Articles Posted in Whistleblower Information

HDL WhistleblowerWhistleblower cases involving the Veterans Administration (VA) took a significant upturn in fiscal year 2015, according to the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Although it is small—with only 140 employees—and independent, the agency’s job is to protect whistleblowers and other federal employees from prohibited personnel actions. The OSC’s 2015 whistleblower disclosures rose 56 percent from 2014, for a total of 755 disclosures for the fiscal year. A large amount of the increase is the result of a waterfall of new cases from the VA.

Opinions differ as to why the 2015 increase was so dramatic. Some believe that the uptick is due to continuing problems at the VA, and associated retaliatory actions against those who blew the whistle. In the past, various scandals over the treatment of veterans had been revealed, with whistleblowers subsequently threatened. The OSC settled three cases of retaliation against Veterans Administration (VA) whistleblowers in April, 2015.

Others believe the increase in cases is proof that Bob McDonald, the secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department who was sworn in in September, 2014, is succeeding according to his stated mission. He promised to protect employees who revealed fraud, waste, and wrongdoing at the VA. The increase in cases may be a sign that McDonald is finding some success at creating a culture more comfortable for whistleblowers.

Still others credit the OSC’s Special Counsel Carolyn Lerner, who has a track record of protecting whistleblowers and intervening in cases of retaliation against them. The success rate for those who bring their case to the OSC has increased along with the agency’s workload; 278 cases were resolved favorably for employees in fiscal year 2015. That represents an increase of more than 800 percent since fiscal year 2008. “As OSC obtains more positive outcomes for whistleblowers, our results promote confidence, and more employees are willing to step forward to file a claim or make a disclosure of wrongdoing,” commented Nick Schwellenbach, a spokesman for the OSC.

Whatever the cause, it appears that more whistleblower cases involving the VA are seeing the light of day, and that retaliation against those who report the wrongdoing is being dealt with appropriately. The law forbids retaliatory actions against those who bring a case under the False Claims Act.

80 Years of Experience—on Your Side

If you have knowledge concerning fraud against the government, an experienced whistleblower attorney  like the ones at the Louthian Law Firm can assess your case and help you file the necessary disclosure statement. In some instances, the government will intervene (take part in your lawsuit).

One of the most important reasons to contact a qualified whistleblower attorney is that you are much more likely to meet with success if your claim is clear, concise and substantive. The Louthian Law Firm can help you structure your claim in such a way that the government will be more likely to intervene in your case, possibly increasing the chances that you will recover reward money. Even if the government doesn’t decide to intervene, it might still be advisable to pursue your case without government involvement, with our strong support through every step of the process.

For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at 1-888-440-3211 or fill out the online contact form. Louthian Law Firm. Listening hard. Working harder.

SC Ambulance Fraud LawyerWhen you think of Medicare fraud, ambulance services might not come to mind. After all, in a life-threatening situation, you’re going to call 911 for an ambulance. You’re not going to think about kickbacks, unnecessary procedures, upcoding, and other deceitful practices happening in the ambulance industry. And yet, ambulance fraud is big business for some Medicare suppliers.

Fraud Abounding

It turns out that vulnerability to fraud has always been part of Medicare ambulance transport. Because of that, in 2013 and 2014, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) declined to enroll new ambulance providers in two geographical locations. In the first half of 2012, about one in five ambulance companies demonstrated questionable billings and more than half of disputed transports occurred in just four metropolitan areas. In order of the percentage of questionable trips, they were Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New York City, and Houston. These four cities alone accounted for 52 percent of all possibly-fraudulent ambulance transportation, as compared with 18 percent of all dubious billings nationwide.

Government investigators revealed in September, 2015, that Medicare paid out more than $50 million based on possibly improper or fraudulent billing from ambulance providers. Included in these payments are $30 million for ambulance rides, during one six-month period, for which no evidence exists that patients received any care at their destination.

In 2012, Medicare paid nearly $6 billion to ambulance companies. That’s more money than either cancer doctors or orthopedic surgeons received during that time. With so much money floating around, the possibilities for fraud seem nearly endless.

