Customs Fraud Investigations LLC v. Victaulic Co.
CFI, comprised of former insiders from the pipe fitting industry, brought a False Claims Act qui tam action against Victaulic, a global manufacturer and distributor of pipe fittings. The complaint alleged that Victaulic, for many years, imported millions of pounds of improperly marked pipe fittings without disclosing that the fittings are improperly marked, thereby avoiding paying marking duties. CFI alleged that Victaulic imported approximately 83 million pounds of fittings from overseas, 2003-2013, and a miniscule fraction of Victaulic’s fittings for sale in the U.S. bear any indication of their foreign origin, with an even smaller percentage bearing country of origin markings required by 19 U.S.C. 1304. The district court dismissed with prejudice, rejecting Victaulic’s jurisdictional argument that CFI’s complaint was based primarily on publicly available information, but finding that it failed to cross the threshold from possible to plausible. The court stated that it believed the FCA’s reverse false claims provision did not cover failure to pay marking duties, but declined to rule on those grounds because the complaint was based on legal conclusions unsupportable by the facts alleged. The Third Circuit vacated. Failure to pay marking duties may give rise to reverse false claims liability. CFI’s complaint contains enough reference to hard facts, combined with other allegations and an expert’s declaration, to allege a plausible course of conduct by Victaulic to which liability would attach. View "Customs Fraud Investigations LLC v. Victaulic Co." on Justia Law