Our Michigan Whistleblower Lawyers Help Report Health Care Fraud, Securities Fraud and Defense Contractor Fraud and Maximize Your Cash Award
Brian Mahany and the MahanyLaw Michigan whistleblower lawyers represent Michigan defense contractor personnel, IT and cybersecurity techs, health care professionals and finance professionals who choose to report fraud against U.S. government-funded programs and the Michigan Medicaid program.
We have helped recover over $10 billion for taxpayers in the past 3 years and obtained cash whistleblower rewards of over $100 million. We have the experience to give you legal advice on whether blowing the whistle is right for you. If you think you have discovered evidence of fraud in your workplace, consult us immediately. We can evaluate the strength of your case, determine the most effective way to report it, and protect you from retaliation if necessary.
We represent Michigan whistleblowers across the state, including Detroit and Wayne, Oakland, Macomb, Kent, Genesee, Washtenaw, Ingham, Ottawa, Kalamazoo and Saginaw counties.
If you suspect your Michigan employer is committing fraud against a government-funded program, Call MahanyLaw now: 313-879-2070 or Report Online for a confidential, no-cost consultation.
The Federal and Michigan Government Pays Large Cash Rewards for Inside Information on Fraud
Michigan brokers, pharmacists, machinists, engineers, billing clerks, sales representatives, physicians, EMT’s, executives and others have unique access to corporate conduct and procedures – they know what is really going on within a company.
Federal and state False Claims Acts grant large cash incentives to whistleblowers – those who are the first to report non-public, original information on fraud against the U.S. government, including:
- Defense Contractor Violations
- Medicare or Michigan Medicaid Fraud
- Securities (SEC) Violations
Each are described in detail below.
Michigan whistleblowers are awarded between 10% and 30% of the total government recovery when their original source information helps the government recover funds through settlement or verdict. These cash awards often range in the hundreds of thousands to millions of dollars.
To learn whether your information could qualify you for a cash whistleblower award connect with us for a confidential case evaluation, Call MahanyLaw Now: 313-879-2070 or Report Online. Our Michigan whistleblower lawyers are standing by. All inquiries are kept strictly confidential.
Cash Whistleblower Awards For Reporting Michigan Healthcare Fraud
Although Miami and SE Florida rank number one for Medicare fraud, Michigan ranks a close second. That is not a title any state wants.
Detroit, Dearborn, Flint, and Pontiac are all notorious hotbeds of healthcare fraud. Michigan Medicaid and Medicare programs depend on physicians, pharmacists, nurses, EMT’s, sales representatives, caretakers and other health care professionals to report these violations. And both state and Michigan law provide that these whistleblowers can receive between 15% and 30% of whatever the government collects from the wrongdoers.
Common examples of Medicare and Michigan Medicaid fraud include:
- Overbilling for Medicare beneficiaries
- Off-label marketing
- Billing for nonexistent services or products
- Forging medical records or misrepresenting medical documents
- Certification and licensure misrepresentation
- Offering kickbacks for patient referrals
- Billing for medically unnecessary medications or treatments
Our Michigan whistleblower lawyers have extensive experience in maximizing whistleblower cash awards in federal and state court. We are investigating a number of health care facilities across the state of Michigan, including University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers, Beaumont Hospital – Royal Oak, Harper University Hospital, Spectrum Health Hospitals Butterworth – Blodgett Campuses, Detroit Medical Center* and Munson Medical Center.
*In 2018, the Detroit Medical Center paid $84.5 million to settle charges that it paid kickbacks to physicians. The case was brought by four whistleblowers. Although we cannot disclose the reward paid, the typical reward paid in such cases is approximately $13.5 million. This case followed an earlier prosecution of the Detroit Medical Center in which the hospital agreed to pay $30,000,000.00, also for kickbacks. For more information on our DMC investigations, use our blog search tool and search “DMC.”
If you have inside information on Medicare or Michigan Medicaid fraud, contact our Michigan whistleblower lawyers for a no-fee absolutely confidential consultation: , by phone at 313-879-2070 or Report Online
Report Michigan Defense Contractor Fraud And Claim Your Cash Award
Michigan defense contractors obtained over 16,570 defense contracts worth over $2.7 billion dollars in 2017, including companies like:
- AM General
- BAE Systems
- General Dynamics Land Systems Inc.
