Shaw v. United States – Supreme Court Holds That Fraud Against Customer Can Be Fraud Against Bank

In Shaw v. United States, No. 15-5991 (Dec. 12, 2016), the Supreme Court ruled 8-0 that Lawrence Eugene Shaw had defrauded a national bank when he used a customer’s personal details to transfer more than $275,000 from that bank’s customer’s account to his own PayPal account. In an opinion written by Justice Breyer, the Court rejected Shaw’s arguments that the conviction was inappropriate because prosecutors could not prove that Shaw intended to defraud the bank. The Court held, among other things, that: (i) the bank had a property interest in the customer’s deposits; (ii) the defendant’s ignorance of the application of property laws to bank deposits was not a defense; and (iii) the bank fraud statute does not require the government to prove that the defendant intended that the bank would suffer a loss; rather, his knowledge that the bank likely would suffer a loss was sufficient.

Despite this finding, the Supreme Court ultimately vacated the Ninth Circuit’s decision affirming the conviction and remanded it to the appellate court for consideration of whether a claimed defect in the jury instructions was properly preserved for appeal, whether the instructions were defective, and whether any resulting error was harmless.

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Justice Department Recovers Over $4.7 Billion From False Claims Act Cases in Fiscal Year 2016

On December 14, the DOJ announced that it has obtained more than $4.7 billion in settlements and judgments in civil cases involving fraud and false claims against the government in fiscal year 2016 (ending September 30). Of the $4.7 billion recovered, $2.5 billion came from the health care industry, including drug companies, medical device companies, hospitals, nursing homes, laboratories, and physicians. The DOJ also recovered $1.6 billion from housing and mortgage settlements and judgments this past fiscal year – the second highest annual recovery in the history of the federally insured mortgage program.

There were 845 new False Claims Act suits in 2016, one of the largest totals in history. Of those, 143 were initiated by the government and 702 were brought by whistleblowers. Approximately $100 million was recovered in cases handled exclusively by whistleblowers and their attorneys—a sharp drop from the record $1.1 billion recovered in 2015, but an amount comparable to the averate amount recovered in previous years. Notably, the $4.7 billion recovered in 2016 does not include state shares. Such shares were significant in 2016 because of payouts involving the federal-state Medicaid program, with the top three health care settlements alone resulting in distributions of approximately $500 million to states.

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Argentine Sports Marketing Firm Agrees to $112.8 Million Settlement in Connection with FIFA Corruption Investigation

An Argentine sports marketing firm, entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. DOJ on December 13, admitting to wire fraud conspiracy in connection with paying tens of millions of dollars in bribes and kickbacks to high-ranking FIFA officials in order to secure support for broadcasting rights in Argentina, Uruguay, and Paraguay for the 2018, 2022, 2026, and 2030 World Cup. The four-year DPA calls for the firm to pay approximately $112.8 million in forfeiture and criminal penalties. In announcing the DPA, the DOJ noted its consideration of the firm’s remedial actions including termination of its entire senior management team, hiring a new General Manager, Chief Financial Officer, Legal Director, Chief Compliance Officer, and Compliance Manager, cooperation, and implementation of enhanced internal controls and a rigorous corporate compliance program.

The deferred prosecution agreement is part of the DOJ’s wider investigation into corruption in international soccer. Thus far, DOJ has charged 42 defendants and obtained 19 guilty pleas in connection with the FIFA corruption prosecutions. Prior Scorecard coverage of the FIFA investigations can be found here.

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Federal District Court Holds Claims Brought by CFPB Alleging Deceptive Conduct Must Meet Heightened Rule 9(b) Standard

In a recent case, a California District Court held that CFPB’s claims alleging deceptive conduct under the Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”) against a credit repair company failed to meet the heightened pleading requirement under Fed. R. Civ. P. 9(b), under which a plaintiff must “state with particularity the circumstances constituting fraud” – including pleading “the time, place, and specific content of the false representations.” CFPB v. Prime Marketing Holdings, LLC, CV 16-07111-BRO, Dkt. No. 32 (C.D. Cal. Nov. 15, 2016).

Specifically, the court in Prime Marketing Holdings concluded that the CFPB’s general allegations of deception “failed to identify any specific instances where the defendant made such a misrepresentation” including, for instance, “what representations were made, when these representations were made and to whom they were made.” Id. at 12-13. Based on this finding, the court dismissed without prejudice the four deception-based claims. Id.

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FinCEN Issues Advisory on E-Mail Compromise Fraud Schemes

On September 6, FinCEN issued advisory bulletin FIN-2016-A003 notifying financial institutions of a growing number of e-mail compromise schemes, in which criminals misappropriate funds by deceiving financial institutions and their customers into conducting wire transfers. The advisory summarizes the three main stages of email compromise schemes, which involve impersonating victims to submit seemingly legitimate transactions instructions: (i) compromising victim information and e-mail accounts, whereby criminals access an e-mail account via social engineering or computer intrusion techniques; (ii) transmitting fraudulent transaction instructions, whereby criminals use stolen e-mail account information to send financial institutions fraudulent wire transfer instructions; and (iii) executing unauthorized transactions, whereby the fraudulent wire transfer instructions direct the financial institution to deposit the transfers to the criminals’ domestic or foreign banks. The advisory further warned of two prevalent email compromise schemes: i) Business E-mail Compromise (BEC), which targets commercial customers of financial institutions; and (ii) E-mail Account Compromise (EAC), which targets personal bank accounts. When conducting a BEC scheme, criminals will impersonate company employees, a company supplier, or a company executive to “authorize or order payment through seemingly legitimate internal e-mails.” EAC schemes, however, target individuals conducting large transactions through financial institutions, lending entities, real estate companies, and law firms. Developed in coordination with the FBI and the U.S. Secret Service, the advisory provides red flags for financial institutions to use to identify and prevent BEC and EAC e-mail fraud schemes.

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