Contact our Georgia national whistleblower lawyers today. Call us at 770-643-1606

Throw Out Your Assumptions About Whistleblowing

Harvard Business Review recently published the below. See a portion below: 

Whistleblowing stories are all over the news. Some observers have attributed this to a systemic change in society. There are more stories about whistleblowing, the argument goes, because there are more crimes to report.

However, rather than an increase in criminal activity, we may instead be observing an increase in the willingness of employees to speak up. Consider the dramatic increase in claims of sexual harassment in 2017 as the #MeToo movement gained momentum. Was this a sudden increase in harassment, or an increased willingness to speak up about problems that have been ongoing for years?

Our research on employee whistleblowing, using previously unavailable data, shows for the first time that we may be in the golden age of accountability systems. In 2018, NAVEX Global, the leading provider of employee hotline and incident management systems, provided us secure, anonymized access to more than 2 million internal reports made by employees of more than 1,000 publicly traded U.S. companies.

Our study of the data led us to two important findings: First, whistleblowers are crucial to keeping firms healthy. The average manager seems to take these reports seriously and uses them to learn of and address issues early, before they evolve into larger, more costly problems. We also found that second hand reports are more credible and more valuable, on average, than firsthand reports.

Based on our research we’ve identified three lessons for leaders on effectively managing whistleblower systems.

View the 3 lessons and read full article here.

Whistleblowerlaw.com & Mike Bothwell Lawfirm does not claim or imply ownership of this article. 

Full article link here: https://hbr.org/2020/01/throw-out-your-assumptions-about-whistleblowing

Justice Department Recovers over $3 Billion from False Claims Act Cases in Fiscal Year 2019

Justice department logo

The United States Justice Department recently published the below article. See a portion below: 

The Department of Justice obtained more than $3 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud and false claims against the government in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30, 2019, Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division announced today.  Recoveries since 1986, when Congress substantially strengthened the civil False Claims Act, now total more than $62 billion.

“The significant number of settlements and judgments obtained over the past year demonstrate the high priority this administration places on deterring fraud against the government and ensuring that citizens’ tax dollars are well spent,” said Assistant Attorney General Hunt.  “The continued success of the department’s False Claims Act enforcement efforts are a testament to the tireless efforts of the civil servants who investigate, litigate, and try these important cases as well as to the fortitude of whistleblowers who report fraud.”

Of the more than $3 billion in settlements and judgments recovered by the Department of Justice this past fiscal year, $2.6 billion relates to matters that involved the health care industry, including drug and medical device manufacturers, managed care providers, hospitals, pharmacies, hospice organizations, laboratories, and physicians.  This is the tenth consecutive year that the department’s civil health care fraud settlements and judgments have exceeded $2 billion.  The amounts included in the $2.6 billion reflect only federal losses, but in many of these cases the department was instrumental in recovering additional millions of dollars for state Medicaid programs.

In addition to combating health care fraud, the False Claims Act serves as the government’s primary civil tool to redress false claims for federal funds and property involving a multitude of other government operations and functions.  The Act helps to protect our military and first responders by ensuring that government contractors provide equipment that is safe, effective, and cost efficient; to protect American businesses and workers by promoting compliance with customs laws, trade agreements, visa requirements, and small business protections; and to protect other critical government programs ranging from the provision of disaster relief funds to farming subsidies.

In 1986, Congress strengthened the Act by increasing incentives for whistleblowers to file lawsuits alleging false claims on behalf of the government.  These whistleblower, or qui tam, actions comprise a significant percentage of the False Claims Act cases that are filed.  If the government prevails in a qui tam action, the whistleblower, also known as the relator, typically receives a portion of the recovery ranging between 15 and 30 percent.  Whistleblowers filed 633 qui tam suits in fiscal year 2019, and this past year the department recovered over $2.1 billion in these and earlier filed suits.

Health Care Fraud

The department investigates and resolves matters involving a wide array of health care providers, goods, and services.  The department’s health care fraud enforcement efforts not only recover money for federal health care programs, such as Medicare, Medicaid, and TRICARE, but also help deter fraud schemes that put patients at risk and increase health care costs.

