Archive for the ‘retaliation’ Category
Wednesday, May 30th, 2012
A former home appraiser for Countrywide (“Countrywide”) Financial will receive a $14.5 million whistleblower reward in connection with a qui tam lawsuit that alleged Countrywide fraudulently inflated appraisals on government insured loans.
The Countrywide qui tam suit, filed by Mr. Kyle Lagow in 2009, was one of five whistleblower complaints that were settled as part of the $25 billion national mortgage settlement that state and federal officials reached with Bank of America and four other lenders this year. Mr. Lagow’s suit was settled for $75 million.
All five qui tam complaints were brought under the whistleblower provisions of the federal False Claims Act, which is a longstanding federal statute that authorizes a private citizen with knowledge of fraud being perpetrated on the federal government to bring a lawsuit on the government’s behalf. If the whistleblower’s suit is successful, the whistleblower may be entitled to up to 30% of the government’s monetary recovery. The False Claims Act also provides for certain protections for employees who are subjected to retaliation for reporting fraud.
Kenney & McCafferty lawyers are experienced in the area of mortgage fraud. If you have knowledge of mortgage fraud and would like to discuss the possibility of a whistleblower award, please contact our attorneys today. Kenney & McCafferty will consult with you about your case, including your ability to remain anonymous in filing for an award, without obligation. All communications with Kenney & McCafferty attorneys regarding your case are confidential and protected by the attorney-client privilege.
Tags: mortgage whistleblower, mortgage whistleblower award
Posted in Bank Fraud, bank whistleblower, corporate fraud, False Claims Act, government fraud, mortgage fraud, Recent News, retaliation, Whistleblower Protection | Comments Off
DID YOU SIGN AN EMPLOYMENT RELEASE WAIVING YOUR WHISTLEBLOWER CLAIM? EVEN IF YOU SIGNED A RELEASE, YOU MAY NOT HAVE LEGALLY RELEASED YOUR CLAIM.
Wednesday, May 30th, 2012
In order to provide an employee with a severance or layoff payment, employers now commonly require their employees to sign a Release which releases or waives all possible claims against their employer for wrongful termination, age discrimination or any other type of lawsuit that employees commonly file against employers. These releases are typically very broad and make clear that employees are releasing all claims during the entire period of employment that has anything to do with their employment.
Employers that do business with the federal and state governments or are involved in Wall Street-type finance are also now sometimes including references to whistleblower claims or even in some cases specific references to the False Claims Act (a federal law pertaining to government contractor fraud) or the Dodd-Frank law (a federal law pertaining to Wall Street-type fraud) in these employment releases.
For employees losing their jobs and concerned that they may not be able to find other employment quickly, it is natural and understandable for that employee to go ahead and sign the Release to receive their severance pay, even if they believe that they might have had a good whistleblower claim.
If you did sign such a Release and believe that you do have a good and current whistleblower claim, you may not be out of luck. Under specific circumstances that are too detailed to get into here, you may be able to pursue a whistleblower claim even if you have already signed an employment Release and even if you have already received your severance pay!
If you believe you have a good whistleblower claim, but are concerned that you may have recently signed an employment Release (or are about to sign such a Release) waiving your claim, call the attorneys at Kenney & McCafferty Law Firm and find out whether you can still pursue a whistleblower claim. The attorneys at Kenney & McCafferty are experienced in dealing with this specific issue and will help you figure out whether you can still pursue your whistleblower claim.
Wednesday, May 4th, 2011
A long time corporate investigator recently shared his concern that whistleblowers look to corporate investigators and attorneys for help and protection when they blow the whistle. Nothing could be further from the truth. “There’s nothing I can do,” said the investigator. “I’ve seen it over and over again. They are going to get their heads cut off.”
The investigator said he knew that whistleblowers, no matter the merit of their report, would be skillfully and systematically terminated with a substantial paper trail to support management’s actions.
“They look to me for help,” he said. “I work for the company. I tell them that, but they don’t seem to understand.”