Whistleblowers Winning Cases

However, whistleblowers have been coming forward to nail the companies that have been committing Medicare fraud. Whistleblower cases involving Medicare ambulance fraud include:

  • In 2002, an ambulance company paid penalties of $9 million for ambulance fraud, with the whistleblowers receiving approximately $1.6 million. In 2006, this same company paid penalties of $20 million for ambulance fraud. In this case, the whistleblower received around $3.8 million.
  • In 2004, a health care organization’s settlement for ambulance fraud was $20 million. The whistleblowers divided about $2.4 million.
  • In the spring of 2015, a former employee of a Massachusetts ambulance firm filed a claim alleging that the owners repeatedly violated the False Claims Act between 2005 and 2013. (The owners fired her in 2013.) The case is still open.

Medicare whistleblowers can receive payouts of 15 to 30 percent of the penalties paid if the suit brought under the False Claims Act is successful.

If you have knowledge concerning fraud against the government, including Medicare or Medicaid fraud, an experienced whistleblower attorney  like the ones at the Louthian Law Firm can assess your case and help you file the necessary disclosure statement. In some instances, the government will intervene (take part in your lawsuit).

One of the most important reasons to contact a qualified whistleblower attorney is that you are much more likely to meet with success if your claim is clear, concise and substantive. The Louthian Law Firm can help you structure your claim in such a way that the government will be more likely to intervene in your case, possibly increasing the chances that you will recover reward money. Even if the government doesn’t decide to intervene, it might still be advisable to pursue your case without government involvement, with our strong support through every step of the process.

For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at 1-888-440-3211 or fill out the online consultation form. Louthian Law Firm. Seeking truth. Securing justice.

SC Whistleblower AwardsSettlements and judgments from cases involving fraud and false claims brought under the False Claims Act (FCA) totaled more than $3.5 billion in fiscal year (FY) 2015. That makes four years in a row that FCA recoveries have exceeded $3.5 billion. Of that $3.58 billion for FY 2015, a record amount—$2.91 billion—was recovered by the government because of cases initiated by whistleblowers.

With several billions recovered, awards to the whistleblowers themselves in FY 2015 have been equally large. The portion of the $2.91 billion paid to those who blew the whistle set another record, tallying $597.6 million. Awards in declined cases (cases in which the government declines to prosecute, leaving the whistleblower to forge ahead by themselves) amounted to $334.6 million of the $597.6 million, which established one more record. Less than half—44 percent, or $263 billion—of the awards were paid in cases where the government intervened (i.e., joined the case).

The Largest 2015 Awards

Some of the largest recoveries, and their whistleblower awards, that occurred in FY 2015 included:

  • The Internal Revenue Service awarded $11.6 million in a tax noncompliance case to an anonymous whistleblower.
  • The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) awarded the third-highest whistleblower amount since the advent of Dodd-Frank, giving over $3 million to a company insider.
  • The SEC also awarded more than $325,000 to a former investment company employee who provided specific tips regarding fraudulent activity.

The Largest Recoveries Where Awards Have Not Yet Been Determined

Because it can take a while for decisions to be handed down with regard to the exact amount of whistleblower awards, the following large recovery cases occurred in 2015 in which the whistleblower awards have not yet been decided:

Whistleblower cases have successfully helped our country reduce fraud and waste in our government. Total monetary recoveries since January 2009 to the end of FY 2015 amount to $26.4 billion. Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division, applauded the whistleblowers. “Many of the recoveries obtained under the False Claims Act result from courageous men and women who come forward to blow the whistle on fraud they are often uniquely positioned to expose.”

Seeking truth. Securing justice.

If you have knowledge concerning fraud against the government, an experienced whistleblower attorney  like the ones at the Louthian Law Firm can assess your case and help you file the necessary disclosure statement. In some instances, the government will intervene (take part in your lawsuit).

One of the most important reasons to contact a qualified whistleblower attorney is that you are much more likely to meet with success if your claim is clear, concise and substantive. The Louthian Law Firm can help you structure your claim in such a way that the government will be more likely to intervene in your case, possibly increasing the chances that you will recover reward money. Even if the government doesn’t decide to intervene, it might still be advisable to pursue your case without government involvement, with our strong support through every step of the process.

For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at 1-888-440-3211 or fill out the online consultation form. Louthian Law Firm. On the case. Around the clock.

No Protection by Whistleblower Law for Congressional StaffersYou’d think that Congress would take care of its own. When it comes to benefits, it seems as if they always do. So it might astonish you to know that, of all the classes of people protected by whistleblower laws, Congressional staffers have been left out in the cold. They are not protected.

