, Securities and Commodities
As we have highlighted in prior posts, regulators of financial institutions, including FinCEN, FINRA and SEC, have increasingly brought actions to bring organizations – and individuals – into compliance with AML / BSA obligations.  This enforcement activity is consistent with FinCEN’s August 2014 Advisory, now nearly three years old, emphasizing the idea that U.S. financial institutions… Continue Reading

Companies Challenge CFPB’s Authority to Issue Civil Investigative Demands

Compliance, Enforcement and Prosecution Policy and Trends, Financial Institution Regulation
As any company that has received a civil investigative demand (CID) from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) knows, the Bureau’s authority to issue CIDs is a powerful tool that leaves recipients with limited options to challenge or limit their compliance obligations.  Recently, the CFPB has fought back against CID challenges, asking two federal district… Continue Reading

Supreme Court Hands Down Opinion in Universal Health Services v. Escobar

Fraud, Deception and False Claims
Recently, the Supreme Court handed down its much-anticipated opinion in Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar et al.—a case addressing the viability of the implied certification theory in FCA litigation.  Justice Thomas, writing on behalf of a unanimous Court, found that the implied certification theory can in fact serve as a… Continue Reading

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