News & Cases


Bechtel and AECOM Will Pay $58 Million Over Improper Billings for Work Performed at Aging Nuclear Plant, Whistleblowers Share $13.7 Million Award

Bechtel Corp. and AECOM Energy & Construction Inc. have agreed to pay $58 million to resolve allegations that they billed the government for work that was never performed under a nuclear weapons plant cleanup contract.

Bechtel and AECOM were hired by the federal government to provide cleanup services at Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington. Dating back to the times of the Manhattan Project, Hanford is the most polluted nuclear site in the country.

The contractors spent several years trying to build a nuclear waste treatment plant. The construction project was no easy task, considering Hanford was once the top plutonium-producing plant in America. But it would seem that corporate greed got in the way of the plant's completion. Prosecutors found evidence that, over the years, the defendants billed the federal government for thousands of hours of work that was never performed.

According to Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Harrington, “It is stunning that, for nearly a decade, Bechtel and AECOM chose to line their corporate pockets by diverting important taxpayer funds from this critically essential effort.”...


SEC Rule Amendments Impact Whistleblower Award Determinations

SEC Rule Amendments Impact Whistleblower Award Determinations

Implemented in 2011, the SEC's whistleblower program has received more than 22,000 tips, secured over $2.5 billion in penalties and restitution, and awarded over $523 million to successful tipsters.

The Commission has just approved a set of amendments to the whistleblower program. Commissioners voted on a collection of proposals dating back to 2018. One of the proposed rules would give the agency the discretion to award the statutory maximum of 30% whenever the final amount would not surpass $2 million. This concept garnered support from the Commission, but the threshold has been adjusted to $5 million.

Another proposed rule would have granted the SEC discretion to reduce awards whenever monetary sanctions surpassed $100 million, but the commissioners voted against it.

After the SEC opened up the proposals for public comments, it received about 150 letters. Many respondents viewed the award reduction rule as a move to impose a cap on whistleblower bounties. A letter by Senators Sherrod Brown, Jack Reed, Elisabeth Warren, Patrick Leahy, Chris Van Hollen, and Cristopher Coons warned that "Regrettably, the Proposal could deter whistleblowers."...


Multinational Manufacturer Must Pay $22 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations Related to Customs Fraud

In September, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that a German multinational corporation, Linde GmbH, and its U.S. subsidiary Linde Engineering North America LLC (LENA), had agreed to pay more than $22.2 million to resolve allegations the company had evaded import tariffs by knowingly making false statements on customs declarations.

A whistleblower, identified only as Ms. Johnson, had come forward with information about the scheme and had filed a qui tam lawsuit in the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. For her information and subsequent assistance in the DOJ investigation, Ms. Johnson will receive about $3.7 million.

A calculated scheme to evade customs duties

Linde GmbH is a multinational corporation headquartered in Germany and a self-described leader in global industrial gases and engineering. Its 2019 revenues topped $28 billion. Linde claims a mission to “make our world more productive every day.” Among its many operations, Linde imports materials into the United States for use in the construction of natural gas and chemical manufacturing plants. ...


WV Hospital Hit with $50 Million Settlement for Stark Law Violations

On September 9, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that Wheeling Hospital in West Virginia had agreed to pay $50 million to settle allegations of an unlawful physician kickback scheme that took advantage of vulnerable patients. A former executive, fired for raising concerns that the scheme violated the Physician Self-Referral (Stark) Law and the Anti-Kickback Statute, filed a qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act and will receive a $10 million reward.

Fired whistleblower confronts former employers

During the dates in question, 2007 to 2020, Wheeling Hospital was under the direction and control of R&V Associates, Ltd., headed by Ronald Violi. At this time, Wheeling had a policy of paying compensation to physicians that were “above fair market value” and/or “based on the volume or value of the physicians’ referrals.”

When Louis Longo, who was an Executive Vice President at the hospital, voiced opposition to the plan, Mr. Violi fired him. Mr. Longo then filed a qui tam lawsuit under the federal False Claims Act, suing on behalf of the U.S. government. The Department of Justice intervened in the case and its investigation led to the settlement....


Scripps Research Institute Forced to Pay $10 Million For Misusing Funds from NIH Research Grants

On September 11, The U.S. Department of Justice announced an agreement for The Scripps Research Institute to pay $10 million to resolved allegations that it misused funds the National Institutes for Health had provided for medical research.

Instead of devoting their time entirely to the studies their grants were funding, researchers spent time “developing, preparing, and writing new grant applications, teaching, and engaging in other administrative activities.” A former tenured professor at TSRI, Dr. Thomas Burris acted as a whistleblower in the case and will receive a $1.75 million reward.

A high-pressure environment focused on generating revenue

The Scripps Research Institute is a non-profit biomedical research center with campuses in Jupiter, Florida and La Jolla, California. The highly regarded institute receives millions of dollars in grants from NIH every year. However, the activity within its walls was not consistent with its public image....


Industries for the Blind Will Pay $1.9 Million to Resolve Allegations that It Misrepresented Products as Blind-Made

Wisconsin-headquartered Industries for the Blind has agreed to pay $1.9 million to settle claims that they defrauded the U.S. by passing off China-made products as manufactured by the blind to secure lucrative government contracts.