In October, 2015, Major Bradley Podliska was fired while working for the House Select Committee on Benghazi. Major Podliska claims he was fired because he would not restrict the focus of his inquiry to former Secretary of State Clinton and the State Department.

What Does This Mean?

Effectively, the lack of whistleblower protection for Congressional staffers means that anyone who might have a reasonable suspicion of Congressional corruption is silenced. Legislative aides must keep their mouths shut if they witness abuse of power, fraud, or the wasting of taxpayer money, or else risk losing their jobs (and possible future employment). After all, who would be willing to step forward in the face of such sanctions as losing your livelihood, simply for telling the truth?

Because Podliska worked as a staffer for the legislative branch, the existing federal whistleblower laws offered him no protection whatsoever. Major Podliska’s attorneys say that they will file suit, claiming that Podliska suffered retaliation from senior committee members because he took leaves when the Air Force twice called him into active duty.

The committee alleged that the reason Podliska was fired was that he mishandled classified information, but there are doubts that he actually did so.

The Way Forward

Workers in the executive branch of our government file about 1,500 reports each year, alleging whistleblower retaliation. A fair number of these reports have focused needed attention on reforming government services, such as the various improvements brought about by Veterans Administration and TSA whistleblowers. So it is likely that whistleblowing by workers in the legislative branch could also result in needed changes. And yet Congressional staffers have no protections, unlike many other public and private employees who witness fraud and lawbreaking and step forward to report it.

Legislative branch abuses mean that our lawmaking body cannot govern effectively. Such abuses also impact taxpayer funds and contribute to the continuing destruction of the people’s trust in democratic government. The legislative staffers who have the courage to step forward should be afforded the same protections as other public employees. It is time for Congress to do something about this issue.

80 Years of Experience—on Your Side

If you have knowledge concerning fraud against the government, an experienced whistleblower attorney  like the ones at the Louthian Law Firm can assess your case and help you file the necessary disclosure statement. In some instances, the government will intervene (take part in your lawsuit). A qualified attorney can help you structure your claims in such a way that the government will be persuaded to intervene, possibly increasing the likelihood that you will recover reward money. However, even if governmental parties decide not to intervene, it might still be advisable to pursue your case without their involvement.

For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at 1-888-440-3211 or fill out the online consultation form. Louthian Law Firm. Listening hard. Working harder.

South Carolina Whistleblower LawyerThe U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has released its annual accounting to Congress regarding the Dodd-Frank Whistleblower Program. The latest report disclosed a 30 percent rise in whistleblower tips since 2012. In fiscal year (FY) 2015 alone, nearly 4,000 tips were collected.

But that’s not all that the report revealed. While whistleblower confidentiality must be upheld according to Dodd-Frank, the latest report noted certain characteristics that the whistleblowers have in common, by aggregating personal information.

Whistleblower Profiles

One of the more interesting highlights of the report is that whistleblowers, geographically speaking, come from everywhere. In FY 2015, every U.S. state and 61 foreign countries contained people who submitted tips. The international growth of the whistleblower program is especially noteworthy.

Another point, one that might surprise you, is that whistleblowers are not necessarily corporate insiders. Fewer than half of all tips came from insiders. Instead, the majority of tipsters were often either victimized investors or those who knew the alleged wrongdoer personally.

Even more unexpected is that nearly 80 percent of all whistleblowers either went through internal channels or had supervisors who knew of their concerns before telling the SEC. It’s possible the percentage is so high because of the protections afforded to whistleblowers. Those with tips are protected if they report what they know internally, even if they do not report what they know to the SEC.

New Efforts to Protect Whistleblowers

Also highlighted in the report is the greater effort to make whistleblowers feel safe when sharing tips with the SEC. On April 1, 2015, under Exchange Act Rule 21F-17(a), the first enforcement action against a company was undertaken against a Houston, TX, corporation, KBR, Inc. The Rule clearly states that confidentiality agreements cannot be used to prevent or obstruct whistleblowers from reporting to the SEC. In this case, however, witnesses in certain KBR internal investigations were required to sign confidentiality agreements, warning them of termination if they discussed internal matters with outside parties without receiving express approval to do so.

Monetary Sanctions and Awards

In FY 2015, roughly $37 million was paid to whistleblowers. Tips are considered actionable if they result in monetary sanctions of more than $1 million. Under Dodd-Frank, a whistleblower can receive anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of the monetary amounts collected. The amount awarded is solely up to the SEC.

