40 F.3d 1509 (8th Cir. 1994), 93-3212, United States ex rel. Rabushka v. Crane Co.

Docket Nº93-3212.
Citation40 F.3d 1509
Party NameUNITED STATES of America, ex rel. Stanley D. RABUSHKA; Stanley D. Rabushka, Individually, Plaintiffs/Appellants, v. CRANE COMPANY, Defendant/Appellee, CF & I Steel Corporation, Defendant.
Case DateNovember 16, 1994
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Page 1509

40 F.3d 1509 (8th Cir. 1994)

UNITED STATES of America, ex rel. Stanley D. RABUSHKA;

Stanley D. Rabushka, Individually, Plaintiffs/Appellants,

v.

CRANE COMPANY, Defendant/Appellee,

CF & I Steel Corporation, Defendant.

No. 93-3212.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

November 16, 1994

Submitted Sept. 12, 1994.

Rehearing and Suggestion for Rehearing

En Banc Denied Jan. 19, 1995.

Page 1510

Robert L. King, St. Louis, MO, argued (Rex Carr, on brief), for appellants.

William H. Webster, Washington, DC, argued (Joseph S. Genova, David W. Harlan and John T. Walsh, on the brief), for appellee.

Before WOLLMAN, MAGILL, and BEAM, Circuit Judges.

WOLLMAN, Circuit Judge.

Stanley D. Rabushka brought this qui tam action against Crane Company ("Crane") and CF & I Steel Corporation ("CF & I") under the False Claims Act (the "Act"), 31 U.S.C. Secs. 3729 and 3730. Finding that it was "based upon the public disclosure of allegations or transactions" relating to the alleged

Page 1511

fraud, the district court dismissed the suit for lack of subject matter jurisdiction pursuant to section 3730(e)(4) of the Act. Rabushka appeals that determination and alternatively seeks to amend his complaint to satisfy the jurisdictional requirements. We reverse and remand.

I. Background

Crane spun off its subsidiary CF & I to shareholders in 1985. At that time CF & I's unfunded pension liability was stated at approximately $46 million. CF & I's financial condition worsened after the spinoff, in large part because of its burgeoning unfunded pension obligation. In November 1990, with an estimated $140 million unfunded pension liability, CF & I filed for bankruptcy. In March 1992, when the unfunded pension liability had grown to approximately $270 million, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation ("PBGC") terminated CF & I's pension plan and assumed those plan obligations that were protected by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, 29 U.S.C. Secs. 1001 et seq.

Rabushka, a Crane shareholder at the time of the spinoff, filed suit on February 28, 1991, 1 contending that his discussions with Crane executives at the time of the spinoff prove that the unfunded pension liability was fraudulently understated and that the CF & I spinoff was designed to shift Crane's pension responsibility to the PBGC.

II. Discussion

Section 3730(e)(4) provides:

(e) Certain actions barred.

. . . . .

(4)(A) No court shall have jurisdiction over an action under this section based upon the public disclosure of allegations or transactions in a criminal, civil, or administrative hearing, in a congressional, administrative, or Government Accounting Office report, hearing, audit, or investigation, or from the news media, unless the action is brought by the Attorney General or the person bringing the action is an original source of the information.

(B) For purposes of this paragraph, "original source" means an individual who has direct and independent knowledge of the information on which the allegations are based and has provided the information to the government before filing an action under this section which is based on the information.

The Act's jurisdictional scheme is designed to promote private citizen involvement in exposing fraud against the government, while at the same time prevent parasitic suits by opportunistic late-comers who add nothing to the exposure of the fraud. See United States ex rel. Precision Co. v. Koch Indus., 971 F.2d 548, 552 (10th Cir.1992), cert. denied, --- U.S. ----, 113 S.Ct. 1364, 122 L.Ed.2d 742 (1993); United States ex rel. Stinson v. Prudential Ins., 944 F.2d 1149, 1154 (3d Cir.1991). This sense of balance is reflected in the historical development of the Act. See United States ex rel. Springfield Terminal Ry. v. Quinn, 14 F.3d 645, 649-51 (D.C.Cir.1994); Stinson, 944 F.2d at 1153-54. We have not yet specifically addressed the scope of the section 3730(e)(4)(A) jurisdictional bar in this circuit.

A. Public Disclosure of Allegations

The district court based its dismissal in part on statements made at a creditors' meeting following CF & I's bankruptcy filing. At that meeting, Frank Cummings, counsel for CF & I, said:

[T]here were what we believe to be miscalculations, putting the kindest possible face on it, by the actuary for this plan who was

Page 1512

retained by the former parent of the company, Crane. And those miscalculations--it is a pejorative term. Those calculations which did not display what we believe should have been displayed were not discovered until at or about the time of the spin-off which occurred in 1985.

The district court viewed this statement as tantamount to a public allegation of fraud.

