For whom does the False Claims Act toll?

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Supreme Court to decide important statute of limitations issue for government contractors. 

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral argument on whether the statute of limitations for False Claims Act qui tam actions has been tolled since 2002. In Kellogg Brown & Root v. United States ex rel. Carter, a whistleblower claims that Kellogg Brown & Root submitted false invoices and timesheets to the government for services on military bases in Iraq. The case initially was dismissed based on the six-year statute of limitations under the False Claims Act.

On appeal, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit held that the statute of limitations was extended by the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (WSLA), 18 U.S.C. § 3287. That law tolls the statute of limitations for any "offense involving fraud or attempted fraud against the United States" that occurs when the United States is at war or under a Congressional authorization of military force.

The Supreme Court heard the case on further appeal. The legal issue to be decided is whether an alleged civil False Claims Act violation is an "offense" against the United States, or whether the WSLA applies only to crimes.

Should the Supreme Court rule that the WSLA applies to civil qui tam suits, it could open up a Pandora's Box of whistleblower lawsuits based on conduct going back to 2002. A decision is expected before July.

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