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Fifth Circuit Narrows Definition of “Whistleblower” Under Dodd-Frank

July 19th, 2013 · No Comments

By holding the Dodd-Frank  Act to a literal reading of its language — and rejecting any consideration of the statute’s goals — a federal appeals court has set up a battle over who may claim protection as a corporate “whistleblower” under the law.

“We start and end our analysis with the text of the relevant statute,” the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said in Asadi v. G.E. Energy (USA) L.L.C. — and indeed, the court parsed Dodd-Frank with the cold eye of a professional copy editor, concluding that the law protects employees against retaliation only if they have reported corporate wrongdoing to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) via prescribed channels.

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Tags: Dodd-Frank Act · Sarbanes-Oxley · SEC Whistleblower · Whistleblower Protection

MSPB: New Whistleblower Standard Applies to Pending Cases

June 27th, 2013 · No Comments

The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) ruled that a key provision of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) should apply retroactively to any federal whistleblower case that was pending on the effective date of the statute: December 27, 2012.

The decision in Day v. Department of Homeland Security—which the MSPB said would affect a “substantial number” of cases—concerned Section 101 of the WPEA, which offers protection to federal employees who face retaliation for disclosing government wrongdoing under certain circumstances.

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Tags: Federal Employees · Whistleblower Protection Act

Tenth Circuit Gives Another Win to Sarbanes-Oxley Whistleblowers

June 5th, 2013 · No Comments

Another federal appeals court has supported the U.S. Department of Labor in its move toward a more employee-friendly reading of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), holding that the law protects whistleblowers who flag any SOX-related wrongdoing — not just fraud against shareholders.

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Tags: Department of Labor ARB · Retaliation · Sarbanes-Oxley · Whistleblower Protection

Maryland Appeals Court Restores $650,000 Jury Verdict for Whistleblower

June 4th, 2013 · No Comments

DISCLAIMER: THIS POST CONCERNS A CLIENT OF THE EMPLOYMENT LAW GROUP® LAW FIRM. THE RESULTS OF ALL CASES DEPEND ON A VARIETY OF FACTORS UNIQUE TO EACH CASE. PAST SUCCESSES DO NOT PREDICT OR GUARANTEE FUTURE SUCCESSES.

A Maryland appeals court has reinstated a jury’s 2011 award of $650,000 to Donna Jackson, a plaintiff represented by The Employment Law Group® law firm, for her former employer’s retaliation after she reported a subordinate’s gender discrimination complaint.

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Tags: Retaliation · The Employment Law Group, P.C.

ARB Again Holds that SOX Protects Employees Who Warn of Future Wrongdoing

May 29th, 2013 · No Comments

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) upheld all aspects of a $1.2 million award to a whistleblower in a retaliation case under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), echoing a recent Third Circuit decision and lending further authority to the ARB’s landmark Sylvester decision from 2011.

In Barrett v. e-Smart Technologies Inc., the ARB again held that SOX bans retaliation against employees who flag illegal activity that they believe is likely to occur — not just illegal activity that is already occurring.

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Tags: Department of Labor ARB · Retaliation · Sarbanes-Oxley

Supreme Court Takes a SOX Case — But What’s Its Agenda?

May 23rd, 2013 · No Comments

The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear its first retaliation case brought under the whistleblower provisions of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).

The Court put Lawson v. FMR LLC on its docket for the term that begins in October 2013.

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Tags: Department of Labor ARB · Sarbanes-Oxley · United States Department of Labor · Whistleblower Protection

Tax Court Blasts IRS for ‘Obfuscation’ in Whistleblower Case

May 13th, 2013 · No Comments

In an unusually blunt opinion, the U.S. Tax Court rebuked the Internal Revenue Service for continuing to fight award claims made by two anonymous whistleblowers — even as the agency was reopening the same claims in a related investigation.

In a dismissal order issued on May 10, 2013, Judge Maurice Foley slammed the IRS for providing “incomplete, misleading, and possibly inaccurate information” in the case.

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Tags: IRS Whistleblower Reward Program · Tax fraud

After Blowing Whistle on Itself, Utah Hospital Chain Agrees to Pay $25.5 Million

May 7th, 2013 · No Comments

Utah’s Intermountain Healthcare Inc. will pay $25.5 million to settle claims that it violated federal laws, including the Stark Law against profit-driven referrals by doctors.

