$102 Million in Whistleblower Awards Rewarded to Pharmaceutical Whistleblowers

Pfizer, a giant global pharmaceutical company that produces some of the world’s most commonly used drugs, agreed to a settlement amount of $2.3 billion and pled guilty after in a whistleblower case that lasted for six years. After the settlement from Pfizer was finalized, $102 million in whistleblower awards were paid out to the whistleblowers who initiated the case and brought forward the evidence that advanced the case against Pfizer.

Pfizer’s $2.3 Billion Settlement

The majority of whistleblower cases reported under the False Claims Act (FCA) occur within the healthcare industry. Each year hundreds of millions of dollars and sometimes billions, are often recovered by the government after a successful qui tam case. In the history of these cases, the Qui Tam lawsuit filed against Pfizer marked the largest whistleblower settlement to date.

In 2003 six employees at Pfizer, came forward with evidence that suggested the pharmaceutical company was conducting fraud.  It was alleged that the company created an internal culture that suggested the organization’s purpose is to drive sales above all and the promotion of the drugs had to be done in manners that were not necessarily approved by the FDA, otherwise he would not be considered a “team player.”

They were advised to promote a pain medication known as Bextra for purposes other than what it was approved for, which is known as off-label promotion.  Off-label promotion may come in different ways where pharmaceutical sales representatives tell the medical facilities they are distributing the drugs to that the product has many more benefits than listed and tells them to prescribe it to their patients for things that were not approved by the FDA. After refusing to comply with the requests from Pfizer, the lead whistleblower was dismissed from his position and fired from the company.

Strong corroborated evidence of the off-label promotion was provided against Pfizer, which led to a full investigation by the government into the matters reported in the whistleblower lawsuit. The investigation lasted for more than five years. Ultimately, In 2009 Pfizer pled guilty due to the evidence brought forward against the company, as well as findings from an investigation initiated by the government and the lawyer who led to the case.

The company agreed to pay a settlement fee of $2.3 billion for the damages and for fines that were issued to them. The government awarded $102 million of the settlement paid by Pfizer to the individuals who initiated the whistleblower case.

The lead whistleblower obtained over $50 million of the reward for commencing the case.

Conclusion

After bringing forward evidence of fraudulent activities by Pfizer that stemmed from off-label promotion of its drugs, the whistleblowers were able to commence a lawsuit under the False Claims Act and hold it accountable for promoting products for things that were not approved by the FDA.  Pfizer’s record $2.3 billion settlement should put other pharmaceutical companies on notice that the government will not allow them to try to promote products in a way that has not been cleared by the FDA for the safety of the people.  If you’re asking yourself, “How do I report Medicare Fraud,” People who have information regarding off-label promotion or other inside information regarding the government being defrauded should speak with a pharmaceutical whistleblower lawyer like former FBI Special Agent Jason T. Brown of Brown, LLC to receive a free consultation regarding their rights.

What to Do When You’re in an Accident with a Truck

If you were unfortunately in an accident with a Truck, you need to speak with a truck accident lawyer that is experienced and is results oriented, like former FBI Special Agent Jason T. Brown, of Brown, LLC, Jersey City, NJ (but handling cases all over the country such as York, PA, Rochester, NY, Chicago, IL).  First of all, it’s important to take care of you first!  One of the questions truck accident defense lawyers like to ask is, “Who did you call first – your lawyer or your doctor?”  If you’re badly injured from a truck accident, of course, you need to seek medical treatment first, but they key is not to wait.  Don’t delay.  Delay favors the Truck Carrier.

From the moment of collision, the truck companies have insurance people and defense attorneys working on the case to try to insulate themselves from liability and to minimize the payout to the trucking accident victim, if anything at all.  They will try to reach out to you and lock you into your version of what occurred, even while you’re still in the hospital or on medicine that makes you loopy.  You have to avoid making statements before retaining counsel.  Even the most innocuous thing can hurt you.  For example, one of the most common questions a sly insurance investigator may ask you just a couple days after the truck accident, is something along the lines, “Hi – I’m John Smith with ABC Trucker’s Insurance, I just have a few questions, so we can find out what sort of compensation if any we’re going to offer you.  Before we begin, how are you doing today?”  As soon as you answer politely, “I’m doing great, how about you,” they will memorialize that the injured person indicated they were doing great only two days after the accident and use it against you.

Truck Accidents are serious business and the trucking insurance company has learned to spend big bucks up front to try derail your case before it begins which can save them the hundreds of thousands or millions you might be entitled to if you retained a truck accident injury lawyer shortly after the accident occurs.  Why are they such big cases?  First, the injuries are much more severe.  Truck accidents easily cause death, broken bones, concussions, and other life-altering injuries.  Also, under most state laws, the legislatures have recognized the potential for a truck injury to create major injuries, so they make the trucking company hold larger insurance policies than just a normal vehicle.

Ride-share accidents are on the rise, since the ride-share services promote individuals to carry passengers in a commercial setting, even though they may be brand new without being trained in ride-along fashion or familiar with the roads they are driving on. Since ride-shares like Uber Accidents and Lyft Accidents are commercial in nature when the are carrying a passenger, even though the smaller vehicles may not cause the extent of injury that a trucking injury would, they carry commercial policies and its best to retain ride-share counsel to deal with those entities as well.

Once you’ve retained your truck accident lawyer, he or she will guide you regarding the next steps, but acting quickly is the key.  You want to identify the police who took the report and obtain a copy (which counsel can do for you), find out if any tickets were issued, potentially photograph the scene of the accident to see if there are any factors that led to the accident, and put the truck on notice of the pending claim and to preserve all relevant evidence.  There’s many factors that need to converge to make your case a success, that is why if you were unfortunately in an accident with a truck or a ride-share, you should speak with Brown, LLC, Jersey City, NJ to know your rights and receive a free consultation.

How Long Does It Take to Resolve A Whistleblower Case?

In the last decade the amount of whistleblower awards have hit the billion dollar mark.  Sadly, that means there’s been billions and billions of fraud and funds that require recapturing.  One of the most common questions whistleblowers ask is how long does it take to resolve a qui tam lawsuit.  Like a fine wine good things take time, and a successful qui tam lawsuit depends on many, many factors, including the selection of the right whistleblower lawyer, candor with your qui tam counsel and filing the case properly under seal.  Even with all that, there are many more suits that lose than win and you should expect it to take a long, long time for the most part, with an occasional quick victory.

The Process of a Qui Tam Lawsuit

To understand how long a Qui Tam lawsuit really takes, it is important to consider the many processes involved in these specialized cases. There are various types of whistleblower statutes, the most prolific is the False Claims Act (FCA), the CFTC Whistleblower statute, the SEC Whistleblower statute and various other state False Claims Act and whistleblower statutes such as the Illinois False Claims Act, the California False Claims Act, and the New York Tax Whistleblower laws.  Each statute you must navigate differently, and all of them take time.

For statutes like the Federal and most state False Claims Acts you must file the matter with a whistleblower law firm and cannot file it pro se (without an attorney). The case starts with the whistleblower speaking with an attorney who focuses on qui tam matters.  Most whistleblower lawyers will offer a free, confidential consultation regarding the matter and will only receive payment if they win the case.  It is important when you call a whistleblower hotline or speak with the right qui tam counsel you candidly discuss the case, the proofs and your likelihood of success. Nothing is ever guaranteed.

