Articles Tagged with government fraud whistleblowers’ attorney

austin-distel-1555609-unsplash-copy-300x225If you are considering blowing the whistle on your employer’s wrongful actions that are defrauding the government, employment retaliation is a real fear. In fact, it is one of the biggest reasons employees do not come forward and blow the whistle. However, this should never keep you from trying to make things right. You should know you have legal rights that protect you from employer retaliation.

When an employer retaliates against you for whistleblowing, your best option is to file a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit with the California Superior Court. Prior to doing so, however, you may have to file a complaint with a government agency.  

Protection Under Labor Code 1102.5 LC

When qui tam cases under the False Claims Act (FCA) are first filed, they are to remain under seal for 60 days. During this time, the case is secret. The defendant is not even served yet, so it likely does not know there is a suit filed against it unless there are quiet rumblings or leaks. During this 60-day period, the government is given an opportunity to investigate the allegations and decide whether to join the suit or not. Once the government makes its decision, the case is unsealed. In certain instances, this is when the defendant is served. However, in many cases, the seal is partially lifted and the defendant is served prior to the whistleblower case being made public.

The truth of the matter, though, is that a qui tam case is never under seal for just 60 days. The FCA, the government can ask for extensions of the seal period if they can show it is for good cause. This happens regularly and continuously to the point where many qui tam cases remain confidential for years.

How Long Do Qui Tam Cases Remain Under Seal?

scotusThe False Claims Act (“FCA” or “the Act”) is a powerful tool that allows private citizens to play a key role in fighting fraud on the federal government.  As we have reported in previous blog posts, this term the Supreme Court agreed to look at a disagreement among appellate courts regarding the issue known as implied certification.  Our whistleblowers’ law firm is pleased to report that the Court recently released a decision that affirms and strengthens the Act, ensuring it is available to fight a wide range of fraudulent acts.

Background: The Implied Certification Theory and the Escobar Case

As explained in The False Claims Act: A Primer, a guide released by the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), a person violates the FCA when they knowingly submit a false claim for payment to the government, knowingly cause another to submit a false claim, or knowingly create a false record/statement in order to induce the government to pay a false claim.  The Act was originally passed during the Civil War.  It underwent substantial revisions in the 1980s and again in 2009 and 2010.

As a small law firm, we are particularly aware of the many contributions that small businesses and small business owners make to our economy.  In our case, we believe being a small firm allows us to have a more personal touch and collaborate more closely with every client while providing top-notch legal services.  There are also unique challenges to running a small business.  One way that the government recognizes these important contributions and special challenges is by requiring that a certain percentage of federal contracts be awarded to small businesses.  Sadly, some companies attempt to lie to the government and the American people by holding themselves out as small businesses when they truly do not qualify as such.  This a form of fraud.  Our government contract fraud lawyer is dedicated to partnering with honest individuals to protect the integrity of small business set-aside programs and ferret out other forms of fraud on the federal government.

Construction Company Pays $5.4 Million to Settle Government Contract Fraud Allegations

Earlier this month, the Times of San Diego reported that a California-based construction company paid $5.4 million to settle allegations of fraudulent billing for work performed at Camp Pendleton and other military bases.  Harper Construction is a privately held company that earns a substantial share of its revenue through government contracts.  As indcontract2icated in the report, Harper had contracts to construct facilities at the military bases and these contracts specifically required that Harper subcontract a specified portion of the work to small disadvantaged businesses.  These requirements stem from government programs intended to ensure that such businesses receive a fair share of federal contract dollars.  According to the article, Harper stood accused of knowingly using sham companies and falsely certifying that it complied with the small business subcontracting requirements.  Instead of having legitimate small businesses perform the work, the lawsuit alleged that Harper actually passed the work to a large affiliate.

You’ve witnessed something amiss in your workplace.  Whether it is a medical practice routinely upcoding Medicare claims to charge for more expensive procedures than were actually performed, a government contractor cheating the government by providing goods that are inferior to those promised, or another form of overcharging the government, you suspect your employer is committing fraud on the government.  You know the right thing to do is report it, perhaps asking questions internally and then turning to outside help if that doesn’t resolve the issue.   Still, you are scared.  At The Brod Law Firm, our whistleblower’s law firm understands your concerns and we want to assure you that the law does as well.  In addition to providing a substantial reward to those who bring fraud cases under the False Claims Act on the government’s behalf, the law includes anti-retaliation provisions and substantial government fraud whistleblower protections.  We are committed to ensuring whistleblowers are protected from retaliation because we believe whistleblowers are providing a critical service to the American people.