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Tags: False Claims Act · Medicare/Medicaid Fraud · Stark Act

Court Won’t Review Wiest; “Reasonable Belief” Is Law in Third Circuit

May 7th, 2013 · No Comments

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit won’t grant an en banc review of an earlier panel decision that made it easier for whistleblowers to claim protection under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX).

As a result, SOX whistleblowers in that jurisdiction — which includes Pennsylvania and Delaware — now are shielded from retaliation as long as they acted under a “reasonable belief” that their company was acting fraudulently.

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Tags: Retaliation · Sarbanes-Oxley · United States Department of Labor · Whistleblower Protection

ARB Upholds Retaliation Award, Shows Broad Support for Punitive Damages

April 22nd, 2013 · No Comments

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) upheld a punitive-damages award of $100,000 in a truck driver’s retaliation case against UPS, flagging its broader reluctance to reject as excessive any punitive award under the Surface Transportation Assistance Act (STAA).

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Tags: Department of Labor ARB · Retaliation · Surface Transportation Assistance Act

Contractor Pays $1.15 Million for Faking Partnership with Native American Business

April 18th, 2013 · No Comments

An Alabama contractor agreed to pay $1.15 million to settle civil claims that it lied about hiring a Native American-owned company to help build barracks at two U.S. Army bases.

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Tags: Department of Defense · False Claims Act

Federal Jury Awards Whistleblower $3.5 Million in Alaska Retaliation Case

April 18th, 2013 · No Comments

A federal jury awarded whistleblower Paul Blakeslee $3.5 million after finding that his former employer fired him for reporting suspicious dealings by a manager of the company’s maintenance work on Alaskan military bases.

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Tags: False Claims Act · Retaliation

Tech Supplier Pays $5.66 Million to Settle Claims of Overbilling, Trade Violations

April 17th, 2013 · No Comments

A big technology distributor will pay $5.66 million to settle a whistleblower’s claims that it overbilled and underpaid the U.S. government — and also sold it Chinese-made products, in violation of federal trade law.

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Tags: Contractor Fraud · False Claims Act

Conrail Must Reinstate Conductor While Appealing Retaliation Verdict, ARB Rules

April 17th, 2013 · No Comments

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) refused to delay the reinstatement of a train conductor who was fired after repeatedly reporting safety violations.

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Tags: Department of Labor ARB · Federal Rail Safety Act · Retaliation

University of California Pays $1.2 Million to Settle Medicare Fraud Claims

April 17th, 2013 · No Comments

The University of California will pay $1.2 million to settle a whistleblower’s claims that one of its teaching hospitals submitted false Medicare and Medicaid claims.

Dennis O’Connor, a former professor and anesthesiologist at U.C. Irvine (UCI), will receive $120,000 for his role in the case; the remainder goes to the U.S. government. In his lawsuit, Dr. O’Connor alleged that UCI routinely gave patients anesthesia without a doctor being present, in violation of federal requirements.

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Tags: False Claims Act · Medicare/Medicaid Fraud

Arizona Hospice Will Pay $12 Million to Settle Claims It Treated Ineligible Medicare Patients

April 16th, 2013 · No Comments

An Arizona hospice company will pay $12 million to settle charges that it bilked Medicare by inflating bills and admitting patients who weren’t ready for end-of-life care.

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Tags: False Claims Act · Medicare/Medicaid Fraud

Obama’s Budget Plan: Protect IRS Whistleblowers from Retaliation

April 16th, 2013 · No Comments

President Obama’s proposed budget for fiscal 2014 includes good news for whistleblowers: Under his plan, the law finally would protect people who report tax cheats to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

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Tags: False Claims Act · Federal Whistleblower Legislation · IRS Whistleblower Reward Program · Retaliation · Tax fraud

Menendez Redux: Halliburton Whistleblower Finally Gets Retaliation Award

April 15th, 2013 · No Comments

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Administrative Review Board (ARB) revisited a long-running case, once again ruling against Halliburton, the oilfield services giant, for retaliating against a whistleblower who reported accounting irregularities to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The ARB awarded financial executive Anthony Menendez $30,000 in damages, plus costs and lawyers’ fees.

