Representing federal and state false claims whistle blowers since the mid 1980's, SD&A has been a leader in securing compensation for employees who have taken the brave step of opposing fraudulent practices by their employers. When the fraud and false billing is to a governmental agency, whistle blowers can collect up to 30% of the recovery. The firm acts as partner with the United States Department of Justice in prosecuting the case. Our firm has recovered millions of dollars for employees in health care, aerospace and other industries. Examples of our cases:
Hospital Interim CEO refused to allow false Medicare billing to continue and was denied the permanent CEO position. Our client claimed that the hospital was using an illegal software program that suggested to billers how to “upcode” patient bills for maximum (and illegal!) recovery. Along with claims of sex discrimination, she prevailed in a federal false claim (also called “qui tam”) lawsuit against the hospital. Millions of dollars were recovered by the government.
Aerospace false claims involving defective helicopters. The firm represented a production line foreperson who was aware of failure to follow procedures in the production of helicopters for the US Army. These procedures resulted in helicopters that could not perform their mission. The settlement, deemed an “administrative” settlement, resulted in a huge financial payoff.
Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. The firm is looking forward to litigating its first case under this recently passed law. Arbitration is strictly prohibited, a three year time period in which to sue is provided for, and the law protects employees who make required financial disclosures. The plaintiff is entitled to reinstatement, double back pay and attorney fees.
State False claims. Another aircraft manufacturer falsely certified that production line workers were actually “trainees” under a State of California training program. The state received in excess of $500,000 back and the whistle blower received his fair share.
How does the process work?
It all starts with you, the employee with knowledge of the false claim. Many employees will attempt to resolve the matter with their employer, and if the mistakes of past billing and fraud are not rectified, the employee will contact our office in complete confidence to discuss the case and what information and documents may be needed to prove the case. Pleading standards in federal and state false claims are extremely high, which means that a lawsuit may not be allowed to continue if it is not based on solid evidence, including in many cases “time, date and place” allegations. Thus, it is extremely important to have documentation. (We routinely advise clients never to take originals of documents as those belong to the company).
After an investigation, the lawsuit is filed “under seal” and the government is given a period of time to investigate and determine whether or not to join the case. The whistle blower has the right to participate with the government in the prosecution of the case, especially if individual rights are alleged. The firm routinely advises clients to include causes of action for retaliation (if true). This allows for more active participation by the whistle blower and his attorney. In other cases, the government may decline to participate and the whistle blower may then serve the lawsuit on the defendant and litigate it “in the name of” the government. All settlements are approved by the government. A little-known advantage of government declination is the higher attorney fee payable to the relator (person bringing the suit).
The firm regularly consults with other attorneys around the United States, attends numerous conferences involving federal false claims issues, and has contributed to the National Qui Tam Handbook. The firm is proud that one of their false claims complaints was chosen as the best example of all qui tam complaints filed and would be happy to share it with any attorneys of potential clients on request.
Unlike many other statutes, the time frame in which to file a federal false claim is six years. Not only does this preserve the whistle blower's right to file, but it allows for damages to be based on many years of past misconduct.