Reflecting the department’s commitment to holding drug companies accountable for their role in the opioid crisis, two of the largest recoveries involving the health care industry this past year came from opioid manufacturers.  In one matter, as part of a global resolution of criminal and civil claims, Insys Therapeutics paid $195 million to settle civil allegations that it paid kickbacks to induce physicians and nurse practitioners to prescribe Subsys for their patients.  The kickbacks allegedly took the form of sham speaker events, jobs for the prescribers’ relatives and friends, and lavish meals and entertainment.  The government also alleged that Insys improperly encouraged physicians to prescribe Subsys for patients who did not have cancer, and lied to insurers about patients’ diagnoses to ensure payment by federal healthcare programs.  In another matter, Reckitt Benckiser Group plc paid a total of $1.4 billion to resolve criminal and civil liability related to the marketing of the opioid addiction treatment drug Suboxone, which is a formulation of the opioid buprenorphine.  As part of the resolution, RB Group paid $500 million to the United States to resolve civil allegations that it directly or through subsidiaries promoted Suboxone to physicians who were writing prescriptions for uses that were unsafe, ineffective, and medically unnecessary; promoted Suboxone Film using false and misleading claims that it was less susceptible to diversion, abuse, and accidental pediatric exposure than other buprenorphine products; and took steps to delay the entry of generic competition in order to improperly control pricing of Suboxone.

The department also pursued other cases involving drug manufacturers.  For example, Avanir Pharmaceuticals paid over $95 million to resolve allegations that it paid kickbacks and engaged in false and misleading marketing to induce healthcare providers in long term care facilities to prescribe the drug Neudexta for behaviors commonly associated with dementia patients, which is not an approved use of the drug.  The department also continued to investigate efforts by drug manufacturers to facilitate increases in drug prices by funding the co-payments of Medicare patients.  Congress included co-pay requirements in the Medicare program, in part, to serve as a check on health care costs, including the prices that pharmaceutical manufacturers can demand for their drugs.  This year, seven drug manufacturers – Actelion Pharmaceuticals US Inc., Amgen Inc., Astellas Pharma US Inc.Alexion Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Jazz Pharmacueticals Inc., Lundbeck LLC, and US Worldmeds LLC – paid a combined total of over $624 million to resolve claims that they illegally paid patient copays for their own drugs through purportedly independent foundations that the companies in fact treated as mere conduits.

The department also reported substantial recoveries involving a variety of other healthcare providers.  Pathology laboratory company Inform Diagnostics, formerly known as Miraca Life Sciences Inc., paid $63.5 million to resolve allegations that it paid kickbacks to referring physicians in the form of subsidies for electronic health records (EHR) systems and free or discounted technology consulting services.  Greenway Health LLC, an EHR software vendor, paid over $57 million to resolve allegations that it misrepresented the capabilities of its EHR product “Prime Suite” and provided unlawful remuneration to users to induce them to recommend Prime Suite to prospective new customers.  Encompass Health Corporation (formerly known as HealthSouth Corporation), the nation’s largest operator of inpatient rehabilitation facilities (IRFs), paid $48 million to resolve allegations that some of its IRFs provided inaccurate information to Medicare to maintain their status as an IRF and to earn a higher rate of reimbursement, and that some admissions to its IRFs were not medically necessary.

Recoveries in Whistleblower Suits

Of the $3 billion in settlements and judgments reported by the government in fiscal year 2019, over $2.1 billion arose from lawsuits filed under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act.  During the same period, the government paid out $265 million to the individuals who exposed fraud and false claims by filing these actions.

The number of lawsuits filed under the qui tam provisions of the Act has grown significantly since 1986, with 633 qui tam suits filed this past year – an average of more than 12 new cases every week.

“Whistleblowers continue to play a critical role identifying new and evolving fraud schemes that might otherwise remain undetected,” said Assistant Attorney General Hunt.  “Taxpayers have benefitted greatly from these individuals who are often required to make substantial sacrifices to bring these schemes to light.”

In 1986, Senator Charles Grassley and Representative Howard Berman led the successful efforts in Congress to amend the False Claims Act to, among other things, encourage whistleblowers to come forward with allegations of fraud.  In 2009 and 2010, further improvements were made to the False Claims Act and its whistleblower provisions.  Congress also included in the False Claims Act authority for the government to dismiss cases that do not advance the goal of fraud prevention, and during the past year the government made increasing use of this tool to help prioritize and protect the expenditure of government resources.

Finally, Assistant Attorney General Hunt expressed appreciation for the many dedicated public servants throughout the department’s Civil Division and the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices, as well as the agency Offices of Inspector General and the many other federal and state agencies that contributed to the department’s False Claims Act recoveries this past fiscal year.

