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Assistant Attorney General Tony West Speaks at the 25th Anniversary of the False Claims Act Amendments of 1986
Washington, D.C. ~ Tuesday, January 31, 2012

As prepared for delivery

Good afternoon.  

I’m Tony West, and I’m the Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice.   In that capacity, I oversee much of the federal government’s civil litigation across the country, including the Justice Department’s efforts to recapture taxpayer dollars lost to fraud, such as health care fraud, mortgage fraud, and procurement fraud.

Our primary weapon for deterring and redressing fraud is the False Claims Act, which makes it illegal to submit fraudulent claims to the government.   Although the False Claims Act dates back to the Civil War, it was only in 1986, when the Act was substantially amended, that it became the powerful anti-fraud tool that it is today.  

Today we are here to commemorate the 25th Anniversary of those amendments, and to celebrate all that we have been able to accomplish over these past twenty-five years.

Since the 1986 amendments were enacted, we have recovered more than $30 billion that would otherwise be lost to fraud.   And nearly 30% of that staggering amount--$8.8 billion—has been recovered since January 2009, with $6.6 billion of that accounting for health care fraud recoveries.

This is an unprecedented level of success, and it would not have been possible were it not for the vision, the leadership and the support of two of our guests here today, two undisputed champions of the False Claim Act:   Senator Patrick Leahy and Congressman Howard Berman.  

And while the ’86 amendments created the framework for that success, the hard work of making real the promise of that framework fell to many of you:   a vital collaboration of public servants, private counsel and relators that far outpaces the successes of most public-private partnerships.

And so before we begin the program, I want to take a moment to express our thanks to the many whose efforts form the core of the success we celebrate today; folks like the current and former Department leadership, many who are with us today, whose unwavering, bipartisan commitment has helped ensure the effective enforcement of the False Claims Act.

Or the public servants in U.S. Attorneys’ offices throughout the country who have effectively litigated complex and challenging False Claims Act cases and whose partnership has been crucial to the Department’s record-breaking, anti-fraud success—cases like Amerigroup Corporation, a $225 million health care fraud settlement out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Illinois; or Nichols Institute Diagnostics, Inc., a $300 million civil and criminal resolution in one of the largest recoveries ever in a medical device case, jointly handled with the Eastern District of New York; or the Maxim Healthcare Services case, out of the District of New Jersey, the Department’s largest civil recovery in a home health care fraud case ever, to name just a few.

We also thank the courageous citizens who have come forward to report fraud, often at great personal risk; who have brought fraud allegations to our attention and assisted us in this public-private partnership to fight fraud.

Or the many federal agency partners, in particular those in the General Counsel and Inspector General offices.   We have relied extensively on the outstanding assistance that you, your agents, auditors, and attorneys, have provided, and we are grateful for it.   

And last, but not least, we thank our Civil Division attorneys, paralegals, investigators and staff—I am so proud of the excellent work that you do to litigate cases that have proven to be among the most significant, most important and most successful cases in the Justice Department’s history.  

And while I cannot thank you all by name, there are two people who I think warrant special attention.   Mike Hertz, my Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Commercial Litigation Branch, and Joyce Branda, Director of our Civil Frauds Section.   Each of you has been central to the unparalleled success of the past few years, and I, for one, am incredibly grateful for all that you have done, and I continue to rely on your good judgment.   Thank you.

Our first speaker, Attorney General Eric Holder, has made fighting fraud – particularly health care fraud – a top priority.    And this Administration’s efforts have been particularly cost-effective:   for every dollar Congress has provided for health care enforcement over the past three years, the Departments of Justice and Health and Human Services have recovered nearly seven.    These record-setting results reflect the extraordinary determination and effort that this administration, and this Attorney General in particular, have put into rooting out fraud, recovering taxpayer money and protecting the integrity of government programs.

So it’s my great pleasure to introduce the Attorney General, Eric Holder.  

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