Carrie Valiant and Kate Gallin Heffernan, Members of the Firm in the Health Care & Life Sciences practice, were quoted in the Bloomberg Law Daily Labor Report, in “Scuba Diving Scientist Underscores DOJ Focus on NIH Dollars,” by Jeannie Baumann. (Read the full version – subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

A settlement over an HIV researcher who went scuba diving with NIH money should serve as a wake-up call for research institutions about the challenges in grants management and the need for continuous oversight, research attorneys said.
Hunter College in New York and one of its former psychology professors, Jeffrey T. Parsons-Hietikko, agreed to separate but related False Claims Act settlements over the alleged misuse of National Institutes of Health grant money, including billing for personal costs, paying for bonuses out without telling the NIH, and submitting false timekeeping records. …
There’s been a general uptick in these types of cases from the OIG as well, Carrie Valiant, a member in Epstein, Becker & Green’s Washington office who focuses on government enforcement matters, said.
“We have entered a new phase of HHS and OIG enforcement focus on research grant funding,” Valiant said.
A High-Risk Area …
It’s clear the government felt Hunter College had failed to act on, or do more diligence on, information it had available to it regarding misinformation in how time and effort was being recorded in connection with the grant funds, said Kate Heffernan, a member in Epstein, Becker & Green’s Boston office who focuses her practice on research compliance and internal investigations and enforcement in the research space
“Although the settlement reads like the institution intentionally disregarded this information, as a practical matter we know that there are many different offices and individuals involved in pre- and post-award grant compliance efforts, and the risk of relevant information falling through the cracks is real,” Heffernan said.
Institutions need to make sure they are looking carefully at what their internal checkpoints are in connection with grants management and how they are conducting reasonable diligence related to grants accounting matters, Heffernan said.

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