“The accomplishments announced today reflect the extraordinary efforts of the men and women throughout the government committed to protecting the federal fisc and the integrity of the government’s programs,” said Assistant Attorney General Hunt.  “Having served many years in the Civil Division, I have witnessed the passion and dedication of the talented employees who have committed their careers to serving the American people and defending the interests of our great nation.”

 

Whistleblowerlaw.com & Mike Bothwell Lawfirm does not claim or imply ownership of this article. Full article link here: https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/justice-department-recovers-over-3-billion-false-claims-act-cases-fiscal-year-2019

Judge v. Jury: $350 Million Medicare Award at Stake in Atlanta

Whistleblower attorney Mike Bothwell was a tops quoted source in the article below:

Full Article Link

The invalidation of a Florida jury’s nearly $350 million Medicare fraud verdict wasn’t only frustrating for whistleblower Angela Ruckh and her attorneys. It may have also seriously hurt plaintiffs’ ability to fight alleged fraud in the southeast U.S.

Ruckh Nov. 20 will urge the Eleventh Circuit in Atlanta to reinstate the award, which a district judge tossed after concluding she failed to satisfy U.S. Supreme Court standards for demonstrating materiality in a False Claims Act case. The federal government is supporting her appeal.

The judge misconstrued ample evidence of materiality, Ruckh says. Rejecting her appeal could do great harm to the ability of FCA whistleblowers and the federal government to raise a valid case, whistleblower attorneys say.

The decision by Judge Steven Merryday of the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida “takes the most conservative and defense-oriented” view of Supreme Court standards for raising false claims cases, said Mike Bothwell of Bothwell Law Group P.C. in Roswell, Ga.

Prosecution of FCA cases will become “infinitely harder” if the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit affirms, he said.

In 2018, the U.S. recovered $2.8 billion from FCA cases, $2.5 billion of which came from cases involving the healthcare industry.

Ruckh convinced a jury in February 2017 that Medicare wouldn’t have paid Consulate Health Care, a nursing home services provider, if Medicare knew the truth about the Consulate’s practice of “ramping,” which misleads Medicare as to the necessity of services, and “upcoding” for services which led to overbilling.

Merryday tossed the verdict nine months later, ruling that the alleged misconduct wasn’t material to government payment decisions under the Supreme Court’s 2016 ruling in Universal Health Servs., Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar.

That is, Ruckh didn’t offer meaningful proof that Medicare’s knowledge of the disputed practices was consequential to payment decisions, Merryday concluded.

Medicare knew about the allegations and continued to pay anyway, he said.

“We don’t want every administrative failure by a contractor to be an FCA case, but when you have facts like these, where folks are receiving unnecessary services, how is that not leading to inflated, unnecessary claims,” said Pamela Coyle Brecht of Pietragallo Gordon Alfano Bosick & Raspanti LLP in Philadelphia.

“Medicare has a pay and chase system. The U.S. doesn’t examine every claim in real time. It is entitled to rely on the truthfulness of a claim submitted by a contractor, and then attempt to recoup fraudulent payments at a later date,” she said.

“It undermines the entire purpose of the FCA to say that payments to a contractor, that turn out to be fraudulent, require dismissal of cases for lack of materiality,” she said.

Consulate says materiality was indeed lacking because Ruckh offered no evidence that Medicare had overlooked any alleged deficiencies in audits before deciding to continue paying.

“If the government thought the alleged violations were material, why would they keep paying the claims? There are a host of cases now where the government ‘knowledge’ defense has been successfully raised,” said Aaron Danzig of Arnall Golden Gregory LLP in Atlanta.

‘Wild, Wild West’

The verdict should be reinstated because Ruckh introduced more than enough evidence to show that higher therapy levels lead to increased payments, and using false therapy codes has a natural tendency to influence payments, her brief says.

The U.S. Justice Department supports Ruckh, stating in a brief that materiality for her claims is “obvious,” and that “it is difficult to see how any reasonable jury could have concluded otherwise.”

Brecht said it’s “currently the wild, wild west with regard to the materiality defense, and I would hope that the Supreme Court would shed more light on this issue.”

“There are many reasons why the government would continue to pay a contractor that don’t have to do with excusing fraud,” Brecht said.

More litigation will result if the Eleventh Circuit affirms, “because whistleblowers will be forced to get more aggressive in discovery,” Brecht said. “They will be forced to say I need to know more about what the government knew about defendants’ practices and when it knew it.”

Defendants naturally will be pleased if Merryday’s ruling is affirmed.

But in the event the Eleventh Circuit sides with Ruckh, the silver lining for defendants could come in the form of another materiality case working its way back to the high court’s door.