Since the program went into effect in August, 2011, the SEC has paid out over $54 million in awards to 22 whistleblowers.

Seeking truth. Securing justice.

In conference rooms and courtrooms, we do battle because we believe in the rights and power of the people. If you have knowledge about securities or commodities fraud of any kind and your case is valid, an experienced whistleblower attorney  like the ones at the Louthian Law Firm can assess your case and help you file the necessary disclosure statement with the government. In some instances, the government will intervene (take part in your lawsuit). A qualified attorney can help you structure your claims in such a way that the government will be persuaded to intervene, possibly increasing the likelihood that you will recover reward money. However, even if governmental parties decide not to intervene, it might still be advisable for you to pursue your case without their involvement.

For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at 1-888-440-3211 or fill out the online consultation form. Louthian Law Firm. On the case. Around the clock.

South Carolina Security Frad LawyerOne of the positives to arise from the 2008 financial crisis was the stiffening of regulations, and the protection of whistleblowers, regarding securities fraud, with the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act of 2010. Under Dodd-Frank, the Office of the Whistleblower was established for the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC) to encourage those who have information about securities and commodities laws violations to notify the authorities. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) has similar rules and regulations under Dodd-Frank.

If you believe you have legally actionable information regarding securities or commodities fraud, we hope this page will answer your questions. But if concerns still weigh on you, we hope you will contact us at the Louthian Law Firm.

What Is Required of Whistleblowers?

The SEC entitles whistleblowers to an award if their evidence meets the criteria required to bring a case. The information must:

  • Be voluntary. Your submission of information to the SEC must occur before it is requested by the SEC, by Congress, or by some other regulatory or enforcement agency, such as FINRA.
  • Be original. Original information comes from a whistleblower’s independent knowledge or analysis that is not already known by the SEC and is not a product of publicly available sources.
  • Lead to success. If the SEC opens a new investigation, re-opens a previous one, or pursues a new line of investigation, and a successful action is brought based at least partially on your information, then it has led to success. Additionally, the information must lead to monetary sanctions of more than $1 million (called the “covered action”). The SEC can add together monetary sanctions in two or more legal actions, if they arise from the same set of actionable facts, to reach $1 million or more.
  • Have been first submitted after July 21, 2010, when Dodd-Frank was enacted. Submissions before that date are not eligible for an award. However, the date of the illegal conduct reported can have occurred before that date.

The CFTC’s requirements are essentially the same as the SEC’s.

You do not need to be a U.S. citizen to file a whistleblower claim. U.S. citizens and foreign nationals alike may file claims and receive awards.

Determining the Award

Under Dodd-Frank, a whistleblower can receive anywhere from 10 to 30 percent of the monetary amounts collected in the covered action. The amount awarded is solely up to the SEC or CFTC.

Related actions can also amount to awards from between 10 and 30 percent, with the specific amount at the discretion of the SEC or CFTC. An action is considered “related” if is it based on the same information that led to the covered action and the action is brought by the U.S. Attorney General’s office or similar agency or official.

The SEC uses several criteria when it comes to determining the size of the award within the percentage range. These criteria include the significance of the information, the amount of help provided by the whistleblower, the SEC’s interest in deterring violations, and the extent, if any, to which the whistleblower participated in the situation reported. All of these criteria are guidelines, not rigid requirements.

Legal Protections for Whistleblowers

Typically, whistleblowers remain anonymous, but you will need an attorney to represent your submission if you wish to be anonymous. The appropriate form (Form TCR) must be signed under penalty of perjury when you make the anonymous submission. Generally, you can remain anonymous up until you receive the award.

Whistleblowers are also entitled to job protection. The Dodd-Frank Act states that you cannot be fired, suspended, demoted, threatened, harassed, or discriminated against if you provide information to the SEC or CFTC. These protections also extend to those who report problems internally and are then fired before they provide their information to the federal government.

Recent Securities Whistleblower Cases and Awards

Since the beginning of the securities whistleblower program, 18 individuals have received a total of over $50 million. The most recent award occurred in July, 2015, when the SEC awarded the third-highest whistleblower award since Dodd-Frank was established—over $3 million to a company insider whose information helped bring down a complicated fraud.

