Articles Tagged with attorney for government fraud whistleblowers

jerry-kiesewetter-210547-copy-300x199The Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on June 7 that the U.S. is intervening in a qui tam suit against Los Angeles and CRA/LA, formerly known as the Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles, regarding allegations that the city and organization falsely certified that they were compliant with federal accessible housing laws to obtain grants from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). In short, the U.S. is joining a lawsuit that alleges the city and its agency unlawfully gained and misused federal funds. If the U.S. and whistleblowers are successful, the settlement or judgement could amount to millions of dollars.

An FCA Claim Against L.A.

The qui tam suit was brought under the False Claims Act (FCA) by Mei Ling, a Los Angeles resident who uses a wheelchair, and the Fair Housing Council of San Fernando Valley, (the Council), a local nonprofit. Ling and the Council provided evidence to the court that L.A. and CRA/LA repeatedly lied to HUD about building accessible housing for people with disabilities. Instead, the defendants used federal grants to build housing that violated Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act and the Fair Housing Act. The whistleblowers also argue that the defendants violated their affirmative duty to provide people with disabilities fair and equal access to public housing.

claire-anderson-60670-copy-300x200The Ninth Circuit recently held that a whistleblower could not intervene in a False Claims Act (FCA) suit filed by the U.S. despite it being based on allegations the whistleblower previously made in a lawsuit that was dismissed. This is another a holding that shows relators in qui tam cases do not get second chances. If the FCA cases to which they are a party do not directly lead to a settlement or jury award, the whistleblowers cannot recover any compensation.

Background for the Decision

In 2009, John Prather filed a qui tam action against Sprint and others stating the businesses overcharged the U.S. for wiretapping services. As in all qui tam cases, the U.S. government has time to investigate the allegations and then choose whether to intervene and become a formal party to the case or not intervene. In this case, the U.S. did not intervene and later the district court dismissed the relator’s claim because it determined he was not an original source for the information that led to the allegations.

https://www.healthcare-fraud-lawyer.com/files/2017/04/DETAIL_OF_STEAM_WHISTLE_-_Anderson-Christofani_Shipyard_Innes_Avenue_and_Griffith_Street_San_Francisco_San_Francisco_County_CA_HAER_CAL38-SANFRA139-18.tif_-213x300.jpgQui tam claims are lawsuits filed by private citizens on behalf of the federal government based on allegations that someone violated the False Claims Act (FCA) or another federal statute. Most of the time these types of claims are brought by employees, or ex-employees, who were able to gather evidence of false claims made by their employer to the government. Qui tam cases are complicated, and it is crucial that you, as a whistleblower, work with an experienced California qui tam lawyer and understands the legal process you are about to undergo.

If you believe you have evidence of fraud against the government, call the Brod Law Firm to learn about what to do next.

An Overview of the Qui Tam Process

file9391313432751-225x300There was an unexpected outcome in the unique case of Wadler v. Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc., et al., when a federal judge in the Northern District of California ruled the Sarbanes-Oxley and Dodd-Frank Acts’ whistleblower protections preempted attorney-client privilege. This ruling allowed Sanford Wadler, the former general counsel of Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc., to bring file a whistleblower action against his previous employer, take the case through trial, and receive compensatory and punitive damages.

Wadler v. Bio-Rad Laboratories, Inc., et al.

In 2015, Wadler brought a lawsuit against Bio-Rad for firing him in retaliation for investigating potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in China and taking his concerns to the company’s audit committee. These concerns arose after the company’s officers learned in 2009 that there were FCPA violations in Vietnam, Thailand, and Russia. The company determined that it needed to investigate whether similar violations occurred in China. An outside law firm determined there was no evidence of FCPA violations in China. However, Wadler believed this was not actually the case and continued to look into these issues, even going to the company’s audit committee about them.

bob-brents-182206-300x240The U.S. District Court of the Southern District of California granted whistleblowers a significant victory this year. In the case of Erhart v. BofI Holdings, Inc., the district court found an employee’s confidentiality agreement with his or her employer did not trump federal whistleblower’s rights. In some circumstances, employees can gather confidential documentation as evidence of fraud, despite signing a confidentiality agreement. Additionally, any retaliatory actions by the company against the whistleblower in relation to these confidential documents is unlikely to succeed.