Neither did CEO Ian Norris of Morgan Crucible Company. Morgan Crucible came under government investigation for an international price fixing conspiracy. CEO Norris began a campaign to obstruct a grand jury investigation, and he shared details of his campaign with Morgan Crucible’s attorney. When the government learned of Norris’s obstruction, it charged Norris with corruptly persuading, and attempting and conspiring to corruptly persuade, others with intent to influence their testimony in grand jury proceedings. Morgan Crucible waived its attorney client privilege and granted permission for corporate counsel to testify. Norris fought the testimony, saying the corporate attorney also represented Norris in his individual capacity and was prohibited from testifying.
The Third Circuit disagreed, but found that communications about scope of representation were ambiguous. Ultimately, the court ruled that Morgan Crucible, alone, held the right to waive attorney client privilege, and the attorney testified.
The attorney testified that Norris, in front of counsel, disseminated a false cover story and scripts about the price fixing and encouraged everyone, including counsel, to relay the false information to investigators. The attorney said he did not know the information was false.
Attorneys and investigators should provide employees with explicit explanations about their role in investigating allegations of fraud within a corporation. They often do not, for a variety of reasons. Bottom line – employees need to take steps to protect themselves when they report corporate misconduct internally.
For a free consult about whether you have a potential government fraud claim, call K&M today.
Tags: abuse, attorney general, corporate fraud, corruption, False claims, False Claims Act, FCA, FERA, fraud, fraud reward, government fraud, health care fraud, IRS whistleblower, IRS whistleblower program, medicare fraud, pharmaceutical fraud, Qui Tam, retaliate, retaliation, SEC whistleblower, Tax cheat, tax evasion, Tax Fraud, tax whistleblower, whistle blowing, whistleblower award, whistleblowing, wrongful termination
Posted in Corporate Tax Fraud, Employment Tax Fraud, False Claims Act, Money Laundering Tax Fraud, Offshore Accouts Fraud, retaliation, SEC Whistleblower Program, Tax Fraud, Uncategorized, Whistleblower Protection | Comments Off
Thursday, April 28th, 2011
The SEC has postponed adoption of rules for its whistleblower program. According to the Dodd-Frank Act, final regulations for the whistleblower program were to be adopted by the SEC no later than April 21, 2011. Earlier this week, the SEC announced on its website that it is planning to adopt new rules some time between May and end of July. SEC spokesperson John Nester did not provide any specifics about the delay, commenting only that the SEC was crafting all the new rules for Dodd-Frank with an emphasis on “getting it right.”
The financial industry needs an effective fast-track incentive program for whistleblowers. The Dodd-Frank program augments the SEC’s 40 year old insider trading reward program that never realized its potential as a decentralized fraud enforcement mechanism. The SEC, under the old insider trading program, only paid out awards to whistleblowers four times. SEC watchers generally discount the insider trading program and are skeptical about the SEC’s interest in working with whistleblowers in general.
The new Dodd-Frank whistleblower program has generated considerable interest among would be whistleblowers and large companies. Frustrated employees and fraud fighters are delighted to have another program that incentivizes whistleblowers; large companies criticize the program because it encourages whistleblowers to report fraud directly to the government, bypassing internal corporate compliance procedures.
Whistleblowers could file SEC claims for rewards under the Dodd-Frank Act as of last July but will be expected to comply with the new rules once the new rules are adopted. Kenney & McCafferty, P.C. is happy to assist you in assessing your potential SEC whistleblower claim. Call K&M for a free consultation today
Tags: bank fraud award, banking whistleblower, banking whistleblower award, corporate fraud, corporate fraud whistleblower, corporate whistleblower award, finance industry fraud, market fraud, market fraud whistleblower, market whistleblower award, mortgage fraud, mortgage fraud whistleblower, mortgage whistleblower award, Sarbanes Oxley award, Sarbanes Oxley violation, Sarbanes Oxley whistleblower, Sarbanes Oxley whistleblower award, SEC whistleblower, SEC whistleblower award, SEC Whistleblower Program, SEC whistleblower reward, securities violations, securities violations reward, securities whistleblower, securities whistleblower award, SOX retaliation, SOX whistleblower, SOX whistleblower award, whistleblower
Posted in retaliation, SEC Whistleblower Program, Uncategorized, Whistleblower Protection | Comments Off
Tuesday, April 26th, 2011
In Friedland v Commissioner (T.C. Memo 2011-90), the United States Tax Court dismissed the IRS whistleblower’s appeal because it was not filed within thirty days of the date of the “no answer letter” sent to Friedland by the IRS Whistleblower Office. The Tax Court reiterated its ruling in Cooper – the “no answer letter” constitutes a final determination of a whistleblower claim.
