Posts Tagged ‘FERA’
Tuesday, March 13th, 2012
Another whistleblower lawsuit with ties to the $1 Billion False Claims Act Bank of America settlement announced on February 9, 2012 by the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York has been unsealed. The suit charges the bank with fraud violations under the Home Affordable Modification Program (“HAMP”).
Gregory Mackler, a former contractor with the servicing outsourcerUrban Lending Solutions, filed the lawsuit in July. The lawsuit charges BofA with developing procedures that kept trainees like Mackler from researching or resolving any HAMP inquiries or complaints in order to avoid millions of dollars in losses while benefitting from the financial incentives of the program. The Treasury Department paid $1.8 billion in HAMP servicer incentives through December, according to the special inspector general of the Troubled Asset Relief Program.
In February, a whistleblower complaint was unsealed from Kyle Lagow, a former employee in a Countrywide appraisal unit which detailed allegations of Countrywide’s “corrupt underwriting and appraisal process. Final settlement documents have yet to be filed in the BoA settlement, which the U.S. Attorney’s Office said was the largest ever False Claims Act payout related to mortgage fraud.
If you have knowledge of Corporate Fraud, including Mortgage Fraud, and would like to discuss the possibility of a whistleblower award under the False Claims Act, please contact our whistleblower attorneys today. Kenney & McCafferty will consult with you about your case, without obligation. All communications with Kenney & McCafferty attorneys regarding your case are confidential and protected by attorney-client privilege.
The Department of Justice has until March 16 to decide whether to intervene in the Mackler and Lagow cases.
Tags: bank whistleblower, False Claims Act, FERA, mortgage whistleblower, Qui Tam
Posted in Bank Fraud, bank whistleblower, corporate fraud, False Claims Act, FHA fraud, HUD fraud, mortgage fraud, Recent News | Comments Off
Thursday, May 19th, 2011
Justice Clarence Thomas wrote the majority opinion holding that Freedom of Information Act request responses constitute “reports,” relators who rely on FOIA request responses can fall prey to the public disclosure bar of the False Claims Act. The Court issued the opinion in Schindler Elevator Corp v. United States ex rel. Kirk on May 16, 2011. Justice Ginsburg filed the dissenting opinion, in which Justices Breyer and Sotomayor joined.
Relator Daniel Kirk, a military veteran, worked for Schindler Elevator from 1978 to 2003. He resigned in September 2003 saying that the company had forced him out. Kirk filed his False Claims action in 2005. In an amended complaint in 2007, Kirk alleged that Schindler has improperly submitted for payment hundreds of false claims to the government because Schindler had certified it was in compliance with VEVRAA reporting requirements. Kirk alleged the certification of compliance was false.
Relator Kirk sought verification that his allegations were correct by asking his wife to ask for Schindler’s reporting information through a FOIA request. Mrs. Kirk made three requests, and DOL responded with information that showed the reports were not filed for several years in question.
Schindler asked the Court to dismiss the case on the ground that the verification information Mrs. Kirk obtained through the FOIA requests was a “public disclosure.” Under the pre-existing public disclosure rules, whistleblower claims could be dismissed if the relator was found to have “based” the allegations on specified types of publically available information. In Schindler, J. Thomas said that a FOIA response = a report = a public disclosure. He left open the question of whether or not Mr. Kirk based his allegations on those FOIA responses.
False Claims actions can be complicated, and the statute requires a whistleblower to be represented by an attorney. For a free consultation on a potential government fraud claim, please call Kenney & McCafferty, P.C. today.
Tags: abuse, clarence thomas, corporate fraud, corruption, False claims, False Claims Act, FCA, FERA, fraud, fraud reward, government fraud, public disclosure, Qui Tam, reward, supreme court whistleblower, tax whistleblower, whistle blower, whistle blowing, whistleblower appeals, whistleblower reward, whistleblowing, wrongful termination
Posted in corporate fraud, False Claims Act, government fraud, Uncategorized, Whistleblower Protection | Comments Off
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
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
Wednesday, February 23rd, 2011
New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman recently announced the creation of a taxpayer-protection unit to target tax cheats, pension plan frauds, and corrupt government contractors. Schneiderman is hopeful the unit, with the help of whistleblowers, will recover hundreds of millions of dollars to help close the state’s budget gap.
In 2007, New York passed its False Claims Act [FCA]. The Act allows the state’s Attorney General, local governments and whistleblowers to bring actions against anyone that defrauds the government. If found liable, defendants must pay the government triple damages and civil penalties.
Recently, New York lawmakers enhanced the State’s FCA by adding the power to crack down on large-scale, multi-state corporate tax fraud schemes, expanding whistleblower protections and making it easier to prosecute corrupt subcontractors. The enhancement, titled Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA), was authored by Schneiderman himself. The revised FCA allows the State to bring false claims actions against those who commit tax fraud, including offshore cases.
Working with whistleblowers, the newly-formed Taxpayer Protection Unit will target multi-state corporate tax fraud schemes, corrupt contractors who over-bill taxpayers, and firms that rip off pension funds. The unit will be comprised of lawyers and investigators who will conduct civil investigations and criminal prosecutions against those who defraud the government.
“We cannot afford to lose any more money to companies and individuals who seek to defraud the State,” Schneiderman said. “Today’s announcement is a signal to anyone thinking of ripping off New York taxpayers: We will go after you with every tool we have, and you will pay the price for these crimes.”
Friday, February 11th, 2011
In May 2009, President Obama signed the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (“FERA”), which strengthened and expanded the scope of conduct subject to the False Claims Act as well as fortified the government’s ability to investigate a prosecute whistleblower claims.
Among FERA’s many refinements to the False Claims Act is the expansion of the government’s Civil Investigative Demand (“CID”) authority. The CID authority was added to the False Claims Act in 1986. In principal, the inclusion of a CID authority in 1986 created a significant weapon in the government’s arsenal to fight fraud and investigate whistleblower cases, as it empowered the government to request documents, submit interrogatories and depose witnesses. However, as a practical matter, prior to FERA the government seldom availed itself of the CID authority because the statute required the CID to be issued and signed by the Attorney general.
The False Claims Act as amended by FERA permits CIDs to be issued by the Attorney General or his or her designee. Another significant change to the CID authority for whistleblowers and their counsel is that FERA has facilitated the sharing of information gathered by the government pursuant to a CID. Now, information gathered pursuant to a CID can be shared with a relator and relator’s counsel if “it is necessary as part of any false claims act investigation.”
Since FERA, Kenney & McCafferty has seen a notable uptick in the government’s use of the CID authority. The new and expanded CID authority has undoubtedly enhanced both the ability of the government to prosecute fraud successfully as well as accentuated the opportunity for relators and their counsel to play an instrumental role in the investigatory process.