New York - Miami - Los Angeles Monday, March 18, 2019
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PNCT will be CLOSED Monday 12/31 and Tuesday, 1/01 for New Year's PNCT gate hours are til 8:00 PM on 12/26, 12/27, 12/28, 1/2, 1/3, and 1/4. ** Heavy Lift is working TODAY


Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations - U.S. Department of Commerce

Funding for a portion of the federal government expired on December 21, 2018. The Department is prepared for a lapse in funding that would necessitate a significant reduction in operations and is currently implementing its plan.

Read the United States Department of Commerce Plan for Orderly Shutdown Due to Lapse of Congressional Appropriations (updated December 18, 2018).

In compliance with the restrictions of the Antideficiency Act, the Department of Commerce will maintain the following services and activities during a lapse in appropriations:

  • Weather, water, and climate observing, prediction, forecast, warning and support
     
  • Law enforcement activities for the protection of marine fisheries
     
  • Fisheries management activities including quota monitoring, observer activities and regulatory actions to prevent overfishing.
     
  • Water level data for ships entering U.S. ports, critical nautical chart updates and accurate position information.
     
  • Patent and trademark application processing
     
  • Operation of the national timing and synchronization infrastructure as well as the National Vulnerability Database
     
  • Maintenance, continuity and protection of certain research property and critical data records
     
  • All services of the National Technical Information Service (NTIS)
     
  • Export enforcement – the ongoing conduct of criminal investigations, and prosecutions, and co-ordination with other law enforcement and intelligence agencies in furtherance of our national security
     
  • Support for excepted activities under a shutdown
     
  • Assignment of radio frequencies to federal agencies for critical national security and public safety purposes
     
  • All the functions of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet)

The following services and activities will not be available during a lapse except to extent funded by other than current year annual appropriations:

  • Most research activities at NIST and NOAA (excluding real-time regular models on research computers used for hurricane and FAA flight planning)
     
  • Assistance and support to recipients of grant funding
     
  • Technical oversight of non-mission essential contracts
     
  • Services and activities provided by:

Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA)
Economic Development Administration (EDA)
Economics and Statistics Administration (ESA)
Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)

U.S. Census Bureau with the exception of the support of the Decennial Census, which remains funded and activities funded by other agencies and non-Federal entities through reimbursable agreements.

Most services and activities provided by the International Trade Administration (ITA)


PierPass:  Port Truck Gate Schedule for New Year Holiday Period 2018-19

Terminals at the Ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach have announced their gate schedules for the New Year holiday period of Friday, Dec. 28, 2018, through Tuesday, Jan. 1, 2019. The schedule is posted below, and a PDF of the schedule can be downloaded by clicking here: https://www.pierpass.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/12/NewYears_Weekend-2018_2.pdf.


USITC Institutes Section 337 Investigation of Certain Cartridges for Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems and Components Thereof US International Trade Commission

The U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) has voted to institute an investigation of certain cartridges for electronic nicotine delivery systems and components thereof.  The products at issue in the investigation are described in the Commission’s notice of investigation.

The investigation is based on a complaint filed by Juul Labs, Inc., of San Francisco, CA, on November 20, 2018.  The complaint alleges violations of section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation into the United States and sale of certain cartridges for electronic nicotine delivery systems and components thereof that infringe patents asserted by the complainant.  The complainant requests that the USITC issue a limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders.

The USITC has identified the following as respondents in this investigation:

Drip-Tip Vapes LLC of Plantation, FL;
The Electric Tobacconist, LLC, of Boulder, CO;
Fuma Vapor, Inc., of Des Plaines, IL;
Lan & Mike International Trading, Inc., of Torrance, CA;
Lizard Juice, LLC, of Largo, FL;
Maduro Distributors, Inc., of Maplewood, MN;
MistHub, LLC, of Buffalo Grove, IL;
ParallelDirect, LLC, of Lincolnshire, IL;
Saddam Aburoumi of Manchester, CT;
Sarvasva LLC d/b/a One Stop Food Mart of Maple Shade, NJ;
Shenzhen Haka Flavor Technology Co., Ltd., of Shenzhen, Guangdong, China;
Shenzhen OCIGA Technology Co., Ltd., of Shenzhen, Guangdong, China;
Shenzhen OVNS Technology Co., Ltd., of Shenzhen, Guangdong, China;
Shenzhen Yibo Technology Co., Ltd., of Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province, China;
Twist Vapor Franchising, LLC, of Tampa, FL;
United Wholesale LLC of Glastonbury, CT;
Vape4U LLC of Montclair, CA;
Vaperz LLC of Frankfort, IL;
Vaportronix, LLC, of Aventura, FL;
Vapor 4 Life Holdings, Inc., of Northbrook, IL;
The ZFO of Spencerport, NY;
Ziip Lab Co., Ltd., of Shenzhen City, Guangdong Province, China; and
Ziip Lab S.A. of Punta del Este – Maldonado, Uruguay.

By instituting this investigation (337-TA-1141), the USITC has not yet made any decision on the merits of the case.  The USITC’s Chief Administrative Law Judge will assign the case to one of the USITC’s administrative law judges (ALJ), who will schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing.  The ALJ will make an initial determination as to whether there is a violation of section 337; that initial determination is subject to review by the Commission.

The USITC will make a final determination in the investigation at the earliest practicable time.  Within 45 days after institution of the investigation, the USITC will set a target date for completing the investigation.  USITC remedial orders in section 337 cases are effective when issued and become final 60 days after issuance unless disapproved for policy reasons by the U.S. Trade Representative within that 60-day period.


 U.S. Department of Commerce Finds Dumping and Countervailable Subsidization of Imports of Plastic Decorative Ribbon from China  - Department of Commerce

Today, the U.S. Department of Commerce announced the affirmative final determinations in the antidumping duty (AD) and countervailing duty (CVD) investigations of imports of plastic decorative ribbon from China, finding that exporters have sold plastic decorative ribbon at less than fair value in the United States at rates ranging from 54.21 to 370.04 percent. In addition, Commerce determined that exporters from China received countervailable subsidies at rates ranging from 14.27 to 94.67 percent.

Upon publication of the final affirmative AD determination, Commerce will instruct U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) to collect AD cash deposits equal to the applicable final weighted-average dumping margins. Further, as a result of the affirmative final CVD determination, if the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) makes an affirmative injury determination, Commerce will instruct CBP to resume collection of CVD cash deposits equal to the applicable subsidy rates.

In 2017, imports of certain plastic decorative ribbon from China were valued at an estimated $22.5 million.

The petitioner is Berwick Offray, LLC (Berwick, PA).

The strict enforcement of U.S. trade law is a primary focus of the Trump Administration. Since the beginning of the current Administration, Commerce has initiated 137 new antidumping and countervailing duty investigations – this is a 303 percent increase from the comparable period in the previous administration.

Antidumping and countervailing duty laws provide American businesses and workers with an internationally accepted mechanism to seek relief from the harmful effects of the unfair pricing of imports into the United States. Commerce currently maintains 464 antidumping and countervailing duty orders which provide relief to American companies and industries impacted by unfair trade.

The ITC is currently scheduled to make its final injury determinations on February 4, 2019. If the ITC makes affirmative final injury determinations, Commerce will issue AD and CVD orders. If the ITC makes negative final determinations of injury, the investigations will be terminated and no orders will be issued.

The U.S. Department of Commerce’s Enforcement and Compliance unit within the International Trade Administration is responsible for vigorously enforcing U.S. trade law and does so through an impartial, transparent process that abides by international law and is based on factual evidence provided on the record.

Foreign companies that price their products in the U.S. market below the cost of production or below prices in their home markets are subject to antidumping duties. Companies that receive unfair subsidies from their governments, such as grants, loans, equity infusions, tax breaks, or production inputs, are subject to countervailing duties aimed at directly countering those subsidies.