- Plasan North America
- L3 Technologies
- Waltonen Engineering Inc.
- Loc Performance Products Inc.
- WS3 LLC
- Beaver Aerospace & Defense, Inc.
- A&H Lakeshore JV, LLC
- Lanzen Fabricating North, Inc.
- Altair Engineering Inc.
Mechanics, IT technicians, engineers, billing clerks and other defense contractor personnel who submit false claims for payment to the federal government violate the federal False Claims Act. Several actions by Michigan defense contractors may violate the federal False Claims Act, including:
- Overbilling for labor or equipment costs
- Using substandard or refurbished materials
- Misrepresentation in contract bidding
- Cross charging (fixed-price to cost-plus contracts)
- Misrepresenting foreign supplies as American-made
- Failing to report cybersecurity breaches or violations
- Violating the Truth in Negotiation Act (TINA)
Michigan defense contractor fraud recovery lawyer Brian Mahany and his team of Michigan Whistleblower Lawyers work to protect your rights as a Michigan whistleblower and maximize your cash award. Call MahanyLaw Now: 313-879-2070 or Report Online.
We Maximize Cash Awards For Michigan Securities Fraud Whistleblowers
The Dodd-Frank Act and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) whistleblower program offer Michigan whistleblowers large cash awards for non-public knowledge of securities violations. SEC whistleblowers have collected over $100 million in awards, the largest SEC whistleblower award to date at $30 million.
Broker-dealers, investors, stockholders, bankers, traders, accountants and public company personnel must abide by U.S. securities laws and regulations. Common examples of U.S. securities violations include:
- Market manipulation
- Unauthorized trading
- Account churning
- Insider trading
- Ponzi schemes
- Market manipulation
- Breach of fiduciary duty
- Unsuitable investment recommendations
Michigan finance professionals or investors with inside knowledge of SEC securities violations can report their knowledge anonymously and maximize their cash whistleblower awards by contacting the MahanyLaw SEC whistleblower team.
Call today for a no-obligation absolutely confidential consultation: 313-879-2070 or Report Online
Act Fast! Time Limits Apply To Filing A Whistleblower Claim
Statutes of limitations and first-to-file bars limit the time a whistleblower has to file a claim. To ensure that your claim follows all necessary policies and procedures, contact a MahanyLaw Michigan whistleblower lawyer. Our unique investigation and filing process can maximize your whistleblower cash award. Both the state and federal whistleblower laws also have a first to file provision. If you wait too long, someone else may report first and collect any reward payment.
Our Michigan Whistleblower Lawyers Are Experienced in Protecting Against Retaliation
We understand that blowing the whistle isn’t easy. That us why we consider whistleblowers to be heroes. Congress and the Michigan Legislature recognized that some whistleblowers face retaliation even though they are standing up for what is right.
The federal False Claims Act, the Michigan Whistleblower Act and the Michigan Medicaid False Claims Act all forbid employers from firing, demoting, threatening, or otherwise harming employees who report violations or testify in court. Employers who violate the law can be required to reinstate the employee (together with all accrued seniority), pay double back pay, restore benefits and pay other damages. The SEC Whistleblower Program has similar protections.
Our Michigan Whistleblower Lawyers are dedicated to protecting you against illegal retaliation as well as ensuring you collect the maximum possible cash reward.
Meet the Michigan Whistleblower Lawyers at MahanyLaw
The Michigan Whistleblower Legal team is led by attorney Brian Mahany. Brian is a former government prosecutor and agent with decades of experience. One of the members of the team is a former successful whistleblower himself. We understand not only how to maximize your reward but also the stress of becoming a whistleblower.
Brian practices in the federal courts of Detroit. Services available throughout Michigan and the United States.
Call Brian Mahany and the Michigan Whistleblower Lawyers team for a private, no-fee consultation: 313-879-2070 or Report Online.
THE MEDICAID FALSE CLAIM ACT
(Michigan Whistleblower Law)
AN ACT to prohibit fraud in the obtaining of benefits or payments in connection with the medical assistance program; to prohibit kickbacks or bribes in connection with the program; to prohibit conspiracies in obtaining benefits or payments; to authorize the attorney general to investigate alleged violations of this act; to provide for the appointment of investigators by the attorney general; to ratify prior appointments of attorney general investigators; to provide for civil actions to recover money received by reason of fraudulent conduct; to provide for receiverships of residential health care facilities; to prohibit retaliation; to provide for certain civil fines; and to prescribe remedies and penalties.