Murray Friedland, a CPA, reported two corporations for tax violations in September 2009. On November 13, 2009, the IRS Whistleblower Office sent Friedland a letter explaining that it had reviewed and evaluated the claim and then said that prevailing law prevented it from explaining why a claim would be denied. Friedland found the letter confusing. He sent additional information about his claim to the Whistleblower Office, and he called for an explanation. The WO responded with three letters, one memorializing a conversation in which Friedland was told that he could write to the US Court of Federal Claims. The letters also confirmed that the WO would not change its determination about Friedland’s claim.
Friedland followed the suggestion of the WO and appealed to the Court of Federal Claims. The Court of Federal Claims dismissed the appeal on May 26, 2010, because the CFC does not have jurisdiction to hear IRS whistleblower appeals. On June 18, 2010, Friedland filed an appeal with the Tax Court.
Friedland filed his appeal 217 days after the date of the first letter, the “no answer letter.” As decided in previous Tax Court rulings, the “no answer letter” is notice of a final determination that the IRS is denying the claim. Whistleblowers have thirty days from the date of the no answer letter to file their appeals. Because Friedland filed 217 days after the date of the no answer letter, the Tax Court ruled that it had no jurisdiction over the claim because it was filed too late.
With regard to Friedland’s obvious confusion about the appeal process, the Tax Court said, “We recognize that petitioner may have relied on the erroneous advice of the Whistleblower Office in filing his initial appeal with the Claims Court. . . We sympathize with the petitioner. We cannot expand our jurisdiction, however, even where the Commissioner provided bad advice.”
Kenney & McCafferty, P.C., has successfully represented IRS whistleblowers, even before the passage of the 2006 whistleblower statute. For knowledgeable and trustworthy representation, contact K&M for a free assessment today.
Tags: Abusive Tax Shelters, Corporate Tax Fraud, Employment Tax Fraud, Estate Tax Fraud, fraud reward, IRS whistle blower, IRS whistleblower, offshore tax fraud, Tax cheat, tax claims, tax court, tax evasion, Tax Fraud, tax petition, tax underpayment, tax whistle blower, tax whistleblower, tax whistleblower petition, whistleblower appeals, whistleblower award, whistleblower reward
Posted in Abusive Tax Shelters, Corporate Tax Fraud, Employment Tax Fraud, Estate Tax Fraud, IRS Whistleblower Office, Money Laundering Tax Fraud, Offshore Accouts Fraud, retaliation, Tax Fraud, Uncategorized, Whistleblower Protection | Comments Off
Monday, March 28th, 2011
The ACLU lost its most recent attempt to strike down the seal provisions of the False Claims Act. The ACLU had lost its case in the Eastern District of Virginia and then appealed to the Fourth Circuit. The Appellate Court affirmed the district court’s decision to dismiss the ACLU’s case.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed the lawsuit in 2009, making a facial constitutional challenge to the long standing seal provisions of the FCA. The False Claims Act allows the qui tam plaintiff/relator to file the civil complaint under seal, which means the complaint is not served on the defendant until the seal is lifted by judicial order. The seal allows the government time to investigate the complaint without alerting defendants to the specific allegations. Depending on where the case is filed, the government frequently asks the judge for extensions of a sealed complaint to allow it more time to conduct its investigation. At some point, the complaint becomes unsealed.
The seal makes filing False Claims actions more attractive to whistleblowers because the whistleblowers enjoy anonymity while the government is conducting its investigation of the defendants. If the complaint is under seal, the defendant does not know that a whistleblower is involved and many times, does not know that it is being investigated. Whistleblowers who are current employees of a defendant that is committing government fraud are able to assist the government in its recovery of fraudulently obtained government funds without worrying unduly about retaliation for reporting the illegal conduct.
