A North Dakota man, formerly the executive vice president of U.S. operations at a publicly traded Canadian oil-services company, was sentenced yesterday to three years in prison for perpetrating a scheme to fraudulently inflate the company’s reported revenue that resulted in shareholder losses in excess of $886 million.
According to court documents, Joseph A. Kostelecky, 61, of Dickinson, engaged in a scheme to defraud while serving as the highest-ranking U.S. executive of Poseidon Concepts Corporation (Poseidon) from approximately November 2011 to December 2012. Kostelecky previously pleaded guilty on Oct. 13, 2021, admitting that, in his role, he caused Poseidon to falsely report approximately $100 million in revenue from purported long-term contracts with oil and natural gas companies that were Poseidon’s customers.
Kostelecky’s misconduct included fraudulently directing Poseidon’s accounting staff at the U.S. corporate headquarters in Denver, Colorado, as well as its field office in Dickinson, to record revenue from such contracts and then assuring management that the associated revenue was collectable, when he knew that the contracts either did not exist or that the associated revenue was not collectable. After Poseidon reported a partial write-down of uncollectable accounts in its financial statements, resulting in a drop in the company’s stock price, Kostelecky fraudulently caused the issuance of a public filing falsely reporting that he had purchased a substantial number of shares of the company when, in fact, he had made no such purchase. Kostelecky admitted that when the inflated revenue came to light at the end of 2012, Poseidon’s stock price plunged and the company was forced into bankruptcy, causing over $886 million in shareholder losses. Kostelecky further admitted that he perpetrated the scheme to inflate the value of the company’s stock price in order to enrich himself through the continued receipt of compensation and appreciation of his own stock and stock options.
In addition to the prison sentence, Kostelecky was ordered to pay approximately $406.2 million in restitution.
Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Inspector in Charge Eric Shen of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service’s Criminal Investigations Group made the announcement.
The U.S. Postal Inspection Service Criminal Investigation Group’s DOJ Mail Fraud Team investigated the case.
Assistant Deputy Chief Anna G. Kaminska and Trial Attorney Jason M. Covert of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section prosecuted the case. The Securities and Exchange Commission and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of North Dakota provided valuable assistance.
- Comparative Effectiveness Research: Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute and HHS Continue Activities and Plan New Efforts
November 18, 2020GAO found that the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI)—a federally funded, nonprofit corporation—and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) have continued to perform comparative clinical effectiveness research (CER) activities required by law since our prior report issued in 2015. CER evaluates and compares health outcomes, risks, and benefits of medical treatments, services, or items. The requirements direct PCORI and HHS to, among other things, fund CER and disseminate and facilitate the implementation of CER findings. GAO’s analysis of PCORI and HHS documents show that they allocated a total of about $3.6 billion for CER activities and program support during fiscal years 2010 through 2019 from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Trust Fund (Trust Fund). Specifically, PCORI allocated about $2 billion for research awards and another $542 million for other awards, to be paid over multiple years. HHS allocated about $598 million for activities such as the dissemination and implementation of CER findings. PCORI and HHS also allocated about $470 million for program support. PCORI and HHS Allocations for Comparative Clinical Effectiveness Research (CER) Activities, Fiscal Years 2010 through 2019 aTotals may not add up due to rounding. bPCORI and HHS allocated $457 million and $13 million for program support, respectively. PCORI assessed the effectiveness of its activities using performance measures and targets. Since fiscal year 2017, when early CER projects were completed, PCORI officials reported that the institute met its performance targets, such as an increased number of research citations of its CER findings in news and online sources. HHS described accomplishments or assessed the effectiveness of its dissemination and implementation activities. PCORI and HHS officials told GAO they are planning comprehensive evaluations of their CER dissemination and implementation activities as part of their strategic plans for the next 10 years. The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) authorized establishment of PCORI to conduct CER and improve its quality and relevance. PPACA also established new requirements for HHS to, among other things, disseminate findings from federally funded CER and coordinate federal programs to build data capacity for this research. To fund CER activities, PPACA established the Trust Fund, which provided a total of about $3.6 billion to PCORI and HHS for CER activities during fiscal years 2010 through 2019. The Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020, added new CER requirements and extended funding at similar levels through fiscal year 2029. PPACA and the Appropriations Act 2020 included provisions that GAO review PCORI and HHS’s CER activities. This report describes (1) the CER activities PCORI and HHS carried out to meet legislative requirements, (2) how PCORI and HHS allocated funding to those CER activities, and (3) PCORI and HHS efforts to evaluate the effectiveness of their CER dissemination and implementation activities, such as changes in medical practice. GAO reviewed legislative requirements and PCORI and HHS documentation and data for fiscal years 2010-2019. GAO also interviewed PCORI and HHS officials and obtained information from nine selected stakeholder groups that were familiar with PCORI’s or HHS’s CER activities. These groups included payer, provider, and patient organizations. GAO incorporated technical comments from PCORI and HHS as appropriate. For more information, contact John Dicken at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.