400.601 Short title.
400.606 Obtaining payment or allowance of false claim; felony; penalty.
400.607 Making or presenting false claims or false record or statement; violations as separate offenses; liability of health facility or agency; violation as felony; penalty.[Editor’s note: In addition to the civil penalties and triple damages (see section 612 below), making false claims is also a felony. Only the state can prosecute a Medicaid fraud as a crime.]
(1) A person who is convicted 3 or more times for an offense under this act and who is subsequently convicted of another offense under this act may be sentenced to imprisonment for a term of not more than 10 years. To be subject to punishment under this section, it is not necessary to establish that the person was indicted and convicted as a previous offender, but the increased punishment provided in this section shall be imposed in accordance with the procedure prescribed in section 13 of chapter 9 of Act No. 175 of the Public Acts of 1927, as amended, being section 769.13 of the Michigan Compiled Laws.
(2) Sentences imposed for a conviction of separate offenses under this act may run consecutively.
400.610 Investigation by attorney general or assistant attorney general; appointment and powers of investigators; ratification of appointments; written demand; noncompliance; action to enforce demand; service; order; confidentiality.
(1) The attorney general or an assistant attorney general on behalf of the attorney general may conduct an investigation of an alleged violation of this act.
(2) For purposes of enforcing this act, the attorney general may appoint investigators who shall be peace officers and whose powers shall include, but not be limited to, the following:
(a) The power to execute and serve search warrants, arrest warrants, subpoenas, administrative warrants, and summonses issued under the authority of the state.
(b) The power to seize property pursuant to the laws of this state.
(c) Investigators appointed by the attorney general may exercise the powers provided in this subsection when working in conjunction with local law enforcement agencies or the department of state police.
(3) All appointments of attorney general investigators by the attorney general on and after January 1, 1979 as peace officers are hereby ratified.
(4) If the attorney general has reasonable cause to believe that a person has information or is in possession, custody, or control of any document or other tangible object relevant to an investigation for violation of this act, the attorney general may serve upon the person, before bringing any action, a written demand to appear and be examined under oath, and to produce the document or object for inspection and copying. The demand shall include all of the following:
(a) Be served upon the person in the manner required for service of process in this state.
(b) Describe the nature of the conduct constituting the violation under investigation.
(c) Describe the document or object with sufficient definiteness to permit it to be fairly identified.
(d) Contain a copy of any written interrogatories.
(e) Prescribe a reasonable time at which the person must appear to testify, within which to answer the written interrogatories, and within which the document or object must be produced, and advise the person that objections to or reasons for not complying with the demand may be filed with the attorney general, on or before that time.
(f) Specify a place for the taking of testimony or for production and designate the person who shall be custodian of the document or object.
(g) Contain a copy of subsection (5).
(5) If a person objects to or otherwise fails to comply with the written demand served upon him or her under subsection (4), the attorney general may file in the circuit court of the county in which the person resides or in which the person maintains a principal place of business within this state an action to enforce the demand. Notice of hearing the action and a copy of all pleadings shall be served upon the person, who may appear in opposition. If the court finds that the demand is proper, that there is reasonable cause to believe that there may have been or is presently occurring a violation of this act, and that the information sought or document or object demanded is relevant to the investigation, the court shall order the person to comply with the demand, subject to modification the court may prescribe. Upon motion by the person and for good cause shown, the court may make any further order in the proceedings that justice requires to protect the person from unreasonable annoyance, embarrassment, oppression, burden, or expense.
(6) Except as required by federal law, any procedure, testimony taken, or material produced shall be kept confidential by the attorney general before bringing an action against a person under this act for the violation under investigation, unless confidentiality is waived by the person being investigated and the person who has testified, answered interrogatories, or produced material, or disclosure is authorized by the court.
400.610a Civil action in name of state; initiation; complaint; intervention; pleadings; discovery; stay; alternative remedy; award; share of proceeds; court finding of frivolous claim; civil fine.
[Editor’s note: There is a lot of information in this section. Of importance to whistleblowers are the section on alternate remedies and the rewards provision.
