Pressing Forward: Oversight Subcommittee Explores Lessons Learned at Pandemic Fraud Hearing
On October 19, the House Ways and Means Oversight Subcommittee (Subcommittee on Oversight) held a hearing on “Investigating Pandemic Fraud: Preventing History from Repeating Itself.” Embedded in both committee questions and witness testimony was the common theme that government should strive for a better balance: In times of emergency, agencies should distribute funds quickly to those in need, but also take care to avoid fraud.
The committee heard testimony from Linda Miller, Founder and CEO of Auident Group; Amy Simon, Principal of Simon Advisory; Rebecca Shea, Director of Audits, Forensic Audits and Investigative Services U.S. Government Accountability Office; and Robert Asaro Angelo, Commissioner of New Jersey Department of Labor and Workforce Development. Each witness offered testimony based on their experience in their respective fields. The witnesses stressed the importance of:
- Improving fraud-prevention data tracking analytics, including incorporating the use of AI and dark web monitoring
- Determining whether pre-existing enforcement staffing is sufficient, and increasing staffing where need be
- Creating centralized systems to increase the sharing of fraud-related data across differing jurisdictions both before fraud is identified and after. Witnesses remarked that the Pandemic Analytics Center of Excellence was an enforcement bright spot in centralized data tracking, and could serve as a model for future centralized investigative systems
- Providing agency leaders with incentives to quickly distribute funds to constituents in need, and to also ask critical questions through each step of the process to identify and curb fraud
- Passing relevant legislation to assist in expanding the scope of the government’s anti-fraud efforts
- Narrowing the enforcement scope to focus on egregious fraudulent rings: The panel agreed that focusing on, for example, individuals who received, on a non-fraudulent basis, more funds than they should have was not an efficient use of limited agency resources. Instead, in recognizing that not all fraudulently obtained funds can be returned, a risk-based approach developed from a review of data aims to best utilize limited resources. With more resources, enforcement efforts can expand to include smaller actors.
Some of these suggestions may sound familiar to Enforcement Edge readers, as the federal government has previously revealed efforts to expand staffing, utilize better data tracking systems, and also focus on larger fraudulent schemes. The government also previously passed legislation to provide itself more time to prosecute Pandemic-related fraud. While the hearing served as a useful summary of enforcement steps previously highlighted and taken, as well as some specific additional steps agencies may consider for the future, the hearing itself highlighted key actions to the Subcommittee on Oversight, to which law enforcement agencies investigating pandemic-related fraud are subject. These agencies will want to show results to Congress, and we can expect them to face increased pressure in future hearings.
Arnold & Porter continues to track DOJ’s CARES Act-related fraud prosecutions using the Arnold & Porter CARES Act Fraud Tracker.
© Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer LLP 2023 All Rights Reserved. This blog post is intended to be a general summary of the law and does not constitute legal advice. You should consult with counsel to determine applicable legal requirements in a specific fact situation.