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FOIA Release Is FCA 'Public Disclosure'

Nov.30.2009

In U.S. ex rel. Ondis v. City of Woonsocket (1st Cir. Nov.18, 2009), the First Circuit concluded that, under the False Claims Act's public disclosure bar, courts lack subject-matter jurisdiction over qui tam actions when the relator's allegations are based upon information released through Freedom of Information Act requests, finding that FOIA releases of "substantially similar" information which include the essential elements of the alleged fraud qualify as public disclosures. The court noted that it was joining the majority view, adopted by every circuit to consider the issue except the Fourth, taking into account the recent shift by the Seventh Circuit to the majority.

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