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In a move that is expected to speed up fraud investigations, Attorney General Eric Holder has signed an order allowing U.S. Attorneys to issue civil investigative demands under the False Claims Act.

The civil investigative demand is a potent administrative subpoena that covers documents, depositions and interrogatories. The Justice Department can issue CIDs before it files a complaint or until it joins a qui tam action — a lawsuit filed by a private citizen on behalf of the federal government — and thus before a potential defendant can conduct its own discovery.