Whistleblowers are one of the forces fighting to expose waste, correct unsafe conditions, and cause other beneficial change. This firm believes in pursuing meritorious cases on behalf of whistleblowers. Whistleblower protections include the following:
U.S. False Claims Act. Enacted in 1863, the federal False Claims Act (“FCA”) was originally directed at stopping the massive frauds perpetrated by large contractors during the Civil War. The United States had been billed for nonexistent or worthless goods, charged exorbitant prices for goods delivered, and generally robbed in purchasing the necessities of war. Congress acted (in 1863) by imposing civil and criminal liability for 10 types of fraud on the Government, subjecting violators to double damages, forfeiture, and other penalties. Since that time, Congress has periodically amended the FCA, but its focus remains on those who present or directly induce the submission of false or fraudulent claims.
A “claim” now includes direct requests to the Government for payment as well as reimbursement requests made to the recipients of federal funds under federal benefits programs. FCA civil defendants are subjected to treble damages, plus civil penalties of up to $10,000 per false claim. Importantly, for enforcement purposes, the FCA gives you the power to identify government fraud and bring a lawsuit on behalf of the United States, seeking to recover illegal gains. This happens through a procedural device called a qui tam provision. In qui tam cases, the FCA permits the U.S. to recover up to triple damages from defendants who knowingly violate the FCA. The law also applies against those who make false statements to conceal, avoid, or decrease an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the government, and it covers certain conspiracies to violate the act. As a catalyst to enforcement, the FCA provides whistleblowers with a monetary incentive of 15% to 30% of any financial recovery.
FCA Retaliation. Fortunately, the FCA also provides whistleblowers with protection against risks associated with pursuing whistleblower activity. At the outset, a whistleblower’s identity remains secret while the FCA court case is under seal. When the case is no longer under seal, the FCA provides specific protections for whistleblowers to protect them from an employer, including prohibiting subsequent termination, demotion, or other adverse change in the terms or conditions of their employment due to whistleblowing. Particularized FCA retaliation remedies include reinstatement to the same position, two times (x 2) the amount of back pay owed (plus interest), and compensation for any special damages sustained (for example, attorneys’ fees; litigation costs).
Government Contract Fraud. Federal FCA violations include fraud involving federal government contracts. Two primary FCA provisions are implicated. Under the FCA’s “Presentment Provision,” a civil defendant may be liable if the defendant knowingly presents, or causes to be presented, a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval. A defendant may be liable under the FCA’s “False Statement Provision” if the defendant knowingly makes or uses a false record or statement relevant to a false or fraudulent claim. Government contract fraud violations may be direct (factually false claims) or they may be indirect (for instance, implied false certifications).
Healthcare Billing Fraud. In situations, the federal FCA applies to billing fraud involving medical providers and/or medical payors. This includes false claims involving Medicare, Medicaid, and/or TRICARE. Legal protections exist for employees and persons reporting such wrongdoing.
Maryland False Health Claims Act. By statute, Maryland prohibits a person from knowingly presenting a false or fraudulent request for money to, or involving, a State health plan for payment or approval (see Maryland Code, § 2-602, Heath-General Article). The statute also prohibits a person from making or using a false record or statement in support of such a fraudulent claim, engaging in a related conspiracy, or engaging in similar, specifically identified conduct. The Maryland False Health Claims Act provides a private, qui tam cause of action to a person in position to bring such a suit, and also states anti-retaliation provisions.
Violation of Industry-specific Laws or Regulations. Whistleblower protections may exist for violation of certain industry-specific or profession-specific laws, regulations, or other standards. Contact counsel about your particular situation. In addition, an employee terminated for complying with a legal requirement may have a wrongful discharge claim under applicable law.
This is an intricate area of the law. If you are seeking whistleblower protection, contact Mallon LLC about your situation, involving actual or potential whistleblowing circumstances, or if your employer has taken action against you because you engaged in one or more whistleblowing activities. Mallon LLC is here to help whistleblowers and expose government contract fraud in Baltimore, MD and throughout Maryland and Washington DC.