People

Carl J. Nichols

Partner

Nichols, Carl J.
Carl Nichols is a litigator who represents corporations and individuals in sensitive, high-profile, and high-stakes matters. He presently serves as lead counsel in a broad range of complex matters pending in different courts and before various government agencies. Mr. Nichols has tried several cases and arbitrations and has argued appeals in the US Courts of Appeals for the DC, Second, Seventh, Ninth and Eleventh Circuits.

Mr. Nichols joined the firm in 2010, after having served from 2005 until 2009 in the United States Department of Justice, first as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Federal Programs Branch of the Civil Division, and later as the Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General.

Current Practice

Mr. Nichols focuses his practice on advising and representing clients before federal agencies and in state and federal courts, including in actions brought by governments, lawsuits against governments, and in congressional investigations. He has handled complex, high-stakes litigation in areas including the False Claims Act, government and commercial contracts, international tax, trade secrets, administrative law, constitutional law, antitrust, and international law and arbitration, on behalf of clients in a wide range of industries. Mr. Nichols also has an active pro bono practice.

Representative Matters

Since joining WilmerHale, Mr. Nichols’ representative matters have included:

Litigation

  • Lead counsel for global aerospace company in government contracts dispute pending in the Court of Federal Claims.
  • Lead counsel for major financial institution in False Claims Act litigation pending in the Southern District of California.
  • Lead counsel for international financial institution in major fraud case pending in the Supreme Court of New York.
  • Lead counsel for global aerospace company in government contracts dispute pending in the Armed Services Board of Contract Appeals.
  • Lead counsel for two FBI agents in high-profile Bivens action pending in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.
  • Lead counsel for major strategy and technology consulting firm in trade secrets litigation in the Eastern District of Virginia.
  • Counsel for technology company in trade secrets litigation in the Eastern District of Virginia.
  • Lead counsel for Florida Republican Gubernatorial Candidate in Eleventh Circuit appeal of high-profile campaign finance decision.
  • Counsel for international financial institution in connection with possible litigation arising out of substantial asset sale.
  • Lead counsel for major strategy and technology consulting firm in potential trade secrets litigation arising out of departure of major group of employees.

Investigations

  • Lead counsel for major technology company in investigation conducted by the Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program (SIGTARP)
  • Lead counsel for major technology company in investigation conducted by the Consumer Protection Section of the Office of the Attorney General of Virginia.
  • Lead counsel for major financial institution in investigation conducted by the Civil Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
  • Counsel for international financial institution in related investigations conducted by the Tax Division of the U.S. Department of Justice, the Internal Revenue Service, and the House Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations.
  • Lead counsel for import-export company in antidumping matter before U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
  • Lead counsel for telecommunications company in investigation by Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS).

Pre-Litigation Advice

  • Mr. Nichols regularly provides companies and individuals with pre-litigation advice in a broad range of areas.

Prior Experience

Mr. Nichols joined the firm after having served from 2005 until 2009 in the United States Department of Justice, first as Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Federal Programs Branch of the Civil Division, and later as the Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General. In those positions, Mr. Nichols served as the government’s lead counsel in a number of landmark suits, including the House Judiciary Committee’s lawsuit seeking to enforce subpoenas issued to senior White House officials, several suits filed by the federal government to enjoin state investigations into alleged activities of the National Security Agency, and various lawsuits filed against telecommunications companies alleging their participation in national security programs. Mr. Nichols also personally handled matters arising out of the Fannie Mae securities litigation; cases involving challenges to the constitutionality of federal statutes and Department of Justice regulations; and cases challenging the recommendations of the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission.

As Principal Deputy Associate Attorney General, Mr. Nichols advised the Attorney General, Deputy Attorney General, and Associate Attorney General on a wide range of legislative, regulatory, policy and litigation matters. He was also responsible for overseeing thirteen components of the Department of Justice, including the Tax Division, Antitrust Division, Environment and Natural Resources Division, Civil Rights Division, and Civil Division. As Deputy Assistant Attorney General, Mr. Nichols supervised the trial-court litigation of the government’s most sensitive civil cases. Mr. Nichols testified several times on various matters before Congressional Committees.

Prior to joining the Department of Justice, Mr. Nichols was a partner in a major national law firm, where he litigated complex commercial cases at the trial and appellate levels on behalf of clients in various industries.

