Experienced Whistleblower Litigation Attorneys from Houston, Texas

Have You Witnessed Fraud or Abuse?

whistleblower litigation

We Serve Those Seeking Justice

After over 42 years of representing clients nationwide, we can tell you that most people don’t plan to become a whistleblower. It’s a situation you find yourself in when you witness fraud happening around you – something that compels you to take action and stop it. This is never an easy decision to make. In whistleblower litigation, you need an experienced legal team in your corner. Here at Fleming, Nolen and Jez, our attorneys and staff have the know-how to guide you through the process. We’ve helped countless whistleblowers just like you stop fraudsters and abusers in their tracks. When you decide to blow the whistle, we’ll stand by your side and fight to protect your rights every step of the way. With our decades of experience, you can trust that someone has your back.

What is a whistleblower?

A whistleblower is a person who exposes information or an activity that is deemed illegal, unethical, or corrupt within an organization or company. Some key characteristics of whistleblowers:

  • They are usually employees or former employees of the company they are exposing.
  • They disclose information that reveals wrongdoing, fraud, abuse, waste, or dangers towards the public. This is often information that the organization/company wants to keep secret.
  • Their revelations put them at risk of retribution or retaliation from the organization, such as being fired, sued, or harassed.
  • Whistleblowers may report misconduct internally to people in authority or externally to regulators, law enforcement, media, watchdog groups, etc.
  • Their motivations can range from wanting to correct a wrong, expose injustice, protect public health/safety, or claim a reward. However, they often face skepticism about their motives.
  • Laws do exist to protect whistleblowers from retaliation, but they are not foolproof. Whistleblowers may still face negative consequences.

Whistleblower Protections and Rewards in the United States

Laws

There are dozens of federal, state, and local laws that offer protections and rewards for whistleblowers. These laws help keep whistleblower identities confidential, provide financial incentives for reporting wrongdoing, allow whistleblowers to file lawsuits on behalf of the government, offer remedies for retaliation, and aim to provide neutral decision-makers during hearings and fraud trials.

Rewards

Reward amounts can depend on how much the whistleblower contributed to successful prosecutions. Anyone can report fraud or abuse under these laws as long as there is a connection to the United States. According to the Department of Justice, in Fiscal Year 2020 alone, the U.S. government recovered over $2.2 billion in FCA settlements and judgements. Over $1.6 billion of that can be attributed to whistleblower-initiated cases. Since 2011, over $43 billion has been collected and nearly $7 billion paid out in rewards to whistleblowers under these laws.  

Retaliation

Remedies for retaliation include back pay, reinstatement, damages, and attorney’s fees. However, retaliation protections have gaps, and examples of such cases have been decided against the whistleblower.

Famous Whistleblowers

Jeffrey Wigand

Jeffrey Wigand was a tobacco company executive who exposed damaging industry secrets. He had been a vice president at Brown & Williamson but was fired in 1993 after raising concerns. After leaving the company, he provided insider information to the FDA and CBS News about Brown & Williamson manipulating nicotine levels and lying about addiction. Wigand lost his well-paid job at Brown & Williamson, and ended up teaching high school for a much lower salary after blowing the whistle. His marriage also dissolved under the strain. However, the information Wigand provided was instrumental in revealing the tobacco companies’ deceit around nicotine addiction. This ultimately contributed to tighter FDA regulations on the tobacco industry.

Jeffrey Wigand
sherron watkins

Sherron Watkins

Sherron Watkins was an Enron vice president who warned CEO Kenneth Lay in 2001 detailing her concerns about questionable accounting practices and off-the-books partnerships ran by CFO Andrew Fastow. Watkins urged Lay to come clean and get an independent investigation started, but he did not heed her advice. Enron ended up collapsing two months later. Congress shared Sherron’s memo to the public and hailed her as a whistleblower who had tried to warn of impending problems during the Enron fraud trials.

What is the False Claims Act (FCA)?

There are many different types of whistleblower laws. The first was enacted during the civil war in 1863 by President Abraham Lincoln known as the False Claims Act (FCA). During that time, many suppliers were providing subpar goods and services to the troops. In an effort to counter this, the FCA was passed to target fraud in government contracting. Today, FCA is one of the strongest whistleblower laws in the United States. According to the The U.S. Department of Justice, “The FCA provided that any person who knowingly submitted false claims to the government was liable for double the government’s damages plus a penalty of $2,000 for each false claim.  The FCA has been amended several times and now provides that violators are liable for triple the damages plus a penalty that is linked to inflation.”

