Chicago, IL (PRWEB) September 22, 2009
Michael I. Behn, of Behn & Wyetzner, Chartered, Chicago, Illinois, will give a whistleblower lawyer's perspective on recent multi-billion dollar Medicaid Fraud settlements, and on amendments strengthening the False Claims Act at a seminar today sponsored by the Chicago Bar Association. The panel of Illinois prosecutors and former prosecutors will discuss "Pfizer and Lilly: The Largest FCA Settlements to Date and Recent Amendments to the Federal False Claims Act." Other panelists will be James Kole, Bureau Chief, Consumer Fraud, Office of the Illinois Attorney General, Robert W. Kent, Baker & McKenzie LLP, Andray K. Napolez, Baker & McKenzie LLP, and Harpreet Khera, Office of the Illinois Attorney General.
The Chicago Bar Association panel highlights the continuing importance of the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act in protecting taxpayer funds from fraud. Just this past year, two qui tam cases brought by whistleblowers broke new ground with billion dollar Medicaid Fraud settlements. In January 2009, the government and qui tam relators achieved a $1.4 billion dollar Zyprexa® settlement against Eli Lilly under the federal and state False Claims Acts (Eastern District of Pennsylvania, No. 03-943). In September 2009, a qui tam settlement with Pfizer settlement recovered $2.3 billion for Medicaid Fraud involving Bextra® under federal and state False Claims Acts (District of Massachusetts, No. 05-CV-02115)
Also this year, Congress enacted amendment strengthening the False Claims Act, under the "Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act of 2009" (FERA). The amendments were designed to further protect public funds from fraud by: (1) making it clear that all recipients of federal funds are subject to the False Claims Act, regardless of whether or not they deal directly with the government; (2) strengthening whistleblower protection from retaliation for qui tam relators; (3) clarifying that states with their own False Claims Acts are part of qui tam cases from the outset, and; (4) making it easier for the U.S. Department of Justice to pursue records in a False Claims Act investigation.
"This year has underscored the continuing vitality of the False Claims Act in protecting public funds, which are being spent at record levels through TARP, stimulus and bailout programs," said Behn, a former federal prosecutor. "The insidious nature of these frauds makes it vital to encourage and protect whistleblowers."
Behn was in the news at the beginning of the year for representing Chicago whistleblowers in a $15.5 qui tam settlement with advertising agency Leo Burnett for alleged fraud in Army procurement contracts (Northern District of Illinois, No. 04 C 3897). Behn has been nationally recognized for representing qui tam relators in cases involving defense contracting fraud and other procurement frauds.
"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 pave the way for whistleblowers to report the frauds to government 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.
Last year, Behn had also 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 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.
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.
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. (Northern District of Illinois, No. 89 C 6111).
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.