If the case has potential, then the whistleblower attorney drafts the complaint based on the evidence to file the case. The qui tam lawsuit is then filed secretly under seal along with a Disclosure Statement, with all the relevant information and proofs.

At this time, the lawyer and the whistleblower needs to wait for the government to consider the case and do some investigation on their side. The government needs to decide whether or not they wish to intervene in the case which can take considerable time.  Generally, the case stays under seal for at least a year, but it can be many, many years until the government makes up its mind whether to take the case, which is known as a whistleblower intervention, or to decline the case allowing the case to be unsealed

Many times when the government conducts a thorough investigation and corroborates the allegations of the complaint, it often resolves the matter contemporaneously with its unsealing.  However if it is not resolved upon unsealing, the case turns into a normal piece of litigation with the Court setting the litigation schedule and depending on the jurisdiction the case can take another couple years until the trial.  Most cases resolve before trial, but some will have to be tried, and also there is an appeal process.

Conclusion

A whistleblower case can take a significant period of time since there are many procedures and steps that need to be taken in order for the case to be filed, investigated, litigated and completed. In some cases, the process can take several years before any true progress is made. On the short side, some cases can take a year to eighteen months, with most cases averaging 3-5 years and some could be a decade long battle. The length of time the case remains under seal can be used to your advantage as well which is why its important to speak with a seasoned whistleblower lawyer like former FBI Special Agent Jason T. Brown, from Brown, LLC and his qui tam team to determine If you have a whistleblower case worth filing.

How Much Is a Whistleblower Awarded for a Successful Case?

Filing a whistleblower case is courageous but risky.  Even though there are various statutes that prohibit retaliation against whistleblowers, once a case is commenced a whistleblower may feel like everyone is out to get them or that people are following them or their phones are tapped, or a variety of other symptoms that although they are unfounded are common beliefs from people going through the process.  Most of the concerns are unfounded since the initial qui tam lawsuit is filed under seal, which means the company committing the Medicare Fraud, Medicaid Fraud, or SEC violation is not even aware initially there is a charge against them.  That coupled with the fact the whistleblower lawsuit may take years sometimes takes the wind out of the potential relator’s sails, but with the right whistleblower law firm to address your concerns the process becomes more palatable.

Although justice should be a prime motivating factor in commencing a qui tam lawsuit, there is also a possible economic reward for the right information.  The whistleblower award is provided if the case turns out to be successful and the government is able to retrieve funds that were lost due to the fraudulent activity. This raises common questions whistleblowers ask:

How much can I win as a whistleblower?

What is the average whistleblower settlement?

Rewards for Whistleblower Cases

In recent years billions of dollars have been recaptured and sent back to the government for violations of the False Claims Act (FCA), the most commonly used whistleblower statute that fights fraud against the government.

The reward provided to a whistleblower varies from case to case and statute to statute. For cases that address Medicare Fraud and Medicaid Fraud, or Defense Contractor Fraud, if the case is successful a whistleblower can receive between 15% and 30% of the amount that is recovered during the case under the False Claims act and potentially more under different State False Claims Act statutes like the Illinois False Claims Act

If the government intervenes in a case under the FCA the relator (whistleblowers) percentage is generally 15-25%.  If the government declines intervention then it go as high as 30%?   So it’s better if the government doesn’t intervene in the case, right?  Well, as a rule that is wrong, since the average whistleblower settlement for a case intervened by the government is roughly $12.5 million dollars, and without government intervention it’s a couple million.  So although a whistleblower may stand to gain more percentagewise without the government’s intervention, it’s a smaller piece of the pie.  The numbers may be a little deceptive because some of the bigger settlements can be in the hundreds of millions of dollars and those are generally with government intervention, so they can skew the bell curve for awards.

Under various statutes like the New York False Claims Act, Illinois False Claims Act, the California False Claims Act there are other mechanisms in which you can also recover for violations against the state or private insurance.  Some actions may include tax fraud, which there is also an IRS Whistleblower provision, which in order to trigger Federally you would need a stellar case with crystal clear information spoon-fed to the government, but the New York Tax Fraud provisions can be advanced much easier with our without the government.  The IRS requires the IRS.  Also, popular in recent years are the use of the SEC whistleblower statutes and the CFTC whistleblower statutes where whistleblower awards can go up to 30%.

Conclusion

Whistleblower cases are challenging, but there is a certain satisfaction that can come from doing what’s right and if successful the whistleblower award can be as high as in the tens of millions of dollars if not more.  Many factors go into whether the whistleblower case is worth bringing, and what percentage of the award is given so it’s important to speak with an experience whistleblower lawyer who fights for and protects whistleblowers like Jason T. Brown (Former FBI Special Agent), of Brown, LLC who can educate you about your rights and the pros and cons of commencing a whistleblower lawsuit.

Common Types of Frauds in The Healthcare Industry Reported by Whistleblowers

Every year the American taxpayer is cheated out of billions of dollars as a result of fraud, such as systemic Medicare Fraud and Medicaid Fraud. The fraudulent activity occurs in all industries as people wrongfully think the government isn’t watching.  There are all sorts of mechanisms to ensure that companies and people don’t cheat the government and various whistleblower laws to award people with targeted information to come forward with their whistleblower case.

Take a recent case against Spa Castle Inc, for example, a company who committed tax fraud and  settled for $2.5 million under the New York Tax Whistleblower Laws which allow private citizens to commence whistleblower actions to hold tax cheats accountable.  The tax whistleblower in this case received a $575,000 New York Tax Whistleblower Award for reporting on how the massage parlors failed to report income, thereby failed to pay taxes, thereby cheating the taxpayer out of money.  The IRS has a whistleblower program as well, where if the insider has very specific information regarding over $2 million dollars of tax fraud they may act, but it must be very detailed insider information.

However, the most common industry where fraud against the government occurs is in the healthcare industry – with fraud such as hospitals and medical facilities submitting false claims such as providing unnecessary treatments, upcoding, using unlicensed individuals, engaging in kickbacks schemes and a host of other violations meant to cheat Medicare of Medicaid or private insurance out of money.

Types of Healthcare Fraud

There are different types of fraudulent activities that occur within the healthcare industry. Some cost the government more than the others. Understanding the types of healthcare fraud and how to recognize such fraud is important for whistleblowers. The ability of a whistleblower and the government to bring a claim are governed by the False Claims Act (FCA).

False Billing

False billing or billing for services not rendered is a relatively common type of fraud that occurs in the healthcare industry. This involves a physician or treatment facility, including care centers and hospitals, submitting claims to Medicare or another federally funded policy for services that were not provided to a patient. In some cases, the fraud would go as far as to forge a signature in order to make such false claims or doctor a chart to justify the bill.