FCA covers a wide variety of claims including but not limited to defense contract fraud, tax fraud, construction and procurement fraud and health care fraud. Under the FCA, any person or organization who submits a false claim to the government is subject to civil penalties for each false claim made.

Qui Tam

Qui Tam is an important provision which allows any individual or non-governmental organization to file a lawsuit, in U.S. District Courts, on behalf of the United States government. Under this provision, individuals who confidentially report instances of fraud leading to financial losses for the federal government can be eligible for compensation. If the information they provide results in a successful legal action, these whistleblowers are entitled to receive a reward ranging from 15% to 30% of the recovered funds. These rewards frequently amount to significant sums due to the fact that, under the False Claims Act, wrongdoers can be held accountable for both civil penalties and triple the damages incurred.

Our False Claims Act (FCA) Lawyers

Attorneys Rand Nolen, David Hobbs, and Gregory Brown have valuable experience and success in Whistleblower Litigation and with FCA cases. For sample, they have recently represented a physician in a longstanding False Claims Act case against a surgeon performing malpractice on innocent patients. This case involved improper governmental reimbursement for medically unnecessary claims by the surgeon and two hospitals. Due to the bravery of our client, we were able to help put an end to the unnecessary procedures that were being performed on innocent patients for profit.

What Does “First to File” Mean?

In the False Claims Act, “first to file” is a provision that states that whoever files first is the only person with a right to the compensation of that claim. Future allegations will be barred if they state the same facts that were disclosed in another whistleblower claim or prior qui tam case.

The “first to file” clause has two main aims:

  1. To incentivize timely whistleblower reports to the government
  2. To discourage additional lawsuits that either do not allege a different type of fraud or could not result in a separate and distinct recovery.

Medicare or Medicaid Fraud

According to the Office of Inspector General on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services website, “It is illegal to submit claims for payment to Medicare or Medicaid that you know or should know are false or fraudulent. Filing false claims may result in fines of up to three times the programs’ loss plus $11,000 per claim filed.”

whistleblower lawsuits

Understanding Medicare Fraud & Abuse

Medicare fraud can be categorized as either fraud, scams, abuse, or waste against the program. This is regardless if whether it was intentional deception or unintentional. Abuse and scams rob the federal Medicare program of millions of dollars every year and can eventually affect each Medicare beneficiary.

Medicare Fraud

Medicare fraud is when a health care provider such as a doctor or pharmacist knowingly and purposely claim reimbursement from Medicare for which they are not entitled to. This can involve altering certain codes assigned to specific billable services to reflect a higher level service than what was actually performed (called “upcoding”), double billing, or billing for unnecessary services. We’ve represented many whistleblowers who witnessed this type of illegal activity firsthand – providers scamming the system to line their own pockets with taxpayer money. But these fraudsters underestimate the power of people who take a stand.

Medicare Scams

Medicare scams can occur when individuals pose as health care providers to gather and use a Medicare beneficiary’s personal information to receive health care or money they are not entitled to. Scams can also be carried out by Medicare beneficiaries who exploit the Medicare system for personal gain.

Medicare Abuse

Medicare abuse occurs when a health care provider unknowingly or unintentionally seeks a payment from Medicare that they are not entitled to. One example of Medicare abuse is when a doctor makes a mistake on a billing invoice and accidentally requests for a non-deserved reimbursement. This can also include accepting kickback payments on behalf of a pharmaceutical company or medical device supplier in exchange for recommending or prescribing patients to use the product.

It’s been estimated that the cost of improper Medicare payments in 2016 alone was roughly $60 billion, or more than $1,000 per beneficiary. Medicare’s payment error rate was cited at around 11 percent, or roughly one out of every nine claims. Strong oversight, fraud prevention systems and whistleblowers are essential to reduce improper payments and fraud.

Need to Expose Fraud or Abuse on a Business or Organization?

Going against a massive employer or corporation can feel intimidating, even when it’s the right thing to do. At Fleming, Nolen & Jez, our personal injury and mass tort lawyers have dedicated their careers to fighting for the rights of injured victims throughout the United States. Like with our other practice areas, our attorneys can help guide you through the process of filing your claim so you can hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions. Contact us today to have our team review your case.