I am pleased to announce a settlement totaling over $8 million dollars in a case brought by two whistleblower retaliation clients. Well may you ask: “Wait a minute, how do you leverage two individual employee whistleblower retaliation claims into a more than $8 million dollar settlement?” And the answer is: “Through the alchemy of the False Claims Act.”
My clients are pharmacists who were fired in October 2013 after insisting their employer comply with federal regulations governing the payment of drug prescriptions by Medicare. For more details on their case, see the U.S. Department of Justice’s Press Release and my Firm Press Release.
What transformed their individual retaliation claim into a multimillion dollar settlement was the involvement of federal monies, which made the False Claims Act applicable. The FCA is an extremely complex statute that when skillfully applied allows whistleblowers to add multimillion dollar premiums to their retaliation claims.
The purpose of the FCA is to punish the dishonest use of governmental monies and thus deter others from defrauding taxpayers. Examples of false claims include: falsely certifying a condition of payment; billing for services not done or that are unnecessary; over billing; billing for substandard service or goods; or failing to pay or refund monies owed to the government. There is a six year statute of limitations, so any false claims going back six years are fair game.
The FCA imposes triple damages and fines against the defrauding party, and entitles the whistleblower relator to receive a bounty of 15% to 30% of the total. However, FCA cases are fraught with hurdles and pitfalls. They can only be brought by an attorney on behalf of a whistleblower. Only the first relator to file can recover a bounty. The complaint must be filed under seal. And any public disclosure or breach of the seal can be fatal to a relator’s case.
Many FCA cases concern Medicare payments to health care providers or pharmaceutical companies. But defense contractors and any other businesses that directly or indirectly receive federal funds also are subject to a false claim action. One area that has not received the attention it deserves is transportation infrastructure projects.
Transportation infrastructure construction projects are subject to the False Claims Act because they depend on substantial federal and state funding. Such projects include the construction or renovation of tunnels, bridges, highways, stations, and ports, as well as publicly funded railroad capital improvements. For example, in the greater New York City area alone, a multitude of projects are underway at the MTA, Amtrak, Metro North Railroad, the Long Island Rail Road, PATH, and New Jersey Transit. The FCA applies to similar construction projects nationwide. Click here for a list of some of those projects.
So here is the message to all the managers and employees involved in such transportation construction projects: be on the look out for potential false claims. If you have concrete information showing the misuse of federal or state monies, do not go public until you contact an experienced FCA attorney to ensure you follow the special procedures of the FCA. Any discussion will be kept confidential, and any resulting FCA complaint will be filed under seal. You may receive a multimillion dollar bounty for protecting taxpayer dollars. Click here to learn more about the False Claims Act, so that when confronted with evidence taxpayer dollars are being lost to fraud or waste, you can do the right thing.