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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

Florida Dermatologist Will Pay $26.1 Million to Resolve Whistleblower Claims of Kickbacks and Unnecessary Surgeries

February 22nd, 2013 · No Comments

In one of the largest-ever settlements with an individual under the False Claims Act, a Florida dermatologist agreed to pay $26.1 million to resolve claims that he accepted illegal kickbacks and billed Medicare for thousands of medically unnecessary skin surgeries.

The Department of Justice agreed to the settlement with Steven J. Wasserman, M.D., in a suit that got its start when a pathologist at a lab involved in the kickback scheme filed a complaint under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.

The United States later filed its own complaint, but the original whistleblower, Alan Freedman, M.D., is entitled to more than $4 million of the settlement.

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Tags: False Claims Act

Fairfax Nursing Center Pays $700,000 Settlement for Submitting False Claims for Medicare Reimbursement

February 22nd, 2013 · No Comments

Fairfax Nursing Center (FNC), a skilled nursing facility in Fairfax, Virginia, and its owner have agreed to pay $700,000 to settle allegations of submitting false claims to Medicare for non-reimbursable rehabilitation therapy services. The False Claims Act lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia by two former FNC therapists and one former contract therapist.

The lawsuit alleges that between January 2007 and December 2010, in order to capture higher reimbursements from Medicare, FNC provided excessive, medically unnecessary, or otherwise non-reimbursable physical, occupational, and speech therapy to thirty-seven Medicare patients. Furthermore, the services that were rendered were unreasonable and completely unnecessary for the treatment of the patients’ conditions.

Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, stated:

“Today’s settlement is another example of the Department’s efforts to hold skilled nursing facilities accountable for the rehabilitation therapy services they deliver to some of the most vulnerable in our society… The provision of excessive and medically unnecessary therapy services will not be tolerated.”

The Employment Law Group® law firm’s whistleblower attorneys have helped many clients file suit against employers that fraudulently bill the U.S. government, and have established favorable precedents under the retaliation provision of the False Claims Act.

Tags: Medicare/Medicaid Fraud

D.C. Legislation Would Extend False Claims Act Treatment to Taxes

February 21st, 2013 · No Comments

On February 5, 2013, D.C. Councilmember Mary M. Cheh (D-Ward 3) presented the “False Claims Act of 2013” to the Committees on Finance and Revenue.  This bill would extend the current False Claims Act which fails to apply to violations of the tax code.

The False Claims Act of 2013 would enable whistleblowers to receive a reward for providing the District with non-public information that assists the District of Columbia in collecting tax funds that it is owed.   Under the proposed law, tax fraud whistleblowers would be eligible for a reward only if the D.C. Government succeeding in recovering the owed tax payments.

The propose law would allow the government and whistleblowers to file a tax-based claim under the False Claims Act if the tax fraud in question exceeded  $350,000 and if the entity or taxpayer has an income in excess of $1 million.

The introduction of this bill in D.C. is significant as is part of a broader trend of states and local jurisdictions considering extensions of local whistleblower statutes.  If D.C. passes this bill, it would join the State of New York, which recently passed a False Claims Act statue allowing qui tam recoveries for those who report significant tax fraud.

The Employment Law Group® law firm regularly represents IRS, SEC, and CFTC whistleblowers.  Our whistleblower lawyers recently published an article, “Rewarding Whistleblowers for Disclosing Tax Violations to the IRS” for The CPA Journal.

Tags: D.C. Whistleblower Protection Act · Tax fraud

Department of Labor Files Suit against Florida Construction Company for Terminating Employee Who Reported Workplace Violence to OSHA

February 20th, 2013 · No Comments

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of Florida against Duane Thomas Marine Construction LLC and owner Duane Thomas for violating Section 11(c) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA).

According to DOL, between December 9, 2009 and February 25, 2011, Duane Thomas created a hostile work environment by making sexually inappropriate comments and advances, yelling at employees, making physically-threatening gestures, and withholding employees’ paychecks. An employee who worked directly for Thomas confronted him about his behavior.

