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According to a Bloomberg news report, Vietnam said on Sunday that it found dozens of fake product-origin certificates and illegal transfers by companies evading U.S. tariffs on everything from agriculture to textiles and steel. It was the first time an Asian government has publicly said this was happening since the trade war between the U.S. and China started.

Vietnam pledged to increase penalties on trade-related fraud. U.S. trading partners including Vietnam are being asked to stop on illicit exports.

Vietnam is concerned it may be punished by the U.S. for allowing mislabeled Chinese products to flow to America, Do Van Sinh, a standing member of the National Assembly’s economic committee, was quoted as saying in the government’s statement.

China is ready to try to dominate the trade war with the United States by cutting off its supply of rare earth minerals to the U.S., Chinese media reported Wednesday.

Rare earth minerals contain unique elements used by the U.S. in cell phones, hybrid cars and cancer treatment. They also play an important role in U.S. defense, from computers to aircraft engines.

“Waging a trade war against China, the United States risks losing the supply of materials that are vital to sustaining its technological strength,” began a commentary published Wednesday in the Communist newspaper People’s Daily.

 Xiaoqing Zheng, 56, of Niskayuna, New York, and Zhaoxi Zhang, 47, of Liaoning Province, China, has been charged with economic espionage and conspiring to steal General Electric’s (GE’s) trade secrets surrounding turbine technologies, knowing and intending that those stolen trade secrets would be used to benefit the People’s Republic of China.  Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers, U.S. Attorney Grant C. Jaquith for the Northern District of New York, Assistant Director John Brown of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division and Special Agent in Charge James N. Hendricks of the FBI’s Albany Field Office made the announcement.

The indictment says that Zheng, while employed at GE Power & Water in Schenectady, New York as an engineer specializing in sealing technology, exploited his access to GE’s files by stealing multiple electronic files, including proprietary files involving design models, engineering drawings, configuration files, and material specifications having to do with various components and testing systems associated with GE gas and steam turbines.  Zheng e-mailed and transferred many of the stolen GE files to his business partner, Chinese businessman Zhaoxi Zhang, who was located in China.  Zheng and Zhang used the stolen GE trade secrets to advance their own business interests in two Chinese companies – Liaoning Tianyi Aviation Technology Co., Ltd. (LTAT) and Nanjing Tianyi Avi Tech Co. Ltd. (NTAT), companies which research, develop, and manufacture parts for turbines.

The indictment also says Zheng and Zhang conspired to commit economic espionage, as the thefts of GE’s trade secrets surrounding various turbine technologies knowing and intending that the thefts would benefit the People’s Republic of China and one or more foreign instrumentalities, including LTAT, NTAT, Shenyang Aerospace University, Shenyang Aeroengine Research Institute, and Huaihai Institute of Technology.  The defendants, through LTAT and NTAT, received financial and other support from the Chinese government and coordinated with Chinese government officials to enter into research agreements with Chinese state-owned institutions to develop turbine technologies.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has charged a former SeaWorld lawyer with fraud for alleged insider trading. The Complain says that former SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment Inc. associate general counsel Paul Powers used confidential information that the company was set to exceed analysts’ financial performance  to make  $65,000 in alleged “illicit profits.” The U.S. Department of Justice announced parallel criminal charges against Powers on Tuesday. Powers received a draft of SeaWorld’s earnings release Aug. 1, 2018. The following day, he allegedly purchased 18,000 shares of company stock. When SeaWorld publicly released its earnings , the company’s stock rose 17 percent—and Powers sold all his shares.

The Orlando-based marine animal amusement park terminated Powers in October over the alleged insider trading, according to the SEC’s complaint.

“At the time of his trading, defendant knew his trading was in breach of SeaWorld’s trading policy, knew his trading was in breach of duty of trust and confidence that he owed to SeaWorld and its shareholders, and knowingly and willfully breached the trading policy and his duty by trading in securities issued by SeaWorld while in possession of material and confidential information,” the SEC alleged in its complaint.

Univar USA Inc. (Univar), a subsidiary of Univar Inc. has agreed to pay the United States $62.5 million to settle federal charges that it wrongfully imported 36 shipments of transshipped saccharin between 2007 and 2012. The saccharin was manufactured in China and transshipped through Taiwan to evade a 329 percent antidumping duty that applied to saccharin from China.  The antidumping duty was a remedial measure in response to injury sustained by the domestic saccharin industry by reason of dumping of Chinese saccharin. The transshipment resulted in the evasion of approximately $36 million in antidumping duties.

“Transshipment of merchandise through third countries to evade antidumping duties undermines the integrity of our trade laws and puts domestic manufacturers at risk from unfairly traded merchandise,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt for the Department of Justice’s Civil Division. “We enforce our laws against importers who fail to take all reasonable steps to vet their suppliers and determine the true country of origin of their merchandise.”

The settlement resolves a lawsuit brought in the United States Court of International Trade seeking recovery of unpaid antidumping duties and penalties under 19 U.S.C. § 1592 totaling $84 million plus interest. In that action, the government alleged that Univar was grossly negligent or negligent in failing to determine that its supplier in Taiwan was not a manufacturer but, instead, imported saccharin into Taiwan from China for transshipment to the United States. This is the largest recovery under section 1592 ever reached in the Court of International Trade.

sand depletionWhile viewed as a seemingly limitless natural resource, the levels of certain kinds of sand have started to steadily decrease as the world’s need for further development increases. The sand that is gathered for building resources has almost caught up to the sand that is naturally made.

