C.R. Bard Inc., a medical device company based in New Jersey, has agreed to pay the United States $48.26 million to resolve claims that it knowingly caused false claims to be submitted to the Medicare. The claim alleged that the company paid off doctors and hospitals to induce them to prescribe brachytherapy seeds. Giving such kickbacks is a violation of the False Claims Act.
The settlement requires that Bard pay $48.26 million and it resolves claims relating to Bard’s sale of brachytherapy seeds, a form of radiation therapy, to hospitals. The United States alleged that from 1998 to 2006, Bard provided illegal remuneration to customers and physicians to induce them to purchase Bard’s seeds, in violation of the Anti-Kickback Statute. The illegal remuneration allegedly took the form of certain grants, guaranteed minimum rebates, conference fees, marketing assistance and/or free medical equipment that Bard paid to customers and/or physicians who used the seeds to perform treatment for prostate cancer. Hospitals ultimately submitted bills to Medicare for these seeds, which the government alleged were rendered false by Bard’s illegal kickback activity. The government alleged that Bard was liable under the False Claims Act for causing the submission of those false claims.Continue Reading...
On Apr 18, 2013, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) introduced bill to extend whistleblower protections to offshore oil and gas workers. Currently there is no federal law that protects oil and gas workers if they are retaliated against after they blow the whistle on workplace health and safety violations on the Outer Continental Shelf. Workers on oilrigs like the Deepwater Horizon risk losing their jobs if they report dangerous workplace conditions. The workers performing cleanup activities on the Outer Continental Shelf similarly have no protections against employer retaliation for raising health and safety concerns.
The Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats issued a fact sheet about the Bill. The fact sheet calls for all workers to be protected when they blow the whistle on “concerns about unsafe working conditions” and to grant the workers the “right to stop working if they fear they could be injured or killed.”
“Employees are best situated to discover hazards in the work environment; they are the first line of detection and should be protected when raising concerns,” stated Stephen Kohn, Executive Director of the National Whistleblower Center.Continue Reading...
On April 24, Senate Democrats delayed a confirmation vote on Labor Secretary nominee Thomas Perez. Committee Chairman Tom Harkin of Iowa was concerned that Republicans would use a threatened separate hearing as a forum to attack Perez in his absence. Read more.
Senate Republicans have criticized Perez for his involvement in a deal with the city of St. Paul, MN that left a whistleblower with nothing. Senator Chuck Grassley, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee in coordination with Issa and House Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte, released a joint staff report about how Perez orchestrated a controversial quid pro quo with the city that prevented the Justice Department from recovering hundreds of millions of dollars back to the taxpayers, and left a whistleblower who filed the suit out in the cold.
Here is an excerpt from the joint staff report.
"In early February 2012, Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez made a secret deal behind closed doors with St. Paul, Minnesota, Mayor Christopher Coleman and St. Paul’s outside counsel, David Lillehaug. Perez agreed to commit the Department of Justice to declining intervention in a False Claims Act qui tam complaint filed by whistleblower Fredrick Newell against the City of St. Paul, as well as a second qui tam complaint pending against the City, in exchange for the City’s commitment to withdraw its appeal in Magner v. Gallagher from the Supreme Court, an appeal involving the validity of disparate impact claims under the Fair Housing Act."
According to the joint staff report, this deal cost the U.S. Government the opportunity to recover as much as $200 million.
The Department of Labor’s OSHA Whistleblower Protection Program enforces the whistleblower provisions of more than twenty whistleblower statutes protecting employees who report violations of various workplace safety, airline, commercial motor carrier, consumer product, environmental, financial reform, food safety, health insurance reform, motor vehicle safety, nuclear, pipeline, public transportation agency, railroad, maritime, and securities laws. Rights afforded by these whistleblower acts include, but are not limited to, worker participation in safety and health activities, reporting a work related injury, illness or fatality, or reporting a violation of the statutes.