Oddly, the ACLU sought to strike down the seal provisions on the grounds that they acted against the whistleblower’s right to free speech, that the seal violated the public’s right of access to judicial proceedings, and that the seal impermissibly violated the doctrine of separation of powers. The ACLU was not able to point to a single whistleblower that agreed with the ACLU’s position, however, and admitted that it did not have much familiarity with the workings of a qui tam action.
The Fourth Circuit pointed out that seals are often ultimately lifted in qui tam cases and that the United States has a compelling interest in protecting the integrity of ongoing fraud investigations. Kenney & McCafferty applauds the Courts’ rulings in this matter and looks forward to continuing working with qui tam relators in sealed government fraud investigations.
Tags: abuse, corruption, False claims, False Claims Act, FCA, fca seal, FERA, fraud reward, government fraud, government fraud recovery, Qui Tam, relator reward, whistle blowing, whistleblower, whistleblower reward
Posted in Corporate Tax Fraud, False Claims Act, Recent News, retaliation, Uncategorized, Whistleblower Protection | Comments Off
Tuesday, February 15th, 2011
February 15, Galileo’s birthday, is a fitting time to reflect upon Galileo’s experience with blowing the whistle on the Ptolemaic theory, the long held belief that the Earth was the center of the universe and that the sun and the planets orbited the Earth. Galileo today is called “the father of modern observational astronomy” and “the father of modern physics.” Stephen Hawking stated, “Galileo, perhaps more than any other single person, was responsible for the birth of modern science.” Most people don’t realize that Galileo was tried by the Inquisition for his advocacy of Copernicanism, found guilty of heresy, and spent the rest of his life under house arrest.
As brilliant he was, Galileo did not understand the environment in which he was operating, and he failed to adhere to rules and constraints placed on those attempting to advance scientific theories in the 1600s. His support of heliocentrism offended the Catholic church. The church admonished Galileo, who thought he would be clever and work around the constraints that had been placed on him. After being chastised, Galileo waited years to publish Dialogue Concerning Two Chief World Systems, but he didn’t follow the rules. To publish, he needed papal permission and formal authorization from the Inquisition. He didn’t get them. Had he followed the rules, Galileo probably could have avoided trial and arrest. Instead, Galileo was:
* Found “vehemently suspect” of heresy.
* Sentenced to formal imprisonment, which was later commuted to house arrest.
* Had his publication, Dialogue, banned.
* Forbidden to ever publish again.
After his death, the world eventually lauded his contributions, but Galileo died without acclaim and in isolation.
Whistleblowers should learn from Galileo’s mistakes. No matter how brilliant a whistleblower may be, it is impossible for everyone to know everything. There is no substitute for experienced legal advice when one decides to blow the whistle. Galileo originally had many supporters who could have guided him the intricacies of the papacy’s rules for publication. He didn’t ask, and he thought he had the situation well in hand. He was wrong.
If Galileo could not figure out how to maneuver through the intricacies of successfully blowing the whistle, who can? Fortunately, whistleblowers today have Kenney & McCafferty to call for expert advice. Whistleblowers should educate themselves on the pros and cons before blowing the whistle. If you want to report fraud against the government, save yourself some headaches. Get a free consultation by calling Kenney & McCafferty today.
Tags: abuse, corporate fraud, corruption, ecurities violations, False Claims Act, FCA, fraud, fraud reward, government fraud, health care fraud, pharmaceutical fraud, Qui Tam, retaliate, retaliation, SEC whistleblower, tax claims, tax evasion, Tax Fraud, tax whistleblower, waste, whistle blower, whistle blowing, whistleblower, whistleblowing, wrongful termination
Posted in Abusive Tax Shelters, Corporate Tax Fraud, Employment Tax Fraud, False Claims Act, IRS Whistleblower Office, Money Laundering Tax Fraud, Offshore Accouts Fraud, retaliation, SEC Whistleblower Program, Tax Fraud, Uncategorized | Comments Off
Monday, February 7th, 2011
In 2008 Judith Moldover, Senior Staff Attorney of the Lawyer’s Alliance of New York, stated, “[R]etaliation is human nature.” Moldover made the statement to a group of human resources professionals at a conference sponsored by the Society for Human Resource Management. As one who spent most of her career defending employers, Moldover warned the HR crowd that retaliation claims would increase because there is an almost “irresistible urge to strike back” against employees who complain about problems or who file lawsuits against their employers. Kenney & McCafferty speaks every day to victims of retaliation. Perhaps because retaliation is so ingrained, employees who speak out against fraud, waste, or wrongdoing should expect their bosses to retaliate against them. The only thing employees can do is smarten up. Figure out if you are a likely target of retaliation as early as you can. Assess whether you have a viable whistleblower claim. And, think twice about making any further reports to your boss.
