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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.

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

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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.

Borrower Beware: Prepare Now to Defend your Company’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan from SBA Review or a Possible False Claims Act or Criminal Investigation

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When the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) was adopted on March 27, 2020, businesses welcomed the prospect of receiving COVID-19 financial relief through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The PPP was layered atop the SBA’s existing Section 7(a) loan program, through which the federal government guarantees loans issued by qualified lenders to eligible business borrowers. The PPP program temporarily relaxed several criteria for obtaining an SBA loan, greatly expanding the availability of the lending program to a wider range of businesses. While clearly broader, the criteria for eligibility and the implications of the “necessity” certification weren’t quite so clearly defined, and left open many unanswered questions. But the prospect of “free money” by way of loan “forgiveness” induced countless businesses to submit loan applications at the earliest opportunity, beginning in early April 2020, despite the uncertainties.

Tenth Circuit Affirms Summary Judgment Reinforcing Escobar’s Materiality Requirements

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On February 7, 2020, the Tenth Circuit affirmed a district court’s decision to grant summary judgment in favor of the defendant hospital. See United States ex rel Janssen v. Lawrence Memorial Hospital, __ F.3d __ (10th Cir. 2020). In doing so, the Tenth Circuit reinforced the rigorous materiality standard set forth in the Supreme Court’s 2016 Escobar decision.

Significant FCA Recoveries Reported for 2019

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Fiscal Year 2019 was another banner year for False Claims Act recoveries, with the DOJ obtaining more than $3 billion in settlements and judgments under the Act. Of that amount, $2.6 billion came from the health care industry, and this is the 10th consecutive year that health care fraud settlements and judgments have exceeded $2 billion. 

Extrapolation Puts Big Data to Work for the Little Guy

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Large frauds can generate hundreds of thousands of false claims for payment. The whistleblowers who uncover such frauds rarely have proof of every single false claim. Instead, they will usually have evidence of the overarching scheme—from emails, company memos, or conversations with insiders—along with some examples of the false claims that the scheme has generated. Now more than ever, that could be enough to win, as long as the whistleblower and their lawyers know how to use inferential statistics to their advantage.

DOJ Now Requires Certain Factors Be Met Before Pursuing Off-Label Cases

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Over the years, the Department of Justice has vigorously pursued off-label sales of pharmaceuticals by some of the largest pharma companies in the world. By statute, pharma companies cannot market a product “off-label,” while a physician may prescribe off-label, if he or she believes a particular medicine is effective. This rule created a tension between pharma and physicians.

SCOTUS Finds that Violating FCA’s Seal Requirement Does Not Mandate Dismissal

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The Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ruled in State Farm Fire & Cas. Co. v. United States ex rel. Rigsby et al., 580 U.S. ___ (2016) that a seal violation does not mandate dismissal of a relator’s complaint. 

Supreme Court May Hear Another False Claims Act Case

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The United States Supreme Court may be poised to hear another case involving the False Claims Act. 

More Sales Tax News in the FCA Area: IL Whistleblower Finds Success in NY

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Chicago lawyer Stephen Diamond has made quite a name for himself in recent years for his perceived abuse of the Illinois False Claims Act (“FCA”).  Many believe Diamond is misusing the FCA or is using it for self-serving reasons not consistent with the FCA’s intent.  

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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.