Providing Unnecessary Treatments and Services

Many doctors and health care facilities have been found guilty of providing treatments that are unnecessary, with the sole purpose of committing Medicare Fraud and Medicaid Fraud and billing their insurance policy for the services rendered.  Medical necessity cases can be difficult to prove if reasonable minds disagree regarding the extent or course of the treatment.  One such example is the case against a doctor for falsely diagnosing patients with skin cancer in order to initiate unnecessary treatments on the patients when insured through Medicaid or Medicare.  There are many examples where the medical provider reflexively bills everyone for treatments that walk through the door, whether they need it or not.  For example, the Doctor may ask do you ever have a headache and when almost anyone answers yes, they might feel your temples and bill for a detailed cranial test or reflexology.

Double Billing

Double billing refers to scenarios where a medical provider bills a patient’s healthcare policy for two visits when the patient only had one appointment with the doctor. The doctor would often use a duplicate of the original claim for the “real” appointment and change a few details, such as the date, and then submit the same claim again.

Service or Item Upcoding

Services rendered by healthcare providers have specific codes assigned to them. Some codes yield higher payouts for the provider from a federally funded policy. The same goes for the prescription of medical devices. Some healthcare providers would submit a higher code to a patient’s healthcare provider than the code of the item or service provided to the patient with the sole purpose of additional profits.

Conclusion

The government relies on whistleblowers to come forward with concrete information to hold accountable many of these tax cheats, Medicare frauds and other cheating of the government and insurance.  Most False Claims Act whistleblower cases are filed against hospitals, care centers, physicians, or other parties in the healthcare industry. Double billing and claiming for unprovided services are common types of fraud committed by them. Whistleblowers play an important role in uncovering such fraudulent activities and helping the government retrieve ill-gotten funds. In turn, whistleblowers may be entitled to a whistleblower award for their information. Under the False Claims Act, the whistleblower must use a whistleblower law firm.  If you believe you have information regarding Medicare Fraud, Medicaid Fraud or many other types of fraud against the government you should consult with a whistleblower law firm like Brown, LLC led by former FBI Special Agent Jason T. Brown to go over your rights and determine how to make your case.

References

https://ag.ny.gov/press-release/ag-underwood-and-acting-tax-commissioner-manion-announce-criminal-conviction-and-false

Collective and Class Action Lawsuit Filed against Moe’s Southwest Grill Franchise for Alleged Unpaid Overtime and Unlawful Tip Retention under the Federal and New Jersey Wage and Hour Laws

On September 13, 2018, the lead Plaintiff Marco Gonzalez filed a collective and class action complaint in the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey, alleging that Defendants Fast Casual Partners, LLC and its owner Lee DiPrizito, who operate a number of franchised stores of Moe’s Southwest Grill restaurant in the States of New Jersey and New York, violated the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) and the New Jersey Wage and Hour Laws and Regulations (“NJWHLR”), by failing to compensate its hourly-paid restaurant workers proper overtime wages and by unlawfully keeping tips.

The complaint alleges that to the extent Defendants paid the restaurant workers for hours in excess of forty (40) in a workweek, Defendants paid them straight time for overtime, that is, such payments were made at their regular hourly rates, rather than time and one-half (1.5) of their regular rates of pay as required by the FLSA and NJWHLR.  The complaint also alleges that Defendants unlawfully kept the credit card tips and catering tips without distributing them to the restaurant workers.

The complaint seeks to represent the following putative FLSA collective members with respect to the federal claims:

All hourly-paid restaurant workers employed by Defendants at any time from three (3) years prior to the filing of this Complaint through the date of judgment.

The complaint also seeks to represent the following putative Rule 23 class members with respect to the New Jersey claims:

All hourly-paid restaurant workers employed by Defendants in the State of New Jersey at any time from two (2) years prior to the filing of this Complaint through the date of judgment

Mr. Gonzalez brings this collective and class action on behalf of himself and all other similarly situated hourly-paid restaurant workers to recover unpaid overtime wages, unlawfully kept tips, liquidated damages, pre- and post- judgment interest, and reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs.

The case is Gonzalez v. Fast Causal Partners, LLC d/b/a Moe’s Southwest Grill, et al., Case No.: 2:18-cv-13840-SRC-CLW.

The plaintiff is represented by Brown, LLC (formerly the JTB Law Group).

If you have any questions or information to provide about the above article, you may contact the following attorneys:

Nicholas Conlon; nicholasconlon@jtblawgroup.com; (877) 561-0000
Ching-Yuan (“Tony”) Teng; tonyteng@jtblawgroup.com; (877) 561-0000

South Carolina Judge Enters Judgment for $114M in Favor of Whistleblowers

The United States government suffers an astronomical loss in the billions each year due to fraud in the healthcare industry. Doctors, laboratories, and many healthcare facilities commit fraud in many different ways. When misconduct occurs in these facilities and the patient is insured through a governmental program, such as Medicare or Medicaid, then it means money is being stolen from the U.S. government.

Early in 2018, a judge in South Carolina entered a judgment  that totaled $114 after three whistleblower cases were investigated. A number of health care facilities and doctors were linked to the case, all of whom were held responsible for the fraud they had committed. The evidence in regards to the fraudulent activity was brought forward by employees of these facilities.

Whistleblower Cases Against Health Care Facilities In South Carolina

After three whistleblower cases were filed this year, a South Carolina judge entered a judgment against them for $114M, payable by the healthcare institutes that were involved in the Qui Tam cases. This judgment was made after a jury at Charleston, SC, found the defendants in the case guilty for defrauding Medicare, a health care program that is funded by the government.

Three Qui Tam cases were filed, and the litigation of the three cases was conducted together. Only one of the whistleblowers involved in these cases testified in the courtroom.  Evidence was made available that proved these companies were paying certain physicians to order blood tests from the laboratories that were completely unnecessary. These drug tests yielded large fees, which were claimed from the federally funded insurance program of the patient. The physicians who participated in the fraud were instructed only to seek out patients who were insured by Medicaid or a similar healthcare agency.

In many cases, some expensive blood tests were ordered for cardiovascular diseases that the patient did not have. The doctor was, in turn, paid a $20 fee for ordering these tests. The pay to play or kickback scenario sometimes triggers violations of the Anti-Kickback statutes or if there is self-dealing the Stark Act.

The investigation found that Health Diagnostic Laboratory had submitted a total of 35,074 claims to government health care programs. Another 3,813 claims linked to these frauds were submitted by Singulex, a blood laboratory based in California.

Conclusion

Whistleblowers play an important role in the recovery of money lost by the government due to fraud in the healthcare industry. The case against Quest Lab, Singulex, and the Health Diagnostic Laboratory allowed the government of the United States to recover $114M in losses caused by fraudulent activities from these institutes. While no specific data was released regarding the awards issued to the whistleblowers, the reward amount was likely between $17.1M and $34.2M, divided between the employees who brought up the Qui Tam lawsuits. If you know of any healthcare fraud, Medicare Fraud, Medicaid Fraud or anyone else defrauding the government you should speak with a whistleblower law firm like Brown, LLC who offers free consultations and can advice you on your rights.

How Do Whistleblower Cases Combat Fraudulent Activity in the Health Care Industry?

Thousands of health care facilities have had to pay an aggregate of billions of dollars in penalties for committing fraud against the government and the taxpayer in the form of Medicare Fraud and Medicaid Fraud.  When employees of a facility committing fraud detect the misconduct, they can come forward with accusations and file a whistleblower case, also known as a Qui Tam action.

