Atlanta, GA (PRWEB) March 4, 2009
Michael I. Behn, of Behn & Wyetzner, Chicago, Illinois, will give a whistleblower lawyer's perspective on developments in state False Claims Acts at the Annual Whistleblower Law Symposium in Atlanta, Georgia. The panel of state Medicaid fraud prosecutors and whistleblower lawyers will discuss "Coordinating State and Federal Whistleblower Cases under the State and Federal False Claims Acts." Other panelists will be Mark G. Bodner, Bureau Chief, Office of the Attorney General, Tallahassee; Florida, James J. Breen, The Breen Law Firm, P.A., Alpharetta, Georgia; Charles M. Richards, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Office of Attorney General, Atlanta, Georgia, and; Raymond C. Winter, Chief, Civil Medicaid Fraud Division, Austin, Texas.
The Georgia panel highlights the increasing number of states that protect taxpayers by encouraging whistleblowers to report frauds against the state. Citizen whistleblowers, called "relators," can file their own lawsuits under "qui tam" provisions of state False Claims Act. "Qui tam" suits employ a centuries-old legal tool that empowers citizens to sue on behalf of the state. Qui tam lawsuits under state False Claims Acts have "returned billions to the state coffers," says Behn, a former federal prosecutor.
"Relators are honest citizens who witness Medicaid fraud, procurement fraud and other frauds against taxpayers -- typically happening at their workplace," said Behn. "The qui tam provisions in False Claims Acts make it easier for whistleblowers to report the frauds to state officials." Qui tam False Claims Acts allow the government to collect up to three times the amount defrauded, plus significant civil penalties. Qui tam relators can receive protection from retaliation, as well as up to 30 percent of the governments' recovery.
"There's a new era of state leadership in working with qui tam relators to prosecute Medicaid fraud under state False Claims Acts," said Behn. "State Attorneys General are creating a potent force to combat Medicaid fraud by leading investigations with whistleblowers and whistleblowers' lawyers to protect taxpayers from liars, cheats and thieves. We'll have a great discussion about state qui tam cases in Atlanta, bringing together leading Medicaid fraud prosecutors from Florida, Georgia and Texas."
Last year, Behn again garnered national attention for representing a pharmacist-whistleblower in a $35 million multi-state Medicaid fraud settlement with Walgreens pharmacies of a qui tam False Claims Act case involving generic drug switching. Prior multi-state Medicaid fraud cases pursued by Behn and his pharmacist whistleblower client resulted in a $37 million qui tam settlement last year with CVS Caremark Corp., owner of CVS pharmacies, and a $50 million qui tam settlement in late 2006 with Omnicare, Inc., the nation's largest pharmacy for nursing homes.
Court filings and other details about these cases and qui tam relator pharmacists can be found at the reference Web site, http://www.PharmacyFraudSettlement.com. All three qui tam whistleblower cases were filed under federal and state False Claims Acts in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, Illinois, docket numbers 03 C 744 (Walgreens), 03 C 742 (CVS) and 01 C 7433 (Omnicare).
Behn repeatedly has been recognized as a national expert in the multi-state prosecution of qui tam cases under federal and state False Claims Acts. For years, Behn has served on national panels with state and federal Medicaid fraud prosecutors to teach other whistleblower lawyers about working with state and federal governments in multi-state qui tam prosecutions with relators.
Behn founded the Chicago, Illinois whistleblowers' law firm Behn & Wyetzner, Chartered, with his partner, employment-lawyer Linda Wyetzner. Behn was the first whistleblowers' "Lawyer of the Year" honoree by Washington, D.C.-based Taxpayers Against Fraud ("TAF"). TAF's members are attorneys and whistleblowers who pursue "qui tam" cases, under federal and state False Claims Acts, against companies that have defrauded the government, such as pharmacies and defense contractors. The qui tam lawyers' group lauded Behn's "tenacity, management skills and dedication" in his representation of relators under the False Claims Act.
Behn & Wyetzner is part of the Whistleblower Action Network, a team of attorneys who have dedicated their law practices to representing citizens-whistleblowers willing to help state and federal government efforts to fight fraud. Whistleblower Action attorneys include Steven H. Cohen of the Cohen Law Group in Chicago, Illinois, and L. Timothy Terry of The Terry Law Firm of Carson City, Nevada. Cohen and Terry have also achieved prominence in prosecuting qui tam actions under state False Claims Acts. Last year, Cohen represented the relator in a $400 million multi-state Medicaid fraud settlement with Merck Inc. involving the drugs Vioxx® and Zocor® (EDPA 00CV6158). Terry, during his 17 year tenure as a Medicaid fraud prosecutor with Nevada Attorney General's office, served as President of the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units, the organization uniting all state Medicaid fraud prosecutors.
Pharmacist whistleblower and Medicaid fraud cases are among many successful qui tam actions brought under federal and state False Claims Acts by the Whistleblower Action Network and Behn & Wyetzner, Chartered in Chicago, Illinois and throughout the country. Behn represented the plaintiffs in one of the largest whistleblower settlements in Chicago and Illinois, which resulted in Northrop Grumman paying $134 million to resolve qui tam claims involving defense contracts for the B-2 "Stealth" bomber. (N.D. Illinois No. 89 C 6111). Behn also represented the American Association of Retired Persons ("AARP") in a case upholding the constitutionality of Illinois' False Claims Act and its qui tam provisions before the state's Supreme Court (Illinois No. 97023).
Further details about the Whistleblower Action Network, Behn & Wyetzner, qui tam actions, relators, whistleblower protection, Medicare and Medicaid fraud, pharmaceutical and pharmacy fraud, procurement fraud, the federal False Claims Act, and state False Claims Acts can be found at http://www.WhistleblowerAction.com.
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