DOJ’s Pandemic-Related Enforcement Priorities Warrant Caution

New York Law Journal

Eric W. Moran and Jeffrey P. Mongiello, attorneys in the firm’s New York and Newark offices, respectively, co-authored an article in the New York Law Journal, titled “DOJ’s Pandemic-Related Enforcement Priorities Warrant Caution.” (Read the full version – subscription required).

Following is an excerpt:

Since the onset of COVID-19, the U.S. Department of Justice (Department) has prioritized pandemic-related cases in a very public way. In a series of March 2020 memos, Department officials have warned of a range of pandemic-related schemes, dedicated staff and shored up public reporting hotlines. The Department even constituted a “Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force” to enforce little-known provisions of the Defense Product Act (DPA) aimed at price gouging on goods intended to slow the spread of the virus. Attorney General William P. Barr directed federal prosecutors “to prioritize the detection, investigation, and prosecution of all criminal conduct related to the current pandemic.”

What followed has been a range of price gouging, program fraud, health care fraud, anti-kickback, and consumer protection enforcement actions proving the Department’s willingness to pursue pandemic-related cases, even as federal criminal prosecutions overall were down 80 percent from February to April 2020, according to Syracuse University’s TRAC Reports.

These new cases teach important lessons for businesses and applicants for the nearly $2.7 trillion in economic relief that the government dispensed in the wake of the pandemic. These cases also offer a glimpse of prosecutions to come.