United States v. Luce, No. 16-4093 (7th Cir. 2017)Annotate this Case
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which implements the Fair Housing Act, offers insurance to mortgage lenders to decrease the risk borne by private industry and encourage lending. HUD maintains the viability of this scheme by prohibiting individuals with criminal records from owning or being employed by, a mortgage company. The government sued Luce under the False Claims Act (FCA), 31 U.S.C. 3729, and the Financial Institutions Reform, Recovery, and Enforcement Act, 12 U.S.C. 1833a, alleging that Luce falsely asserted that he had no criminal history so that his company could participate in the FHA’s insurance program. The district court granted the government summary judgment. The Seventh Circuit reversed. While rejecting arguments that the certifications were not material and that lingering issues of material fact precluded summary judgment, the court concluded that the Supreme Court’s 2016 “Escobar” decision required reconsideration of the traditional “but-for” FCA causation standard. Proximate cause is the appropriate test. Whether, under the proximate cause standard, the government can establish that Luce’s falsehood was the proximate cause of its harm, was not adequately addressed.