If the state takes over the case and prosecutes, your reward is between 15% and 25% of whatever the state collects from the wrongdoers. If your own attorney prosecutes, the reward is increased to between 25% and 30%.
The alternative remedy section is important and gives whistleblowers valuable rights. Sometimes the state will take your information and proceed in a different manner. An example would be if the state decided to pursue a case using an agency’s administrative remedies. The Michigan legislature recognized this possibility and specifically gives whistleblowers the right to receive a reward if your information is used.]
(1) Any person may bring a civil action in the name of this state under this section to recover losses that this state suffers from a violation of this act. A suit filed under this section shall not be dismissed unless the attorney general has been notified and had an opportunity to appear and oppose the dismissal. The attorney general waives the opportunity to oppose the dismissal if it is not exercised within 28 days of receiving notice.
(2) If a person other than the attorney general initiates an action under this section, the complaint shall remain under seal and the clerk shall not issue the summons for service on the defendant until after the time for the attorney general’s election under subsection (3) expires. At the time of filing the complaint, the person shall serve a copy of the complaint on the attorney general and shall disclose, in writing, substantially all material evidence and information in the person’s possession supporting the complaint to the attorney general.
(3) The attorney general may elect to intervene in an action under this section. Before the expiration of the later of 90 days after service of the complaint and related materials or any extension of the 90 days that is requested by the attorney general and granted by the court, the attorney general shall notify the court and the person initiating the action of 1 of the following:
(a) That the attorney general will proceed with the action for this state and have primary responsibility for proceeding with the action.
(b) That the attorney general declines to take over the action and the person initiating the action has the right to proceed with the action.
(4) If an action is filed under this section, a person other than the attorney general shall not intervene in the action or bring another action on behalf of this state based on the facts underlying the action.
(5) If the attorney general elects to proceed with the action under subsection (3) or (6), the attorney general has primary responsibility for prosecuting the action and may do all of the following:
(a) Agree to dismiss the action, notwithstanding the objection of the person initiating the action, but only if that person has been notified of and offered the opportunity to participate in a hearing on the motion to dismiss.
(b) Settle the action, notwithstanding the objection of the person initiating the action, but only if that person has been notified of and offered the opportunity to participate in a hearing on the settlement and if the court determines that the settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable under the circumstances. Upon a showing of good cause, the settlement hearing may be held in camera.
(c) Request the court to limit the participation of the person initiating the action. If the attorney general demonstrates that unrestricted participation by the person initiating the action during the litigation would interfere with or unduly delay the attorney general’s prosecution of the case or would be repetitious, irrelevant, or unduly harassing, the court may do any of the following:
(i) Limit the number of the person’s witnesses.
(ii) Limit the length of the testimony of the person’s witnesses.
(iii) Limit the person’s cross-examination of witnesses.
(iv) Otherwise limit the person’s participation in the litigation.
(6) If the attorney general notifies the court that he or she declines to take over the action under subsection (3), the person who initiated the action may proceed with the action. At the attorney general’s request and expense, the attorney general shall be provided with copies of all pleadings filed in the action and copies of all deposition transcripts. Notwithstanding the attorney general’s election not to take over the action, the court may permit the attorney general to intervene in the action at any time upon a showing of good cause and, subject to subsection (7), without affecting the rights or status of the person initiating the action.
(7) Upon a showing, conducted in camera, that actions of the person initiating the action during discovery would interfere with the attorney general’s investigation or prosecution of a criminal or civil matter, the court may stay the discovery for not more than 90 days. The court may extend the stay upon a further showing that the attorney general is pursuing the investigation or proceeding with reasonable diligence and the discovery would interfere with the ongoing investigation or proceeding.
(8) As an alternative to an action permitted under this section, the attorney general may pursue a violation of this act through any alternate remedy available to this state, including an administrative proceeding. If the attorney general pursues an alternate remedy, a person who initiated an action under this section shall have equivalent rights in that proceeding to the rights that the person would have had if the action had continued under this section to the extent consistent with the law governing that proceeding. Findings of fact and conclusions of law that become final in an alternative proceeding shall be conclusive on the parties to an action under this section. For purposes of this subsection, a finding or conclusion is final if it has been finally determined on appeal to the appropriate court, if the time for filing an appeal with respect to the finding or conclusion has expired, or if the finding or conclusion is not subject to judicial review.
