Federal False Claims Act Amended to Significantly Expand Liability

On May 20, 2009, President Obama signed legislation containing a number of significant amendments to the federal False Claims Act (“FCA”), the statute which permits private citizens to bring lawsuits on behalf of the United States against persons or entities accused of defrauding the government and keep a portion of any recovery. These amendments, which are part of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009, substantially expand the range of conduct subject to liability under the FCA, provide greater protection for “whistleblowers”, and remove certain procedural hurdles that the government and whistleblowers have faced in pursuing FCA investigations and actions, as discussed further below.

For more information, read the client alert published by Bryan Cave LLP’s White Collar Defense and Investigations Client Service Group on May 27, 2009.

New Republic of the Congo Economic Sanctions Regulations

The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control has issued regulations to implement an Executive Order issued approximately two and a half years ago to impose economic sanctions against those perpetuating armed conflict and committing human rights abuses in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. The new regulations add essentially nothing new to what the Executive Order already provides except for the deemed interest rule that OFAC has previously adopted with respect to property owned by entities that are 50 percent or more owned by those against whom sanctions are imposed.

For more information, read the client alert published by Bryan Cave LLP’s International Trade Client Service Group on May 28, 2009.

Federal Circuit Affirms Judgment for Prepaid Debit Card Defendants in Patent Case

The Federal Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a non-infringement judgment and the underlying construction in favor of Bryan Cave client Green Dot Corporation and others in patent infringement litigation against vendors of prepaid debit cards. Every Penny Counts, Inc. v. American Express Co., No. 2008-1434 (Fed. Cir. April 30, 2009). The Federal Circuit’s decision offers encouragement that, even in complex litigation involving multiple parties and patents, accused infringers can be swiftly and conclusively exonerated. It also illustrates that patent holders asserting an overbroad scope of patent rights will be limited to the actual, sometimes quite limited, invention described at the time of prosecuting the patent application.

For more information, read the client alert published by Bryan Cave LLP’s Intellectual Property Client Service Group on June 2, 2009.

New “Recast” EC Dual-Use Regulation

On 29 May 2009, a “recast” regulation for the control of exports, transfer, brokering and transit of dual-use items was published in the Official Journal of the European Union (Council Regulation (EC) No. 428/2009). It will come into effect on 27 August 2009 and will replace the current regulation for the control of exports of dual-use items (Council Regulation (EC) No. 1334/2000, as amended).

For more information, read the client alert published by Bryan Cave LLP’s International Trade Client Service Group on June 4, 2009.

New Proposed 401(k) Regulations Permit Reduction or Suspension of Safe Harbor Non-Elective Contributions

The IRS recently issued proposed regulations permitting the suspension or reduction of non-elective contributions under safe harbor 401(k) plans in certain circumstances. Under prior law, safe harbor 401(k) plan sponsors were permitted to reduce or suspend matching contributions mid-plan year, but were not able to do the same to non-elective contributions. If a plan sponsor wanted to reduce or suspend non-elective contributions under a safe harbor 401(k) plan mid-plan year, a plan termination was necessary. However, the proposed regulations provide some much anticipated relief to plan sponsors suffering a “substantial business hardship”. These proposed regulations are effective for plan amendments adopted after May 18, 2009.

For more information, read the client alert published by Bryan Cave LLP’s Employee Benefits & Executive Compensation Client Service Group on June 5, 2009.