For some actions, like CFTC whistleblower actions, SEC whistleblower actions, and IRS whistleblower actions, the identity of the individual can remain confidential throughout the entirety of the process.  For the most common case filed, under the False Claims Act (FCA), while the identity of the whistleblower is initially sealed from the defendant, it is revealed when the case becomes unsealed after the government has had time to investigate the matter.  Many employees fear the potential consequences of their actions, but certain and aggressive laws have been implemented to ensure these employees are not only rewarded but also thoroughly protected against retaliation.

How Whistleblower Cases Work

Understanding how Qui Tam lawsuits work is an important factor for employees who witness fraudulent activity in their workplace. When an employee in the healthcare industry finds that their employers is conducting fraud – such as when false claims are made to the patients’ health care policies, then the employee may come forward with evidence in order to file a case against their employer.  This fraud may happen in many ways such as overbilling, upcoding, billing for services not rendered, and a variety of other health frauds that are often creative ways to overbill Medicare and Medicaid.

The False Claims Act specifies that any citizen is able to sue a business or a person who conducts fraud that leads to a loss of governmental funds. If you suspect or know of a fraud, you should consult with a Qui Tam attorney to learn about your rights and the pros and cons of proceeding with a whistleblower lawsuit.

The only parties who will be notified of the lawsuit during the early stages of the case are the government. The case is kept secret from the party that is being accused. The government can then decide if they would like to intervene in the case. If the government decides not to intervene, the whistleblower can still continue with the case with the whistleblower attorney they have retained to represent them.  Under the False Claims Act, you must have an attorney to file the case with you; you can not file the case without one.

The government after reviewing the complaint will conduct what is known as a relator interview, that is it will sit down and interview the individual complaining of the fraud.  From that interview it will determine whether there are any leads that should be followed, the course of the qui tam investigation and whether to intervene or not.  At some point the Defendant will be made aware of the investigation, and the whistleblower will be given a head’s up before that occurs.

If the case is settled, or if there is a judgment obtained, and the government has recovered the funds they have lost due to the fraudulent activity, a reward between 15% and 30% the settlement amount is provided to the whistleblower.

Conclusion

Even though many individuals observe misconduct in the workplace, often resulting in fraud, employees are often not sure what to do about it or how exactly whistleblower cases work. Fortunately, with appropriate guidance, the whistleblower can put together a solid case and even be rewarded in the process. Choosing the right lawyer becomes an essential factor here, so it is important to consult with a firm like Brown, LLC who has successfully handled whistleblower cases in the past, and can educate you about your rights.

CareCore National LLC Pays $54M Settlement In Qui Tam Case

An investigation that started in February 2013 resulted in the settlement of a Qui Tam case against CareCore National LLC. A licensed nurse who was employed at CareCore National LLC came forward with evidence of the unlawful practice that was being conducted. After two law firms represented the nurse, a False Claims Act (FCA) lawsuit was filed under seal with the federal court in Southern District of New York. The settlement called for CareCore to pay $54 million. Since the case was filed using the provisions in the FCA, the whistleblower award of roughly 20% or $10 million dollars will be given to the woman who had the courage to bring this matter to the government’s attention through her whistleblower lawyer.

The Qui Tam Case Against CareCore National LLC

On the 21st February 2013, a whistleblower case was filed secretly, under seal, against the health care agency CareCore National LLC. A licensed nurse, known as the relator in the case, brought evidence of misconduct in her workplace to two whistleblower law firm who focus on prosecuting these violations.

CareCore National LLC is a company based in Bluffton, South Carolina. They have several branches throughout the United States. The company provides an authorization service for doctors and other facilities who need to verify whether specific types of tests need to be conducted on patients, ultimately promoting their services as a cost-saving way to ensure only the necessary tests are performed on a doctor’s patients.

When any information is missing from a submitted file or when the authorization request submitted to the company does not comply with the set criteria, then nurses are instructed to submit them back to the doctor who originally submitted the request. The doctor would then be requested to review the request and provide the data that is missing from the authorization request.

According to the nurse who brought the whistleblower case forward, however, the company instructed nurses to instead rubber stamp all authorization requests as “Process As Directed.” This means the request is not submitted back to the doctor for review, but rather passed on and the tests are authorized, even when they are not truly necessary. In turn, this led to thousands of patients undergoing diagnostic tests like MRIs, even when not necessary to assist in their diagnosis. Claims were made from federally funded insurance providers. Ironically, the process was nicknamed P.A.D. and jokingly referred to as Padding the bill, which is not joke to taxpayers who every year have to foot the bill for billions of dollars in Medicare and Medicaid Fraud.

Conclusion

Thousands of whistleblower cases against healthcare organizations are filed each year with whistleblowers exposing corruption in such areas as Medicare and Medicaid Fraud.   The False Claims Act provides a way for the government to be repaid for fraudulent misconduct that causes them a loss. These cases play a vital role in preventing further fraud and bringing existing fraudulent activity against federally funded health insurance plans to the attention of the right lawyers who focus on whistleblower cases. If you’re wondering “How do I blow the whistle?” or “Do I have a whistleblower case?” you should speak with a whistleblower law firm like Brown, LLC who can provide a free confidential consultation.

What is a CFTC Whistleblower?

The CFTC Whistleblower program is an acronym for the Commodity Futures Trading Commission Whistleblower program.  The program is designed to provide whistleblower awards for the insiders or those with detailed information regarding violations of the Commodity Exchange Act.  The information must lead to the CFTC bringing a successful enforcement action.  As with other whistleblower programs, the CFTC has an anti-retaliation provision that prohibits taking action against someone who commences a CFTC action.  It is strongly recommended that someone considering commencing any qui tam lawsuit retain whistleblower counsel, particularly a CFTC whistleblower lawyer (like Brown, LLC – formerly JTB Law Group, LLC) to assist with navigation through the whistleblower process.

CFTC Covered Actions

A term of art in the CFTC whistleblower program is “Notices of Covered Actions.” A Notice of Covered Action refers to when the CFTC is successful with a settlement or judgment in excess of 1 million dollars in economic sanctions against a defendant.  One must vigilantly check the Notices, since if you submit a TCR, which is the form to file a CFTC whistleblower complaint, then you have 90 days from the Notice to apply for the award.

Commodity Exchange Act

The Commodity Exchange Act (CEA) is what regulates the trading of commodity futures.  You can read the full act here at 7 USC 1 – 27f.  Basically, there are many different ways in which futures can be the subject of a whistleblower action.  Insider Trading, pumping and dumping, blasting the news groups to manipulate the market, putting the interest of the company before the client to name a few.  Inherently, the nature of futures trading sounds sophisticated, and some of its designs are traps to separate the unwary from their money.  Further, in a complex system oftentimes individuals and companies find ways to corrupt if for their own economic benefit which is what the CFTC Whistleblower program seeks to remedy.

CFTC Whistleblower vs. SEC Whistleblower

An SEC whistleblower is someone who provides information regarding a publicly traded company where generally the company is violating various SEC provisions.  The CFTC whistleblower program is limited to commodities and futures trading.