Several defendants since Escobar have unsuccessfully petitioned the Supreme Court to adopt a clear “no harm, no foul” rule with regard to continued payments. There can’t be any fraud if the government knows but pays, the petitions have argued.

Merryday’s opinion cited one of those continued payment cases, United States ex rel. Harman v. Trinity Indus. Inc.

The Fifth Circuit ruled in that case that a $663 million jury verdict couldn’t stand because the Federal Highway Administration always paid for and approved of a highway guardrail contractor’s product despite knowledge of alleged wrongdoing.

To contact the reporter on this story: Daniel Seiden in Washington at dseiden@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jo-el J. Meyer at jmeyer@bloomberglaw.com; Patrick L. Gregory at pgregory@bloomberglaw.com

Whistleblowerlaw.com & Mike Bothwell Lawfirm does not claim or imply ownership of this article. Full article link here: https://news.bloomberglaw.com/federal-contracting/judge-v-jury-350-million-medicare-award-at-stake-in-atlanta

Trump & our thoughts on why we should protect Whistleblowers

USA Today recently published the following article “Trump’s allies want to ID the whistleblower, who may learn the price of speaking out“.

Here are our my thoughts.

Shortly after signing the Declaration of Independence, the Continental Congress passed a resolution for whistleblower protection.  Some sailor and marines blew the whistle on a commander of the navy during the war with Great Britain.  They reported the problems to the Continental Congress and were prosecuted for it.  The Continental Congress not only passed the resolution supporting blowing the whistle on such abuse (calling it a “duty”), but it passed a subsequent resolution to pay the costs of their defense.

Another major whistleblower legislation was passed in 1863 during the Civil War.  The False Claims Act also known as the Lincoln Law allowed private citizens to sue on behalf of the government to recover for false claims and fraud against the government.  This law was significantly revised in 1985 and has become the government’s number one tool for prosecuting fraud against the United States.  Whistleblowers recover from 15% to 30% of what the government receives and cases under the False Claims Act have brought in $60 billion since it was revamped in 1985.

Various state and federal agencies have passed whistleblower protections and evinced a consensus that whistleblowers play a crucial role in ferreting out fraud, waste, and abuse in our system.  In 1985, when Congress was considering one of the oldest and most robust whistleblower statutes (the False Claims Act), it noted that the act was underutilized in large part because of fear of retaliation.  That is perhaps the number one deterrent to people shinning a light on corruption and illicit dealings.  From July 30, 1778 to the present, America has agreed to protect people who are willing to bring bad things to light.

We absolutely need to continue this protection. I’m fighting for this daily.

Tips from Pharmaceutical Whistleblower Lawyers on How to Report Fraud

What do you need to know if you’re a whistleblower in a pharmaceutical case? Get the details you need about pharmaceutical whistleblower lawyers.

pharmaceutical whistleblower lawyersPharmaceutical whistleblower lawyers work on cases involving drug fraud against the government. These cases fall under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act (FCA). This law allows a person to sue companies on behalf of the government. The exact process depends on the specific type of drug fraud. The following categories cover the most common types of fraud:

  • Off label drug promotion
  • Kickbacks
  • Medicaid rebates
  • Adulterated drugs

Off Label Drug Promotion

Off label drug promotion is the most common type of drug fraud. It occurs when a company receives FDA approval to use a drug for one use but promotes it for another use. Assume for this example that the FDA approves drug XYZ for the treatment of diabetes. The drug company then contacts doctors to promote its benefits for treating depression. It may even say the drug has FDA approval without saying that it’s only approved for treating diabetes.

Your evidence needs to show the company intentionally promoted off label drug use for this case to qualify as fraud. The key requirement is specific evidence showing this intent. This evidence includes documents of training sessions that explain how to promote drugs for off label uses. Another example of strong evidence for drug fraud would be letters to doctors with marketing information on off label uses.

Recognizing Kickback Schemes

Kickbacks are the second most common form of drug fraud. This type of fraud occurs when a drug company pays a healthcare worker to promote their drugs. These workers may include doctors, nurses, hospitals, pharmacies, and nursing homes.

It’s generally illegal for drug companies to offer financial incentives to their customers. These activities are rarely as obvious as handing over a bag full of cash. For example, drug makers can provide healthcare workers with marketing materials. These materials could include inexpensive items such as pens and coffee mugs. Such items don’t constitute drug fraud by themselves. However, companies often cross the line by offering more costly items.

