Fraud Fighters Fear Deathblow as Supreme Court Ruling Turns 2
Disclaimer: We do not claim ownership of the article attached. Repost via Bloomberg Government.
Contact our Georgia national whistleblower lawyers today. Call us at 770-643-1606
Fraud Fighters Fear Deathblow as Supreme Court Ruling Turns 2
Disclaimer: We do not claim ownership of the article attached. Repost via Bloomberg Government.
What is the whistleblower law? At Whistle Blower Law, this is just one of the many questions we answer regularly for our clients and potential clients.
Once a government employee believes they have proof of illegal or dangerous activity in their workplace, they often begin to do research on their own. They wish to educate themselves on the laws in place for prosecuting the illegal activity in their workplace. However, it becomes clear very quickly that the laws in place are complex. Ultimately, there are many different aspects to understand. Therefore, when potential whistleblowers show up at our offices, they are full of questions concerning the law and how it can protect them.
Are you considering filing a claim against your employer? It is important you understand the ins and outs of the laws. In this article we will explain the Whistleblower Law, when it applies, and who benefits.
When a whistleblower steps forward, filing a claim against a government agency where they are employed, they will have to publicly share the evidence they have of illegal activity in their workplace. As you can imagine, their employer may become angry and may try to retaliate against the employee.
The Whistleblower law is a federal law put in place to protect whistleblowers who are working for government agencies from retaliation at the hands of their employer.
The Whistleblower law protects government employees who have exposed their employer’s illegal or dangerous activities. Therefore, this law allows employees to file a lawsuit if they have proof their employer is misusing government funds, ignoring and purposefully ignoring policies, or endangering the general public, without fear of suffering retaliation at the hands of their employer. This law makes it illegal, and punishable, to terminate, demote, or act in any discriminative fashion towards an employee who has reported illegal activity in a government agency.
Examples of retaliation can include:
Do you have proof of illegal activity in your workplace? You can file a claim against your employer under the Whistleblower Law. The law will protect you from retaliation. Also, there may be a financial reward for disclosing your knowledge of illegal activity.
Contact a skilled whistleblower law attorney at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.
Whistleblower laws were put into place to protect workers who report health and safety hazards, illegal activity, tax evasion, and certain other actions that go against the public interest. Both the government and general public have a strong interest in encouraging the reporting of these types of activities so that they can be remedied. Therefore, Congress has passed laws providing protection for federal whistleblowers from retaliation.
The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 are the main foundation for protection for federal whistleblowers. If an employee reports activities covered under the act to a supervisor or appropriate government agency, they have protection. Termination is not an acceptable response. Neither is a reduction in pay or reassignment to a less desirable position. Your employer cannot reduce your hours or move you to a less desirable shift. Finally, they cannot suffer indirect retaliation such as hostility from management.
Whistleblower protections are also embedded into many federal laws. For example, OSHA provides protection for federal whistleblowers making safety complaints. Presidential Policy Directive 19 protects retaliation related to an employee’s security clearance. Further, securities laws provide protections for workers in the financial industry.
Have you suffered adverse consequences after blowing the whistle? You will have to prove that your employer’s actions stemmed directly or indirectly from your actions as a whistleblower. Protection for Federal whistleblowers does not cover an employee if the adverse action stemmed from unrelated job performance issues or an employer’s operational needs. This gives employers a strong incentive to misrepresent the reasons for any action they took against a whistleblower.
After making a complaint, you should save any written communications with your employer. Also, document the date, time, and nature of any verbal communications. If the employer takes retaliatory action and you made a complaint to a government agency, they will usually have a process for opening an investigation into the retaliation.
You may wish to receive financial compensation for lost wages or other economic losses as a result of the retaliation. Hence, you may need to file a private lawsuit against the employer. You will need to prove that you engaged in protected whistleblower activity. Also, you will need to prove your employer’s discriminatory motive. However, your employer can also introduce their own evidence. It’s important to understand that even if you believe you are clearly entitled to compensation, this is a long and difficult process. Therefore it can be difficult to navigate what lies ahead without the assistance of an experienced attorney.
Have you been the victim of illegal retaliation? Do you want to learn more about the protections that may be available to you? Contact Bothwell Law Group to schedule a consultation.
To understand how False Claims Act litigation under federal law fits with the Whistleblower Act, we first need to discuss exactly what the false claims law is, what it requires, and who’s penalized by it. The False Claims Act was originally passed as an additional measure to ensure contract compliance by vendors and those billing the federal government for services or product.