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Tags: Department of Labor ARB · Sarbanes-Oxley · SEC Whistleblower

Whistleblower Says Meningitis-Linked Pharmacy Ignored His Warnings

April 15th, 2013 · No Comments

Whistleblower Joe Connolly appeared on 60 Minutes to accuse his former employer, the compounding pharmacy linked to 53 deaths from fungus-tainted shots, of ignoring warnings and destroying evidence of contamination at its lab.

Connolly, a lab technician and former employee of the New England Compounding Center (NECC), told the CBS News program that his supervisor literally shrugged when Connolly told him last year that the lab was overextended and likely to start making mistakes. Mold had been found in NECC’s “clean room” about a dozen times over three years, Connolly said.

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Tags: Drug Safety

Supreme Court Confirms Lower Hurdle for Investor Fraud Suits

April 15th, 2013 · No Comments

The U.S. Supreme Court made it easier for investors to gain class-action status when suing companies for securities fraud, making such lawsuits more likely in the future.

In Amgen v. Connecticut Retirement Plans and Trust Funds, the Court allowed class certification to be granted on a “fraud on the market” theory without any proof that a company made a “material misrepresentation” in its public statements; plaintiffs may merely assert the fraud.

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Tags: Financial Institutions Reform · Securities Fraud

First False Claims Act Tax Recovery in New York; Whistleblower Awarded $1.1 Million

April 15th, 2013 · No Comments

A well-known New York City tailor pled guilty to tax-evasion charges and separately agreed to pay $5.5 million to settle a related whistleblower case brought under New York State’s False Claims Act (FCA).

The whistleblower, Vijay Tharwani, a former employee of the tailor, will receive $1.1 million of the settlement.

The case marked the first time the state’s recently strengthened FCA has been used successfully in a tax case; in 2010, New York became the first state to authorize citizens to sue tax cheats on its behalf.

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Tags: Reporting Tax Fraud · State Whistleblower Legislation · Tax fraud

Ongoing Whistleblower Complaints Show VA’s Failure to Fix Hospital Problems, Warns OSC

April 7th, 2013 · No Comments

A stream of whistleblower complaints raises alarms about the ability of a Mississippi veterans hospital to care for its patients, a top government agency warned in an unusual letter to President Obama and members of Congress.

Carolyn Lerner, head of the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC), said in the letter that her agency had seen a pattern of complaints about the hospital, the G.V. (Sonny) Montgomery VA Medical Center (VAMC) in Jackson, Miss. — but that top officials refused to take the reports seriously.

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Tags: Department of Veterans Affairs · Federal Employees · Medicare/Medicaid Fraud

Third Circuit Supports Broader Access to Whistleblower Protection in Sarbanes-Oxley Cases

March 20th, 2013 · No Comments

A federal appeals court made it easier for whistleblowers to claim protection under the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX), adding dramatic weight to the U.S. Department of Labor’s landmark ruling that such employees can be protected even if they fail to cite the exact rules their employer may have broken.

Instead, workers may simply show that they had a “reasonable belief” that their company acted fraudulently — or was about to do so — and that they were punished for raising a SOX-related issue. If such a complaint is plausibly and properly made, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit held in Wiest v. Lynch, judges may not dismiss it without further proceedings.

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Tags: Retaliation · Sarbanes-Oxley · United States Department of Labor · Whistleblower Protection

South Carolina Ambulance Company Pays $800,000 to Settle Claims of Medicare Fraud

March 18th, 2013 · No Comments

A South Carolina ambulance company will pay the U.S. government $800,000 to settle a whistleblower’s claims that it billed Medicare for ambulance rides that weren’t medically necessary, falsifying paperwork to make the trips seem justified.

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Tags: False Claims Act

United States Joins Whistleblower Lawsuit against Lance Armstrong

March 18th, 2013 · No Comments

The U.S. government has joined the whistleblower lawsuit filed by cyclist Floyd Landis against his former teammate Lance Armstrong, who was recently stripped of his Tour de France titles for using banned drugs and other performance enhancers.

Landis would share any money recovered by the government from Armstrong and some of his closest associates, who Landis claims defrauded the United States Postal Service (USPS) of more than $30 million in sponsorship fees. The USPS sponsorship required Armstrong’s team to follow the official rules of cycling, which ban many performance enhancers.

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Tags: False Claims Act