It’s only been a few months since the midterm elections and already the Chamber of Commerce and defense lawyers are starting their campaign to “reform” the False Claims Act. A law dating back to Abraham Lincoln and the 1860’s, the federal False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to file a lawsuit in the name of the United States if they discover against taxpayer funded programs. Successful whistleblowers are allowed to keep a portion of any recovery by the government.
Recently on PBS, a former Department of Justice official, David Ogden, claimed the Act should be reformed. Normally when a Justice Department official speaks about the False Claims Act we sit up and listen. These are the folks charged with investigating the claims filed by whistleblowers. Ogden, however, is a former DOJ official. Today he works for a D.C. law firm representing the companies charged with defrauding the government and taxpayers.
In other words, Ogden has gone to the “Dark Side.”
PBS says he has become the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s “leading advocate” for reform. What reforms do he and the Chamber seek?
Ogden says the Act’s penalties are too harsh. He also claims that companies accused of violating the law need more time to fix problems before the government gets involved.
His former colleagues at the Justice Department don’t agree. Nor do we.
Both Attorney General Eric Holder and the AG nominee, Loretta Lynch, support the law. Manhattan’s U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara also is a huge supporter of the law. As a lawyer who has represented whistleblowers in some of the largest False Claims Act cases in history, I can say personally that the law works just fine.
Saying that corrupt companies should be given more time to correct problems before prosecutors get involved is like telling a burglar he won’t get arrested if he brings back the stolen property. If you break the law you should face the consequences. Corporations shouldn’t get preferential treatment.
Every whistleblower I have ever represented has always complained to management long before filing a lawsuit in federal court. These bad companies know what they are doing and know the consequences of their actions. In the unlikely event that fraudulent behavior is confined to just one rogue employee, a judge can take that into account when determining the amount and severity of fines.
If my grandmother was still alive she would say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
While we believe that Congress won’t tinker with the False Claims Act, the prudent advice for would be whistleblowers is to consider gathering up information and filing their complaints sooner rather than later.
Think you have a viable False Claims Act case? Give us a call. We represented one of the 3 whistleblowers in the largest whistleblower complaint in history, the Justice Department’s $16.65 billion case against Bank of America. We help whistleblowers fight injustice and collect the maximum awards. All inquiries are kept in strict confidence.