If you believe your boss is genuinely trying to improve the workplace and wants your input, make good faith reports of problems, at least once or twice. Some employers will do the right thing, and some will even be grateful. Many will not. As Moldover points out, no one likes to hear about problems, and most employers would rather hear that their departments or companies are running well than hear a report of non-compliance or a misuse of company funds. Sometimes a whistleblower can assess the workplace environment and get clues about how a particular supervisor will react to reports of fraud, waste, or abuse.
Suppose you make a report. How does your boss react? Does your boss correct the wrongdoer, or give him more support? Does your boss try to blame the problem on you? Does your boss try to diminish your value to the company somehow? Does your boss suddenly give greater weight to petty workplace problems of yours when those were previously tolerated? Does your boss suddenly give you demeaning work assignments? Does your boss allow others to be rude to you? Are your resources taken away, while wrongdoers get more resources? Does your access to the boss decrease? Does the wrongdoer get more access? Is the wrongdoer emboldened somehow? Does your boss suddenly chastise you in ways that never happened before? Are you passed over when it comes time to hand out plum assignments? Signs of retaliation can be subtle or obvious, but when whistleblowers look back, they often realize that they had observed specific small behaviors that indicated they would be punished for their efforts to address fraud. If your boss shows signs of retaliation against you, even in small ways, step back, and assess the situation.
Unfortunately, most whistleblowers are people of high integrity and perhaps undue optimism. They see little, subtle signs of retaliation like those described above, but they don’t want to be involved in covering up fraud, or they just can’t bring themselves to gloss over a co-worker’s misconduct. Sometimes, they just have too much faith that their companies will appreciate their efforts. By the time the hapless whistleblower contacts an attorney, it’s too late. The well meaning, smart, trustworthy supporter of the company has experienced high level retaliation – attacks on reputation, bad performance appraisals, demotion, and perhaps, loss of job. Despite well publicized reporting protections, retaliation can take many forms, and even in serious, obvious cases, it takes a long time to be made whole when an employer retaliates against you. Think twice before making that report to a boss who doesn’t want to hear it.
Of course, many employees don’t have much choice about whether or not to report fraud, waste, and abuse. Compliance officers, auditors, attorneys – these and many other occupations require one to take action of some sort when encountering fraud. All employees can and should take steps to protect themselves when reporting misconduct and illegal behavior. In cases where government money is involved, even indirectly, the whistleblower should get legal advice early. A workplace insider who reports government fraud can be an important asset to government prosecutors in a False Claims action, for example. A terminated employee is often less valuable.
K&M would like to help you assess whether you have a viable whistleblower claim and what steps you can take to protect yourself in the process of addressing government fraud. If you know of government fraud in your workplace, and you suspect even a hint of possible retaliation, call K&M for a free, expert consultation today.
Tags: abuse, corporate fraud, False Claims Act, fraud, government fraud, health care fraud, pharmaceutical fraud, retaliate, retaliation, Tax Fraud, tax whistleblower, waste, whistle blower, whistle blowing, whistleblower, whistleblowing, wrongful termination
Posted in Abusive Tax Shelters, Corporate Tax Fraud, Employment Tax Fraud, False Claims Act, IRS Whistleblower Office, Money Laundering Tax Fraud, Offshore Accouts Fraud, Press Release, retaliation, SEC Whistleblower Program, Tax Fraud | Comments Off