Read the full joint staff report here.
On April 12, 2013, the National Whistleblower Center filed an Amicus Curiae brief with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), in the case of King v. Department of the Air Force. At issue is whether the provision of the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 (“WPEA”) regarding compensatory damages applies to all current cases pending before the MSPB. The MSPB requested stakeholders to file briefs on the issue as they did in Day v. Department of Homeland Security.
In its brief, the NWC again strongly urged the MSPB to retroactively apply the WPEA to all pending cases. The MSPB’s decision will impact the fate of federal employees and whistleblowers that filed claims or suffered retaliation before the WEPA was signed into law on November 27, 2012.
Stephen M. Kohn, Executive Director of the NWC, said, “it is unequivocal that the intent of Congress was to apply the WPEA, including the provision on compensatory damages, to all pending cases retroactively.”
The NWC’s brief can be viewed here.
Today the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a decision in MacLean v. Department of Homeland Security. In 2003, Robert MacLean blew the whistle on the Department of Homeland Security’s Transportation Security Agency’s (TSA) plan to remove U.S. air marshals from long distance flights during a heightened terrorist alert. Mr. MacLean was concerned that the suspension of overnight missions created a danger to the flying public. He complained to his supervisor and to the Office of Inspector General; both responded that they could do nothing.
Mr. MacLean then gave information to a MSNBC reporter about the TSA’s plan. The reporter published an article criticizing the plan. The TSA withdrew its plan after criticism from the public and members of Congress. The TSA subsequently fired Mr. MacLean.Continue Reading...
On April 24, 2013, Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced a proposed rule that would increase rewards paid to Medicare beneficiaries and others whose tips about suspected fraud lead to the successful recovery of funds to as high as $9.9 million.
Over the last three years, the HHS has recovered over $14.9 billion in fraud, some of which resulted from fraud reporting by individuals – a proven tool in helping the government detect fraud, waste and abuse in the Medicare program.
The proposed rule would increase the potential reward amount for individuals who report information that leads to a recovery of Medicare funds from 10 percent to 15 percent of the final amount collected. The current program caps the reward at $1,000, meaning HHS pays a reward on the first $10,000 it collects as a result of a tip. HHS is also proposing to increase the portion of the recovery on which HHS will pay a reward up to the first $66 million recovered – this means an individual could receive a reward of $9.9 million if HHS recovers $66 million or more.Continue Reading...
Cathy Kangas, a Board member with the Humane Society of the United States, wrote a moving blog article yesterday about the importance of whistleblowers and why they should not be silenced.
The article states the alarming fact that "In 2013, lawmakers in 11 states have introduced anti-whistleblower bills."
Here is a link to her article entitled "Silencing Whistleblowers."
In an April 23, 2013 press release, the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced that it found that the Northeast Illinois Regional Commuter Railroad Corp., known as Metra, violated the Federal Railroad Safety Act. The violation occurred when a signalman's work hours were changed and his position was eliminated after he made a safety complaint. The company is ordered to pay more than $38,080 in overtime, along with interest, compensatory damages and attorney's fees.
"An employer does not have the right to retaliate against employees who report safety issues," said Nick Walters, OSHA's regional administrator in Chicago. "When employees can't report safety concerns on the job without fear of retaliation, worker safety and, in this case, passenger safety on Metra, becomes a serious concern."Continue Reading...
The SEC Office of the Whistleblower post Notices of Covered Action where a final judgement or order, by itself or together with other prior judgments or orders in the same action issued after July 21, 2010, results in monetary sanctions exceeding $1 million.
Subject to the Final Rules, individuals who voluntarily provided the Commission with original information after July 21, 2010 that led to the successful enforcement of a covered action listed below are eligible to apply for a whistleblower award.
Once a Notice of Covered Action is posted, individuals have 90 calendar days to apply for an award.
View the updated list on the continuation of this blog post. Updated 4-23-2013.Continue Reading...