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- Defense Infrastructure: Documentation Lacking to Fully Support How DOD Determined Specifications for the Landstuhl Replacement Medical Center
August 24, 2021What GAO FoundDepartment of Defense (DOD) officials considered current beneficiary population data, contingency operations, and most of the expected changes in troop strength when planning for the replacement medical center. However, recently announced posture changes in January 2012 have yet to be assessed for their impact on the facility. DOD estimates that the replacement medical center will provide health care for nearly 250,000 beneficiaries. A majority of those who are expected to receive health care from the center come from within a 55-mile radius of the facility. DOD officials told us that because the replacement medical center was designed for peacetime operationswith the capacity to expand to meet the needs of contingency operationsreductions in ongoing contingency operations in Afghanistan would not have an impact on facility requirements. At the time of this review, DOD officials said they were in the process of assessing proposed changes in posture to better understand their possible impact on the sizing of the replacement medical center.DOD officials incorporated patient quality of care standards as well as environmentally friendly design elements in determining facility requirements for the replacement medical center. DOD also determined the size of the facility based on its projected patient workload. Internal control standards require the creation and maintenance of adequate documentation, which should be clear and readily available for examination to inform decision making. However, GAOs review of the documentation DOD provided in support of its facility requirements showed (1) inconsistencies in how DOD applied projected patient workload data and planning criteria to determine the appropriate size for individual medical departments, (2) some areas where the documentation did not clearly demonstrate how planners applied criteria to generate requirements, and (3) calculation errors throughout. Without clear documentation of key analysesincluding information on how adjustments to facility requirements were madeand without correct calculations, stakeholders and decision makers lack reasonable assurances that the replacement medical center will be appropriately sized to meet the needs of the expected beneficiary population in Europe.DODs process for developing the approximately $1.2 billion cost estimate for the replacement medical center was substantially consistent with many cost estimating best practices, such as cross-checking major cost elements to confirm similar results. However, DOD minimally documented the data sources, calculations, and estimating methodologies it used in developing the cost estimate. Additionally, DOD anticipates that the new facility will become the hub of a larger medical-services-related campus, for which neither cost estimates nor time frames have yet been developed. Without a cost estimate for the facility that includes detailed documentation, DOD cannot fully demonstrate that the proposed replacement medical center will provide adequate health care capacity at the current estimated cost. Further, DOD and Congress may not have the information they need to make fully informed decisions about the facility.Why GAO Did This StudyLandstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC) is DODs only tertiary medical center in Europe that provides specialized care for servicemembers, retirees, and their dependents. Wounded servicemembers requiring critical care are medically evacuated from overseas operations to the 86th Medical Group clinic at Ramstein Air Base to receive stabilization care before being transported to LRMC for intensive care. According to DOD, both facilities were constructed in the 1950s and are undersized to meet current and projected workload requirements. DOD plans to consolidate both facilities into a single medical center at an estimated cost of $1.2 billion. In this report, GAO (1) describes how DOD considered changes in posture and the beneficiary population when developing facility requirements, (2) assesses DODs process for determining facility requirements, and (3) reviews DODs process to develop the facilitys cost estimate. GAO examined posture planning documentation, beneficiary demographic data, plans for the replacement medical center, and relevant DOD guidance, as well as interviewed relevant DOD officials.