(9) Subject to subsections (10) and (11), if a person other than the attorney general or the attorney general prevails in an action that the person initiates under this section, the court shall award the person necessary expenses, costs, reasonable attorney fees, and, based on the amount of effort involved, the following percentage of the monetary proceeds resulting from the action or any settlement of the claim:
(a) If the attorney general intervenes, 15% to 25%.
(b) If the attorney general does not intervene, 25% to 30%.
(10) If the court finds an action under this section to be based primarily on disclosure of specific information that was not provided by the person bringing the action, such as information from a criminal, civil, or administrative hearing in a state or federal department or agency, a legislative report, hearing, audit, or investigation, or the news media, and the attorney general proceeds with the action, the court may award the person bringing the action no more than 10% of the monetary recovery in addition to reasonable attorney fees, necessary expenses, and costs.
(11) If the court finds that the person bringing an action under this section planned and initiated the conduct upon which the action is brought, then the court may reduce or eliminate, as it considers appropriate, the share of the proceeds of the action that the person would otherwise be entitled to receive. A person who is convicted of criminal conduct arising from a violation of this act shall not initiate or remain a party to an action under this section and is not entitled to share in the monetary proceeds resulting from the action or any settlement under this section.
(12) A person other than the attorney general shall not bring an action under this section that is based on allegations or transactions that are the subject of a civil suit or an administrative civil money penalty proceeding to which this state or the federal government is already a party. The court shall dismiss an action brought in violation of this section.
(13) Unless the person is the original source of the information, a person, other than the attorney general, shall not initiate an action under this section based upon the public disclosure of allegations or transactions in a criminal, civil, or administrative hearing, in a state or federal legislative, investigative, or administrative report, hearing, audit, or investigation, or from the news media. The person is the original source if he or she had direct and independent knowledge of the information on which the allegations are based and voluntarily provided the information to the attorney general before filing an action based on that information under this section.
(14) This state and the attorney general are not liable for any expenses, costs, or attorney fees that a person incurs in bringing an action under this section. Any amount awarded to a person initiating an action to enforce this act is payable solely from the proceeds of the action or settlement.
(15) If a person proceeds with an action under this section after being notified that the attorney general has declined to intervene and the court finds that the claim was frivolous, as defined in section 2591 of the revised judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 236, MCL 600.2591, the court shall award the prevailing defendant actual and reasonable attorney fees and expenses and, in addition, shall impose a civil fine of not more than $10,000.00. The civil fine shall be deposited into the Michigan medicaid benefits trust fund established in section 5 of the Michigan trust fund act, 2000 PA 489, MCL 12.255.
400.610b Recovery of costs by attorney general.
(1) The attorney general may recover all costs this state incurs in the litigation and recovery of medicaid restitution under this act, including the cost of investigation and attorney fees. The attorney general shall retain the amount received for activities under this act, excluding amounts for restitution, court costs, and fines, not to exceed the amount of this state’s funding match for the medicaid fraud control unit.
(2) The attorney general shall not retain amounts under this section until all the restitution awarded in the proceeding has been paid.
(3) Costs that the attorney general recovers in excess of the state’s funding match for the medicaid fraud control unit shall be deposited in the Michigan medicaid benefits trust fund established in section 5 of the Michigan trust fund act, 2000 PA 489, MCL 12.255.
400.610c Employment action against employee initiating, assisting in, or participating in court action; prohibition; violation; liability of employer.
[Editor’s note: This provision contains the Michigan whistleblower act’s strong anti-retaliation provision. If you suffer from retaliation, you are eligible for double back pay, interest, special damages to make you whole and if desired, reinstatement.]
(1) An employer shall not discharge, demote, suspend, threaten, harass, or in any other manner, discriminate against an employee in the terms and conditions of employment because the employee engaged in lawful acts, including initiating, assisting in, or participating in the furtherance of an action under this act or because the employee cooperates with or assists in an investigation under this act. This prohibition does not apply to an employment action against an employee who the court finds brought a frivolous claim, as defined in section 2591 of the revised judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 236, MCL 600.2591; the court finds to have planned and initiated the conduct upon which the action is brought; or is convicted of criminal conduct arising from a violation of this act.
