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Recent Appellate Decisions Highlight Narrowness of Public Disclosure Bar
April 13, 2015

In recent months, both the Fifth and Sixth Circuits issued decisions interpreting the public disclosure bar (31 U.S.C. § 3730(e)(4)) to the False Claims Act narrowly. In United States ex rel Little v. Shell Exploration, two auditors from the Mineral Management Service, a federal agency that oversees the nation’s mineral assets, filed qui tam lawsuits over Shell’s allegedly unlawful royalty deductions for gathering and storing oil on offshore platforms. The Southern District of Texas originally granted summary judgment to Shell based, in part, on the public disclosure bar. The Fifth Circuit reversed that summary judgment ruling in a prior appeal in 2012 and sent the case back to the district court for further evaluation in light of the appellate court’s guidance on the public disclosure bar issue.