by Brian Mahany
Almost 2 years ago, Floyd Landis filed a false claims act (whistleblower) suit against teammate Lance Armstrong. That complaint remained under seal for over two years while the government investigated. Several weeks ago, the government intervened and adopted the action against Armstrong. The government seeks return of some $17 million in sponsorship monies paid by the U.S. Postal Service.
The Postal Service has long been a supporter of Armstrong and the American team at the annual Tour de France bicycle race. Armstrong won a record number of Tour de France races and has been haunted by doping allegations for years. Finally he admitted in January to using performance enhancing drugs. Unknown to anyone at the time, teammate Floyd Landis had filed a whistleblower complaint against Armstrong back in June of 2010. (Whistleblower cases are filed “under seal” meaning that not even Armstrong could know of the suit until a federal judge ordered the matter unsealed.)
The federal false claims act allows ordinary citizens to file complaints on behalf of the United States. To be a whistleblower, you must have “inside”, non public information about a person or company that causes a loss to the government. Successful whistleblowers are entitled to keep a percentage of whatever is collected on behalf of the government.
In this case, Landis was a former team member and claims to have personal knowledge of the doping. The government says that by cheating and using drugs, Armstrong violated his contract with the post office. Armstrong claims there was no monetary loss to the government. That might not be enough to exonerate him from any liability, however.
The case raises very interesting legal issues. Because the jury can award triple damages, the amounts of money at issue are staggering.
Whistleblowers are important players in the battle against fraud. While Armstrong was long suspected of using steroids, there was no proof until Landis came forward. Landis’ information coupled with Armstrong’s televised confession may be enough to establish liability but the issue of damages will be more difficult to determine.
Whistleblowers typically receive 20-25% of whatever monies are collected on behalf of the government. In this case, Landis could receive millions.
If you wish to become a whistleblower or wish to know if you have a claim, give us a call. Our false claims lawyers represent whistleblowers in a wide variety of cases. For more information, contact attorney Brian Mahany at or by telephone at (414) 704-6731 (direct). All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept in strict confidence.
Mahany & Ertl – America’s Fraud Lawyers. Offices in Milwaukee, Wisconsin; Detroit, Michigan; Minneapolis, Minnesota; Portland, Maine and San Francisco, California. Services available in many jurisdictions.
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