(2) An employer who violates this section is liable to the employee for all of the following:
(a) Reinstatement to the employee’s position without loss of seniority.
(b) Two times the amount of lost back pay.
(c) Interest on the back pay.
(d) Compensation for any special damages.
(e) Any other relief necessary to make the employee whole.
400.611 Filing and prosecution of action; jurisdiction; service of process.
(1) An action brought by the attorney general under this act may be filed in Ingham county and may be prosecuted to final judgment in satisfaction there.
(2) A person may bring a civil action under section 10a in any county in which venue is proper. If the attorney general elects to intervene under section 10a(3) or (6) and the court grants the request, upon motion by the attorney general, the court shall transfer the action to the circuit court in Ingham county.
(3) Process issued by a court in which an action is filed may be served anywhere in the state.
400.612 Civil penalty for receiving benefit by reason of fraud, making fraudulent statement, knowingly concealing material fact, or engages in prohibited conduct; criminal action not required.
[Editor’s note: Each fraudulent bill or claim is subject to a penalty of between $5,000 and $10,000 and triple damages. This is why huge whistleblower rewards are possible. For example, let’s say a clinic uses an unlicensed doctor and that doctor sees 100 Medicaid patients. The state is billed $53 per visit. The loss to the state is $5,300 but when you triple the damages and impose penalties, the clinic owes the state $1,015,900.00! The whistleblower reward is based on the amount collected from the clinic, not just the $5,300 in overbillings.]
(1) A person who receives a benefit that the person is not entitled to receive by reason of fraud or making a fraudulent statement or knowingly concealing a material fact, or who engages in any conduct prohibited by this statute, shall forfeit and pay to the state the full amount received, and for each claim a civil penalty of not less than $5,000.00 or more than $10,000.00 plus triple the amount of damages suffered by the state as a result of the conduct by the person.
(2) A criminal action need not be brought against the person for that person to be civilly liable under this section.
400.613 Revocation of license of residential health care facility; petition for appointment of receiver; order; appointment, compensation, and powers and duties of receiver.
[This provision allows the state to take over a hospital or nursing home if patients are at risk. Only the Attorney General can exercise this provision of the law.]
(1) As a means of protecting the health, safety, and welfare of patients in a residential health care facility, including hospitals, nursing homes, and other institutions reimbursed for resident or patient care by the medical assistance program established by Act No. 280 of the Public Acts of 1939, as amended, if the license of a residential health care facility is revoked for violation of this act, the attorney general may file a petition with the circuit court for the county of Ingham or the circuit court in the county in which the residential health care facility is located for the appointment of a receiver.
(2) The circuit court shall issue an order to show cause why a receiver should not be appointed returnable within 5 days after the filing of the petition.
(3) If the court finds that the facts warrant the granting of the petition, the court shall appoint a receiver to take charge of the residential health care facility. The court may determine fair compensation for the receiver.
(4) A receiver appointed pursuant to this section shall have the powers and duties prescribed by the court not inconsistent with section 2926 of Act No. 236 of the Public Acts of 1961, being section 600.2926 of the Michigan Compiled Laws. The receiver may correct an act prohibited by this act or required under Act No. 280 of the Public Acts of 1939, as amended.
400.614 Statute of limitations.
[Editor’s note: This is the provision of the law that says how long whistleblowers have to file a claim. Depending on when you knew of the wrongdoing and whether the state was already aware of the wrongdoing, the time to file may be as short as 1 year ir as long as 10. Our advice, never delay.]
(1) A person shall not bring a civil action under section 10a after the later of the following:
(a) More than 6 years after the date on which the violation described in section 10a was committed.
(b) More than 3 years after the date when facts material to the right of action are known or reasonably should have been known by the official of the state of Michigan charged with responsibility to act in the circumstances, but in no event more than 10 years after the date on which the violation was committed.
(2) A person may bring an action under this act for conduct that occurred before the effective date of the amendatory act that added this section if the action is filed within the time limitation in subsection (1).
400.615 Burden of proof; preponderance of evidence.
[Editor’s note: Michigan makes it easier for whistleblowers to collect rewards. The burden of proof for obtaining a reward is much less than that required for a criminal conviction.]
A person bringing a civil action under this act is required to prove all essential elements of the cause of action, including damages, by a preponderance of the evidence.