Another example is when a drug company hires a doctor to provide consulting services. It can be difficult to show that this case is a kickback since the doctor is providing a service.

Drug companies go to extreme lengths to hide kickback schemes. You could be eligible for a reward if you attended a discussion of these schemes. The minutes from such a meeting can be useful for showing kickbacks. This is especially true if the speakers at the meeting were executives. Inside information on how these schemes are taking place can also be strong evidence of kickbacks.

Medicaid Rebate Fraud

Medicaid rebate fraud involves drug companies underpaying Medicaid rebates to the government. Drug companies must belong to the Medicaid Rebate program to provide drugs for Medicaid patients. This program prohibits companies from charging Medicaid more than they charge other customers. Drug companies must submit a report to Medicaid every quarter showing the highest price they charged for each drug. They must then pay Medicaid a rebate if Medicaid paid a healthcare provider more than the company charged other customers for that drug.

The specific schemes for committing Medicaid rebate fraud are highly varied. You might be eligible for a reward if someone at a drug company lied about drug prices. You generally need to show that someone lied about a drug’s average manufacturer price (AMP) or average wholesale price (AWP). Drug companies use these figures to calculate the rebate they owe to Medicaid.

Adulterated Drugs

The use of adulterated drugs is a less common form of drug fraud. However, its frequency is increasing as process controls for drug manufacturing becomes stricter. The FDA must approve a drug’s manufacturing processes, including quality control procedures. A drug company may commit drug fraud when it materially deviates from its approved processes.

The key criterion for this type of fraud is whether these changes have the potential to affect the drug. Small errors aren’t enough to file a lawsuit by themselves. However, a large number of such errors may justify a lawsuit. Your evidence must show these errors call the drug’s performance or safety into question.

Assume for this example that a company tells the FDA that it will use a sterile lab for a particular process. The company then decides not to use a sterile lab because it’s too expensive. The FDA could consider the drugs made without the sterile lab to be non-conforming. This scenario could thus qualify as drug fraud.

Pharmaceutical fraud is complex and often hard to prove. Find out more about how pharmaceutical whistleblower lawyers can help by contacting the Bothwell Law Group.

Should You Hire a Lawyer for Whistleblowers Before You Report Fraud?

Learn more about how to hire a lawyer for whistleblowers if you need to report fraud.

Hire a Lawyer for WhistleblowersYou may need to hire a lawyer for whistleblowers if you’ve decided to file suit on behalf of the government. The False Claims Act (FCA) covers the majority of these cases, although other such laws exist. These cases generally involve filing false claims for payment with the federal government. Whistleblowers still incur risks, although they have some protection against retaliation. An attorney can also give your lawsuit a better chance of stopping a corrupt business practice.

Your search for the right attorney doesn’t have to be arduous, but you do need to make it with care. Hiring the right attorney is important in whistleblower cases because they’re extraordinarily complex. The following discussion shows what you should look for in a whistleblower attorney.

Becoming a Whistleblower

A whistleblower can be anyone who comes forward with information on wrongdoing. However, it usually refers to someone who reports fraud against the government. Whistleblower cases involving federal healthcare programs and defense contracting are the most common. They also include fraud cases in the financial industry, especially IRS tax fraud. Whistleblowers perform a public service by uncovering these activities. They can provide far-reaching benefits for the government and the general public.

Becoming a whistleblower requires original, provable evidence related to the false claims. Information on the internet isn’t original unless you’re the source. Rumor and innuendo aren’t provable information. You need to have records that provide hard facts such as names, places, dates, and situations.

Whistleblowers can receive part of the damages the government recovers under the FCA. The amount varies from 15 to 30 percent of the total recovery. The percentage is less if the government joins the case. The value of the information from the whistleblower also helps determine the amount of the award. The relevance and amount of information are the most important factors in determining its value. Recoveries in a whistleblower case are typically quite large. The main reason for this is the recovery amount is three times the value of the damages.

Furthermore, each false claim can also incur a civil penalty of up to $11,000. Some of these suits include hundreds of individual claims. That means the civil penalties alone can be significant in a whistleblower case. Whistleblowers can also recover legal expenses from the defendant if the suit succeeds.

Referral Services

Ensure you work directly with a law firm when searching for a whistleblower attorney. Many of the web sites for whistleblower cases are actually from referral services. These services collect information about your case and pass it along to a law firm in exchange for a fee.