Justice Department Recovers Over $2.8 Billion from False Claims Act Cases in Fiscal Year 2018  - U.S. Department of Justice

The Department of Justice obtained more than $2.8 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud and false claims against the government in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2018, Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Jesse Panuccio and Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division announced today.  Recoveries since 1986, when Congress substantially strengthened the civil False Claims Act, now total more than $59 billion.

“Every year, the submission of false claims to the government cheats the American taxpayer out of billions of dollars,” said Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General Panuccio. “In some cases, unscrupulous actors undermine federal healthcare programs or circumvent safeguards meant to protect the public health.

In other instances, deceitful contractors overcharge our military or sell faulty equipment to our law enforcement agencies.  Such fraud will not be tolerated by the Department of Justice.  The nearly three billion dollars recovered by the Civil Division represents the Department’s continued commitment to fighting fraudsters and cheats on behalf of the American taxpayer.”

“The False Claims Act was originally passed in response to rampant fraud perpetrated against the United States military during the Civil War. Back then, crooked contractors defrauded the Union Army by selling it sick mules, lame horses, sawdust instead of gunpowder, and rotted ships with fresh paint.  Unfortunately, what we see today is just a modern version of the same thing — deceptive and fraudulent practices directed at the U.S. government and the American taxpayer,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt. “The Department of Justice has placed a high priority on rooting out and pursuing those who cheat government programs for their own gain. The recoveries announced today are a message that fraud and dishonesty will not be tolerated.”

Of the $2.8 billion in settlements and judgments recovered by the Department of Justice this past fiscal year, $2.5 billion involved the health care industry, including drug and medical device manufacturers, managed care providers, hospitals, pharmacies, hospice organizations, laboratories, and physicians.  This is the ninth consecutive year that the Department’s civil health care fraud settlements and judgments have exceeded $2 billion.  The recoveries included in the $2.5 billion reflect only federal losses but, in many of these cases, the Department was instrumental in recovering additional millions of dollars for state Medicaid programs.

In addition to combatting health care fraud, the False Claims Act serves as the government’s primary civil remedy to redress false claims for federal funds and property involving a multitude of government operations and contracts.  These areas range from defense and national security to import tariffs and small business programs.

In 1986, Congress strengthened the Act by increasing incentives for whistleblowers to file lawsuits alleging false claims on behalf of the government.  These whistleblower, or qui tam, actions comprise a significant percentage of the False Claims Act cases that are filed.  If the government prevails in a qui tamaction, the whistleblower, also known as the relator, receives up to 30 percent of the recovery.  Whistleblowers filed 645 qui tam suits in fiscal year 2018, and this past year the Department recovered over $2.1 billion in these and earlier filed suits.

Health Care Fraud

The Department investigates and resolves matters involving a wide array of health care providers, goods, and services.  The Department’s health care fraud enforcement efforts recover money for federal programs that fund health care for our nation’s most vulnerable and deserving citizens, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE.  But just as important, the Department’s vigorous pursuit of health care fraud prevents billions more in losses by deterring those who might otherwise try to cheat the system for their own gain.

The largest recoveries involving the health care industry this past year came from the drug and medical device industry.  In one matter, AmerisourceBergen Corporation and certain of its subsidiaries paid $625 million to resolve allegations that they sought to circumvent important safeguards intended to preserve the integrity of the nation’s drug supply and profit from the repackaging of certain drugs supplied to cancer-stricken patients. Of that amount, $581.8 million was paid to the federal government and $43.2 million was paid to state Medicaid programs.   https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/amerisourcebergen-corporation-agrees-pay-625-million-resolve-allegations-it-illegally.  In another matter, the medical device manufacturer Alere paid $33.2 million to resolve allegations that it sold a materially unreliable testing device that was intended to aid clinicians in the diagnosis of drug overdoses, acute coronary syndrome and other serious conditions.