Erhart v. BofI Holdings, Inc.

Charles Matthew Erhart was an internal auditor for BofI Federal Bank. After being let go, he brought suit against BofI under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and other whistleblower laws based on the company committing fraud against the government and retaliating for his bringing evidence forward. He stated he was fired because he disclosed the bank’s federal and state law violations to federal regulators.

rfufqjekzfy-olu-eletu-300x201In December 2016, the U.S. Supreme Court determined in State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. v. United States ex rel. Rigsby that a violation of the False Claims Act (FCA) seal requirement does not require an automatic dismissal of the case. This is good news for whistleblowers and the U.S. government who use suits under the FCA to recover money fraudulently stolen or kept from the government.

The Seal Requirement

Under the FCA, private citizens can file what is known as a qui tam action under the FCA on behalf of the U.S. government. These individuals are commonly known as whistleblowers but are called “relators” under the law. Once the relator has begun the action, the government has time to investigate the issues and decide whether or not to intervene. If the federal government intervenes, it is a party to the suit. If it chooses not to intervene, the relator can move forward with the suit, but the government is only a party of interest.

We talk a lot courthouseabout the False Claims Act (“FCA” or “the Act”)) on this blog.  We do that because it is a powerful tool that allows ordinary Americans to take a stand and fight fraud.  The frauds it fights are frauds perpetrated against the government and government programs, frauds that are ultimately crimes against the American people.  Our posts often look at specific cases involving alleged violations of the FCA, but from time to time our whistleblowers’ law firm likes to take a step back and look at the FCA more generally to help our readers understand exactly what kind of wrongs the FCA tackles.

“A False or Fraudulent Claim”

The FCA is actually several sections of the United States Code, with 31 U.S.C. §3729 containing the basic description of what actions violate the Act.  Although it is only one of a number of subsections that describe these actions, §3729(1)(a) explains the basic wrong the Act tackles “a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval.”  Essentially, this means that a person or entity is liable under the Act if they ask the government to pay an obligation that is not actually due or ask for more money than they are actually due.

Readers of this blog know that the False Claims Act and its state equivalents are powerful tools for fighting fraud on the government and, in turn, on taxpayers.  One of the reasons these laws are so powerful is that they cover a wide-range of frauds.  Although health care fraud is likely the most well-known wrong addressed through whistleblower litigation under the Acts, they cover a myriad of different subject matters as demonstrated by a recently settled case out of New York.  While the case is largely about government contracting fraud, it touches on issues two of the most important business issues of recent decades: the outsourcing of American jobs and data privacy.  Our False Claims Act law firm is encouraged to continue to see the power these laws give to ordinary people to tackle extraordinary issues (and, often, win!).

Settlement Filed in Case Against Government Contractor Who Sent Data and Jobs Overseas

Last month, the New York State Attorney General’s Office issued a press release announcing a $3.1 million settlement in a case accusing Focused Technology Imaging Services, LLC (“FTIS”) and two of its leaders of unlawfully outsourcing government-funded work to India.  FTIS, a business located near Albany, entered into a $3.45 million agreementflag2 to digitize and index some 22 million fingerprint cards.  FTIS also agreed to create a searchable database of the print cards for the New York State Division of Criminal Justice Services (“DCJS”) and the non-profit New York State Industries for the Disabled (“NYSID”) in the 2008-2009 timeframe.  The fingerprint cards were used by a range of individuals from state employees to prisoners and arrestees and contained information including Social Security number, the reason for taking the fingerprint, the fingerprint itself, and other important personal information.