No surprise, the law came into existence when numerous audits and investigations uncovered evidence of billing irregularities. Overcharging, intentional misdirection, and even withholding of information have happened, resulting in inflated costs for the government.
Technically, the False Claims Act penalizes any intentional action that lies, falsifies, misdirects or omits information in such a way that a billing to the government is incorrect or untrue. This includes the intentional withholding of information from the federal government that should have been shared.
In all instances the information must meet a definition of being “material,” in importance. But that term is a subject to how federal investigators interpret it.
The Whistleblower Act is intended to protect people who believe they have no other option but to go to an external authority to report wrongdoing by their employer.
The protection is written to ensure that the employee is not unfairly punished for reporting the wrongdoing, particularly in an attempt to cover the matter up internally.
The two Acts cross over when the incorrect billing is reported. At this point, the Whistleblower Act protects the reporting when wrongdoing is found, and the False Claims Act provides the penalty for the wrongdoing as well as a deterrent given the size of the penalty involved in False Claims Act litigation.
For example, if a company has a whistleblower but does nothing to negatively impact the reporting party’s career or job, then there is no issue. The person has made his report, and the company deals with the fallout as it occurs. The federal government then uses the information and files a civil suit under the False Claims Act alone.
On the other hand, if a company fires the reporting person, now both Acts are triggered. First, the False Claims Act still applies because the intentional incorrect billing is discovered. Second, because the company fired the employee due to the report, the company will be hit with additional charges from the former employee under the Whistleblower Act.
There is no question that the interaction of False Claims Act litigation and whistleblower protections complicate such civil claims, and information is available to help guide companies potentially facing such charges.
Have questions about False Claims Act litigation? Click to contact the Bothwell Law Group online.
In an attempt to simplify and encourage more citizens to blow the whistle on Medicare fraud, Medicare whistleblower hotlines have been set up throughout the country. The purpose of a Medicare whistleblower hotline is to provide an easy and anonymous way for employees to report evidence of suspected illegal activity within their workplace.
There are various reasons why an employee may call a Medicare whistleblower hotline, but there are some reasons that are more common than others. Continue reading for the top 5 reasons the Medicare whistleblower hotline is called:
A healthcare provider may be routinely billing for procedures, most commonly diagnostic tests, that they have not provided to a patient. When the patient receives the incorrect statement, they typically call their provider first instead of Medicare that allows for this type of fraud to go unnoticed.
Similarly to the scenario above, some providers may routinely bill Medicare for a supply under the false pretense that they have supplied it to a patient.
Some healthcare providers may make a habit of up-coding, or billing a service as a higher paid procedure or test that was not performed. As an employee, reporting this type of fraud is incredibly important since an estimated 2% of Medicare claims are audited for up-coding.
If a procedure is not covered under Medicare, some healthcare providers will code it inaccurately to obtain reimbursement for that service. Additionally, since Medicare can only cover services that have been deemed as absolutely medically necessary, some healthcare providers will misrepresent a diagnosis as a way to obtain reimbursement for a service that would not be covered under normal circumstances.
There are multiple services, especially surgical or diagnostic services, that are bundled together to be billed as one service. In some cases, providers are unbundling these services and billing them separately across several bills as a way to receive additional compensation for a service provided.
The desire to submit an anonymous tip concerning Medicare fraud is completely understandable as many employees fear retaliation at the hands of their employer. However, there are laws in place that protect whistleblowers from retaliation. Although an anonymous call to a Medicare whistleblower hotline is helpful, lawsuits presented with evidence of fraud are more highly prioritized by the government and anonymous whistleblowers cannot be rewarded if the defendant is found liable.
Bothwell Law can assist you in filing a Medicare False Claims lawsuit and teach you what you need to know to protect yourself from retaliation. Find out what you need to know about the Medicare whistleblower hotline by clicking this link or calling 770.643.1606.
If you want to file a whistleblower lawsuit, choosing the right false claims act attorney is an important part of the process. If you have knowledge of fraud being committed against the government, you can file a false claims, or qui tam, lawsuit.
As a citizen, the False Claims Act gives you the power to file false claims lawsuits on behalf of the government. Not only does the False Claims Act give you the right to sue a fraudster, it protects you from any possible retaliation that may result from the lawsuit. Additionally, the person who has filed the lawsuit may be rewarded if the government decides to pursue the case.