The main problem with a referral service is it will only pass your information to one of their clients. This may mean that lawyer isn’t the best choice for your case. A website that doesn’t list any lawyers is a major clue that you’re dealing with a referral service. Another sign is a website that doesn’t list a physical address.

Experience Relative to Your Case

Many types of whistleblower cases exist. Ensure you get an attorney with experience in your particular type of case. Assume for example that you’re filing a lawsuit involving Medicare fraud. You don’t want an attorney who has only tried cases involving defense contractor fraud. If you’re filing a suit on securities fraud, you need an attorney experienced in SEC claims.

Ample Resources

The complexity of whistleblower cases also means they require resources. A single competent attorney can handle many types of legal matters. However, a whistleblower case routinely requires a team of attorneys. Only the first whistleblower to file gets to bring the case, so it usually takes many lawyers to file a case first. Attorneys in whistleblower cases often need to hire consultants to bolster the case. These attorneys also need to have good contacts with the U.S. Attorney’s office.

The Importance of Reputation as You Hire a Lawyer for Whistleblowers

A lawyer’s reputation is always a critical factor to consider. However, it’s particularly important with whistleblower cases. The length of these cases means you’ll be working closely with your attorney for an extended period. An attorney whose judgment you trust increases the probability of a favorable outcome.

Understanding Associated Fees

Ensure you understand how a law firm does business before you retain its services. Whistleblower attorneys typically work on a contingency basis. This means you pay their fees from any money you receive from the case. You should look elsewhere if an attorney in a whistleblower case wants to bill you upfront or by the hour.

For more information about finding the right lawyer for whistleblowers, contact the Bothwell Law Group for the experience and knowledge you need for your case.

What a Pharma Whistleblower Attorney Does in Whistleblower Cases

pharma whistleblower attorney

What to look for in the right pharma whistleblower attorney.

Choosing a pharma whistleblower attorney is one of the most important steps in winning your case. You want someone with a thorough understanding of qui tam case law in practice, not just in theory. Hiring a family friend or a lawyer based on convenience could come back to bite you. Be sure to pick someone with the essentials necessary to win in a pharma case.

Your lawyer needs the knowledge, skills, and resources to:

  • File your case correctly
  • Navigate common roadblocks
  • Perform appropriate research

Look at former cases to get an idea of what your lawyer might have to handle. For instance, in 2013, DaVita Medical Holdings LLC succeeded in having the FCA case against their company dismissed. The whistleblower in the case, James Swoben, filed an appeal and eventually the company settled for $270 million. Swoben received over $10 million from the agreement but had to fight for compensation of an earlier $322 million settlement by another company involved in the case.  

In another instance, whistleblower Stephanie Schweizer sued her employer for retaliatory conduct. She went on to sue the government when they accepted an extraordinarily small settlement in the case.

False Claims Act (FCA) cases against big pharma are too tricky to go into ill-prepared. Here are just a few ways to know you’re ready for battle.

Make Sure the Lawyer Is Really a Lawyer

While impersonating an attorney is a crime, some professional referral agencies go out of their way to blur the lines. They provide an abundant amount of information on specialized representation in the hopes of referring your case to a lawyer and getting a fee in return. It can be difficult to spot these sites, especially if you’re upset or nervous.

Often they don’t list attorneys by name on their websites. Some list employees and allow visitors to assume they’re law professionals when they’re really “account executives.” Worst case scenario? These people could be fronts for industry leaders looking to stay ahead of their own legal problems. Before giving lawyers the details of your case, check out their credentials with the state bar association.

Look for People Familiar with Pharma-Specific Whistleblower Cases

Corruption is rampant throughout every level of our economy. From education to stock trading, companies are fudging the books and purposefully making bad deals at the expense of their clients. Unfortunately, the rules in each of these industries are unique. The methods for exposing fraud are specific to each situation. Handling things the wrong way will destroy your case and potentially put you at risk. So, it’s essential you work with a lawyer who has experience with cases involved in pharma whistleblowing.

That means asking for a list of cases they’ve worked on and what work they performed. It also means investigating each case to make sure the lawyer is representing the information honestly and accurately. Lawyers are like people in any other profession. Sometimes they exaggerate to land the right client. Double-check their facts to make sure they’re telling you the truth.

  • Did the client or case run into any problems?
  • Was the case successful?
  • Did the government intervene?

Ideally, the lawyer you choose to work with will have experience leading a pharma whistleblower case, from filing the initial paperwork to securing a win for the client.

