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The Whistleblower Blog

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Presented by Hodgson Russ, the Whistleblower Blog is written by a team of lawyers experienced in successfully guiding both whistleblowers and companies accused by whistleblowers of wrongdoing through the False Claims Act process.

On Behalf of the King

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The False Claims Act is aimed at fraudulent claims for payment from the government (or, in what are known as “reverse” false claims, underpayment to the government), and the typical case involves a whistleblower who helps the government uncover the fraud. In some of these cases, the whistleblower tells the government and the government initiates the lawsuit. But in others, the government does not get involved and the whistleblower becomes a relator - someone who litigates the action on behalf of the government. These are known as “qui tam” actions, a phrase that is short for “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur.” This translates, more or less, to “He who sues for the king as well as for himself in this issue.” The “for himself” refers to the substantial financial incentives for whistleblowing. A whistleblower in a successful case may receive a substantial portion of the damages to the government, and - even if a case is not ultimately successful - is protected from being retaliated against for whistleblowing.

Supreme Court Declines to Review “Objective Falsity” Issue and Resolve Circuit Split

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Several months ago, we posted a blog discussing how Circuit Courts are split on the question of whether the False Claims Act requires objective falsity, or whether a difference of opinion regarding medical necessity is sufficient to support an actionable claim. Despite this Circuit split, the Supreme Court recently denied certiorari in two cases—one from the Third Circuit and one from the Ninth Circuit—that would have allowed the Court to address the issue of “objective falsity.”

The False Claims Act and PPP: Practical Considerations

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Much has been written over the past several months about the application of the False Claims Act to PPP loan fraud.  While, at first look, the cases seem appealing, it is important to consider the practical implications of bringing such a case and whether, in the general scheme of things, a PPP case is worthwhile. 

When Evaluating a Release of FCA Claims, Sequence Can Make All the Difference

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Meet Peter Fabien.  Until recently, Peter worked as an engineer at a company that makes tank parts for the United States military.  Last June, he discovered that his employer was knowingly delivering substandard parts and hiding the defects using falsified test results.  Peter alerted upper management, and was fired for his trouble.  Incensed, he hired an employment lawyer to protest his termination.  The employment lawyer negotiated a lump sum payment from the company, but in exchange the company insisted that Peter sign a release promising not to file any lawsuits alleging violations of the False Claims Act (FCA).  Is the release enforceable?  Federal courts increasingly hold that, in many cases, the answer is no.

Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and Other Prosecutors Hard At Work Replenishing State Coffers Depleted By State’s COVID Response

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As the holiday season approaches and New Yorkers struggle with finances due to COVID-related limitations imposed on business, the government has been searching for ways to alleviate the hardships faced by many. For example, Attorney General Letitia James and Governor Andrew Cuomo recently announced that the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) renewed, for the eighth time, an order to halt the collection of medical and student debt owed to the State of New York, including those matters specifically referred to the OAG for collection. However, when one hand giveth, the other taketh away. Because the State treasury has also suffered tremendously during the pandemic, agencies are under pressure to recoup losses. Thus, like other agencies, the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU) of the OAG is working harder than ever to prosecute health care fraud and recapture State funds and penalties.

Ninth Circuit Finds False Certifications of Medical Necessity Actionable Under the FCA

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When a person insured by Medicare or Medicaid receives medical services, the service-provider is often required to certify that the services are medically necessary. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals recently joined the Third, Fifth, and Tenth Circuits in finding false certifications of medical necessity actionable under the False Claims Act.

DOJ’s $678 Million Novartis Settlement for False Claims Act and Anti-Kickback Statute Violations—Changing Big Pharma’s Expectations for Compliance Programs

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Roopa Chakkappan authored an article titled, "DOJ’s $678 Million Novartis Settlement for False Claims Act and Anti-Kickback Statute Violations—Changing Big Pharma’s Expectations for Compliance Programs," which was posted on the American Health Law Association's (AHLA) website. 

Government Fraud Statistics Demonstrate the Enduring Utility of False Claims Act Litigation

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The U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division has published a substantial amount of data on the historical success of whistleblower cases and investigations.  The statistics show that whistleblower litigation under the False Claims Act (often referred to as “quit tam” litigation) continues to be the government’s primary weapon in combating fraud.

As COVID-19 Strangles State Revenues, Some Legislatures Move to Ax the Tax Bar

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Over its 200-year history, the federal False Claims Act (“FCA”) has saved the federal government billions of dollars in false claims for payment. But one type of false claim remains off limits in federal courts. A provision of the federal FCA known as the “tax bar” prohibits suits based on failure to pay federal taxes. See 31 U.S.C. § 3729(d). Whistleblowers who uncover federal tax fraud are limited to the Internal Revenue Service’s whistleblower program.

New York Expands Healthcare Worker Whistleblower Protections

On June 17, 2020, Governor Cuomo signed into law an amendment to the New York healthcare whistleblower law to create a new protected category, “improper quality of workplace safety,” and to expand protected channels to include news and social media outlets for reporting violations of improper quality of patient care or workplace safety. Under the new amendment, healthcare employers cannot take retaliatory action because an employee complains to the press or on social media about workplace conditions that significantly threaten employee health.

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Hodgson Russ is one of only a few major law firms that represents both whistleblowers and companies accused by whistleblowers of wrongdoing. This unusual perspective means we are exceptionally well positioned to advise whistleblowers about potential claims.

We are not a "whistleblower mill" that pays little attention to the needs of its clients or the factual nuances of complex cases. Rather, we are a team of highly experienced lawyers that selects only the best cases, affording us the time and focus to become fully immersed in the factual and legal details necessary to bring cases to successful resolution.