Prather v. AT&T, Inc.

For purposes of the False Claims Act, plaintiff (a New York Deputy AG) did not fall within the pre-2010 definition of an “original source,” because he had only suspicions—not direct knowledge—of defendant’s fraudulent overcharging of the government for wiretaps, and he disclosed those suspicions in response to a FCC inquiry rather than voluntarily.  Plaintiff, a New York Deputy AG, did not fall within the pre-2010 definition of an original source and thus could not avoid the pre-2010 jurisdictional bar to his False Claims Act since it was based on publicly disclosed facts.  The 2010 Amendments to the False Claims Act public disclosure bar changed substantive rights and so did not apply to this case which arose from pre-2010 facts.  Under the pre-2010 statute, to be an original source, the plaintiff had to have direct and independent knowledge of the fraud and must have voluntarily disclosed the facts about the fraud to federal government agencies or officials.  Plaintiff satisfied neither of these requirements.  He did not know that the telecom defendants were overcharging the government for wiretapping telephone calls since he didn’t know what technologies they used to do so or how much it cost them to provide the services; he just suspected that they were overcharging.  Also, he didn’t voluntarily disclose his suspicions to the federal government but rather disclosed them only as required by the NY AG in response to an FCC inquiry.

Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals (Sessions, J., sitting by designation); February 6, 2017; 2017 WL 506900

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