Without Jim and other relators, billions of dollars in fraud would go undetected," said former prosecutor Michael I. Behn. "The qui tam provisions in False Claims Act empower whistleblowers to help the government prosecute defense contracting frauds.
Chicago, IL (PRWEB) July 12, 2010
Michael I. Behn, of Behn & Wyetzner, Chartered in Chicago, Illinois, gave a whistleblower lawyer's perspective on procurement and defense contracting fraud cases at the American Bar Association's National Institute on the Civil False Claims Act and Qui Tam Enforcement. The "qui tam" provision of the federal False Claims Act is a centuries-old legal tool that empowers citizens to sue when they witness fraud against the government. According to the American Bar Association, "(t)he Civil False Claims Act is the fastest growing area of federal litigation, particularly because of its unique qui tam enforcement mechanism."
The ABA's National Institute brought together national experts in the field to train prosecutors, corporate counsel and other attorneys about trends and tactics in False Claims Act litigation. Behn spoke on a panel discussing "Settlement of a False Claims Act Procurement Case," moderated by Art Coulter, Trial Attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice. Also included were representatives from the U.S. Navy and defense contractors. The panel discussed lessons learned from various False Claims Act settlements of cases involving procurement and defense contract fraud.
The American Bar Association program highlights the role of whistleblowers in protecting members of the armed forces and taxpayers. The "qui tam" provisions of the False Claims Act encourage citizens with knowledge of fraud against the government (called "relators") to work with government agents in prosecuting false claims. Qui tam relators can receive between 15 and 30 percent of the governments' recovery.
Behn and his whistleblower clients have worked closely with the Department of Defense for over 15 years. In comments after the program, Behn highlighted a case by his client, James Holzrichter, against Northrop Grumman Corporation as an example of how courageous whistleblowers can make a significant impact in fighting defense contracting fraud.
Holzrichter was employed at Northrop's Defense Systems Division near Chicago, where Northrop designed and built Electronic Countermeasure devices for various military aircraft including the B-1, B-2, and F-15. After being assigned to conduct internal audits of material accounting, Holzrichter uncovered what he believe to be systemic fraud in the company's accounting for materials and costs. He voluntarily reported the conduct to the Department of Defense, and fully cooperated with the government's investigation. Holzrichter lost his job after his cooperation was discovered, and was left destitute.
Holzrichter's qui tam action was filed in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, Illinois (No. 89 C 6111). The False Claims Act allows the government to collect up to three times the amount defrauded, plus significant civil penalties.
Holzrichter and Behn worked together for over a decade in litigation against Northrop, overcoming numerous personal and legal obstacles before forcing the company to settle. "Jim's a remarkable man and courageous citizen who had the integrity and fortitude to take action," said Behn. "Without Jim and other relators, billions of dollars in fraud would go undetected. The qui tam provisions in False Claims Act empower whistleblowers to help the government prosecute defense contracting frauds."
The case settled in 2005, with Northrop paying $134 million. It was the largest settlement in Illinois that year.
Both Holzrichter and Behn have received national honors for their roles in aiding the government's prosecution of defense contracting fraud. Holzrichter was honored as a "Whistleblower of the Year," for creating a mentoring program for relators after succeeding in his arduous battle with Northrop. Behn had also been honored as the first whistleblowers' "Lawyer of the Year" 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. The qui tam lawyers' group lauded Behn's "tenacity, management skills and dedication" in his representation of Holzrichter and other relators under the False Claims Act.
Behn also represented successful qui tam whistleblowers in a $15 million defense contracting fraud settlement with Chicago advertising agency Leo Burnett involving false claims to the Army in connection with the "Army of One" and other advertising campaigns. The case was also handled in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, Illinois (No. 04 C 3897).
Behn founded the Chicago, Illinois whistleblowers' law firm Behn & Wyetzner, Chartered, with his partner, employment-lawyer Linda Wyetzner, who was formerly an attorney for the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists.
Behn & Wyetzner garnered national attention for representing a pharmacist-whistleblower in a recovering over $120 million in Medicaid fraud settlements with Walgreens, CVS and Omnicare pharmacies. All three qui tam whistleblower cases were filed under in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, Illinois, docket numbers 03 C 744 (Walgreens), 03 C 742 (CVS) and 01 C 7433 (Omnicare).
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.
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.
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.