The largest SEC payout to a whistleblower occurred in September 2014, when $30 million was awarded by the SEC for assistance and information that led to a significant monetary recovery.

Another large award was paid during October 2013, when a whistleblower received $14 million for information that ended up helping the recovery of investor funds. The recent increase in multi-million dollar payouts seems to indicate that legal representation of whistleblowers is on the rise and that the SEC’s programs are firing on all cylinders.

When life goes wrong, we fight for what’s right.

In conference rooms and courtrooms, we do battle because we believe in the rights and power of the people. If you have knowledge about securities or commodities fraud of any kind and your case is valid, an experienced whistleblower attorney  like the ones at the Louthian Law Firm can assess your case and help you file the necessary disclosure statement with the government. In some instances, the government will intervene (take part in your lawsuit). A qualified attorney can help you structure your claims in such a way that the government will be persuaded to intervene, possibly increasing the likelihood that you will recover reward money. However, even if governmental parties decide not to intervene, it might still be advisable for you to pursue your case without their involvement.

For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at 1-888-440-3211 or fill out the online consultation form. Louthian Law Firm. On the case. Around the clock.

Columbia Medicare Fraud LawyerMedicare fraud is a huge illegal business that costs all of us. In fact, scamming Medicare has become so lucrative that Nigerian and Russian mobsters have gotten involved. One New York crime “family” moved to Florida, because Medicare fraud is safer than traditional criminal activities, and much more lucrative, according to Forbes magazine.

How much Medicare fraud exists? No one really knows.

How much has been stolen? Countless billions.

Often, Medicare fraud is only caught when a brave employee is willing to come forward and act as a whistleblower. Do you suspect fraud where you work? Could you be a whistleblower?

Medicare Fraud in South Carolina

South Carolina Medicare fraud is prosecuted under the national False Claims Act, otherwise known as the Whistleblower Act, Qui Tam Statute or Lincoln Law. It gives the everyday citizen the power to bring legal action on the government’s behalf against those who have defrauded the government. In a successful qui tam suit, whistleblowers may collect from 15 to 30 percent of the money recovered.

Unfortunately, a lot of Medicare fraud has occurred in our state and in our nation. Here are just a few recent cases:

Medicare Advantage plans have come under fire as well. Allegations have been made against Blue Cross Blue Shield of South Carolina that they acted to cover up and hide fraudulent claims between 2006 and 2010. This same suit also named a Utah plan, formed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, which contracted with Blue Cross to process claims.

If You Step Forward

Some people fear they will experience retaliation if they blow the whistle on fraud. But you should be aware that there are a number of legal protections for whistleblowers. The rewards of putting a stop to wrongdoing are many, and the Louthian Law Firm will be at your side throughout the process to ensure that your legal rights are protected.

When life goes wrong, we fight for what’s right.

If you have insider knowledge about Medicare fraud, you could be entitled to a significant cash reward in a qui tam suit. An estimated $6 billion has been recovered for the government, resulting in nearly $1 billion in rewards for whistleblowers, since the False Claims Act was revised in 1986 to make it easier for citizens to file qui tam actions.

An experienced qui tam attorney like the ones at the Louthian Law Firm can assess your case and help you file the necessary disclosure statement with the government if you have a valid case. In some instances, the government will “intervene” or take part in your lawsuit. A qualified attorney can help you structure your claims in such a way that the government will be persuaded to intervene in your case, possibly increasing the likelihood that you will recover reward money. However, even if the government doesn’t decide to intervene, it might still be advisable to pursue your case without government involvement.

For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at 1-888-440-3211 or fill out the online consultation form. Louthian Law Firm. On the case. Around the clock.

Columbia Government Fraud Whistleblower LawyerWhistleblowers perform an important service in our society, especially as companies grow bigger, corporate financial statements grow murkier, and cheating sometimes generates little more than a cynical shrug. Many whistleblowers have saved untold numbers of lives. Some have had their own lives threatened, and a few have died. At times they have been considered heroes, at other times, traitors.