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January 19, 2021The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) Program has not produced timely chemical assessments, and most of its 15 ongoing assessments have experienced delays. As we reported in March 2019, the IRIS Program has taken some actions to make the assessment process more transparent, such as increasing communication with EPA offices and releasing supporting documentation for review earlier in the draft development process, but the need for greater transparency in some steps of the assessment process remains. Specifically, the IRIS Program does not publicly announce when assessment drafts move to certain steps in their development process or announce reasons for delays in producing specific assessments. Without such information, stakeholders who may be able to help fill data and analytical gaps are unable to contribute. This could leave EPA without potential support that could help overcome delays. Delays of Milestones by Quarter for a Selection of the Integrated Risk information System’s Assessments in Development 2019 – 2024 In mid-2018, EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) instituted changes to the way it solicits nominations for chemical assessments prepared by the IRIS Program but did so without providing sufficient guidance or criteria, raising questions about its ability to meet EPA user needs. For example, ORD issued a new survey to EPA program and regional offices but did not provide them with guidance for selecting chemicals for nomination, and ORD did not make explicit the criteria it was using for selecting nominations to include in the IRIS Program’s list of assessments in development. Furthermore, despite a significant decline in survey participation between 2018 and 2019, EPA did not indicate whether the agency has assessed the quality of information generated by the survey. Leading program management practices state that agency management should internally communicate the necessary, quality information to achieve the entity’s objectives and should monitor and evaluate program activities. Without evaluating the quality of the information produced by the survey, ORD cannot know if the survey is achieving its intended purpose and whether ORD has the information necessary to meet user needs. EPA’s IRIS Program prepares chemical toxicity assessments that contain EPA’s scientific position on the potential human health effects of exposure to chemicals; at present, the IRIS database contains more than 570 chemical assessments. In March 2019, GAO reported on the IRIS Program’s changes to increase transparency about its processes and methodologies, including the use of systematic review. However, GAO also found that EPA decreased the number of ongoing assessments in December 2018 from 22 to 13 and continued to face challenges in producing timely assessments. This report evaluates (1) EPA’s progress in completing IRIS chemical assessments since 2018; and (2) EPA’s recent actions to manage the IRIS Program, and the extent to which these actions help the Program meet EPA user needs. GAO reviewed and analyzed EPA documents and interviewed officials from EPA; GAO also selected three standards for program management, found commonalities among them, and compared ORD’s management of the IRIS Program against these leading practices. GAO is making five recommendations, including that EPA provide more information publicly about where chemical assessments are in the development process; and issue guidance for selecting chemicals for nomination and criteria for selecting nominations for assessment. EPA partially agreed with two of our recommendations and disagreed with the other three. For more information, contact J. Alfredo Gómez at (202) 512-3841 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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February 6, 2021Acting United States Attorney General Monty Wilkinson, FBI Director Christopher Wray and President Joe Biden’s Homeland Security Advisor Dr. Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall led a United States Government delegation to Fort Lauderdale, Florida today that attended the funeral service for fallen FBI Special Agent Laura Schwartzenberger.
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- COVID-19: Efforts to Increase Vaccine Availability and Perspectives on Initial Implementation
April 14, 2021What GAO Found The federal government has taken several actions to increase the availability of COVID-19 vaccine doses and indicated it expects to have enough doses available for all adults in the United States by the end of May. As of April 1, 2021, the government had purchased 1.2 billion doses of one- and two-dose regimen vaccines. Also, vaccine companies reported making additional manufacturing sites operational, among other actions to expand capacity and mitigate challenges. Federal officials said projecting future availability of vaccine doses can be difficult, in part because of uncertainty surrounding complex manufacturing processes. Given this uncertainty, coupled with the significant manufacturing and distribution increases needed to have enough vaccine doses available for all adults, managing public expectations is critical. GAO’s prior work has found that timely, clear, and consistent communication about vaccine availability is essential to ensure public confidence and trust, especially as initial vaccine implementation did not match expectations. COVID-19 Vaccination Site Stakeholders GAO interviewed identified challenges with initial COVID-19 vaccine implementation. For example, some stakeholders said states often did not have information critical to distribution at the local level, such as how many doses they would receive and when. The federal government has begun initiatives—outlined in a national response strategy—to improve implementation, such as creating new vaccination sites. In its March 2021 distribution strategy, CDC provided a high-level description of its activities and noted that more details would be included in future reports to Congress. To meet the expectations set by recent announcements, such as the planned expansion of vaccine eligibility to all adults and the introduction of tools to help individuals find vaccines, it will be imperative that the federal government effectively coordinate and communicate its plans, as GAO recommended in September 2020. Why GAO Did This Study Providing the public with safe and effective vaccines to prevent COVID-19 is crucial to mitigating the public health and economic impacts of the disease. The U.S. had almost 30 million reported cases and over 545,000 reported deaths as of March 27, 2021. The federal government took a critical step in December 2020 in authorizing the first two COVID-19 vaccines and beginning distribution of doses across the nation. The government had distributed about 180.6 million vaccine doses, and about 147.8 million doses had been administered, as of March 27, 2021, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) data. The CARES Act includes a provision for GAO to report on its ongoing monitoring and oversight efforts related to the COVID-19 pandemic. This report examines, among other issues, actions the federal government has taken to increase the availability of COVID-19 vaccine doses, and challenges with initial vaccine implementation—that is, prioritizing, allocating, distributing, and administering vaccine doses—identified by stakeholders and steps the federal government has taken to improve vaccine implementation. GAO reviewed documents from the Departments of Defense and Health and Human Services, transcripts of public briefings, data from CDC, and interviewed or received written responses from federal officials, vaccine company representatives, and select public health stakeholders. GAO incorporated technical comments from the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency as appropriate. For more information, contact Alyssa M. Hundrup at (202) 512-7114 or email@example.com.