On February 25, 2011, the employee filed with OSHA a complaint alleging that Thomas had retaliated against him because he voiced his concerns about Thomas’s unlawful workplace behavior.  A couple of weeks later, Thomas received notification from OSHA that the complaint had been filed.  On March 23, 2011, Thomas changed the employee’s computer passwords, denied him remote access to work files, and terminated the employee.

Teresa Harrison, OSHA’s acting regional administrator in Atlanta, stated:

“Employees have the right to raise workplace violence concerns without fear of retaliation… OSHA will continue to enforce the whistleblower provisions of the OSH Act to protect employees who report violations.”

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.

Tags: OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program

City of Sacramento to Set up Anonymous Whistleblower Hotline

February 13th, 2013 · No Comments

The City of Sacramento, California has announced that within the next two months it will adopt a toll-free anonymous whistleblower hotline. The hotline will cost about $200,000 to fund and will be staffed by a live person twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, every day of the year.

This hotline is in response to a January 2013 council meeting in which City Auditor Jorge Oseguera presented a report  showing that a hotline Sacramento had established in March 2012 and which did not offer callers anonymity had proven ineffective, receiving only nineteen calls since its inception. The City Council hopes that by accepting anonymous reports from callers, city employees and other members of the public will report concerns about fraud, waste, and abuse.

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice representing employees who have been victims of retaliation

Tags: California Whistle Blower Protection Act

Department of Labor Files Suit Against Retirement Facility for Terminating Whistleblower for Reporting Bedbug Infestation

February 7th, 2013 · No Comments

The U.S. Department of Labor has filed a whistleblower and retaliation lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio against S.E.M. Villa II Inc., a nonprofit corporation that operates S.E.M. Terrace, a retirement facility in Milford, Ohio. The lawsuit alleges that S.E.M Terrace violated the whistleblower provision of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 when it terminated a resident manager after he filed a complaint with the Clermont County General Health District regarding the ineffective handling of bedbugs at the retirement facility.

Nick Walters, OSHAs regional administrator in Chicago, stated:

“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is committed to protecting the rights of America’s workers who are penalized or terminated for filing complaints seeking to improve the safety and health of their work environment and those affected by it.”

In addition to requesting reinstatement and compensatory damages, the lawsuit is asking that all negative information related the employee’s termination be removed from his personnel record. The lawsuit is also seeking to permanently enjoin S.E.M. Vila II Inc. from violating the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and that a notice be posted so all employees know their rights under the act.

The Employment Law Group® law firm has an extensive nationwide whistleblower practice representing employees who have been victims of retaliation.

Tags: Retaliation

$3.8M Settlement in Medicare Fraud Lawsuit Alleging that Unnecessary Cardiac Procedures Were Performed by EMH Regional Medical Center and Ohio Heart Center Settle

February 5th, 2013 · No Comments

The Department of Justice has announced that Lorain County, Ohio EMH Regional Medical Center (EMH) and North Ohio Heart Center Inc. (NOHC) have both agreed to settle allegations of submitting false claims to Medicare and will pay the United States $3,864,857 and $541,870, respectively.

The lawsuit alleges that between 2001 and 2006, EMH, a non-profit community hospital, and NOHC, at the time an independent physician group practicing at EMH, performed unnecessary cardiac procedures on Medicare patients. According to the Justice Department, angioplasty and stent placement procedures were performed on heart disease patients who did not need either procedure.

This settlement is part of the Department of Justice (USDOJ) and the Department of Health and Human Services’ effort to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid fraud. To this effect, Stuart F. Delery, Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General of the USDOJ Civil Division, stated:

“Billing Medicare for cardiac procedures that are not necessary or appropriate contributes to the soaring costs of health care and puts patients at risk. The settlement demonstrates the Department of Justice’s efforts both to protect public funds and safeguard Medicare beneficiaries.”

The Employment Law Group® law firm’s whistleblower attorneys have helped many clients file suit against employers that fraudulently bill the U.S. government, and have established favorable precedents under the retaliation provision of the False Claims Act.

Tags: False Claims Act