Florida Whistleblower Lawyer
Rewards For People Who “Blow The Whistle” On Frauds And Scams
When illegal or fraudulent activity takes place within a company or organization, it is often only the employees who can recognize it and bring it forward to the government’s attention. In order to encourage the reporting of fraud and wrongdoing, Congress and most states have enacted laws that reward citizens who report it to the government. These employees or citizens are knowns as “whistleblowers.”
Under the federal False Claims Act, an employee who reports the employer’s fraud is eligible to receive a minimum of 15% of what the government recovers. In cases where the recovery is in the millions, this is a very large reward for the employee who reports the fraud.
At Yormak Employment & Disability Law, we understand what it takes to pursue a whistleblowing case. We partner with the person or persons who seek to unveil the wrongdoing to ensure that their claim is recognized as a strong case and worth pursuing. Our involvement also works to make sure whistleblowers are compensated for their tip-off, evidence, and participation and helps safeguard the whistleblower’s anonymity and shield them against retaliation.
The Federal False Claims Act (FCA)
The False Claims Act (FCA) is a federal law that prohibits individuals or companies from making false or fraudulent claims for payment to the federal government. Under the FCA, anyone who “knowingly presents, or causes to be presented, a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval” or “knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used, a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim” is liable to the government for a civil penalty, as well as damages and legal fees.
The FCA applies to a wide range of government programs, including healthcare programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, defense contracts, and other federally funded programs. It also includes provisions that encourage employees and other private individuals to report fraud (known as the qui tam provision) and prohibits retaliation against employees who make such reports.
The Florida False Claims Act (FFCA)
The Florida False Claims Act (FFCA) is designed to both reward and protect whistleblowers who successfully report fraud being committed against the state government. Similar to federal law, it protects those who bring forward valid claims from retaliation by their employers and provides financial incentives for successful cases.
Filing a Qui Tam Lawsuit
The False Claims Act allows individuals, also known as “relators,” to file a lawsuit on behalf of the government to report fraud involving any federally funded program or contract. To file a qui tam lawsuit, the relator must have original, non-public information about the fraud. This means that the relator must be the first to report the fraud and cannot have learned about it through public sources or through the legal process.
The relator must file the qui tam case under seal, meaning that it is kept confidential while the government investigates the allegations. They must also serve a copy of the complaint and a written disclosure of the information to the Department of Justice (DOJ). The DOJ has the authority to investigate the allegations and decide whether to intervene in the case. If the DOJ declines to intervene, the employee may still pursue the case on their own.
If the government is successful in recovering money as a result of the lawsuit, the employee may be eligible for a reward, which is typically a percentage of the amount recovered.
Whistleblower Protections Against Retaliation
The FCA and FFCA both provide protections for whistleblowers from retaliation. This means that employers are prohibited from firing, demoting, suspending, threatening, or otherwise discriminating against employees who report fraud or participate in a qui tam lawsuit. Additionally, the law prohibits any actions taken to prevent or discourage an employee from blowing the whistle or participating in an action. If a whistleblower is retaliated against, they may be entitled to the reinstatement of their job or other benefits, double back pay with interest, attorneys’ fees and costs, as well as compensatory damages for emotional distress.
Common Actions Reported by Whistleblowers
Common actions reported by whistleblowers include:
- Submitting false or fraudulent claims for payment to the government
- Making false statements or omissions to obtain payment from the government
- Conspiring with others to defraud the government
- Double billing or overcharging the government
- Charging the government for goods or services that were not provided or were of inferior quality
- Knowingly concealing or avoiding an obligation to pay money or property to the government.
- Misusing government funds or property
- Engaging in kickbacks or bribes in connection with a government contract or program
- Retaliation against an employee who reports fraud against the government
Common Types of Fraud Reported by Whistleblowers
There are many types of fraud within our healthcare system. The most typical are charging for services not rendered, ghost patients (people who do not exist or who did not receive any treatment), kickbacks (including discounts, speaker’s fees, referral fees, finder’s fees and productivity bonuses, and other compensation). Upcoding services (to charge for a more expensive procedure than what was performed), bundling and unbundling services to bill for the greatest amount, and doing procedures that are not medically necessary are also tactics used.
Additionally, physicians, pharmaceutical company managers, hospitals, and other healthcare providers can falsely certify that they meet the government’s certification standards when they do not. Other types of healthcare fraud include research grant fraud, improper financial interest (the Stark Law), inflating cost reports and redlining, and Medicare Part D fraud which includes rebates, duplicate billing, and overcharging.
The most common pharmaceutical fraud is the off-label marketing of drugs. This is when the drug manufacturer markets their drug to treat symptoms and diseases the drug is not approved for and not proven effective for by the FDA. People with inside knowledge such as sales reps, pharmaceutical employees, and healthcare workers are usually the people who come forward. Illegal kickbacks include bonuses to physicians and hospitals and other financial incentives. Various illegal financial inducements, inflated Average Wholesale Pricing (AWP), concealed discounts and best price fraud are not uncommon schemes.
Construction companies that build subsidized housing, infrastructure, and office buildings charge the U.S. government billions of dollars annually. Many of these charges are inflated or falsified. Reporting bribes, kickbacks, or the use of substandard materials or workmanship, bid-rigging, and other illegal activities are actions whistleblowers can take.