Publications & News

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January 7, 2014

False Claims Act: 2013 Year-in-Review

The False Claims Act (FCA) saw another year of increased activity in 2013, with new qui tam suits hitting an all-time high of 753, a rise of more than 100 over 2012. In fiscal year 2013, the federal government brought in $3.8 billion—the fourth year in a row of more than $3 billion in recoveries. As in the past, the healthcare and pharmaceuticals sector accounted for the biggest share, with $2.6 billion recovered. Procurement saw a jump, more than doubling to $890 million. Financial institutions remained a substantial target, and both the government and private plaintiffs were increasingly bringing claims against recipients of grant and loan funds as well as contractors. Activity at the state level increased as well, with many states expanding the reach of their own false claims statutes, and both state attorneys general and private plaintiffs making aggressive use of new theories of liability.

March 22, 2013

Fourth Circuit Expands FCA Limitations Period

In United States ex rel. Carter v. Halliburton, a divided panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit expanded the scope of potential False Claims Act (FCA) liability for government contractors by holding that the Wartime Suspension of Limitations Act (WSLA) suspends the six-year statute of limitations in qui tam FCA cases even when the government has not intervened.

January 11, 2013

2013 NDAA Expands Whistleblower Protections

The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act extends the whistleblower protections available to employees of government contractors, subcontractors, and grant recipients. While employees of contractors already enjoyed some protections, such as under the False Claims Act’s anti-retaliation provision, the new law considerably expands whistleblower protections for millions of non-government workers with knowledge of potential False Claims Act violations and other claims against contractors doing business with the government.

January 2, 2013

The False Claims Act: 2012 Year-In-Review

The upward trends in False Claims Act (FCA) enforcement that we described in our 2011 Year-In-Review continued in 2012. In the fiscal year that ended on September 30, 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) secured $4.9 billion in FCA settlements and civil judgments, beating the previous record by more than $1.7 billion. Federal FCA recoveries since January 2009 add up to $13.3 billion, which is the largest four-year total in DOJ history. Our full review is available in PDF format.

December 4, 2012

Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 Signed into Law

On November 27, 2012, President Obama signed S. 743, the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012, into law. The Act strengthens existing protections for federal workers who disclose evidence of fraud, abuse, or waste they have encountered in the course of their employment. The new law clarifies the scope of protected disclosures, expands the class of persons protected, and corrects perceived unfairness in certain aspects of the process of seeking relief for violations.

April 25, 2012

DC Circuit Requires Fairness Hearing Where Relator Objects to False Claims Act Settlement

The Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit ruled last week that the United States cannot settle a qui tam action over a relator's objection without a judicial finding that the proposed settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable under the circumstances. The decision will potentially complicate efforts by the government and defendants to resolve cases under the False Claims Act, especially those with little merit or damage to the government.

February 23, 2012

District Court Holds Mandatory $50 Million False Claims Act Civil Penalty Unconstitutionally Excessive; Finds Itself Powerless To Impose Lesser Penalty

February 2, 2012

Case Study: Railway Logistics V. US

An article by David W. Ogden, Jennifer M. O'Connor, Jonathan G. Cedarbaum, Carl J. Nichols, D. Joe Smith, Gregory H. Petkoff, Natalie Hirt Adams and Carla J. Weiss, appearing in the February 2, 2012 edition of Law360 Expert Analysis. To view the full article click here.

January 30, 2012

The Court of Federal Claims' Railway Logistics International Decision Limits Seventh Amendment Right of Government Contractors to Jury Trial to Contest Fraud-Based Counterclaims

January 6, 2012

The False Claims Act: 2011 Year-In-Review

Honors & Awards

Mr. Nichols won numerous awards in connection with his government service, including the Attorney General’s Medallion.

Professional Activities

Mr. Nichols is a frequent speaker on topics relating to the False Claims Act, national security and separation of powers.

Practices

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Education

JD, High Honors, University of Chicago Law School, 1996, Order of the Coif; Member, The University of Chicago Law Review

BA, High Honors in Philosophy, Dartmouth College, 1992

Bar Admissions

District of Columbia

Virginia

Languages

Spanish

Clerkships

The Hon. Laurence H. Silberman, US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, 1996 - 1997

The Hon. Clarence Thomas, US Supreme Court, 1997 - 1998