CFTC Final Orders and Award Determinations

It is important to review the CFTC Final Orders and Awards page to try and ascertain whether information you provided has been acted upon.  On August 2nd, 2018, The Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) announced record breaking whistleblower awards totaling $45 million dollars. The CFTC pointed out the increased amounts reflect the “growing success of the CFTC’s Whistleblower Program, in particular the increasing volume and complexity of incoming whistleblower submission.”  Attached is a sample highly redacted order which you can view some whistleblowers received significant whistleblower awards and some had their requests denied.

CFTC Whistleblower Law Firm

Whistleblower Law is highly complex and always evolving.  There’s very stringent ways to file a whistleblower lawsuit and if you run afoul your case may automatically lose based on procedural technicalities.  If you have information regarding commodities or futures frauds, you should speak with a CFTC lawyer right away.  The lawyers at Brown, LLC protect CFTC whistleblowers and offer free confidential consultations and can speak with you after hours or during the weekend when its most convenient for you, but even if you don’t speak with our whistleblower law firm, you should consult with a whistleblower lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights and to assist you in filing your CFTC claim.

New York’s False Claims Act – Alive & Well!

New York is one of the few states that has a very robust False Claims Act (FCA) that enables the state to go after tax cheats to a greater extent. On August 30th, 2018 the Appellate Court in New York allowed a case to proceed alleging a massive tax fraud that was initially dismissed at the trial level. An anonymous whistleblower filed a case against Moody’s alleging tax fraud. The allegations are highly technical in one sense, “Plaintiff relator asserts claims on behalf of the State and City against Moody’s under section 189(g) of the State Finance Law (the False Claims Act [NYFCA]), alleging that Moody’s “knew that MAC . . . did not qualify for the protections of the laws governing captive insurance companies,” yet submitted “materially false and fraudulent” tax returns treating MAC as a legitimate captive.” In another sense the allegations boil down to what they generally do, that the company cheated on its taxes, thereby cheating the taxpayer. The case against Moody’s is still in the allegation phase and although the Court is allowing the case to proceed indicating it has been pled with sufficient specificity it has made no decision regarding the underlying merits.

A relator is someone who brings an action on behalf of the government through a qui tam action, otherwise known as a whistleblower action. There are many different types of whistleblower claims New Yorkers or those who have information regarding New York violators of the law can bring. They include:

• Medicaid Fraud
• Tax Fraud
• Off the Books Employees (Tax Fraud)
• Revenue Concealment (Tax Fraud)
• Use of Dummy Companies (Tax Fraud)
• Defrauding the State Government
• Bid Rigging
• Kickbacks

Also, many cheats also involve defrauding the federal government which would implicate the Federal False Claims Act (FCA) as well for things like:

o Medicaid Fraud
o Defense Contractor Fraud
o IRS Fraud
o SEC Whistleblower Fraud
o CFTC Whistleblower Fraud

The whistleblower statutes are dense and complex and require navigating them the right way. In contrast to other areas of law, if you don’t file something properly under seal to commence your whistleblower lawsuit you may forfeit your right to an award.

Therefor, it is critical to consult with a New York Whistleblower lawyer to educated yourself about your rights and protect you if you decide to proceed. Some statutes, like the SEC Whistleblower provisions may enable you to proceed anonymously from start to finish with the use of an SEC whistleblower or CFTC whistleblower lawyer. Others, like the False Claims Act require the use of a qui tam law firm in order to receive a qui tam award. If you believe you a New York Whistleblower claim, you should speak with a whistleblower lawyer who has a track record of success to guide you through the process. Each day of delay compounds the risk that you are not the first to file which can deprive you of an award or that even worse if you knew about the fraud and failed to blow the whistle, you may be looked as a target in the investigation if someone beats you to the punch. Consider having a free confidential consultation with a New York whistleblower law firm before someone else who knows about the fraud does.

The Best Advice for Whistleblowers

As a whistleblower lawyer who handles cases all over the country from Jersey City to San Francisco, I have the greatest amount of respect for people who have the courage to come forth and put it all on the line to blow the whistle on things they know are wrong and need to be righted. The companies who engage in these frauds are the villains, and the whistleblowers deserve to be knighted.

Each year I compile a list of lessons learned and try to impart the wisdom of our whistleblower law firm onto those that are thinking of blowing the whistle, but don’t know what do. Here is my 2018 list of advice for whistleblowers.

Patience is a Virtue

Good things happen to people who know how to wait, but not to those who wait too late. There’s many different ways to blow the whistle, whether it’s through the False Claims Act (FCA) which addresses defrauding the government via companies committing Medicare Fraud, Medicaid Fraud and Defense Contractor Fraud, SEC Whistleblowers who disclose when the financial companies don’t have the best interest of the clients in mind including inside trading, pump and dumps, cryptocurrency and ICO fraud, CFTC whistleblowers who blow the whistle on the commodities frauds, and IRS whistleblowers who have substantial information regarding tax cheats. Due to the first filed rule, you need to make sure that you promptly file your case if its actionable, but don’t expect things to happen overnight. Sure, some of False Claims Act lawsuits take a year, but generally it’s a long process with extended periods of quiet time and once the FCA complaint is filed its out of your hands for a bit while the government decides what it’s going to do. Make sure you’re working with a False Claims Act law firm that you feel you have a connection with and that is affirmatively going to update you about your case and that you can reach out to on a regular basis even when nothing is going on to speak about your whistleblower case and answer all your questions – even if it’s again and again! A good qui tam lawyer will have gone through the qui tam process many of times, and this is probably your only time. It shouldn’t ever be a bother for them to comfort you in your time of need and curiosity. Some cases can take five or six years to play out and some longer. Remember to enjoy the road, because it’s a long one; don’t just think about the destination.

Think about your Parachute

The whistleblower statutes contemplate cases coming from those on the inside, in a superior position to provide information of wrongdoings, corporate fraud, and outright cheats. A good insider is generally an employee or close to those that will be held accountable when the case is ultimately disclosed. Even though almost every whistleblower statute imaginable has a provision that prohibits whistleblower retaliation, it will happen. The timing may be out of your control about when your identity is disclosed or when the company will conduct an internal hunt for who it thinks could be cooperating, but you have a running start since you’re the one commencing the action. Start to think about what your options are if you have to leave the company. Work on your resume. Look for other opportunities. Also, consider depending on how radical the fraud is do you really want to continue working at the company. We all need to make a living, but if you feel you’re compromising your soul, you need to search whether it’s worth it. Some egregious frauds we’ve encountered are Medicare Frauds where the doctors perform unnecessary surgery just so they can bill for it, Defense Contractor Fraud, where the company takes a shortcut and puts our soldiers at risk, and things like churning and bilking people’s accounts in the SEC context, where the company is hiding fees, taking fees, or doing other things to exploit people’s investments and retirements. You should think about your exit strategy early and generally when you’re still employed it’s an easier time to find new work. Further, it will be easier to find new work before the extent of the fraud of the company becomes public or else when you’re interviewing the taint of the dirty company may make it harder to find a new job.

Find a Whistleblower Law Firm You Feel Comfortable Working With

While the qui tam lawyers at our firm are personable, hardworking and have a track record of success, the chemistry needs to be right between our firm and the whistleblower we’ll be working with for us to consider representation. We’ve turned down cases that are actionable False Claims Act cases because we didn’t think there would be good chemistry and you should be discerning as well. Questions you should consider are will you have access to the qui tam lawyers handling your case, the head of the firm, and can the whistleblower lawyers contact you after hours or on the weekends when it may be easier for you to speak.