Cummings also stated, however, that the rise in the unfunded pension liability after the spinoff was the result of a number of additional factors: actuarial assumptions, downsizing in the steel industry (where special early retirement benefits arise when facilities shut down), and discount rate changes all contributed to the massively underfunded debt. Moreover, Cummings also said that "[y]ou can be underfunded in this universe in any industry including steel simply by obeying the law" that allows a forty-year amortization period for the pension liability. When viewed in this context, Cummings' offhand remark, although hardly complimentary, is by itself insufficient to rise to the level of a public allegation of fraud on the part of Crane.

B. Public Disclosure of Transactions

Several developments since the district court ruling assist us in analyzing the proper effect of the public disclosure of these transactions under section 3730(e)(4)(A).

In Springfield, pay vouchers and telephone records disclosed during discovery in an earlier suit were deemed insufficient to constitute "allegations or transactions" within the terms of the Act's statutory bar. 14 F.3d at 653-56. The Springfield court found the preclusive effect of section 3730(e)(4)(A) to apply only when "the critical elements of the fraudulent transaction themselves [are] in the public domain." Id. at 654. Because mere disclosure of the subject matter transaction was deemed insufficient to prevent a qui tam suit, id. at 653, the Springfield relator's additional disclosures alleging fraud in the vouchers and telephone records sufficed to surmount the statutory bar.

Another recent case, Cooper v. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Fla., 19 F.3d 562 (11th Cir.1994) (per curiam), involved a Government Accounting Office report that criticized a particular Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida ("BCBSF") payment monitoring plan and noted a potential conflict of interest. The report, however, did not allege any wrongdoing by BCBSF, so the court found it to "not constitute a 'public disclosure of allegations or transactions' that BCBSF knowingly violated" the law. Id. at 567. While it did not explain its analysis in detail, the court did not invoke the transactional aspect of the bar despite the fact that the hospital payments and monitoring plan detailed in the report were also the subject transactions of the relator's claim of fraudulent BCBSF conduct.

These intervening decisions persuade us that the district court's reliance on the mere disclosure of the "subject transactions" reads the jurisdictional bar too broadly. We agree with Springfield that the essential elements exposing the transaction as fraudulent must be publicly disclosed as well. See 14 F.3d at 654.

Crane relies on several articles published by the Pueblo Chieftain and other newspapers, CF & I corporate reports, and information disclosed at the creditors' meeting to support the proposition that the subject transactions were sufficiently disclosed to bar Rabushka's suit. While these disclosures publicly reveal Crane's spinoff of CF & I, as well as CF & I's growing unfunded pension woes and eventual bankruptcy, they do not raise the inference that Crane officials intentionally and fraudulently understated the pension problem in an attempt to avoid liability.

A May 1985 article in the Chieftain mentioned Crane's concerns about the pension liability and how the spinoff relieved Crane of that liability. The article does not, however, indicate that the liability was fraudulently understated. Nor does it impute any bad faith to Crane. In fact, the article was optimistic

Page 1513

about CF & I's future, describing "CF & I's recovery" and return to profitability in the hard-pressed steel industry. An April 7, 1985, Sunday Chieftain & Star-Journal article noted that the spinoff would leave both Crane and CF & I better off in the market, stating that it was "engineered to allow Crane to focus on its main areas of interest" rather than on the ups and downs of the steel market. These 1985 articles do not indicate at all that Crane was scheming to dump the pension liability on the government. Rather, the April article noted that CF & I was "in the black once more, thanks in large measure to Crane's earlier investments."

The news articles cited by Crane that appeared after the spinoff detail the discovery of the pension fund problems, but they still do not give rise to an inference of fraud on the part of Crane. A July 1990 Chieftain article noted that the pension liability was CF & I's "greatest stumbling block to profitability" and mentioned the termination discussions with the PBGC, but again does not indicate any intentional wrongdoing on the part of Crane or CF & I officials or expose the essential element of the fraud alleged by Rabushka.

Similarly, a November 8, 1990, article in the Chieftain detailing CF & I's bankruptcy filing and the PBGC's involvement does not indicate that Crane executives misled shareholders or the government when it...

