In the United States, government enforcement agencies are faced with a significant challenge in trying to investigate and fight government fraud with insufficient resources to effectively do so. In an effort to encourage citizen involvement and create a partnership between public institutions and private citizens to identify and combat instances of fraud, Congress revived the False Claims Act in the 1980s. The primary purpose of the False Claims Act is to incentivize whistleblowers to come forward and to encourage private attorneys to use their own resources to investigate fraud against the government.
Girard Gibbs’ attorneys represent whistleblowers in matters involving government healthcare fraud, government contractor fraud, tax fraud, SEC violations, and more. When whistleblowers report fraud against the government, and the report ultimately leads to a monetary recovery, they are eligible to receive a portion of the money the government recovers.
Speak with a Whistleblower Attorney
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A whistleblower lawsuit is a an individual with knowledge of an organization’s activities provides information about fraud, corruption, or other illegal actions. Whistleblowers are often employees, former employees, and others who have access to company documents and internal information. Our whistleblower lawyers are experienced in a variety of actions, including cases involving healthcare fraud (typically brought by Medicare and Medicaid fraud whistleblowers or pharmaceutical whistleblowers), defense contractor fraud, as well as securities fraud and tax fraud.
Some common examples of actions giving rise to whistleblower claims include:
- Improper Medicare or Medicaid billing, including upcoding and billing for services or procedures that were not provided
- Overcharging for goods or services provided under government contracts
- Knowingly selling to government defective or dangerous products
- Requesting payment for goods and services that were not provided
- Providing incentive payents to healthcare providers in exchange for Medicare or Medicaid referrals or the promotion of certain pharmaceuticals
Rewards for Whistleblowers
Federal and state laws such as the False Claims Act, Stark Law, SEC Whistleblower Act (Dodd-Frank Act), and other whistleblower laws provide monetary incentives for whistleblowers to step forward and report fraud, often risking their careers. If a whistleblower lawsuit is successful and money is recovered for the government, the whistleblower will be awarded up to 30 percent of the amount recovered.
These awards can be significant. In fiscal year 2014 alone, the U.S. Department of Justice recovered nearly $6 billion in cases concerning government fraud. Of the nearly $6 billion recovered, $3 billion was recovered in cases filed under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, and resulted in $435 million in payouts to whistleblowers. In fiscal year 2014, more than 700 qui tam lawsuits were filed, a significant increase from the 30 qui tam lawsuits that were filed in 1987.
Girard Gibbs’ whistleblower lawyers have more than two decades of experience prosecuting fraud. Our attorneys have successfully litigated against some of the largest companies in the United States, and we have recovered more than a billion dollars on our clients’ behalf. We have fought some of the most complex cases brought under federal and state laws nationwide, and our attorneys have been recognized with numerous awards and honors for their accomplishments, including Top 100 Super Lawyers in Northern California and The Best Lawyers in America, and rated AV Preeminent (among the highest class of attorneys for professional ethics and legal skills).
We proudly hold memberships in Taxpayers Against Fraud, a public interest organization dedicated to combating fraud against the government and protecting public resources. Our firm supports the nonprofit’s educational initiatives and efforts to advance public and government support for qui tam whistleblower cases.
Our Whistleblower Practice
Qui tam attorneys attorneys assist individuals that have learned of a past or present fraud committed against the federal or state government.
Healthcare fraud whistleblowers who report on upcoding and unbundling, false certifications, anti-kickback and start law violations, and Medicare Advantage fraud
Pharmaceutical whistleblowers who report off-label marketing, kickback schemes, and pharmaceuticals that don’t adhere to Current Good Manufacturing Practices
Government Contractor Fraud
Government or defense contractor whistleblowers who report on product substitution, cross charging, failure to comply with contracts, improper cost allegations, Truth in Negotiations Act violations
Education fraud whistleblowers who report on false accreditation, for-profit educational institutions paying commissions to recruiters to enroll students in violation of the Higher Education Act, financial aid fraud
SEC whistleblower lawyers assist those who know of SEC regulation violations, many of whom are seeking SEC whistleblower rewards. SEC fraud whistleblower cases typically involve:
- rate and price manipulation of securities, options, derivatives and other commodities
- money-laundering schemes
- improper accounting practices
- insider trading
- Ponzi schemes
- mischarging securities transactions
- improper valuation of currencies and other commodities
- allegations of bribery of foreign officials (violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act)
IRS whistleblower lawyers work with whistleblowers with knowledge of tax fraud to report the violations under the Tax Relief & Health Care Act or similar laws. IRS tax fraud whistleblower cases typically involve tax underpayments or overstating expenses, or other attempts to shield income to defraud the government and avoid paying taxes.