There is a proverb in the legal realm that a person who represents his or her own self in court has a fool for a client. There’s quite a bit of information and misinformation online regarding qui tam lawsuits. One thing is for certain; as of this writing in order to file a False Claims Act lawsuit, you must use a lawyer. That is, you cannot bring the action yourself pro-se without an attorney. You shouldn’t do it anyway, as even an attempt to file a whistleblower action the wrong way could result in you losing your case right from the start.

I hope these points added some guidance to you if you’re thinking about filing a whistleblower lawsuit. Even if our dedicated team of whistleblower lawyers is not the right fit for you in the long-term, we’d love to speak with you about your potential case in the short-term and go over in depth whether we help you with your matter or at least steer you in the right direction. We protect whistleblowers coast to coast, so whether you’re in Jersey City or San Diego, Houston, or Tampa or anywhere in between, feel free to call our whistleblower lawyers at (877) 561-0000, for a free whistleblower consultation and no matter what, we’ll wish you the best of luck with your qui tam case.

Trump Administration Impact of Whistleblower/Qui Tam Cases

One thing everyone should be able to agree on is that taxpayer fraud hurts us all.  Its hard to find someone who likes paying taxes and part of the reason they’re so high is because of all the waste, fraud and abuse in government.  People are wonderful.  They do things to help each other even when they don’t have to.  The flip side of the coin, is that people are sometimes disinterested or don’t want to involve themselves in a situation and become a whistleblower.  The qui tam process is a complicated one and without the right whistleblower lawyer it can become a maze that you might never escape.  The other coin itself is the fraud.

In recent years, billions upon billions of dollars have been recovered using a statute know as the False Claims Act (FCA) in which individuals who have the courage to come forward and file a complaint can receive a whistleblower award up to 25% of the recovery.  When you do the math that means hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to whistleblowers in recent years.

This blog is meant to be apolitical and not meant to stimulate a discussion regarding personal opinions about the new administration.  It is however, a discussion of the trends affecting qui tam and whistleblower laws over the last few years.

Although not directly related to this administration, but emerging roughly at the same time, a landmark case was decided called Escobar dealing with the issue of materiality in FCA complaints. The concept of materiality is whether the complained about violation really hurts the taxpayer or is just a very technical one.  One example is in the defense contract context.  The contract with the federal government may call for all sorts of requirements before billing the government for work rendered, including pre-approval from a certain officer.  Let’s say tens of millions of dollars of work were done and paid, but that officer never approved the work.  Even though technically, this could be considered a false claim, the Courts and the government will look to see whether the government would have approved the work anyway.  If the answer is yes, then the violation would not be considered material and you will in all likelihood lose your case under Escobar. 

The new administration has been taking a different posture with cases it declines.  Understanding whistleblower litigation, a case must be filed under seal and the government first decides whether it wants to intervene or not.  In the distant past non-intervention was close to death to a case. Then there was a wave of cases that succeeded without the government’s assistance.  Now, the United States Attorney’s Office has sometimes been taking the position that if there is not an intervention, they may insist or move for a dismissal.  My opinion may depart slightly from the other whistleblower lawyers who think this is a bad thing.  I think if the government weighs in early and says it does not view the violation as material it’s a good thing.  Why go through years of a case if the arbiter for the taxpayers, the government, says it wasn’t harmed can there be a harm?  I won’t take a 100% definitive position on that, because I can envision a massive fraud where a bureaucrat makes the wrong call about the harm, and that’s why there’s the chance to tee up issues like this to the Court.

Another area where the new administration is impacting whistleblower laws is by ending the practice of issuing guidance for regulations.  The guidance was sometimes used as support and less frequently as a basis to commence False Claims Acts.

The final areas to keep an eye on in the relator share or the whistleblower award amount.  In a successful qui tam case the whistleblower is graded in many different areas to determine what percentage of what recovered monies they are entitled to.  Anecdotally, it appears they are trying to knock down the percentage to the whistleblower.  While this may bring more short term gain to the government, it is myopic since it may discourage other whistleblowers from coming forward.

Keep in perspective – many whistleblowers are extremely courageous individuals who do the right thing and run the risk of being fired from their job, being harassed, and suffering other backlash.  Some of what they blow the whistle on is the most distasteful of frauds in the Medicare Fraud and Medicaid Fraud arena.  Medicare Fraud Whistleblowers sometimes blow the whistle on unnecessary services that are so extreme, that doctors are willing to perform unnecessary surgery just to line their own pockets.  That’s horrific and needs to be prioritized and eradicated.

It’s only year 2 into this new administration as of this writing, so we’ll keep an eye on these emerging trends in whistleblower laws.  Remember, if you need a whistleblower lawyer, the qui tam lawyers at Brown, LLC will offer you a free consultation and are only paid if they win your case.

Dynamex is Dynamite

An explosive legal opinion was issued by the California Supreme Court in April of this year, as they weighed in on a landmark land mined issue that is sure to impact and proliferate more California Wage & Hour Lawsuits.  A question that has always plagued companies is what constitutes an employer/employee relationship versus an employer/independent contractor relationship.  The California Supreme Court answered a few questions that people ponder such as:

“Am I an independent contractor or an employee?”

“In California how can I tell if I’m an employee or an independent contractor?”

“Am I entitled to overtime in California?”

The California Independent Contractor vs. Employee test is called the ABC Test, although some would argue there is nothing ABC about it.

The first and most important facet of the way the California Supreme Court addressed the issue is to view it from the prism that by default workers are employees, not independent contractors, and the employer has the burden to show otherwise.  In furtherance of illustrating that a worker is indeed an independent contractor and not an employee, the employer must establish all three prongs of the ABCs:

(A) The worker is free from the control and direction of the hiring entity in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of the work and in fact; and

(B) The worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and

(C) The worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation or business of the same nature as the work performed.

Another fascinating aspect of the ruling is its retroactivity, meaning the Court’s ruling is applicable to past situations, not just issues moving forward.

This case has massive implications to various different industries from exotic dancers to construction workers, from mechanics to temp workers.  Almost anyone can be viewed as an employee versus an independent contractor under the California standard and may be owed significant amounts of overtime and damages.

In recent years, class actions have been stymied by the use of arbitration clauses.  However, California also has a law called the Private Attorney General Act, also known as PAGA, which essentially deputizes the individual to bring an action through the government, and since the government can not be hamstrung by arbitration, then the case can proceed in court.

Forward thinking individuals may also anticipate a wave of Tax Qui Tam actions, also known as IRS whistleblower actions, as for larger companies that avoided paying millions in taxes there may be tax consequences.  This is a complicated issue as there may also be back taxes owed by the employee who was formerly considered an independent contractor.  Also, one should not forget if they are in the health care or defense contractor industry, the False Claims Act (FCA) and California False Claims Act may kick in if there is other ways in which the company is defrauding the government.

