UNITED STATES EX REL., JON H. OBERG, Plaintiff - Appellant,
PENNSYLVANIA HIGHER EDUCATION ASSISTANCE AGENCY, Defendant-Appellee, and NELNET, INC.; KENTUCKY HIGHER EDUCATION STUDENT LOAN CORP.; SLM CORPORATION; PANHANDLE PLAINS HIGHER EDUCATION AUTHORITY; BRAZOS GROUP; ARKANSAS STUDENT LOAN AUTHORITY; EDUCATION LOANS INC/SD; SOUTHWEST STUDENT SERVICES CORPORATION; BRAZOS HIGHER EDUCATION SERVICE CORPORATION; BRAZOS HIGHER EDUCATION AUTHORITY, INC.; NELNET EDUCATION LOAN FUNDING, INC.; PANHANDLE-PLAINS MANAGEMENT AND SERVICING CORPORATION; STUDENT LOAN FINANCE CORPORATION; EDUCATION LOANS INC.; VERMONT STUDENT ASSISTANCE CORPORATION, Defendants.
Argued: October 31, 2018
from the United States District Court for the Eastern
District of Virginia, at Alexandria. Claude M. Hilton, Senior
District Judge. (1:07-cv-00960-CMH-JFA)
Kenneth Bachman, ZUCKERMAN LAW, Chevy Chase, Maryland, for
W. Hicks, Jr., KIRKLAND & ELLIS LLP, Washington, D.C.,
M. Zuckerman, Washington, D.C., Dallas I. Hammer, ZUCKERMAN
LAW, Tysons Corner, Virginia, for Appellant.
Matthew T. Regan, Chicago, Illinois, Michael A. Glick, Tracie
L. Bryant, Michael D. Lieberman, KIRKLAND & ELLIS LLP,
Washington, D.C.; Daniel B. Huyett, STEVENS & LEE, P.C.,
Reading, Pennsylvania, for Appellee.
MOTZ, KEENAN, and HARRIS, Circuit Judges.
GRIBBON MOTZ, CIRCUIT JUDGE.
case returns to us again, this time on appeal from an adverse
jury verdict. Dr. Jon Oberg, as relator for the United
States, brought this qui tam action against four
student loan corporations, including the Pennsylvania Higher
Education Assistance Agency ("PHEAA"). He alleged
that the corporations had defrauded the Department of
Education and so violated the False Claims Act
("FCA"), 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq.
the course of several appeals, we affirmed the dismissal of
one defendant and two of the other defendants settled.
See United States ex rel. Oberg v. Pa. Higher Educ.
Assistance Agency, 804 F.3d 646, 650 (4th Cir. 2015);
United States ex rel. Oberg v. Pa. Higher Educ.
Assistance Agency, 745 F.3d 131, 145 (4th Cir. 2014);
United States ex rel. Oberg v. Ky. Higher Educ. Student
Loan Corp., 681 F.3d 575, 579-81 (4th Cir. 2012). The
case proceeded to trial only against PHEAA. Oberg now appeals
the jury's unanimous verdict in favor of PHEAA. For the
reasons that follow, we affirm.
claim concerns a Department of Education subsidy program
meant to encourage the issuance of low-interest federal
student loans. It did so by offering Special Allowance
Payments ("SAPs") to certain qualifying lenders. 20
U.S.C. § 1087-1. For one particular category of loans -
those financed through tax-exempt bonds - Congress guaranteed
lenders a 9.5 percent return. Id. §
1087-1(b)(2)(B). In the low-interest environment of the
mid-2000s, this guaranteed rate made tax-exempt bonds a
particularly attractive investment vehicle.
advantage of the favorable return offered by the program,
Oberg claims that between 2002 and 2006, PHEAA submitted
false claims for SAP subsidies by improperly transferring
student loans from non-tax-exempt bonds into tax-exempt
bonds. In doing so, PHEAA converted lower-interest
floating-rate loans into loans that guaranteed a 9.5 percent
return. This translated into millions of dollars in
additional revenue for PHEAA.
a five-day trial, the court admitted more than 100 exhibits
and the jury heard testimony from more than a dozen
witnesses. After deliberating for less than three hours, ...