The false claims act attorney you choose could be the determining factor of your success in false claims court. Because the government could reward you up to 25 percent of the money recovered in the case, you want to choose an attorney who is experienced and equipped to handle your case. There are four things you should be looking for before hiring a false claims act attorney:
The False Claims Act is complicated, and there are many factors playing a role in the process of filing a qui tam lawsuit. The reward statue of the False Claims Act is especially complicated. Because of these, we suggest you hire an attorney who has extensive experience filing False Claims lawsuits.
False Claims lawsuits require extensive communication between the False Claims Act Attorney and the attorneys working with the government. Because of this, it is especially beneficial if the attorney you hire has already established strong relationships with these attorneys through previous work or lawsuits.
Only a portion of qui tam lawsuits are accepted by the government. The attorney you have chosen for your case should be knowledgeable enough to see if your case has a chance of being further pursued by the government. Additionally, your attorney should be honest with you about how strong your case is. Because of this, it is important you choose an attorney who has a reputation for being straightforward and honest with their clients.
A False Claims Act lawsuit can take as much as three years to complete. These lawsuits require extensive conversations between you and your attorney, as well as between your attorney and the attorneys working for the government on your case. Because of this, it is important to choose an attorney who communicates openly and reliably with you.
Bothwell Law Group attorneys have a combined 30 years of experiencing filing False Claims Act lawsuit. Contact our skilled false claims act attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.
Did you know whistleblowers get between 10 and 30 percent of the amount the government collects from securities law violators? Now more than ever, it can pay big to be a whistleblower.
Last year, a whistleblower was awarded more than $30 million for assistance and information that exposed and ended a massive securities fraud. The client was represented by Phillips & Cohen. To date, that is the largest SEC award ever made.
According to attorney Erika A. Kelton “The SEC acted quickly as a result of the information and assistance our client provided. The fraud was such that it’s unlikely that it ever would have been detected if our client hadn’t come forward.”
Recently, another whistleblower represented by Phillips & Cohen was awarded more than $3 million by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The whistleblower provided assistance and information that led to a significant enforcement action.
This is the second largest award the SEC has made to a client of Phillips & Cohen in the past 10 months.
The whistleblowers in both cases chose to remain anonymous in order to protect their careers and their jobs. Confidentiality is highly important. The Dodd-Frank Act makes sure the SEC doesn’t disclose any information that would tie whistleblowers to particular actions taken against individuals or companies.
Dodd-Frank encourages everyday private citizens to report any wrongdoing to the SEC in exchange for anonymity, rewards and job protection.
A federal judge ruled the whistleblower against Endo Pharmaceuticals is entitled to roughly $33.6 million.
Pharmaceutical company Endo Pharmaceuticals was allegedly promoting the drug Lidoderm for off-label uses and agreed to pay $171.9 million in settlement. $140 million of the settlement goes to the government. 24% of the government’s portion is going to the whistleblower – relator Peggy Ryan. The government, however, argued she should only receive 19% of the federal recovery.
The judge, U.S. District Judge Robert F. Kelly, stated “because of Ryan’s “extraordinary” contributions to the nearly decade-long litigation, she was entitled to more.” He also wrote in his memorandum, “An examination of the record exhibits that Ryan provided not only the spark for the investigation, but that she nurtured the flame at the darkest times when the possibility of a favorable outcome seemed most remote. Throughout the nine-year period from her first qui tam complain in 2005 to the settlement in 20154, Ryan continually provided access behind the corporate walls of Endo. Ryan’s insider status, conferred by her employment with Endo, enabled the government investigatory team to recover evidence which would have otherwise been unobtainable.”
Whistleblower Peggy Ryan filed a qui tam complaint and an investigation into Endo’s alleged fraudulent practices was launched. Over the next year, Ryan wore a wire and recorded over 200 hours of conversation. Thanks to covertly recording the conversations, evidence was gathered of the unlawful marketing of Lidoderm. Kelly stated the recordings gathered by Ryan provided the evidence of Endo’s strategies to market the drug for off-label uses, promote the drug for off-label uses and management instructing sales representatives on how to convince doctors to promote the drug for said off-label purposes.
Kelly also said Ryan was able to record Lidoderm’s project manager saying 97 to 98 percent of Lidoderm’s prescriptions were off-label.
Judge Kelly made it clear that “It is the view of the court that without the assistance of Ryan, the probability of the government recovering any funds for the [False Claims Act] violations would have been slim at best.”