Dynamex has tilted the playing field to allow workers to receive rights and protections as workers, not just being able to summarily cast them out when someone is inconvenient to the company without consequences.  In order to see how Dynamex affects you or to learn more about your California overtime rights, whether you’re an independent contractor or an employee, call our wage and hour lawyers at (877) 561-0000. For wage and hour lawsuits and consultations, there is no money up front, the conversation is confidential, and the firm is only paid if we win your case.

Brown, Jason Brown. International Sophistication is the Next Wave of United States Litigation including Whistleblower Laws.

While the EU may be far ahead of the United States in some of its regulatory actions, where the United States falls behind from a government perspective for better or for worse, generally trial lawyers advance cases in the United States that the rest of the world benefits from.  For example, certain mass torts like litigation against new generations of birth control, originally shadowed European regulations, but were held accountable in the United States by some amazing lawyering from firms and people like Roger Denton and Kris Kraft at Schlicter Bogard and Denton, Paul and David Rheingold at The Rheingold Law Firm, and Jason T. Brown, now with Brown, LLC (formerly JTB Law Group, LLC) and many others.

Cases like the Yaz Litigation where a new generation of hormone was arguably less safe than the earlier generations started in the United States, settled for billions and now worldwide attorneys are taking that template and litigating to hold the pharmaceutical companies accountable globally.

Big Pharma and other global corporations can be held accountable in other ways too, especially with pragmatic use of various qui tam statutes.  A qui tam lawsuit enables private citizens to commence a lawsuit on behalf of the government where the plaintiff is known as a relator since he or she is relating the claims of the government through the whistleblower lawsuit.

With the globalization of companies many individuals worldwide may be in a position to know about billion dollars worth of fraud perpetrated in the United States, but think they can’t bring an action since they are not physically located in the United States.  Consider some of the following situations.  Imagine, you are a whistleblower outside the United States who knows of a massive fraud from a publicly traded company.  You can potentially bring an SEC whistleblower action through the use of SEC whistleblower counsel and perhaps remain anonymous from start to finish.  If it involves commodities you may be able to bring a CFTC whistleblower action.  With potential qui tam awards up to 30% of the amount recovered, a billion dollar fraud could be a hundred million dollar plus recovery for the information.

The False Claims Act will also allow some international whistleblowers to bring an action in the United States.  One thing the large pharmaceutical companies do is research outside the U.S. to make it extremely challenging to obtain the needed discovery due to other countries privacy laws.  Well, if you are in the know and are aware of data that was falsified during clinical studies, lying to the FDA, pharmaceutical products that lack the efficacy they claim, you may be able to be a whistleblower in the United States even though you are not located here.

 

Further, the FCPA Foreign Corrupt Practices Act prohibits United States companies from essentially bribing in other countries to advance their business interests.  There’s a lot of that going on!

If you have information along any of these lines that you’d like to discuss, our international whistleblower lawyers can speak with you confidentially, and we’re only paid if we win your case.  Your information could potentially save lives, certainly save money and hold companies that believe they are beyond reproach accountable.

Whistleblower Hotlines

As a law firm who routinely handles whistleblower cases we have a whistleblower hotline.  The line enables potential whistleblowers to confidentially and freely discuss their potential qui tam claim.  As whistleblower lawyers who only represent individuals who expose fraud, not the companies that commit them, we are dedicated to prosecuting the claims of the people we represent if it’s a case we think is actionable and a fit for our firm.

However, internally within companies, the employer has its own whistleblower hotline to ostensibly report fraud within the company.  Take a step back and think how silly that is.  Yes, some companies probably earnestly want to do the right thing, but many other don’t, that’s why they committed the fraud itself.  When you call a company “whistleblower hotline” the information is received by the company who don’t have the whistleblowers best interest in mind.  Instead they are interested in protecting the company.  Even at the end of the day lines that are supposed to be anonymous and “protect the employee” oftentimes do not.

Inadvertently, when providing information, it is either singular in nature or so limited in nature that a company who wants to go on a mole hunt for the insider can easily do so.  Plus, since the well intentioned person used the internal mechanisms, the company will assume that the person doesn’t have a qui tam lawyer and try to lock them into statements that will damage their own case if they wanted to proceed, or worse yet, document things to try to retaliate and fire the whistleblower.

In short, while calling a company whistleblower hotline may seem like a good idea, it’s perilous.  If you feel the need to call one, ask them first whose interested they will be protecting – your or the company’s?   I’ll tell you now it’s the company, not you that they are paid from and working for, it’s not you.

The company may encourage you to report all sorts of fraud.  If it’s in the health care industry it can be Medicare Fraud, Medicaid Fraud, Insurance Fraud, SEC Fraud, Cryptocurrency Fraud, with many different subsects such as:

Opioid Over Prescription (a priority of the government)

Medicare Fraud – Billing for Services Not Rendered

Medicare Fraud – Upcoding

Performing Unnecessary Surgery

Unlicensed Individuals Billing for Medical Work

Pharmaceutical Whistleblowing – Diluted or Inert Batches. Falsifying Data.

SEC Whistleblower Fraud – Companies not having the best interest of the client in mind.

Another distinction between calling a whistleblower law firm and an internal hotline is that if you file certain types of cases with the use of counsel you stand to receive a whistleblower award which could be as high as 30% of the recovery.

If you know about a company committing fraud, call our whistleblower line at (877) 561-0000 before calling the company one.  You can speak with our qui tam lawyers free of charge and confidentially and we’re not paid unless we win your case.

Rounding Up RoundUp

It’s been widely known and litigated over the years that Benzene exposure can cause Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma (NHL), Acute Myeloid Leukemia (AML) & Myelodysplastic Syndrome (MDS).  But over recent years there has been a proliferation of litigation regarding the use of the pesticide RoundUp and it’s link to the various lymphomas.

Just like with the talcum powder litigation, the defendants try to point to every other cause other than their own product.  Although the link to talcum powder and ovarian cancer is consistently found by objective juries who hear all the evidence, Johnson & Johnson consistently says self-serving bootstrapping statements that it’s safe because everyone knows its safe, even when its own internal documents show otherwise.  Hundreds of millions of dollars have been awarded to victims of talcum powder.

Now, for the first time RoundUp victims have Rounded Up and had the opportunity to present the facts to a neutral jury.  Just like with the talcum powder litigation, the jury did not believe the defendants and came up with a $290 million dollar verdict for an individual dying from exposure to it.   The substance glyphosate is under worldwide scrutiny with many attempts to regulate and/or ban it.

With this major verdict on behalf of the glyphosate RoundUp victims more exposure is certain to come to this product liability action and perhaps others who have come down with signature types of diseases linked to these products will be able to have their day in Court and the juries may compensate them accordingly.

Just like with any other piece of litigation, rights may have time limits, called statutes of limitations.  Your ability to bring a lawsuit for injuries from talcum powder, Benzene or RoundUp exposure may be limited to when you first evidenced symptoms of the signature disease.  It is best to respectively consult with a Talcum Powder Ovarian Cancer Lawyer, Benzene Lymphoma Lawyer and RoundUp Lawyer to find out if you can still bring an action.

One thing is clear from the RoundUp verdict, weed killer is killing more than just weeds.

