Consumer Protection Branch

CASE REFERRALS GENERALLY


When a client agency refers a case to the Department of Justice, CPB generally receives the referral, and will either retain it or ask a United States Attorney's Office (USAO) to handle the case. Frequently, CPB and the USAO work jointly on these matters. However, USAOs sometimes receive cases directly from investigative agencies without CPB's involvement. USAOs that receive cases directly under any of the statutes discussed in this Monograph should contact CPB when the case is received to obtain advice and assistance, and to procure authorization to file the case.

CPB serves several valuable functions in such matters. First, CPB helps ensure that USAOs do not overlook unique policy or factual concerns that frequently affect litigation under CPB's statutes. Second, CPB ensures that USAOs do not have to "reinvent the wheel" in conducting litigation, since CPB already has jury instructions, briefs, and other pleadings to share. Finally, CPB will obtain the Assistant Attorney General's approval that is needed before filing cases under these statutes.

Moreover, litigation under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, in particular, has important public health implications. This in turn makes some cases under that statute of significant interest to the media, Congress, or both. And because these cases involve a mix of scientific, medical, and public health issues not present in most fraud cases, the interplay of those considerations can create disagreement among concerned parties. For example, distribution of an unapproved cancer cure can be outright fraud which the Department is asked to, and should, prosecute. Yet desperate patients may believe in the product and gain the sympathetic ear of the media to criticize the government for taking away what the patient believes is a life-sustaining cure.

CPB deals with such cases regularly, and can help USAOs handle them with knowledge about many of these factors that may not be immediately apparent when a case is referred.

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Updated October 20, 2014

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