Akin Gump Attorneys Discuss DOJ False Claims Act Case Against Lance Armstrong
Akin Gump government contracts practice head Robert Huffman and partner Peter Hutt were quoted by Law360 in the article “DOJ's False Claims Suit Against Armstrong Faces Uphill Climb” regarding possible issues with the government’s case.
Huffman said, “I thought damages would have been the main issue with the complaint, but the statute of limitations really popped out to me.”
Hutt elaborated, noting, “The general six-year statute of limitations can be extended if U.S. government officials did not and should not have known of the alleged fraud because of Armstrong's continued public denial. However, the statute cannot be extended past 10 years...even by Armstrong’s public denials.”
Huffman did note that if the U.S. government can convincingly make the case that a 4th Circuit opinion on applicability of the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act, issued earlier this year, can be applied to the Armstrong case, it may be able to pursue claims prior to the statute of limitations threshold.
Hutt also discussed potential problems with the government’s case, given an absence of details in the complaint regarding invoices submitted by Tailwind Sports Corp—Armstrong and his co-defendants’ team, which signed with the U.S. Postal Service in 2000—saying, “It could be that the government may not have all the invoices, that there's an imperfect paper trail. Or it could be that they're not helpful — perhaps there is nothing on the face of the invoice that conditions payment on compliance with the provisions in the [sponsorship] contracts.”
He added that there is a strong possibility that this, as with most FCA cases, will settle in the pretrial stage: “It is very uncommon for FCA cases to go to trial. There have only been a handful in the past 25 years.”
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