Ryan and the law firm representing her, James, Hoyer, Newcomer & Smiljanich in Tampa, Florida, produced an 18 minute documentary summarizing the case. This video was then distributed to every federal agent and prosecutor involved.
Christopher Casper of James Hoyer said in a statement to The Legal, “It is never easy to be a whistleblower, especially when a case gone on for a decade, but Ms. Ryan has remained dedicated to the cause of exposing fraud against the government on behalf of the American taxpayer. It has been exactly 10 years and 10 days since this case was filed. We hope Judge Kelly’s decision to grant Ms. Ryan close to the maximum percentage for a relator will encourage other individuals with evidence of fraud against the government to come forward. This case demonstrates that the False Claims Act is the most powerful tool the government has in fighting fraud.”
TBW Agrees To Pay More Than $320 Million For Fraud Allegations
Bothwell Law Group announces the conclusion of its clients’ seven-year long civil False Claims Act case against mortgage giants Taylor Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corporation (TBW) and Home America Mortgage, Inc. The qui tam complaint was jointly filed in December 2006 by Stephanie Kennedy, former Vice President of Operations, and Comfort Friddle, former Home America loan processor. Defendants will pay more than $320 million to resolve allegations that they falsified loan applications, created false documentation, and misrepresented qualifications of applicants in order to secure federally-funded insurance for home loans that ultimately defaulted.
According to Relators, Greg Hicks, principal at Home America, and his hand-selected group of loan officers and processors tricked the Government into insuring bad loans by hiding or falsifying data about borrowers’ eligibility for various loan programs and their ability to repay. The loans were then sold to TBW, freeing up Home America to repeat the scam. When the loans inevitably defaulted, the Government insurance had to pay. In this fashion, defendants pawned off hundreds of millions of dollars in bad loans onto the federal government.
Farkas (TBW) In Prison, Case Continues Against Hicks (Home America)
Relators observed these practices firsthand, routinely witnessing falsification of credit scores, assets, income, and employment. When they tried to stop the fraud internally, Hicks fired them both. But the pair persevered. “When companies like TBW and Home America commit fraud, everyone suffers,” stated whistleblower Comfort Friddle. “It’s tempting to bury your head in the sand and pretend that you don’t see what’s happening, but if you don’t speak up, everyone is harmed. The effects of this kind of fraud will be felt throughout our economy for years to come.” From filing in 2006, Relators worked tirelessly to assist various Government agencies with related investigations. In 2010, Taylor Bean owner Lee Farkas was convicted of mortgage fraud and is presently serving a 38-month sentence. Relators continue their case against Home America president Greg Hicks.
Kennedy and Friddle were represented by nationally-recognized whistleblower attorneys, Mike Bothwell, Julie Bracker, and Jason Marcus of Bothwell Law Group welcomed today’s announcement, which marks the end of seven years of litigation. “I’m sure there are other people out there right now who are debating whether they should come forward,” Friddle said, “who feel led to do the right thing but are afraid. Those people should know they don’t have to be alone. Good lawyers will guide you every step of the way, explain what’s happening and how it affects the case, and make sure that the Government takes your claims seriously.”
Remarking on the significance of this settlement, whistleblower attorney Julie Bracker stated that, “When we filed this case in 2006, the mortgage crisis was barely a speck on the horizon, and FCA cases against mortgage companies were virtually unheard of. But were engaging in one of the most blatant examples of fraud we had ever seen, and we knew it had to be reported. Fortunately for the taxpayers, the False Claims Act is a flexible tool. We are delighted with the results, and honored to have represented these outstanding whistleblowers.”
False Claims Act Pays Percentage To Successful Whistleblowers
Federal and State False Claims Acts allow private citizens with insider knowledge of fraud, waste, and abuse to bring an action on behalf of the governments and to participate in the recovery of the stolen funds. These statutes allow governments to recover three times the amount they were defrauded, in addition to civil penalties of $5,500 to $11,000 per false claim. Successful whistleblowers can receive between 15 and 30 percent of the governments’ recovery. The amount to be paid in this case has yet to be determined.
The settlement was achieved through the coordinated efforts of a team of attorneys from the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia, and HUD. The team was led by Sam Buffone from the Department of Justice, Joel Foreman of HUD, and at the USAO by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Dan Caldwell (retired) and Paris Wynn.
The case is United States ex rel. Friddle and Kennedy v. Taylor Bean & Whitaker Mortgage Corporation et al., Civil Action No. 06-cv-3023-JEC (N.D. Ga.).
Read the Full Press Release HERE.