Articles Posted in Hurricane Katrina and Other Disaster Relief Fraud

2007 has been a most significant year for whistleblowers. The whistleblower lawyer blog attorneys look back on some of the milestones:

1. As soon as Congress authorized the first meaningful IRS Whistleblower Rewards Program to pay tax whistleblowers 15-30% of IRS recoveries from those who violate the tax laws by statue effective on December 20, 2006, beginning in January our whistleblower lawyers submitted some of the first IRS Whistleblower claims in the nation under the new law. Our IRS Whistleblower cases have continued to grow throughout the year.

2. Our IRS whistleblower submissions have led to criminal and civil investigations over tax cheating, and our whistleblower clients are in a position to receive 15-30% of the amount of collected proceeds (including penalties, interest, additions to tax, and additional amounts) recovered by the IRS.

Some of the country’s leading attorneys in qui tam whistleblower cases and IRS Whistleblower cases will gather for the “First Annual Whistleblower Law Symposium,” which will take place at the Georgia State Bar Headquarters on Thursday, September 20, beginning at 9:00 a.m. (See Agenda below). This Whistleblower Law Symposium is organized and co-chaired by the authors of this whistleblower lawyer blog, Michael A. Sullivan and Richard W. Hendrix.

The presenters will include the very successful Pat O’Connell of the Texas Attorney General’s Office, whose group has recovered more than $216 million in health care fraud cases since 1999; and Jim Breen, who has represented relator Ven-A-Care of the Florida Keys Inc. in many very substantial qui tam cases, including the action that led to last week’s announcement by DOJ of a settlement with Aventis Pharmaceuticals Inc.

In addition, Steve Cowen of King & Spalding, LLP will chair a discussion of issues in defending False Claims Act cases; Marlan Wilbanks and other relators’ counsel will speak as well; and Charlie Richards of the Georgia Attorney General’s Office and Georgia’s Inspector General Doug Colburn will discuss the new Georgia State False Medicaid Claims Act.

We will also discuss the bill introduced last week by Senators Grassley, Durbin, Specter, and Leahy to make substantial modifications to the federal False Claims Act, the “False Claims Act Correction Act of 2007.” (See http://grassley.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=PressReleases.Detail&PressRelease_id=fac0a482-1321-0e36-ba6f-0150b8a2b182&Month=9&Year=2007).

Further, my partner Richard Hendrix and I will explain and discuss the new IRS Whistleblower Program created by Congress in December 2006. I spent several hours this past week in Washington with the Director of the new IRS Whistleblower Office, Stephen Whitlock, to prepare for and appear in a panel discussion to explain the new IRS Whistleblower Program. I also enjoyed lunch with the lead IRS official responsible for IRS Whistleblower claims in the financial services industry, Stuart Mann, and with Nicole Cammarota, an IRS official who is working on the new regulations. There is a great deal of excitement about this new IRS Whistleblower program, which rewards citizens who report large tax fraud, tax evasion, and other tax law violations to the IRS. (Our firm is pursuing a variety of IRS Whistleblower cases across the country.)

For anyone who believes that taxpayers pay too much to allow fraud against the federal and state governments, these exciting new developments in the law are important.

We are excited to be hosting this Whistleblower Law Symposium, and to discuss recent developments in the False Claims Act, the new state False Claims Acts, and the new IRS Whistleblower Program. The Agenda for the Symposium is below.
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We found a very interesting article from last week’s Legal Times, with an excerpt of interest to whistleblower lawyers as follows:

“Last fall, the Justice Department launched a National Procurement Fraud Task Force to focus “resources at all levels of government to increase criminal enforcement” in areas of procurement fraud. The stepped-up attention to this area throughout the government may signal that the $3.1 billion record in federal fraud recoveries in 2006 could soon be broken. More than 50 inspectors general from across all government departments and agencies also are actively pursuing thousands of investigations.”

“In addition, powerful newly installed Democratic committee and subcommittee chairs in Congress are launching dozens of oversight investigations of alleged government and contractor abuses, focusing on the reconstruction effort in Iraq and in the U.S. Gulf Coast following Hurricane Katrina, numerous areas of military and homeland-security procurement, the pricing of pharmaceuticals and other significant areas of federal contracting. For instance, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman, D-Calif., in the first week of February began one set of hearings on alleged waste, fraud and abuse by government contractors in Iraq and another set of hearings on alleged overcharging by drug companies in federal health programs.”

We have been working with the IRS to bring information about large tax cheating to the IRS’s attention, so that clients can participate in the new IRS Whistleblower rewards. The IRS officials sound excited to have this new tool at their disposal, and we are happy to help our whistleblower clients obtain the new rewards. Our latest one deals with fraud in the Hurricane Katrina relief effort, where the public and government have been cheated out of what appears to be many millions of dollars.

We find it especially exciting when a qui tam whistleblower client also has information that qualifies the client to participate in the new IRS whistleblower rewards. This new IRS law enacted in late December 2006 provides for rewards to the whistleblower of 15 to 30% of the government’s recovery of taxes, interest, and penalties when income has been under-reported or underpaid.

You might be interested to know that the new IRS whistleblower program is different than the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, the main tool the government has had to date for combating fraud. The IRS whistleblower program permits payments of up to 10% of the government’s recovery, even when the whistleblower is not an “original source” of the information.

We all remember how Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita left the Gulf Coast devastated. As government agencies began to provide disaster relief with public dollars, dishonest contractors saw a huge opportunity for fraud against the government. Too many FEMA contracts have been the targets of dishonest contractors.

The “watchdogs” of the federal government agencies–the various Inspectors General of the many agencies involved in Katrina relief–have combined their efforts and sent hundreds of auditors to the Gulf region to examine fraud and mismanagement of Katrina contracts. The Inspectors General website on Hurricane Katrina fraud describes these efforts.

We learn more about Hurricane Katrina fraud each time we are contacted by a potential whistleblower client who has something new to report. Many whistleblowers have acted to help the government stop this fraud by filing qui tam lawsuits under the False Claims Act, which can provide the whistleblower a share of the government’s recovery of money damages and penalties, as well as attorney’s fees and expenses.