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Overstock Triumphs in Appeal of Delaware Qui Tam Decision

Posted By Administration, Thursday, July 9, 2020

On June 24, 2020, the Supreme Court of Delaware ruled on behalf of Overstock.com in a reversal of a 2018 Superior Court decision that awarded the state of Delaware more than $7 million in treble damages for Delaware False Claims and Reporting Act violations.

 

At issue in The State of Delaware ex. rel. William Sean French v. Overstock.com Inc. was Overstock’s relationship with Card Compliant LLC (previously CardFact), a third-party Ohio-based company used to issue gift cards and assume certain gift card responsibilities. The case came about when a former Card Compliant employee filed a qui tam (whistleblower) lawsuit, alleging fraud against the government. Dozens of other defendants were dismissed from the lawsuit or settled, leaving Overstock as the only defendant.  

 

Among the various allegations, the plaintiffs claimed that some defendants didn’t account for the transfer of liability in the manner their contracts specified. According to the state, the liability wasn’t truly transferred and, thus, defendants had the obligation to remit unclaimed property to Delaware but didn’t do so.

 

Overstock raised multiple claims on appeal. The court addressed only one – that the Superior Court misinterpreted the Delaware False Claims and Reporting Act and improperly instructed the jury that the knowing failure to file escheat reports when required to do so was no different than actively making a false statement.

 

Overstock argued that the failure to file escheat reports does not satisfy the Act’s requirement that a false record or statement be made or used to avoid, conceal or decrease an obligation to the government. The company also argued that it did not make or use any false record or statement in connection with gift cards that violated the Act.

 

The court agreed with Overstock on this point and reversed the Superior Court decision.

 

“In order for Overstock to be found liable for making a reverse false claim under the applicable 2009 statute, it must have submitted a false record or statement that gave the state the impression that Overstock either did not owe the state money or owed the state less money than Overstock was required to pay,” the Delaware Supreme Court wrote in its decision. “The absence of a record or statement cannot form the basis of a reverse false claim under 6 Del. C. § 1201(a)(7) (2009).”

 

Read the complete decision.  

Tags:  Delaware  False Claims Act  Litigation  Overstock  Unclaimed Property 

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