You’ve likely heard of some of the more famous US whistleblowers, because movies have been made about them:

  • Frank Serpico, who reported widespread corruption in the New York City Police Department in the Sixties and Seventies. Film: Serpico, starring Al Pacino.
  • Karen Silkwood, an employee of Kerr-McGee who documented unsafe working conditions at the plutonium plant where she worked. Contaminated with plutonium herself, she died in a car crash, with her proof documents missing, on her way to meet a journalist. Film: Silkwood, starring Meryl Streep.
  • Jeffrey Wigand, who appeared on national television to reveal that Brown & Williamson Tobacco intentionally included more nicotine in cigarettes in order to addict smokers more heavily. Film: The Insider, starring Russell Crowe.

No doubt in the recent past you’ve also heard of Harry Markopolos, who blew the whistle on Bernie Madoff’s Ponzi scheme (the largest one in history), and Sherron Watkins, whose information took down Enron. Additionally, whether or not you agree with what he did, Edward Snowden can be called a whistleblower.

But we’d like to introduce you to some folks you might not have heard of, who have done good, have saved money, and, sometimes, have saved lives.

  • In 1984, John Michael Gravitt filed a qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act against General Electric, becoming the first person in 40 years to do so. Gravitt sued GE for falsely billing the U.S. Department of Defense for work on the B1 Lancer bomber. He was laid off from his job after he complained to supervisors. His case led to new federal legislation that strengthened the False Claims Act of 1986, which made it easier for whistleblowers to collect damages. The settlement was a record (at the time) $3.5 million.
  • In 2009, John Kopchinski, a former Pfizer sales representative who is also a West Point graduate, launched a qui tam suit which led to a government investigation into Pfizer’s illegal marketing of Bextra, a prescription painkiller that had caused deaths. The result ultimately was a $1.8 billion payout by Pfizer for the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history.
  • In 2003, Courtland Kelley headed up the General Motors inspection and quality assurance program. When he reported problems with the Chevrolet Cavalier and Cobalt models to his superiors, he received little response, so he sued. Even though he lost his case, he had done the right thing; ignition switches in the Cobalts ended up being linked to a number of crashes, resulting in 13 deaths. Because of Kelley, Cobalts were recalled and lives were saved. GM was fined $35 million by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for failing to recall the cars initially.

We at the Louthian Law Firm hope that this small peek into a few of the many dozens of whistleblowers who have done the right thing will inspire you to stand up against fraud should you encounter it.

When life goes wrong, we fight for what’s right.

If you have insider knowledge about governmental fraud, you could be entitled to a significant cash reward in a whistleblower suit. Whether it is Medicare fraud, tax fraud, defense contractor fraud, mortgage fraud, or some other kind of fraud, an experienced whistleblower attorney  like the ones at the Louthian Law Firm can assess your case and help you file the necessary disclosure statement with the government if you have a valid case. In some instances, the government will “intervene” or take part in your lawsuit. A qualified attorney can help you structure your claims in such a way that the government will be persuaded to intervene in your case, possibly increasing the likelihood that you will recover reward money. However, even if the government doesn’t decide to intervene, it might still be advisable to pursue your case without government involvement.

For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at 1-888-440-3211 or fill out the online consultation form. Louthian Law Firm. 80 years of experience—on your side.

Guardrail Safety WhistleblowerWhen Joshua Harman decided to take on Trinity Highway Products LLC, questioning their redesign of a highway guardrail used on interstates across the United States, he was determined to expose what he saw as a safety hazard.

A 2005 redesign of the company’s ET-Plus end terminals had changed the action of the guardrail, Harman believed, turning it into a dagger when impacted, instead of a shock absorber.

Trinity’s ET-Plus had met federal requirements when it was assessed in 2000, but the changes had not been submitted for review, Harman’s case alleged.

Harman and other whistleblowers can take on corporations such as Trinity under the False Claims Act, a federal law that allows a person with knowledge of fraud to sue on behalf of the government. Harman’s case alleged that Trinity was aware of the dangers caused by the modified guardrails but didn’t notify the Federal Highway Administration.

The Jury Ruling & Fine

In June 2015, a Texas federal judge slapped the company with a $663 million judgment, based on a jury’s October 2014 decision that held Trinity liable for defrauding the Federal Highway Administration. The ruling found that Trinity had changed the ET-Plus design, never mentioned the modifications, and falsely certified that the FHA had approved them.

In the wake of the jury trial, at least 30 states, including South Carolina, stopped installing the ET-Plus guardrails until further safety testing could be performed. The South Carolina DOT says it had installed thousands of guardrail terminals, as the ET-Plus systems are called, before the court ruling, and can’t pinpoint exactly where the faulty systems are on South Carolina highways.

