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Litigation update: Motions in Card Compliant whistleblower case raise noteworthy issues

Posted By Contribution from Sam Schaunaman, J.D. and GRAC member, Thursday, November 3, 2016

The State of Delaware, Plaintiff, and William Sean French, Plaintiff-Relator, v. Card Compliant LLC, et al., Defendants (Superior Court of the State of Delaware)

 

Background

Delaware ex rel. French v. Card Compliant LLC et al. (Card Compliant) is a qui tam case—a suit brought when a whistleblower exposes alleged fraud against the government with the incentive of receiving a portion of the recovery as a reward. The defendants include Card Compliant LLC, a third-party company that some defendants used to issue gift cards and assume certain gift card responsibilities, and numerous other defendants. Among the various allegations, the plaintiffs claim that some defendants didn’t account for the transfer of liability in the manner its contracts specified. According to the state’s allegations, the liability wasn’t truly transferred and, thus, defendants had the obligation to remit unclaimed property to Delaware but didn’t do so.

 

Motions to Dismiss

The Card Compliant case currently has approximately 80 defendants. As indicated in a recent order in the case, there are generally two main types of entities created by defendants in the case that are being closely examined. First, there are non-Delaware card issuers, which include card issuers affiliated with the Delaware retailers with which they contracted, which the order refers to as “giftcos.” Second, there are card issuers (including card companies, banks and financial institutions) not affiliated with the Delaware retailer with which it contracted, which the order refers to as “cardcos.” Some defendants have filed Motions to Dismiss and/or Motions of Summary Judgment, raising several issues:

  • Before this suit was brought, some defendants were the subjects of Delaware audits or voluntary disclosure agreements (VDAs). Thus, they believe they should be dismissed from the case under the Administrative Proceedings Bar in the Delaware False Claims and Reporting Act (DFCRA), which generally precludes parties from seeking liability based on transactions that have been the subject of a state-involved administrative proceeding. They argue that audits and VDAs fall within the established definition of “administrative proceeding” and, thus, should not be parties in this suit.
  • Under the DFCRA, the state is generally required to make an independent investigation of whistleblower claims before defendants are included in a qui tam action. Defendants point out that arguably the state did not make such an investigation. As such, the defendants argue that they should be dismissed from the case.
  • Before the action, it is alleged that certain Delaware officials generally held the position that unredeemed gift cards that emanated from out-of-state entities were not escheatable to the state. Thus, defendants don’t believe the state can claim they committed fraud, as they operated under the same position as the state.

 

Status

On Oct. 17, 2016, Judge Wallace ordered Delaware to produce all documents from 2001 forward related to Delaware VDAs or audits that indicate, among other things, the state’s prior positions on how gift cards were treated. Although unconfirmed, we have heard from reputable sources that the court has engaged the services of a mediator in an effort to resolve the pertinent issues in the Card Compliant case. 

 

This suit is one of the more interesting unclaimed property cases currently working its way through the court system. While it will likely be some time before the suit is either settled or decided, interested parties anxiously await the court’s resolution of the issues raised by recent defendant motions. UPPO will continue to monitor and report on developments in this case.

 

About the contributor

Sam Schaunaman, senior manager at Ryan AUP and member of the UPPO Government Relations and Advocacy Committee, contributes to UPPO’s monthly litigation update blog posts. Schaunaman has over 26 years of unclaimed property experience in all aspects of unclaimed property and is a frequent author of unclaimed property articles and whitepapers. Schaunaman is a member of the Oklahoma Bar Association and American Bar Association.    

 

Disclaimer: This case summary contains a general description of the case, and neither UPPO nor Ryan, or any of their affiliated or related entities, by means of this summary, is rendering business, financial, legal, tax, reporting or compliance or other professional advice or services.  This summary blog is not a substitute for such professional advice.

 

 

Tags:  Card Compliant  Delaware  gift cards  litigation  qui tam  unclaimed property  whistleblower 

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