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67 practice notes
  • 233 F.Supp.2d 319 (D.Conn. 2002), 3 02CV688, United States ex rel Cosens v. Yale-New Haven Hosp.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit District of Connecticut
    • 14 Noviembre 2002
    ...United States v. A.D. Roe Co., 186 F.3d 717, 724 (6th Cir. 1999); Dunleavy, 123 F.3d at 741; United States ex rel. Rabushka v. Crane Co., 40 F.3d 1509, 1522 (8th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1142, 115 S.Ct. 2579, 132 L.Ed.2d 829 (1995); United States ex rel. Woods v. Empire Blue Cross......
  • 118 F.Supp.2d 1160 (D.N.M. 2000), Civ. 96-0378, United States ex rel. Downy v. Corning, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 10th Circuit District of New Mexico
    • 13 Octubre 2000
    ...United States ex rel. Dunleavy v. County of Delaware, 123 F.3d 734, 741 (3d Cir.1997); United States ex rel. Rabushka v. Crane Co., 40 F.3d 1509, 1513 (8th Cir.1994). The Ninth Circuit has adopted a similar standard and has cited Springfield Terminal as being in agreement with that standard......
  • 33 F.Supp.2d 528 (E.D.Tex. 1999), Civ. A. 996 CV 66, United States ex rel. Johnson v. Shell Oil Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit Eastern District of Texas
    • 16 Enero 1999
    ...United States ex rel. Dunleavy v. County of Delaware, 123 F.3d 734, 741 (3d Cir. 1997); United States ex rel. Rabushka v. Crane Co., 40 F.3d 1509, 1514 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1142, 115 S.Ct. 2579, 132 L.Ed.2d 829 Further, for public disclosure of the allegations to take place, n......
  • 481 F.Supp.2d 673 (W.D.Tex. 2006), EP-02-CA-525, United States ex rel. Lam v. Tenet Healthcare Corp.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit Southern District of Texas
    • 15 Agosto 2006
    ...such an inference as can be seen from the articles following the Weakley Report. See, e.g., United States ex rel. Rabushka v. Crane Co., 40 F.3d 1509, 1512 (8th Cir.1994) (holding that newspapers and other reports can constitute public disclosure as long as they are sufficient to raise an i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
61 cases
  • 233 F.Supp.2d 319 (D.Conn. 2002), 3 02CV688, United States ex rel Cosens v. Yale-New Haven Hosp.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 2nd Circuit District of Connecticut
    • 14 Noviembre 2002
    ...United States v. A.D. Roe Co., 186 F.3d 717, 724 (6th Cir. 1999); Dunleavy, 123 F.3d at 741; United States ex rel. Rabushka v. Crane Co., 40 F.3d 1509, 1522 (8th Cir. 1994), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1142, 115 S.Ct. 2579, 132 L.Ed.2d 829 (1995); United States ex rel. Woods v. Empire Blue Cross......
  • 118 F.Supp.2d 1160 (D.N.M. 2000), Civ. 96-0378, United States ex rel. Downy v. Corning, Inc.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 10th Circuit District of New Mexico
    • 13 Octubre 2000
    ...United States ex rel. Dunleavy v. County of Delaware, 123 F.3d 734, 741 (3d Cir.1997); United States ex rel. Rabushka v. Crane Co., 40 F.3d 1509, 1513 (8th Cir.1994). The Ninth Circuit has adopted a similar standard and has cited Springfield Terminal as being in agreement with that standard......
  • 33 F.Supp.2d 528 (E.D.Tex. 1999), Civ. A. 996 CV 66, United States ex rel. Johnson v. Shell Oil Co.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit Eastern District of Texas
    • 16 Enero 1999
    ...United States ex rel. Dunleavy v. County of Delaware, 123 F.3d 734, 741 (3d Cir. 1997); United States ex rel. Rabushka v. Crane Co., 40 F.3d 1509, 1514 (8th Cir.), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1142, 115 S.Ct. 2579, 132 L.Ed.2d 829 Further, for public disclosure of the allegations to take place, n......
  • 481 F.Supp.2d 673 (W.D.Tex. 2006), EP-02-CA-525, United States ex rel. Lam v. Tenet Healthcare Corp.
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 5th Circuit Southern District of Texas
    • 15 Agosto 2006
    ...such an inference as can be seen from the articles following the Weakley Report. See, e.g., United States ex rel. Rabushka v. Crane Co., 40 F.3d 1509, 1512 (8th Cir.1994) (holding that newspapers and other reports can constitute public disclosure as long as they are sufficient to raise an i......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
6 books & journal articles
  • False claims.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 36 Nbr. 3, June 1999
    • 22 Junio 1999
    ...private citizen involvement in exposing fraud against the government' ") (quoting United States ex rel. Rabushka v. Crane Co., 40 F.3d 1509, 1511 (8th Cir. 1994); Hughes Aircraft, 520 U.S. at 939 ("The qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act permits, in certain circumstances, s......
  • False claims.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 37 Nbr. 2, March 2000
    • 22 Marzo 2000
    ...promote private citizen involvement in exposing fraud against the government" (quoting United States ex rel. Rabushka v. Crane Co., 40 F.3d 1509, 1511 (8th Cir. 1994))); United States ex tel. Fine v. Chevron, U.S.A., Inc., 72 F.3d 740, 742 (9th Cir. 1995) (explaining legislative histor......
  • False statements and false claims.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 45 Nbr. 2, March 2008
    • 22 Marzo 2008
    ...promote private citizen involvement in exposing fraud against the government" (quoting United States ex rel. Rabushka v. Crane Co., 40 F.3d 1509, 1511 (8th Cir. 1994))). (231.) See United States v. Bank of Farmington, 166 F.3d 853, 859 (7th Cir. 1999) (stating that whether a qui tam re......
  • False statements and false claims.
    • United States
    • American Criminal Law Review Vol. 43 Nbr. 2, March 2006
    • 22 Marzo 2006
    ...promote private citizen involvement in exposing fraud against the government" (quoting United States ex rel. Rabushka v. Crane Co., 40 F.3d 1509, 1511 (8th Cir. 1994))). (233.) See United States v. Bank of Farmington, 166 F.3d 853, 859 (7th Cir. 1999) (stating that whether a qui tam re......
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