February 03, 2020 | Government Fraud
Whistleblowers Help Department of Justice Recover $3 Billion of Taxpayers’ Money in 2019
The general public may tend to think of the act of whistleblowing as a sort of covert activity – the realm of spies and government secrets. The truth of the matter is that whistleblowers benefit the general public, and the secrets they bring to light are less a matter of national security and more a matter of national concern.
A banner year for catching fraudsters in the act
The Department of Justice (DOJ) creates a yearly report for cases filed under the False Claims Act, which generally governs cases of fraudulent claims against government interests. In 2018, according to the report, whistleblowers helped the government recover $2.8 billion in fines and recoveries. That number jumped to $3 billion in 2019.
Of that $3 billion, $2.1 billion in fines and recoveries were the result of qui tam claims, which are claims filed by private citizens on the government’s behalf. In other words, whistleblowers. Healthcare claims were by far the majority of those filed, accounting for $2.6 billion.
Healthcare a traditional target for fraud
Fraud can take many forms, with Medicare and Medicaid traditionally being notable targets. Some examples are doctors prescribing medications that patients did not need and drug companies giving kickbacks to physicians who prescribed their medications.
In fact, the largest cases in 2019 were healthcare-related. Seven drug manufacturers paid a combined $624 million due to claims that they illegally paid patient copays for their own drugs through foundations that were essentially just shell entities.3 The payments may seem to help patients at a glance, but they can actually add to the cost of care by encouraging the use of expensive new drugs when other, more cost-effective options may be available.
Other sources of claims
There were other forms of fraud cited as well. A defense contractor reimbursed the government for charging the military for hours no one worked. A university was required to return federal grant money for falsifying submissions to the National Institutes of Health. The government recovered a substantial sum from a company that lied to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration about its compliance with environmental laws when it was actually polluting the environment.3
The “relator” and the benefit of blowing the whistle
In legal terms, the person who blows the whistle on fraud is known as the “relator.” They “relate” their information to the authorities in order to stop the wrongdoing. Other than the satisfaction and conscience-clearing effects of doing the right thing, the government also may reward the behavior with a percentage of the fines and funds recovered from a successful whistleblower claim.
In 2019, the government paid out $265 million to relators for exposing fraud and false claims through successful whistleblower lawsuits.1
Contact an Experienced Carolina Whistleblower Attorney
If you suspect or know of fraudulent behaviors being committed against the federal or state government, let’s talk. We are here to help put you at ease as we try to help you determine – confidentially and discreetly – If you should move forward with a whistleblower/qui tam claim. We understand the struggle you may be facing, and we want you to know that you are not alone. That is why we have a You-First Policy in place. We will try to help protect you regardless of your involvement.
Contact the Carolina
If you’re wondering if it’s a good idea to speak with a whistleblower lawyer about what you know, let us set the record straight.
- Corporate ethics hotlines can be risky and may lead to termination. If you’ve already done this, call us immediately.
- Your coworkers could be aware of the fraud – or complicit in it – and you should not talk to them about it.
- The first claim to be filed under the False Claims Act can proceed – if you’re not first, you’re at a serious disadvantage and may get nothing (another reason not to speak to your coworkers about it).
- A confidential discussion costs you a few minutes, but could save you time, stress, and money.