The Office of Inspector General investigates allegations of wrongdoing such as fraud, waste, or abuse within the programs or operations of the state and the federal government. OIG investigates a variety of matters, including allegations of fraud involving grants and contracts; purchasing and sales to government agencies, health care billing, and medical equipment sales. Many times, these investigations originate with a whistleblower complaint. OIG also investigates retaliation against whistleblowers. Generally, the investigation is carried out to resolve specific allegations, complaints, or information concerning possible violations of law, regulation, or policy. If you are being investigated by the government, the Connecticut defense attorneys for civil fraud claims & investigations at Aeton Law are ready to help you defend your business and livelihood.
Attorneys for OIG Subpoena Defense
To investigate alleged wrongdoings, in particular for waste, fraud, and abuse, the state and federal government often resort to the use of broad subpoena power. The subpoena is a legal document that carries with it a broad request for documents such as business and financial records. These requests can include demands for documents going back years ago.
If you or your business have been served with a subpoena from the United States or any State, you would be well advised to contact counsel immediately. Do not try to respond on your own. The story we often hear is something along the lines of “I didn’t do anything wrong, so I just started producing documents.” This is not a good idea. Subpoenas from the government are not friendly requests for help. Moreover, once you start producing documents you could be waiving rights to the scope of the investigation without realizing it. An attorney can help you defend against an overbroad request.
Civil Investigative Demand – Objections and Orders for Protection
The government may issue your business a civil investigative demand. This acts like a subpoena for documents, such as financial and business records, and can lead to requests for testimony. The demands come from the U.S. Attorney’s office. These demands are typically made in cases that the government is investigating under the Civil False Claims Act. This may be the result of a whistleblower providing information about false claims submitted to the government. This typically involves overbilling or falsifying requests for payment, for example from contractors, equipment manufacturers, or health care providers. These cases are sometimes filed in court but remain under seal under the False Claims Act. This allows the government to investigate before anyone knows about the lawsuit being filed.
Attorneys to Defend Against Price Gouging Claims
More than ever before businesses are getting accused of price gouging on all kinds of products ranging from hand sanitizer to masks and PPE to medical equipment such as ventilators. There is increasing political and media pressure to go after businesses accused of unfairly raising prices. The Attorney General has announced recently over 300 reported claims of price gouging. Too often, these complaints are unfounded and stem from the lack of knowledge of the underlying financial conditions leading to price increases. In short, simply because a price goes up because of normal business fluctuation, does not mean its “price gouging.” This nuance is often left out of media reports or missed by whistleblowers.
Currently, the price gouging claims are mostly the focus of the State Attorney General’s Office. However, there is increasing pressure to include the federal Department of Justice. In Connecticut, these claims are being investigated as an unfair trade practice under General Statute 42-110b. This statute provides the ability for recovery of punitive damages and attorneys fees. If your business receives a request from any governmental agency about your prices, this is a red flag. You would be well advised to seek an attorney to review the matter before responding.
Fraud Coronavirus CARES Act and COVID-19 Disaster Relief
With the CARES Act on March 27, Congress appropriated more than 2 trillion dollars, the largest economic stimulus package in history, to combat COVID-19 and the devastating impact from the government shut down of business. Collectively, these funds are often referred to as bailout funds. The magnitude of the bailout funds has placed a strong emphasis on oversight and preventing fraud and abuse.
If your business was able to get CARES Act funding, you should take into consideration that the U.S. government is going to investigate claims of fraud and abuse. Several steps have been taken to form oversight committees and special investigatory agencies to tackle fraud and abuse on the system. This would likely take the form of a complaint by government regulators, outsiders, or whistleblowers regarding the loans or grants to small businesses, hospitals and health care providers, or other benefits. As a business owner, Aeton Law can help you implement a plan to avoid inadvertent misuse of funds, documentation of proper usage, and defense of any investigations for alleged wrongdoing.
Attorneys to Fight Executive Orders, Shut Down Rules, and Quarantine Fines
Is your business shut down based on an arbitrary and overbroad executive order in response to the coronavirus? Many business owners cannot understand why they are unable to operate and open with safe social distance plans, while other businesses are free to do so. Aeton Law Partners business litigation attorneys will review your case to determine whether you might be able to reopen now, or with modifications to your business plan. Aeton Law was recently successful in negotiating a change to executive orders on behalf of an essential business unfairly impacted by executive order. Our attorneys can help with mitigation and safety plans to reopen your business, negotiations with the state attorney general, department of labor or DECD, or filing a lawsuit if necessary for groups of business owners.
Unfortunately, we have now seen that some business owners received fines or citations from the government for alleged quarantine violations related to shut down orders and executive action by Governor Lamont. If you or your business were the subject of the fine or order, we may be able to help you. Contact one of our attorneys today to discuss your case related to the coronavirus.