Informally, state officials believe that most of the guardrails recently installed were Trinity’s ET-Plus units, and they are now facing the prospect of locating all the units and determining the cost of replacing them.

That’s the action that Harman hoped to see when he stepped forward with the lawsuit. He wanted to get the faulty guardrails off the roads. And, as the whistleblower who faced Trinity on his own when the federal government opted not to participate, Harman was allotted 30% of the award, or about $199 million.

Speak to a Lawyer First

It takes determination to blow the whistle on fraud, and it can come at a high cost. Speaking out can take a toll on family dynamics and jeopardize your career. As with Harman’s case, the process can also take years and be incredibly stressful. He spent a lot of time traveling around the country, talking to accident victims and collecting evidence. Then the case went through the court process.

The best way to handle a whistleblower situation is to seek advice from attorneys knowledgeable of the issues involved in filing under the False Claims Act. If you’re thinking about taking action, righting a wrong, and revealing fraud, you need a lawyer who can guide you through the process and one who will support you in what may be a challenging period.

It may be challenging, but whistleblowing works. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners estimates that 43% of fraud within organizations is discovered through tips from knowledgeable insiders. Most whistleblowers come forward with information because they want to do the right thing.

If you’ve witnessed questionable practices and believe that you can make a difference by telling your story, consult with the lawyers at the Louthian Law Firm about blowing the whistle. Call 1-888-440-3211 to schedule a free consultation. Or fill out our online case evaluation form.

HDL WhistleblowerA Hilton Head doctor was one of three whistleblowers who exposed health care fraud being committed by Health Diagnostic Laboratories (HDL) of Richmond, VA, and Singulex Inc., of Alameda, CA. Three cases were filed in South Carolina against the companies under the False Claims Act, which allows people with evidence of fraud to sue corporations on behalf of the U.S. government.

Because it can be risky to uncover fraud and expose the people or businesses behind it, provisions in the False Claims Act state that the person bringing the case — the whistleblower — may be awarded up to 30% of the funds recovered.

HDL and Singulex were accused of paying doctors $10 to $17 for referring their patients for blood tests, even if they weren’t medically necessary. The two companies were billing federal programs, including Medicare, for the tests and then sharing the profits with physicians in a kickback scheme that labeled the money as processing and handling fees.

That brought another law into play: the Anti-Kickback Statute, which prohibits paying money in order to get referrals for services covered by federally funded programs. The statute is intended to ensure that a doctor’s judgment isn’t clouded by under-the-table financial incentives.

Multimillion-Dollar Settlement Reached

The U.S. Justice Department announced in April 2015 that HDL and Singulex agreed to multimillion-dollar settlements with the government, with HDL paying $47 million and Singulex paying $1.5 million. Federal attorneys said the large settlement was proof of their determination to work with whistleblowers who come forward to defend the integrity of the health care system.

The case was also cited as a victory for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT), which was put into action in 2009 by the U.S. Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. The partnership between the two offices was formed to target Medicare and Medicaid fraud, and since its establishment, HEAT has recovered more than $23.9 billion through False Claims Act cases.

Get an Attorney on Your Side

The three whistleblower cases in South Carolina prompted a federal investigation, and HDL CEO Tonya Mallory was sued by the U.S. federal government, along with four other defendants named in the case. This action followed the earlier settlement from HDL and Singulex and could mean Mallory will be responsible for paying millions in civil penalties.

The Department of Justice got involved in the process early, stepping into the South Carolina whistleblower suits and then continuing its investigation and working to hold the company heads personally responsible for the systematic fraud perpetrated through the kickback scheme with physicians.

Those who suspect a fraud is being perpetrated against the U.S. government, and against taxpayers, are well advised to seek the advice of a law firm experienced in preparing whistleblower complaints. Government lawyers often struggle under large case loads, and when the relator’s (whistleblower’s) disclosures are well drafted by a private law firm, the government is more likely to intervene in the case and bring their resources to bear against the defendants.

At the Louthian Law Firm, we’re ready to provide wise counsel to those who may have grounds to file a whistleblower claim, and all such discussions are strictly confidential. A consultation with one of our lawyers is free. Please call 1-888-440-3211 to set up a meeting at our firm, or simply fill our contact form and an attorney experienced with whistleblower cases will be in contact.