Every year, the government is defrauded of billions of dollars by false good procurement claims for items such as office equipment, construction equipment, fuel, security, and consulting services. When a whistleblower reports these fraudulent practices they help protect both taxpayers and the public from those who are attempting to take advantage of the system.
Financial Industry Fraud
This type of fraud includes outright theft from investors, insider trading, pump-and-dump and Ponzi schemes, and front running. Some companies create false financial reports. Mutual fund fraud, which put investors at a disadvantage is also not unheard of. These types of fraud are also eligible for whistleblowers to report on.
Government Contract Fraud
Government contract fraud can involve bribery, false statements or omissions, kickbacks, hiding information about the contractor’s performance, and other deceptive practices with the intent of obtaining a government contract or payment.
Defense fraud can include overcharging the government for goods or services, providing inferior quality goods or services, accepting kickbacks in connection with a defense contract, and other deceptive practices.
Grant fraud can include misusing funds provided by a government grant, failing to disclose conflicts of interest, or making false statements or omissions on a grant application. Whistleblowers who come forward with information about these illegal activities help ensure that the government’s money is spent appropriately and in accordance with established regulations.
Government Program Fraud
Government program fraud includes false or inflated claims for benefits, misappropriation of funds intended for government assistance programs, and other deceptive practices with the intent of taking advantage of government benefits.
Fraud Involving the Use of Government Funds or Property
Fraud involving the use of government funds or property can include activities such as embezzlement and theft, as well as the illegal conversion of government funds or property for private gain.
Tax fraud can include activities such as improper deductions, underreporting income or overstating expenses, filing false or incomplete tax returns, and failure to pay taxes.
Some Recent Whistleblower Cases And Rewards
We have helped numerous whistleblowers get the compensation they deserve and the financial reward to the employee in these kinds of cases has been tremendous:
- March 2021: $22 million employee reward (for the Government’s recovery of $105 million)
- February 2021: $1.9 million employee reward (for the Government’s recovery of $11.2 million)
- January 2021: $25 million employee reward (for the Government’s recovery of $25 million)
- August 17, 2016: A former medical assistant who worked for Dr. David Spellberg of Naples Urology Associates in Florida, a division of 21st Century Oncology, will receive a whistleblower award of $37,500 from the $250,000 Florida urologist Robert A. Scappa, a urologist with 21st Century Oncology division Scappa Urology, agreed to pay to resolve allegations that he violated the False Claims Act. The urologist caused claims to be submitted to federal health care programs for laboratory tests that were not medically necessary. The whistleblower previously received a whistleblower award of $3.2 million from the $19.75 million settlement previously reached with 21st Century Oncology. The medical assistant was represented by Benjamin H. Yormak.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much do Florida Whistleblower Lawyers Cost?
At Yormak Employment & Disability Law, Florida whistleblowers don’t have to pay anything out of pocket for representation. We take Florida whistleblower cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning that if there is no recovery, you won’t owe us any legal fees or expenses. Our team will investigate your case and determine the best strategy going forward. If compensation is recovered, our law firm will receive a portion of the settlement or award. This provides an incentive for us to pursue your case aggressively and zealously advocate on your behalf.
Who can file a Florida False Claims Act lawsuit?
Anyone with knowledge of fraud involving Florida-based companies or government programs can file a Florida False Claims Act lawsuit. This includes employees, contractors, and other individuals who suspect wrongdoing. If you are the first to provide information leading to the successful prosecution of a Florida FCA claim, you may be eligible for compensation.
Can I file an anonymous Florida False Claims Act suit?
Yes, Florida False Claims Act suits can be filed anonymously. However, an individual must provide their name and contact information to the court before a lawsuit can be brought on their behalf. The Florida Whistleblower Lawyers at Yormak Employment & Disability Law understand the need for confidentiality and take every measure to ensure that your identity is protected throughout the process. We will help you fill out the necessary paperwork and file your Florida False Claims Act lawsuit anonymously if that is your preference. Contact us for a confidential consultation to discuss your Florida whistleblower case today.
What is the process for filing a Florida False Claims Act lawsuit?
The process for filing a Florida False Claims Act lawsuit is relatively straightforward but can be complex and time-consuming. First, you would need to retain a Florida Whistleblower Lawyer to evaluate your case and file the necessary paperwork with the court. The Florida Whistleblower Lawyer will then assess the evidence of fraud, draft the complaint, and submit a sealed copy of the complaint to the Florida Attorney General. The Florida Attorney General will then review the evidence and decide whether or not to pursue the case.
How long does a Florida False Claims Act case typically take to resolve?
The length of time it takes to resolve a Florida False Claims Act case depends on multiple factors, including the complexity of the case and the willingness of the defendant to settle or litigate. Generally speaking, Florida False Claims Act cases can take anywhere from 6 months to several years for both settlement negotiations and litigation.
Can Your Information Lead To A Financial Reward?
If you believe your employer is committing fraud or a violation of Florida whistleblower law, contact Yormak Employment & Disability Law for help. Our Florida Whistleblower Attorney, Benjamin Yormak, is one of the few board-certified employment law experts in Florida and can provide you with the advice and guidance needed to seek justice. Don’t wait—contact us today for a confidential consultation. Together we can help you get the compensation that you deserve for blowing the whistle on your employer.