By Jonathan Hunter:
In a highly anticipated decision, the Tenth Circuit held this week that the district court had subject matter jurisdiction over a qui tam action filed by an MMS auditor concerning royalty payments on crude oil produced from offshore federal leases. The district court had dismissed the case on the grounds that the auditor, who received relevant information from an employee of the State of Louisiana, was not the “original source” of the information on which the claim was based. The appellate court reversed, holding that “the transfer of information between a federal employee and a state government auditor who is under a duty of confidentiality is not a public disclosure and therefore does not deprive the courts of jurisdiction.” The court also ruled that “Mr. Maxwell was not prevented from serving as a relator on the basis that he is a federal auditor who discovered the information underlying his suit in his official governmental role.” A link to the decision is attached.