Of the $33.2 million paid by Alere, $28.4 million was returned to the federal government and $4.8 million was returned to state Medicaid programs.  https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/alere-pay-us-332-million-settle-false-claims-act-allegations-relating-unreliable-diagnostic.

The Department has investigated efforts by drug manufacturers to facilitate increases in drug prices by funding the co-payments of Medicare patients. Congress included co-pay requirements in the Medicare program, in part, to serve as a check on health care costs, including the prices that pharmaceutical manufacturers can demand for their drugs.  This year, pharmaceutical company United Therapeutics Corporation, a seller of pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH) drugs, paid $210 million to resolve allegations that it used a foundation as an illegal conduit to pay the co-pay obligations of thousands of Medicare patients taking its PAH drugs.  https://www.justice.gov/usao-ma/pr/united-therapeutics-agrees-pay-210-million-resolve-allegations-it-paid-kickbacks-through.  In addition, the drug manufacturer Pfizer paid approximately $23.85 million to resolve claims that it used a foundation as a conduit to pay the co-pays of Medicare patients taking Pfizer drugs.  The government alleged that Pfizer raised the price of one of those drugs by 40 percent in just three months.  https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/drug-maker-pfizer-agrees-pay-2385-million-resolve-false-claims-act-liability-paying-kickbacks.

The Department also reported substantial recoveries from other health care providers.  In a matter that came to light in part by a voluntary disclosure by the company to the Department, HealthCare Partners Holdings LLC (HCP), doing business as DaVita Medical Holdings LLC, paid $270 million to resolve its liability for providing inaccurate information that caused Medicare Advantage Organizations (MAOs) to receive inflated Medicare payments. DaVita acquired HCP, a large California-based independent physician association, in 2012 and disclosed to the government various improper practices that were instituted by HCP.  In addition, this settlement resolved whistleblower allegations that HCP engaged in “one-way” chart reviews in which it scoured its patients’ medical records to find additional diagnoses that enabled managed care plans to obtain added revenue from the Medicare program. At the same time, however, it ignored inaccurate diagnosis codes revealed by its reviews that, if deleted, would have decreased Medicare reimbursement or required the plans to repay money to Medicare.  https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/medicare-advantage-provider-pay-270-million-settle-false-claims-act-liabilities.  In 2017, the Department filed suit against UnitedHealth Group Inc. (UHG) alleging similar allegations that UHG knowingly obtained inflated risk adjustment payments based on untruthful and inaccurate information about the health status of beneficiaries enrolled in UHG’s Medicare Advantage Plans throughout the United States.
https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/united-states-intervenes-second-false-claims-act-lawsuit-alleging-unitedhealth-group-inc. That litigation is ongoing.

In a matter that concluded in both a civil recovery and criminal plea, the former hospital chain Health Management Associates (HMA) paid over $216 million to resolve civil allegations that it billed government health care programs for more-costly inpatient services that should have been billed as observation or out-patient services, paid illegal remuneration to physicians in return for patient referrals to HMA hospitals, and inflated claims for emergency department facility fees.  In addition to these civil recoveries, HMA’s subsidiary, Carlisle HMA Inc., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit health care fraud arising from illegal conduct designed to aggressively increase admissions to the hospital and paid a $35 million monetary penalty.  https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/hospital-chain-will-pay-over-260-million-resolve-false-billing-and-kickback-allegations-one.  In another matter, William Beaumont Hospital, a regional hospital system based in the Detroit, Michigan area, paid $84.5 million to resolve allegations of improper relationships with eight referring physicians intended to induce patient referrals. https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/detroit-area-hospital-system-pay-845-million-settle-false-claims-act-allegations-arising.

As some of the matters described illustrate, the Department continued to place great importance on enforcing the safeguards contained within the Anti-Kickback Statute (AKS).  This law was enacted to ensure that clinical decisions and medical services are provided to patients based on their medical needs and not on the improper financial considerations of providers. Congress has made clear that claims submitted to federal health care programs in violation of the AKS are “false” claims for purposes of the False Claims Act.

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