Ask About Working Alongside the Government

When you sue on behalf of the U.S. government, the appropriate agency reviews the case and decides whether or not to join you in the case. It’s fantastic when they do. The number of resources they bring to the table and the means they have for discovery almost ensure a win.

Unfortunately, the government is cracking down on whistleblower lawsuits and calling for more stringent assessment before the intervention. With the rise in suits over the past five years, costs are also on the rise. Has your lawyer convinced the government to hop on board in the past? If not, you might want to work with someone else.

Double-Check the Traditional Costs of Doing Business

Sometimes whistleblowers choose lawyers based on the lawyers’ location relative to their own because they don’t have the funds needed to get back and forth. This is short-sighted and solves a problem that might not exist. Whistleblower attorneys are often prepared to handle communicating with someone long-distance. Before you limit your choices based on location, be sure to ask if it’s necessary.

Investigating the above issues will provide you with the basics you need to know whether your lawyer is a qualified one. When you’re ready to connect with a skilled pharma whistleblower attorney, talk to the team at Bothwell Law Group by clicking or calling 770.643.1606 today.

Do Whistleblower Protection Laws Apply to All Industries?

Unraveling what Whistleblower Protection Laws mean for you.

whistleblower protection lawWhistleblower Protection Laws aren’t as simple as one body of legislation. Federally, over 20 laws address reporting crimes and other wrongdoings. Each state has its own laws governing retaliation and the like. Professional associations have their own methods for managing complaints within their respective industries. Outcomes depend on the types of information you are sharing. They also depend on the role you play in the offending organization. Finally, they depend on whether or not you use the appropriate methods for calling attention to the problem.

What Is Whistleblowing?

The broadest definition of whistleblowing is reporting on criminal or otherwise immoral conduct by a company, organization or individual. Many states narrow the term to mean employees – perhaps limited to those employed by the government – who are reporting on criminal activity committed by their employer. Where you live and work, the type of work you do and the offenses you’re reporting on will all determine whether you’re covered under Whistleblower Protection Law.

Speaking out about wrongdoings in the workplace is a bold move regardless of what legal protections are in place. The government understands workers make sacrifices to bring attention to problems. Whistleblowers might face social isolation, threats, financial stress and other consequences, not to mention the guilt of turning friends and associates into the authorities for actions which could have noble intentions.

Take Medical Insurance Fraud

Medical insurance fraud is a good example. An assistant in a dental office might notice additional billing for services no one has rendered. The dentist explains the fees cover co-pays for parents who can’t afford them. It sounds legitimate enough, but experience shows a dentist who will fudge copays will eventually put patient care at risk to increase profits. It’s a slippery slope.

Under whistleblower laws, it’s possible the assistant could go to the authorities with fraudulent billing complaints or sue the dentist through a qui tam case. When individuals bring suits against those who defraud the government, they not only put a stop to waste, they have the opportunity to collect a healthy portion of judgments and settlements. The provision is part of one of the oldest laws on whistleblowing, the False Claims Act, otherwise known as Lincoln’s Law.

Every industry has some protection afforded to whistleblowers, even national security and the military. In fact, the Whistleblower Protection Act Former President Ronald Reagan signed into effect in 1989 had concern for federal employees at the forefront. However, whistleblowers in every industry have protection available when turning employers in for various infractions.

Examples of Whistleblowers Across Industries

  • Linda Tripp – White House staffer during the Clinton Administration who went public with the President’s extramarital affair with young intern Monica Lewinsky
  • Frank Serpico – New York police officer who came forward with complaints about corruption within the department
  • Karen Silkwood – A chemical technician who worked for Kerr-McGee Cimarron Fuel Fabrication Site and raised concerns regarding the company’s handling of plutonium
  • Jeffrey Wigand – A tobacco company executive who admitted the industry knew their products were addictive
  • Mark Whitacre – An executive for a commodities trading company, informed the FBI of company price-fixing
  • Sherron Watkins – Enron Corp. executive who exposed the oil companies’ fraudulent practices

Pros and Cons of Being a Whistleblower

In many cases, whistleblowers receive a portion of settlements or court judgments against the companies they expose. In other situations, they’re the subjects of books, movies or awards. While fame and fortune don’t always follow, blowing the whistle on important matters can result in major financial gains. It can also lead to jail time.

In 2010, an Army soldier named Bradley Manning released over 750,000 classified documents online through WikiLeaks to support claims of misconduct by U.S. forces. Manning wound up facing a potential death sentence, ultimately sentenced to 35 years at Fort Leavenworth.