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- SOS Interpreting, Ltd.
August 12, 2021A firm protested the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) exclusion of its proposal from the competitive range for translation, transcription, and related support services, contending that DEA (1) unreasonably rejected the initial evaluations of proposals and reconvened a new evaluation panel and (2) did not have a valid basis to reject its proposal, since DEA improperly evaluated its bid. GAO held that (1) there was no evidence in the record that DEA’s decisions were not made in good faith and (2) DEA’s evaluation was reasonable and consistent with the evaluation criteria set forth in the solicitation. Accordingly, the protest was denied.
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- Intelligence Community: Additional Actions Needed to Strengthen Workforce Diversity Planning and Oversight
December 17, 2020The Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) reported that the representation of some demographic groups within the Intelligence Community (IC) workforce increased from fiscal years 2011 through 2019—the latest available data. Over this period, the proportion of women, racial or ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities changed by .7, 3.3, and 6.2 percentage points, respectively. However, the representation of women, racial or ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities remained below comparable benchmarks and declined among higher ranks in fiscal year 2019. IC elements report taking steps to address leading practices for managing workforce diversity, but report gaps in diversity planning. GAO found that most IC elements report taking steps to address seven of nine leading practices for diversity management. For the remaining two leading practices—strategic planning and measurement—most elements report taking one or no steps. Number of Intelligence Community (IC) Elements and the Steps They Report Taking to Implement Leading Practices for Workforce Diversity Management, as of August 2020 GAO leading practices Number of IC elements that report taking steps Leadership commitment 17 of 17 IC elements report taking multiple steps Recruitment 14 of 17 IC elements report taking multiple steps, and three IC elements report taking one step Employee involvement 14 of 17 IC elements report taking multiple steps, two IC elements report taking one step, and one IC element reports taking no step Diversity training 14 of 17 IC elements report taking multiple steps, and three IC elements report taking one step Performance 12 of 17 IC elements linked diversity management with enhanced performance while five IC elements did not Succession planning 9 of 17 IC elements report taking multiple steps, and eight IC elements report taking one step Accountability 9 of 17 IC elements report taking multiple steps, seven IC elements report taking one step, and one IC element reports taking no steps Strategic planning 3 of 17 IC elements have current and complete strategic plans Measurement 6 of 17 IC elements have diversity-related performance measures Source: GAO analysis of IC element documents and GAO leading practices for diversity management. | GAO-21-83 Further, while all IC elements report having a process to identify barriers to diversity, nine IC elements report not completing required barrier assessments. Without fully implementing leading practices for managing workforce diversity and conducting routine barrier assessments, the IC may miss opportunities to develop effective and efficient diversity policies and programs. ODNI’s Office of Intelligence Community Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity (IC EEOD) is meeting seven of eight leading practices for enhancing and sustaining the coordination of diversity initiatives across the 17 IC elements. However, IC EEOD partially met the practice to reinforce agency accountability. Specifically, IC EEOD has not established IC-wide implementation objectives and timeframes to demonstrate progress. As a result, IC EEOD risks not holding IC elements accountable for enhancing workforce diversity. The 2019 National Intelligence Strategy states that the IC will recruit, develop, and retain a diverse, inclusive, and expert workforce to enable mission success. ODNI reports that the IC is taking steps to increase the representation of diverse groups, such as issuing new strategies to enhance workforce planning. However, barriers to establishing a diverse workforce exist across the IC, according to an ODNI 2017 analysis. GAO was asked to review the IC’s progress in enhancing workforce diversity. This report (1) summarizes ODNI annual demographic reports on the proportion of women, racial or ethnic minorities, and persons with disabilities; and assesses the extent to which (2) IC elements report taking steps to address leading