The False Claims Act: The Role of Private Whistleblowers and the Rules Protecting Them

As long-time readers of this blog know, the False Claims Act (“FCA”) is one of the most powerful tools for fighting fraud on the U.S. government.  Chapter 31 Section 3729 of the United States Code makes it illegal for an entity/individual to knowingly make a false claim for payment from the federal government or its agencies, including using a falsified record to support an inappropriate claim.  A key part of the subsequent section, 31 U.S.C. §3730, allows private justiceindividuals (“relators”) to bring FCA claims on the government’s behalf.  The government then has the option of joining the suit (“intervening”) or having the whistleblower proceed with the prosecution.  If the relator’s information and efforts lead to the government recovering money, the relator is entitled to between 15 and 30 percent of the recovered funds.

Last week, we looked at the recoveries made on behalf of the federal government using the False Claims Act (“FCA”) in 2015.  While informative, those numbers don’t tell the whole story.  Many states have their own versions of the FCA.  These statutes are particularly important in the Medicaid fraud arena since Medicaid is a state and federal partnership so fraud typically involves both federal and state funds.  Today, our government fraud law firm looks at one such statute, Washington’s Medicaid Fraud False Claims Act (“WFCA”).  Each state’s laws are unique, but this review can help readers understand the importance of state claims in this arena.

Washington’s Legislative Auditor Reviews the State False Claims Act, Recommends Reauthorization

In 2015, with the WFCA set to expire on June 30, 2016, the healthcashstate’s Legislative Auditor undertook to study the statute, its results, and recommend or counsel against reauthorization.  As the resulting report (Proposed Final Report issued 12/16/15) explains, government can investigate possible Medicaid fraud via federal (civil and/or criminal) investigations, state criminal investigations, and state civil investigations.  Absent reauthorization, Washington would lose the authority for the final category.  Additionally, if the federal government is investigating a case that also involved fraud on Washington state, the state can only participate in the case and any recovery if it has a state FCA that (like the WFCA) meets certain standards set forth in the federal law.

On a regular basis, we use this blog to discuss health care fraud, government contracts fraud, and a range of related issues that fall under the False Claims Act and similar pieces of legislation.  In a two-part post, our government fraud whistleblower’s law firm is taking a step back to provide a broader look at this important law.  Part One provides a general overview of the law and what it covers while Part Two (to be published in coming weeks) will look at how a suit unfolds and the importance of engaging a knowledgeable False Claims Act lawyer.

In brief, the FCA is a federal law that provides remedies when an individual or entity files a fraudulent bill (the “claim”) with the federal government or one of its agencies. The FCA is not a “gotcha” statute and it does not apply in cases of genuine mistake.  To be covered by the Act, the claim must be made knowingly and with deliberate ignorance or willful disregard for its false nature.  While the FCA only applies to fraud on the federal government, many states have similar laws applicable to fraud on the state government.

We frequently write about healthcare fraud and other forms of government contract fraud.  We cannot overemphasize the role that whistleblowers play in prosecuting these cases.  According to the Justice Department, nearly $3 billion of the $5.69 billion recovered through settlements and judgments in civil False Claims Act (“FCA”) litigation in Fiscal Year 2014 stemmed from qui tam lawsuits filed by private whistleblowers.  Who are these whistleblowers?  In some cases, they are high-ranking executives in companies that committed fraud.  However, whistleblowers can also be “rank and file” employees, the “everyday” workers who form the majority of any large operation, or even company outsiders.  Our law firm for government fraud whistleblowers works with people from all ranks of society who take step forward and join the fight against fraud.

Settlement In Suit Brought By Medical Technician

Last month, the Sacramento Bee reported that Quest Diagnostics agreed to pay $1.8 million to settle Medicare fraud claims.  According to the allegations, Quest submitted duplicate claims for Medicare reimbursement for the same test performed on a single day and a single patient.  A Quest spokesperson suggested IT issues caused rare cases of duplicate payments impacting a “miniscule percentage” of the company’s annual Medicare claims and said Quest is updating its billing systems to prevent a recurrence.

For-profit schools provide an education to many students who might otherwise be unable to attend post-secondary school.  However, these schools have a dual mission: a commitment to educating students and a commitment to earning money for investors and shareholders.  While many, perhaps most, are ethical and education-oriented, some for-profit schools misuse federal student aid funds perpetuating scams that hurt the government and students alike. Today, our false claims act law firm looks at federal student loan fraud and reminds readers of the importance of whistleblowers in all government fraud cases.

Education Affiliates Pays $13 Million to Resolve False Claims Allegations

classroomOn June 24, the U.S. Department of Justice (“DOJ”) announced that Education Affiliates (“EA”) agreed to pay $13 million to settle False Claims Act (“FCA”) claims against the for-profit institution.  EA operates 50 campuses providing post-secondary training in a range of fields in five states.  The suits were brought by five whistleblowers who will share approximately $1.8million under the FCA’s qui tam provisions.  EA denies any wrongdoing.