Similarly, government contractor Edward Snowden faces espionage charges for releasing classified documents of the National Security Agency. He remains a wanted man on American soil. However, Snowden has escaped prosecution and is currently living in Russia under the protection of asylum.

Making the Right Decision Requires Qualified Legal Representation

Whistleblower protection laws don’t protect every employee in every situation. The confines of your position and the type of information you share has a big impact on the final outcome. Breaking certain legal agreements, national security protocols and other requirements of your job can land you in hot water. However, performed within the confines of the law, blowing the lid off wrongdoing is a smart and brave way to better the world. It’s essential for potential whistle-blowers to seek legal counsel before they come forward.

Click to find out more about Whistleblower Protection Law by contacting Bothwell Law Group online.

How Whistleblower Laws Can Prevent Bad Stewardship of Taxpayer Dollars

Put whistleblower laws to work for the common man.

whistleblower lawsWhistleblower laws make it easy for people to come forward when they know trouble is afoot. They also encourage people to bust corruption wide open by offering them protection from retaliation — and the chance to receive a small fortune.

How the False Claims Act Encourages People to Do the Right Thing

Telling the truth isn’t always easy, especially when lies seem to have good intentions behind them. Many instances of fraud look like someone has done something to help out the little guy, but the bigger picture shows a different story.

Take Medicaid insurance fraud, for example. Policies in states like Iowa are changing to drastically limit the amount of dental work state insurance will cover in a year. Why?  Because so many dental offices have figured out ways to bilk the system tens of thousands of dollars per patient. They’ve performed unnecessary work, lied about services and even put people in danger to make an extra few dollars. Now, children will suffer without the dental care they need because of greed. These kinds of crimes count!

It takes a brave soul to say something, but if you face the risks you may reap the benefits. Consider the hospital employee who turned the company in for falsifying grant applications. The facility didn’t house nearly many as beds as they’d claimed. The result was a $12.9 million settlement, of which $3.3 million went to the whistleblower.

Filing Suit ‘For the People’

The False Claims Act makes it possible for individuals to sue corporations, groups, and individuals for defrauding the government. Individuals wage these “qui tam” lawsuits on behalf of the nation.

The law sweetens the deal by allowing the filer to take home a portion of the winnings. While this isn’t the only reason whistleblowers come forward, it fuels motivation in many cases.

As the law is currently written, whistleblowers can share in up to 30 percent of a settlement, based on triple the damages involved in a case. See the wrong thing at the right time, and your conscience could make you a lot of money.

Unfortunately, whistleblowing doesn’t come without risk. Laws and industry policies offer various forms of protection, but they do not apply to everyone in every situation. State laws might also limit the reach of federal practices, so it’s important to seek legal counsel before coming forward with damaging information.

Whistleblower policy often protects against the following:

  • Termination and demotion
  • Hostility and threats
  • Severe schedule changes or expectations

Changes to the False Claims Act Through the Years

While perfectly suited to deal with the problems of the modern day, the False Claims Act arose out of the corruption of the Civil War. The greed of the day horrified leaders. Contractors promised to provide troops with quality food, clothing, and supplies only to fail to deliver. These bad business deals, fueled with government funds, sometimes left Union Army troops starving and stranded.

President Abraham Lincoln, initially signed the False Claims Act in 1863, making it clear early on that the United States would not let corruption take hold. It cleaned up the country’s track record … for a while.

Unfortunately, the country forgot those lessons as the years rolled on. During the 1940s, Congress gutted the False Claims Act, removing all incentive for people to report fraud affecting government funds. It wasn’t until the Reagan Administration that people began to take this duty seriously. Today, there are significant protections for those looking to help the little guy.

The False Claims Act is just one way to fight corruption at the government level and secure tax dollars for those with good intentions. However, the country has 22 federal laws giving protection to whistleblowers of various kinds. States have their own standards. Associations and licensing boards offer their own incentives as well.

Using Whistleblower Laws to Your Advantage

Throughout the last 100 years, whistleblowers have uncovered serious risks to government funding and to the people. Karen Silkwood gave her life to the cause when a mysterious auto accident prevented her from testifying against her employer. Critics of his decision to speak out on police corruption shot Frank Serpico. He narrowly survived. Edward Snowden is currently living abroad pending extradition to the U.S. on espionage charges for sharing classified documents with the press.

Protection laws do not offer ultimate protection or keep you safe from all legal repercussions. It’s important to discuss your situation with a legal representative before you speak out.

Contact skilled whistleblower laws attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.