Whistleblower Legal Protection
Corporate whistleblowers are often hesitant to come forward with information due to concerns about losing their jobs or retaliation. In recognition of those concerns and the importance of encouraging whistleblowers to report fraud, many federal whistleblower laws, including the False Claims Act, Dodd-Frank Act, and Sarbanes-Oxley Act, provide specific protections for whistleblowers.
An individual’s decision to become a whistleblower requires careful consideration, and it is crucial that the proper steps be followed to ensure that the incentives and the protections afforded by the False Claims Act and other whistleblower laws are preserved.
Girard Gibbs’ whistleblower attorneys guide whistleblowers carefully through the process to ensure their privacy and confidentiality interests are protected.
False Claims Act Protection
The False Claims Act Anti-Retaliation Provision provides employee protection for termination, suspension, demotion, harassment, or any form of discrimination in the terms and conditions of employment. In order for the whistleblower protection to apply, whistleblowers must prove that:
- The employee took action in furtherance of a False Claims Action
- The employer knew about these acts
- The employer discriminated against the employee because of such conduct
Employees may be eligible for reinstatement and up to two times the amount of wages lost as a result of an employer’s discrimination and violation of the False Claims Act protection.
Dodd-Frank Act Protection
Dodd-Frank whistleblower protection prohibits actions taken against a “whistleblower,” defined as “any individual who provides, or two or more individuals acting jointly who provide, information relating to a violation of the securities laws to the [Securities and Exchange] Commission….”
To protect whistleblowers against retaliation, Dodd-Frank section 21F(h)(1)(A) prohibits employers from firing, demoting, or discriminating in any other manner against a whistleblower “because of any lawful act done by the whistleblower” in:
- Providing information to the SEC
- Assisting in any SEC investigation or action relating to such information
- “Making disclosures that are required or protected under” various securities laws
Employees who believe they have been retaliated against may bring a private action in federal court against their employer. If successful, the employee may be entitled to reinstatement, double back pay, litigation costs, expert witness fees, and attorneys’ fees.
Sarbanes Oxley Protection
Section 1514A of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act protects employees from retaliation for making certain types of complaints:
No [public] company . . . , or any officer, employee, contractor, subcontractor, or agent of such company, may discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, or in any other manner discriminate against an employee in the terms and conditions of employment because of [whistleblowing or other protected activity].
Although the Sarbanes-Oxley whistleblower language is ambiguous as to whether the term “an employee” refers only to an employee of public companies, a U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2014 found that the Sarbanes Oxley whistleblower protection “shelters employees of private contractors and subcontractors, just as it shelters employees of the public company served by the contractors and subcontractors.”
The Whistleblower Protection Act or WPA is a law passed by Congress in 1989 to protect public sector whistleblowers from retaliation. The WPA protects whistleblowers who works for a federal agency and report agency misconduct. Such whistleblowers cannot be terminated, refused a promotion, or otherwise penalized for their whistleblowing activity.
A whistleblower is someone who has inside knowledge about a private company’s fraud or other unlawful conduct. Whistleblowers have multiple options for reporting the unlawful conduct internally or externally. One avenue to report fraud externally is to file a qui tam lawsuit against the company. Anyone with material, non-public information about a private company defrauding the U.S. government can file a whistleblower claim under the federal False Claims Act.
A whistleblower lawsuit is a legal action brought by a whistleblower against a private company that is alleged to have defrauded the government. “Qui tam” refers to the fact that the lawsuit is brought on the government’s behalf by the whistleblower or “qui tam relator.” The relator is given a percentage of any money they recover on the government’s behalf. Qui tam legislation was first passed during the Civil War, when fraud against the government by military contractors was so rampant that the government needed help enforcing the law, so it enlisted private citizens’ help by passing qui tam legislation.