As previously reported, prosecutors charged a Michigan oncologist, Farid Fata, with numerous criminal counts with the underlying allegation that Dr. Fata intentionally gave chemotherapy to healthy patients in order to maximize Medicare payments. Dr. Fata pled guilty to a majority of these charges.
U.S. District Judge Paul Borman sentenced Fata to 45 years in prison as Fata wept in court. Fata apologized for misusing his talents because of “power and greed.” While the sentence was considerably less than the 175 years sought by U.S Attorney Barbara McQuade’s prosecutors, McQuade said that the 45 year sentence was close to a life sentence for Fata. McQuade also expressed surprise that the case had uncovered such egregious conduct.
In late June 2015, the U.S. government filed papers in United States v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corp. notifying the court that it seeks $3.35 billion from Novartis in damages and civil fines. This amount roughly consists of $1.52 billion in treble damages and $1.83 billion in fines for the over 160,000 alleged false claims that Novartis submitted to the government.
Though news of the large potential damages is recent, the government has been investigating and litigating this case in the Southern District of New York for several years. In April 2013, the government filed its complaint and intervention against Novartis, alleging that Novartis violated both the False Claims Act and the Anti-Kickback Statute. The government contends that Novartis gave kickbacks, in the form of rebates and discounts, to twenty or more pharmacies in exchange for their switching kidney transplant patients from competitor drugs to Novartis’s drug. The government noted that Novartis is a repeat offender, referencing the government’s multi-million dollar settlement with the company less than three years ago for kickbacks.
Because this is a qui tam case, the whistleblower stands to receive a large award –between 15 to 25 percent of the ultimate settlement.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, in a recent case on appeal from the Eastern District of North Carolina, interpreted the 2008 Amendments to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADAAA) broadly and reversed the district court’s grant of summary judgment in favor of the defendant. The opinion contains a number of holdings favorable to ADA plaintiffs, including: 1) that the EEOC’s interpretation of what constitutes a “major life activity” under the ADA deserves Chevron deference from the courts; 2) that reasonable accommodations may include the restructuring of a plaintiff’s job, including the trading of some duties; and 3) that an employer’s retrospective addition of reasons for termination may bolster evidence of pretext on a retaliation claim.
In Jacobs v. N.C. Admin. Office of the Courts, a former deputy clerk at the courthouse in New Hanover County, North Carolina asked that her employer accommodate her social anxiety disorder by reassigning her from providing customer service at the front counter of the courthouse to a job which would require less personal interaction. The employer waited three weeks before acting on the request and then terminated the deputy clerk.
In February 2015, Senators Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Ron Wyden (D-Oregon) announced the Whistleblower Protection Caucus, signaling that whistleblower protection is a topic on which politicians on both sides of the aisle can agree. Grassley, a long-time advocate for whistleblower rights, initially announced plans to form the Caucus in April 2014.
The purpose of the Caucus is to bring together like-minded Senators who can shed light on the need for ongoing whistleblower protections. The Caucus will focus on enforcement of whistleblower protections and creating a culture that understands and respects the right to blow the whistle on wrongdoing.
The United States District Court for the District of South Carolina held that the False Claims Act’s (FCA) first-to-file rule requires that another complaint must be pending. Thus, the voluntary dismissal of an earlier-filed complaint clears the way for subsequent complaints, and no comparison of content of the complaints is necessary to allow the later-filed case to proceed.
The FCA’s first-to-file bar provides that when a private person brings an FCA action, “no person other than the Government may intervene or bring a related action based on the facts underlying the pending action.”
Public records obtained by a nonprofit website- Government Attic, reveal that the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Whistleblower Retaliation Hearing Panel found that a former employee who blew the whistle on a troubled technology project was the victim of retaliation. This case is the first case since the panel was formed in 2010 in which the agency agrees that WMATA violated laws prohibiting whistleblower retaliation.
The panel believes that the former employee’s February 2010 termination was in part due to his cooperation with the agency’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit of a $6.9 million information technology project aimed at fixing problems with People Soft software, which is used by Metro.
Although the panel did not reinstate the employee, it ruled that the former employee is a “capable person” and should be given “preferred consideration” for future openings for which he qualifies.
The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.