Sand is an essential item required for building and construction. It is a key component of concrete, asphalt, and glass that are used to structure nearly every building. It also accounts for 80% of all mining activity across the globe, according to a 2014 United Nations Environment Program report.

The demand is now higher than ever while the levels available are low worldwide. It is even the subject of major theft, especially in urban areas pushing for advanced innovation such as the United States. Some even estimate that the aggregate business shares involving sand are already worth $70 billion in annual sales. The importance of this resource is only further proven as “sand mafias” in India are willing to sell sand they mined illegally on the black market. Without a steady supply of sand, many believe urban and suburban development will slow significantly.

Newmanheadphoto-240x300False Claims Act lawsuit reveals upcoding of urgent care visits by CareWell in Massachusetts and Rhode Island at the expense of Medicare and Medicaid

BOSTON, MA. ***FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE*** CareWell Urgent Care Centers, an urgent care company which operates seventeen (17) urgent care centers in Massachusetts and one (1) in Rhode Island, will pay over $2.1 million dollars with interest to settle False Claims Act whistleblower claims against it, for its fraudulent billing of Medicare and Medicaid for services it provided which were unrelated to patients’ individual medical needs.  The original whistleblower case was filed on behalf of the federal and state Governments by Registered Nurse Practitioner Aileen Cartier of Massachusetts, who worked in some of CareWell’s clinics from 2016 to early 2018. Ms. Cartier is represented by Attorney Jeffrey A. Newman of Massachusetts.

The fraudulent billing by CareWell included requirements that all of its providers give the patients histories and physical examinations which far exceeded the purposes for which they went to the clinics. According to the Complaint, CareWell’s physicians, nurse practitioners and other medical personnel were directed by management to examine and document at least 13 body systems during the medical history inquiries and at least 9 body systems during physical examinations, even if, for example, the patient’s original complaint was as simple as a splinter in the finger. This was done so that CareWell could upcode claims to a Level 4 code in order to receive more reimbursement funds. In addition, the evidence revealed that CareWell’s management informed medical personnel that the mandate of inquiring into body symptoms unrelated to a patient’s specific medical complaints or symptoms was a requirement imposed by CareWell’s malpractice insurance carrier. According to the Settlement Agreement: “…no malpractice insurance carrier imposed this requirement on CareWell.”

anitrustIn its third largest European Union antitrust penalty in the last two years, Google was fined 1.49 billion euros or $1.7 billion USD. This penalty, in particular, involves Google using its power to control the flow and pricing of search adverts from 2006 to 2016. This also marks 10 years of regulatory battles fought between Europe and Alphabet-owned Google. Specifically, the findings were that Google abused its dominance to stop websites using brokers other than AdSense. AdSense lets Google act as the middleman between advertisers and website owners. Google is appealing the fine.

These illegal practices in search advertisement brokering has led Google to pay 1.29% of its 2018 turnover.  Google is preventing publishers from placing any search adverts from competitors on their search results. This, in turn, allowed Google to gain advert spaces on the pages that were more lucrative while also making sure they gave approval before any changes to rival adverts were made. The main issue is that as site owners and advertisers were given fewer options and forced to pay higher prices, the financial burden would be passed on to consumers.

At a news conference following the ruling Margrethe Vestager, the European Competition Commissioner, said: “Today’s decision is about how Google abused its dominance to stop websites using brokers other than the AdSense platform.”.

Capitol Hill was in suspense as seven giants of the drug industry made their presence there known in order to discuss the issue concerning drug prices. Lawmakers were there to hear their reasoning for these high prices while mildly criticizing them for their inability to put patients first.

The leaders of these pharmaceutical companies showed no hesitation in agreeing that their prices are high, but they also showed no hesitation in placing the blame elsewhere. They testified that the reason drug prices are so high is because of those running the insurance industry as well the government and pharmacy benefit managers that act as middlemen within the industry. While each pharmaceutical CEO is willing to acknowledge that they play some role in lowering prices, they still stand firm in saying that this problem is much more a group effort.

Ron Wyden, one of the more verbal senators involved in this situation, makes his stance on these defenses clear by saying “Prescription drugs did not become outrageously expensive by accident” and continues to put the pressure on by stating his belief that “Drug prices are astronomically high because that’s where pharmaceutical companies and their investors want them.”

Fresenius Medical Care, a German company with offices here, has settled allegations of a foreign bribe and will pay $255 million to the U.S. Government.

The German dialysis giant also said that it had booked charges of $254.6 million (€224.0 million) as of Dec. 31, 2018, to cover the settlement of FCPA charges leveled by the Securities & Exchange Commission and the Justice Dept. Fresenius stated that it voluntarily reported potential FCPA violations to the agencies after a whistleblower’s email in 2012 and cooperated with the ensuing government investigations.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the anonymous whistleblower sent the email alleging widespread bribery asserting widespread bribery in Latin America. Two lawyers representing the whistleblower, Christopher Connors and Andy Rickman said that submitted the April 2012 email to the Securities and Exchange Commission.