Survey.com: The Latest Gig Economy Company Sued in California for Independent Contractor Misclassification

Like many companies in the “gig economy,” Survey.com promotes itself as merely a mobile app company. Its app allows people to sign up for on-demand merchandising projects such as:

Stocking, facing, and rotating products

Setting up end caps, promotional fixtures, and point-of-sale displays

Affixing stickers and instantly redeemable coupons to your items

Retail Audits

Individuals who complete projects generally receive a payment from Survey.com based on the size of the project. Since Survey.com classifies the workers that perform merchandising projects for them as independent contractors, they are not paid as w-2 employees or given any employee benefits.

A recent lawsuit filed on August 6th, 2018 in the United States District Court for the Northern District of California contends that Survey.com misclassifies its Merchandisers as independent contractors and as a result, violated their rights under the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the California Labor Code.

Survey.com is the latest gig economy company to be sued for labor violations in the wake of the California Supreme Court’s April 30, 2018 decision Dynamex Operations West, Inc. v. Superior Court. The Dynamex decision rejected the longstanding test for whether a work was an employee or contractor (which had led many company to misclassify their workers as independent contractors), and replaced it with the so-called “ABC Test” which is far more favorable to the worker.

Under the ABC Test, the burden is on the company (in this case Survey.com) to demonstrate that every worker is not an employee by proving all three of these elements:

  • the worker is free from the control and direction of the hirer in connection with the performance of the work, both under the contract for the performance of such work and in fact;
  • the worker performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity’s business; and
  • the worker is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for the hiring entity.

Shortly after the Dynamex decision, Lyft and Postmates were both hit with class action lawsuits alleging their drivers should have been classified as employees. Similar to the lawsuits against Lyft and Postmates, the lawsuit against Survey.com argues that Merchandisers should have been classified as employees because they were not free from Survey.com’s control or directions in connection with the performance of their work, they work they performed was not outside the usual course of Survey.com’s business, and they were not customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as the work performed for Survey.com.

The Dynamex opinion is a massive victory for California workers who have been misclassified as independent contractors. If you are a contractor for Survey.com or another gig economy company whose entire platform is built on the work of its contractors, it is very likely that are owed wages and potential penalties under California law. Although the Dynamex decision was issued in April 2018, it has been held to apply retroactively, meaning you may be eligible to recover wages earned in prior years, subject to the applicable statutes of limitations. For further guidance, please contact our office.

Large Truck Accidents = Large Truck Accident Verdicts

Law360 reported today that there has been a large escalation in truck accident verdicts.  Citing to a truck accident verdict in Texas for over $100 million, that followed another Texas verdict for $90 million dollars, some thought has been put in why these verdicts are starting to pick up as much steam a big rig on the highway without a speed limit or speed governor.

 

One school of thought is that the plaintiff’s truck accident counsel have integrated technology better and are integrating it into their presentations from start to finish.   In the past (and still in the present), the defense has had the leap and luxury of generally being notified of the truck accident first through insurance and boxing in the accident victim in a variety of ways such as  interviewing them without counsel and coercing them to make inadvertent statements to hurt their cases.  With technology people have mobile phones with search capabilities and almost immediately after an accident instead of being cajoled by the insurance company, there is the chance to speak with a truck accident law firm about one’s rights.

Some people have taken issue about the representations that insurance companies unfairly interview unrepresented parties early, asserting the truth is the truth.  But something subtle and simple can come back to haunt a truck accident plaintiff, like the questions, “How are you feeling today?” eliciting a reply of “I’m fine.  How are you.”  This can be written up by the claims adjuster that the victim was feeling fine the day he or she was interviewed shortly after the accident, so why do they have so many truck accident injuries now?

Another focus of root factor influencing these large truck accident verdicts is the more detailed examination of compliance.  Like the defendants and insurances companies who interlink and formulate corroborated defenses and defense techniques, the plaintiffs bar has been collectively pooling resources to keep abreast of what’s working, what to look for, and how to delve into regulatory issues affecting liability.

Further along the technology front, with advances in technology its easier to create computerized models of accidents for the jury to sink their teeth into recreating the accident and evaluate liability and accident reconstructionist are more accessible and at time affordable in the context of the potential liability.  Drones have been used to show 3D versions of the areas and juries can relate to the emerging technology.

If heaven forbid you find yourself in a truck accident you speak with an experienced law firm that handles truck accident litigation like Brown, LLC (formerly JTB Law Group, LLC). The truck accident lawyers at (877) 561-0000 are always ready to speak with you about your case and to travel to meet with you anywhere in the country.

The Stark Act has Stark Remedies – $237 Million False Act Judgment

In July 2018, the Department of Justice announced the enforcement of a $237 Million Dollar Judgment against a Healthcare System for Medicare Fraud – a judgment that was entered in May of 2013. The basis of the Medicare Fraud stemmed from violations of the Stark Act in which the medical system is forbidden from self-dealing. It is unlikely the government will see all that money however, as per the terms of the settlement the government will receive roughly $72 million dollars and the offending facilities will be sold off.

The Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Justice Department’s Civil Division stated, “Secret sweetheart deals between hospitals and physicians, like the ones in this case, undermine patient confidence and drive up healthcare costs for everybody, including the Medicare program and its beneficiaries “This case demonstrates the United States’ commitment to ensuring that doctors who refer Medicare beneficiaries to hospitals for procedures, tests and other health services do so only because they believe the service is in the patient’s best interest, and not because the physician stands to gain financially from the referral. The Department of Justice is determined to prevent the kind of abuses uncovered in this case, and we are willing to take such cases to trial to protect the integrity of the Medicare program.”

The Stark Law prohibits hospitals from billing Medicare for certain services (including inpatient and outpatient hospital care) that have been referred by physicians with whom the hospital has an improper financial relationship. The Stark Law has exceptions and exceptions to the exceptions so it is important to consult with a whistleblower law firm if you have knowledge of what you think may be improper self-dealing or a potential kickback type of situations.

At trial the government introduced evidence that the defendant required physicians to refer their outpatient procedures to them and then in turn overpaid them from Medicare for the referred procedures. They did so despite being cautioned that this could constitute medicare fraud and violations of the Stark Law. A jury heard the evidence and ruled for the government which was affirmed by the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals.

The case was initiated by a physician who had the courage to refuse to sign the illegal contract and thus retained a Whistleblower Law Form to commence a qui tam under the False Claims Act. The statute provides the whistleblower up to 30% recovery with 20% being the norm, and in this case the Doctor will receive a whistleblower award of roughly $18 million dollars for having the courage to do the right thing.

“The type of abusive compensation arrangements at issue in this case is precisely what the physician self-referral law was designed to prevent,” said Inspector General Dan Levinson of the Department of Health and Human Services-Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG). “Patients need and deserve to know that the hospital services they receive are the product of sound medical judgment, rather than motivated by the physician’s financial interests. The extensive litigation and settlement in this case should send a signal to the hospital industry that these tainted financial relationships simply will not be tolerated.”

If you know of any similar type of Medicare Fraud or are unsure about whether an arrangement in the health care field is legal or illegal you should consult with a whistleblower law firm like the JTB Law Group, LLC at (877) 561-0000. Generally, whistleblower lawyers are only paid if they win your case and can provide free confidential consultations.