Announcing the Fuerst Ittleman David & Joseph Mini-Blog

Jun 07, 2013   

This week, Fuerst Ittleman David & Joseph is launching a Mini Blog, which will be submitted to its readers on a weekly basis. Unlike its usual Blog, which will continue to be updated here, the Mini Blog will allow FIDJ to communicate with its readers in a short and to-the-point style, delivering critical news updates with just enough commentary to explain why the updates are critical. We believe that this Mini Blog will be a valuable resource for our readers, and will allow subscribers to stay up to date on issues affecting all of our practice areas, including Tax & Tax Litigation, Food Drug & Cosmetic Law, Complex Litigation, Customs Import & Trade Law, White Collar Criminal Defense, Anti-Money Laundering, Healthcare Law, and Wealth & Estate Planning. Additionally, subscribers may sign up to receive only the content relevant to their interests on a subject-by-subject basis. As always, please feel free to reach out to us with comments regarding our content or suggestions regarding how we may better keep you up to date.

Click here to sign up.

Here is a sampling of what you can expect to receive in our Mini Blog:

Food and Drug:

On May 28, 2013, the Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) issued guidelines for voluntary “serving facts statements” that alcoholic beverage manufacturers may include on their packaging. A copy of TTB’s press release can be read here. The serving facts statements are similar to the nutrition panels currently found on non-alcoholic foods and beverages. According to the rule, serving facts statements will include: 1) the serving size; 2) the number of servings per container; 3) the number of calories; and 4) the number of grams of carbohydrates, protein, and fat preserving. In addition, serving fact statements may also include the percentage of alcohol by volume and a statement of the fluid ounces of pure ethyl alcohol per serving. TTB is providing the interim guidance on the use of voluntary serving facts statements on labels and in advertisements pending the completion of rulemaking on the matter. A copy of the TTB Ruling can be read here.

Healthcare:

A new bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, the Medicare Audit Improvement Act of 2013, seeks to amend title XVIII of the Social Security Act to improve operations of recovery auditors under the Medicare integrity program and to increase transparency and accuracy in audits conducted by contractors. A few proposals include limiting the amount of additional document requests, imposing financial penalties on auditors whose payment denials are overturned on appeal and publishing auditor denials and appeals outcomes.

In related news, the Department of Health and Human Services c/o the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services  (“CMS”) is proposing to increase the maximum reward for reporting Medicare fraud from “10 percent of the overpayments recovered in the case or $1,000, whichever is less, to 15 percent of the final amount collected applied to the first $66,000,000”¦” In case you don’t have a calculator handy, that’s a change from $1,000 to a potential maximum windfall of $9,900,000. It’s safe to assume that the number of whistleblower reports of alleged Medicare fraud are going to skyrocket. As the saying goes, you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.

As decided by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, HIPAA preempts Florida’s broad medical records disclosure law pertaining to a decedent’s medical records. In Opis Management Resources, LLC v. Secretary of Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, No. 12-12593 (11th Cir. Apr. l 9, 2013), the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Florida’s broad medical records disclosure law did not sufficiently protect the privacy of a decedent’s medical records. The Court noted that Florida allows for “sweeping disclosures, making a deceased resident’s protected health information available to a spouse or other enumerated party upon request, without any need for authorization, for any conceivable reason, and without regard to the authority of the individual making the request to act in a deceased resident’s stead.” In contrast, HIPAA only permits the disclosure of a decedent’s protected health information to a “personal representative” or other identified persons “who were involved in the individual’s care or payment for health care prior to the individual’s death” to the extent the disclosed information is “relevant to such person’s involvement”.

Tax:

On May 29, 2013, the New York Times reported that the Swiss Government will allow Swiss Banks to provide information to the U.S. Government in exchange for assurances that Swiss banks would only be subject to fines and not be indicted in an American criminal case. Per the New York Times,

The New York Times article reports that: But [Ms. Widemer-Schlumpf (Switzerland’s finance minister)] said the Swiss government would not make any payments as part of the agreement. Sources briefed on the matter say the total fines could eventually total $7 billion to $10 billion, and that to ease any financial pressure on the banks, the Swiss government might advance the sums and then seek reimbursement”¦. Ms. Widmer-Schlumpf said the government would work with Parliament to quickly pass a new law that would allow Swiss banks to accept the terms of the United States offer, but said the onus would be on individual banks to decide whether to participate.

This appears to be the beginning of the end of Swiss bank secrecy. If the Swiss relent to the U.S., the European Union will be next in line to obtain the same concession.

Anti-Money Laundering:

Our thoughts on the United States government’s attack on Mt. Gox can be read here, and Bitcoin continues to remain a hot topic all across the internet; see here, here, and here. Another virtual currency, Liberty Reserve, has also made a splash since being shut down by the Feds last week in what many have described as the largest money laundering scheme of all time; see here for details of the takedown, as well as the following articles describing the initial bits of fallout from the Liberty Reserve takedown: online anonymity, anti-money laundering compliance,Barclays Bank involvement, and the not guilty pleas entered by Liberty Reserve’s proprietors on Thursday. We will keep our eyes on these two cases as the fallout continues.