Articles Posted in U.S. D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals

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Relator, on behalf of the United States, appealed the district court's dismissal of his qui tam complaint for lack of subject matter jurisdiction under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1). The district court held that an earlier-filed complaint barred its consideration of relator's complaint under the first-to-file rule of the federal False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3730(b)(5). At issue was whether Section 3730(b)(5) required the first-filed complaint to meet the heightened pleading standards of Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 9(b) for alleging fraud in order to bar a later-filed complaint. The court held that the earlier-filed complaint alleged the same material elements of a fraudulent scheme as relator's complaint, and that the earlier-filed complaint need not meet the heightened pleading standards of Rule 9(b) to allege facts sufficient to prompt a government investigation, and thus, to bar later-filed complaints under Section 3730(b)(5). The court also held that relator waived his argument that the case should not have been dismissed with prejudice.

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Petitioner appealed a final decision and order of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (Comptroller) requiring him to bear the costs of his own defense in an underlying administrative proceeding in which he prevailed. In the underlying lawsuit, petitioner and his law firm were retained by Hamilton Bank (Bank) to conduct an independent investigation of fraud at the Bank and the Comptroller's Enforcement and Compliance Division subsequently alleged that petitioner had breached his fiduciary duties to the Bank. The court held that the Comptroller was not "substantially justified" in bringing the underlying administrative proceeding against petitioner and therefore, petitioner was entitled to attorney's fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act, 5 U.S.C. 504. Accordingly, the court remanded for the Comptroller to calculate the amount of those fees.

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Bondholders of the failed Washington Mutual Bank ("WAMU") alleged that JPMorgan Chase ("Chase"), through a series of improper acts, pressured the federal government to seize WAMU and then sell to it the bank's most valuable assets, without any accompanying liabilities, for a drastically undervalued price. The bondholders asserted three Texas state law claims in Texas state court, but after the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation ("FDIC") intervened in the lawsuit, the case was removed to federal district court. At issue was whether the district court properly dismissed the complaint, finding that 12 U.S.C. 1821(d)(13)(D)(ii) jurisdictionally barred appellants from obtaining judicial review of their claims because they had not exhausted their administrative remedies under the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery and Enforcement Act of 1989 ("FIRREA"). The court held that the suit fell outside the scope of the jurisdictional bar of section 1821(d)(13)(D) because the complaint neither asserted a claim under FIRREA nor constituted an action for payment from, or seeking a determination with respect to, the assets of a depository institution for which the FDIC was receiver. Consequently, the court did not reach alternative arguments and therefore, reversed the decision of the district court and remanded for further proceedings.

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Appellant submitted a request pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA"), 5 U.S.C. 552, to the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System ("Board") seeking information related to the Board's March 14, 2008 decision to authorize the Federal Reserve Bank of New York to provide a temporary loan to The Bear Stearns Companies, Inc. through an extension of credit to JPMorgan Chase & Co. The Board produced documents in response to appellant's request but withheld others pursuant to FOIA Exemptions 4, 5, 6, and 8. Appellee filed suit in district court to compel disclosure of the withheld documents and subsequently appealed the district court's entry of summary judgment in favor of the Board. At issue was whether the district court properly withheld documents under FOIA Exemption 5 or, in the alternative, Exemption 8, and granted summary judgment in favor of the Board. The court affirmed summary judgment and held that the withheld materials constituted "intra-agency memorandum or letters" under FOIA Exemption 5 and that disclosure of the type of information withheld here would, under the deliberative process privilege, impair the Board's ability to obtain necessary information in the future and could chill the free flow of information between the supervised institutions and the Board and Reserve Bank. The court also held that a document withheld under Exemption 5 pursuant to the attorney work product privilege was prepared in anticipation of litigation and therefore, the Board properly withheld the document. Accordingly, the court affirmed summary judgment in favor of the Board.