practices for managing workforce diversity and to identify potential barriers to maintaining a diverse workforce; and (3) ODNI is addressing leading practices for coordinating IC workforce diversity initiatives. GAO reviewed IC-wide and IC element specific policies and guidance; interviewed ODNI, and other IC officials; and administered a questionnaire to all 17 IC elements to obtain information on diversity strategies and challenges. GAO is making seven recommendations, including that the Director of National Intelligence issue or update guidance to ensure IC elements maintain diversity strategic plans, assess and take steps to eliminate barriers to diversity, and establish implementation objectives and timeframes to hold IC elements accountable. ODNI agreed with the recommendations. For more information, contact Brian M. Mazanec at (202) 512-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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- Covid-19: Data Quality and Considerations for Modeling and Analysis
July 30, 2020The rapid spread and magnitude of the COVID-19 pandemic have underscored the importance of having quality data, analyses, and models describing the potential trajectory of COVID-19 to help understand the effects of the disease in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is using multiple surveillance systems to collect data on COVID-19 in the U.S. in collaboration with state, local, and academic and other partners. The data from these surveillance systems can be useful for understanding the disease, but decision makers and analysts must understand their limitations in order to interpret them properly. For example, surveillance data on the number of reported COVID-19 cases are incomplete for a number of reasons, and they are an undercount the true number of cases, according to CDC and others. There are multiple approaches to analyzing COVID-19 data that yield different insights. For example, some approaches can help compare the effects of the disease across population groups. Additional analytical approaches can help to address incomplete and inconsistent reporting of COVID-19 deaths as well. For example, analysts can examine the number of deaths beyond what would normally be expected in the absence of the pandemic. Examining higher-than-expected deaths from all causes helps to address limitations in the reporting of COVID-19 deaths because the number of total deaths is likely more accurate than the numbers of deaths from specific causes. The figure below shows actual deaths from the weeks ending January 1 through June 27, 2020, based on data from CDC’s National Center for Health Statistics, compared with the expected deaths based on prior years’ data. Deaths that exceeded this threshold starting in late March are considered excess deaths that may be related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Higher-Than-Expected Weekly Mortality for 2020, as of July 14, 2020 Analysts have used several forecasting models to predict the spread of COVID-19, and understanding these models requires understanding their purpose and limitations. For example, some models attempt to predict the effects of various interventions, whereas other models attempt to forecast the number of cases based on current data. At the beginning of an outbreak, such predictions are less likely to be accurate, but accuracy can improve as the disease becomes better understood. The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in significant loss of life and profoundly disrupted the U.S. economy and society, and the Congress has taken action to support a multifaceted federal response on an unprecedented scale. It is important for decision makers to understand the limitations of COVID-19 data, and the uses and limitations of various methods of analyzing and interpreting those data. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) includes a provision for GAO to, in general, conduct monitoring and oversight of the authorities and funding provided to address the COVID-19 pandemic and the effect of the pandemic on the health, economy, and public and private institutions of the U.S. This technology assessment examines (1) collection methods and limitations of COVID-19 surveillance data reported by CDC, (2) approaches for analyzing COVID-19 data, and (3) uses and limitations of forecast modeling for understanding of COVID-19. In conducting this assessment, GAO obtained publicly available information from CDC and state health departments, among other sources, and reviewed relevant peer reviewed and preprint (non-peer-reviewed) literature, as well as published technical data on specific models. For more information, contact Timothy M. Persons, PhD at (202) 512-6888 or PersonsT@gao.gov, SaraAnn Moessbauer at (202) 512-4943, or MoessbauerS@gao.gov, or Mary Denigan-Macauley, PhD at (202) 512-7114 or DeniganMacauleyM@gao.gov.