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Feds Waited Too Long to Pursue In-House Lawyer in False Claims Act Case, Judge Rules

Posted Apr 22, 2010 10:58 AM CDT
By Martha Neil

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On the eve of trial, a judge dismissed a False Claims Act case against a onetime general counsel of Tenet Health Care Corp., finding that the government waited too long to pursue its case against Christi Sulzbach.

A whistle-blower had accused the then-corporate integrity officer as far back as 1997 of incorrectly certifying that the company was in compliance with funding rules for companies that accept Medicare and Medicaid payments, reports Corporate Counsel, reprinting an article that previously appeared in the Am Law Daily.

And the feds even sought to obtain attorney-client privileged Tenet documents on the theory that a crime-fraud exception applied.

Thus, the government "cannot on the one hand attempt to ... prove a waiver of the attorney-client privilege based upon a crime-fraud exception, and on the other hand now claim that they were unaware of Sulzbach's fraudulent intent," says U.S. District Judge Kenneth Marra in a written opinion (PDF) filed Friday in the Miami case.

Robert Krakow of Gibson Dunn represented Sulzbach, who no longer practices. She is "relieved not to have to go through a monthlong trial," he told the American Lawyer.

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