Government Investigations Lawyers
In the last few years, the government has stepped up its enforcement efforts against physicians, alleging myriad offenses. Normally, the federal or state government will investigate a physician in response to allegations of fraudulent billing practices, including determining the number of patients seen, the types of tests ordered, and any upcoding or unbundling. Authorities may also look into a physician’s relationships with medical service companies, including pharmacies, device manufacturers, and laboratories. The government might inquire into your consulting or other arrangements you have with such companies to figure out whether there is evidence that an illegal kickback has been paid to you by the organization.
In the event that investigators arrive at your office with a warrant or a subpoena, your next move is critical. Sometimes, the next moves you make in the next few days — or even hours — in reaction to a government investigation will either resolve the investigation quickly or lead to a long, drawn out process and you could be indicted. Be certain that all of your staff members, especially your receptionist, are aware that government agents must be allowed to enter the building, but that they must not say anything to them as they enter the premises except that you yourself or a spokesperson for you or the practice will be with them shortly.
Optimally, you will have time to speak with your lawyer before you are forced to comply with a government investigation. If they arrive with a warrant in hand, that indicates that they are already conducting a criminal investigation against you, and your chance to speak to your lawyer first is out the window. With a warrant, the agents customarily demand to remove documents and computers from the premises right away. If this happens, we recommend instructing all of your staff members to steer clear of the investigators (perhaps they can wait in a break room or some other designated space) and accompanying them yourself as much as possible. Make the agents aware that you are actively listing the items they take into custody, and note down in as much detail as you can exactly what was removed from your premises. We suggest you contact an attorney as soon as possible after the agents are gone.
If the agents show up with a subpoena, or call ahead to alert you that they’re on their way to your office with one, an urgent conversation with legal counsel with experience in this area is vital. A subpoena is a demand for testimony and relevant documents about certain subjects. It will list a date by which you must respond. Your attorney has the ability to read the subpoena and determine whether the government is entitled to the documents it has asked for. The authorities may have asked for documents that are privileged or otherwise immune from production. In addition, a lawyer could negotiate a narrowed scope of the subpoena and a rolling production of documents over time so that you have a chance to locate, copy, and number the requested documents. Nonetheless, do not destroy or try to conceal any documents – the penalties attached to this infraction are rather severe. In actuality, as soon as you get served with a subpoena or find out that you’re about to be served with one, you should suspend any document retention or destruction policies you have in place and notify all employees not to discard, alter, or otherwise destroy any documents.
The government agents may attempt to interview you or your employees. We suggest that you refrain from speaking to them outside of the presence of your attorney. Make certain that your staff knows that they are not obligated to give the agents any information and that they have the right to have an attorney present if they opt to do so. Be aware that in some cases, agents may try to contact your staff members at home. Teach them that they have the same rights at home as they do at work.