The federal government hired Industries for the Blind, Inc. (IBI) to manufacture a wide array of products to incentivize the creation of jobs for disabled Americans. But instead of creating those much needed opportunities, the company allegedly bought the goods from China and employed sighted workers, pocketing hundreds of millions of dollars in the process.

With an unemployment rate of approximately 60 percent, one thing blind Americans don’t need is to have employment opportunities taken away, and yet, that is exactly what IBI did, a company insider claims....


Three Whistleblowers Share $3 Million Award After Exposing Medicare Fraud at Longwood’s Skilled Nursing Facilities in California

Three Whistleblowers Share $3 Million Award After Exposing Medicare Fraud at Longwood’s Skilled Nursing Facilities in California

California-headquartered Longwood Management Corporation and a large number of its affiliates have agreed to pay $16.7 million to settle Medicare fraud claims. Longwood’s alleged violations were brought to light by three whistleblowers, Judy Boyce, Benjamin Monsod, and Keith Pennetti, who will now share a $3 million award.

Longwood operates numerous skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) across California. According to two separate whistleblower lawsuits, over a period of nearly eight years, Boyce, Monsod, and Pennetti observed how the company pressured rehabilitation therapy specialists to bill the therapies they administered at the highest level of Medicare reimbursement.

Whistleblowers Expose Medicare Fraud

Between January of 2010 and April of 2012, Benjamin Monsod was a nurse assessment coordinator at Longwood’s Montrose Healthcare Center. In this position, also known as MDS coordinator, he was charged with designing care plans for residents; a task that likely allowed him to detect fraudulent billings based on inappropriate care plans and unnecessary rehabilitation therapy sessions....


Southwest Orthopaedic Specialists, an Oklahoma City Hospital, and a Hospital Management Company Will Pay $72.3 Million Over Anti-Kickback and Stark Law Violations

Southwest Orthopaedic Specialists, an Oklahoma City Hospital, and a Hospital Management Company Will Pay $72.3 Million Over Anti-Kickback and Stark Law Violations

An Oklahoma hospital, its manager and part-owner, the physician group that created the hospital, and two of the group's physicians will collectively pay $72.3 million to settle claims that they conspired to defraud the federal government and the State of Oklahoma.

The alleged kickback scheme was described in detail in a False Claims Act lawsuit filed against several defendants, including the Oklahoma Center for Orthopaedic and Multi-Specialty Surgery (OCOM), a surgical hospital; USP, a hospital management company; Southwest Orthopaedic Specialists (SOS), a group of orthopaedic surgeons; and two SOS physicians named Anthony L. Cruse and R.J. Langerman.

According to the whistleblower complaint, SOS, OCOM, and USP, the corporation that controls OCOM, conspired to defraud Medicare, Medicaid, TriCare, and Blue Cross Blue Shield Federal....


Novartis Will Pay $678 Million Over Illegal Kickbacks Involving Sham Doctor Events

Novartis Will Pay $678 Million Over Illegal Kickbacks Involving Sham Doctor Events

Novartis has agreed to pay $678 million to resolve allegations that it systematically violated the Anti-Kickback Statute in its marketing of Lotrel, Diovan, Tekturna, Exforge, Valturna, Tekamlo, and Starlix. Prosecutors alleged the drugmaker paid for lavish meals, golfing trips, and purported professional events at Hooters to induce doctors to prescribe its cardiovascular and diabetes drugs. According to the underlying lawsuit, high-prescribing physicians received hundreds of thousands of dollars for speaking at sham professional events.

According to the former Novartis sales representative who filed the complaint, the whistleblower’s former employer paid for nearly 80,000 of these sham events between 2002 and 2011. The Department of Justice later joined the False Claims Act lawsuit to try to recover funds paid by Medicare and other government health care programs for prescriptions tainted by the defendant’s alleged misconduct. The original lawsuit was filed in 2011, and the DOJ joined as a plaintiff in 2013.

The Justice Department’s investigation revealed that Novartis’s sham informational roundtables were often held at expensive restaurants like NYC’s Eleven Madison Park and D.C.’s Charlie Palmer Steak. In reality, prosecutors claimed, the roundtables were an excuse to treat physicians to fancy meals. In many cases, doctors got paid for speaking at events that never happened....


Governor Cuomo Signs Bill to Protect Healthcare Whistleblowers from Retaliation in The Context of The Pandemic

Governor Cuomo Signs Bill to Protect Healthcare Whistleblowers from Retaliation in The Context of The Pandemic

Governor Cuomo has signed an order to strengthen whistleblower protections for New York State’s health care workers. Described as, “An act to amend the labor law, in relation to prohibiting health care employers from penalizing employees because of complaints of employer violations,” New York Senate Bill S8397-A/A.10326 was sponsored by NYS Senator

Diane J. Savino and co-sponsored by NYS Senators Alessandra Biaggi, David Carlucci, Leroy Comrie, and Robert Jackson.

The New York State Senate’s website states that the new legislation “prohibits health care employers from penalizing employees because of complaints of employer violations,” providing “health care workers with greater whistleblower protections in the State of New York, so that patient care can improve and such workers can be safe.”

The act amends New York State’s labor law, creating “a new definition of ‘improper quality of workplace safety,’ where an employee is protected from employer retaliation if they report violations of this category.” Under the amended legislation, employees are also protected from retaliation if they report violations to news organizations or social media....