Whistleblower News & Articles
February 23, 2023
The theme of this year’s FBA Qui Tam conference was New Frontiers: Redefining the Landscape of the FCA. WLC’s Bruce Judge and Erica Blachman Hitchings were honored to speak at the conference. While there they also learned about case law and policy updates, best practices, and DOJ enforcement priorities. They had front row seats to Senator Grassley’s speech on “Protecting the False Claims Act” and to insights from officials at DOJ in charge of the Fraud Section and COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement.
Bruce’s panel focused on the Ethical Dos and Don’ts at Every Stage of a Qui Tam Case. The panelists examined the various ethical issues that relators, relators’ counsel, the government, and defense attorneys face during the life of a qui tam case. Topics included: (1) boundaries for relators’ counsel when collecting information in a digital age; (2) ethical obligations for all parties while a case is under seal; (3) limits to the government’s ability to question corporate employees; (4) an examination of how ethical considerations impact settlement form and incentives; and (5) post-settlement obligations. Joining Bruce on this panel was Ashley Bailey, Professional Responsibility Officer, DOJ; Lisa Meletta, DLA Piper; and Danielle Pelot, Choate Hall & Stewart. Moderating the panel was Giselle Joffre of Foley Hoag.
Erica moderated a panel focused on Settlement Landmines: New Dangers and How to Avoid Them. Recognizing that FCA settlements have always been more complex than the press releases suggest, the panel explored several questions: Has the landscape gotten even more treacherous over the past few years? Have DOJ policies relating to cooperation credit and corporate monitors changed the game? What about admissions in FCA civil settlements? The panelists tackled these issues and more, providing attendees with input from government, defense, and relator’s counsel perspectives. The panel also provided updates on relevant policies and caselaw. Panelists included Jillian Estes, Morgan Verkamp; Amy Hargreaves, Latham & Watkins; and Brian LaMacchia, Deputy Chief, Affirmative Civil Enforcement, U.S. Attorney’s Office, Boston.
With over $5 trillion in pandemic-related spending, it is no surprise that the U.S. Department of Justice will be pursuing fraud cases stemming from stimulus funding for the next decade. Among the government programs at issue are the Paycheck Protection Program, the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, the Main Street Lending Program, and the Employee Retention Credit Program.
Attendees heard from a panel of distinguished federal prosecutors on The Future of Pandemic Fraud Prosecution. In addition, two DOJ officials: Michael C. Galdo, Acting Director for COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement, and Jamie Ann Yavelberg, Director of the Civil Division’s Fraud Section, emphasized DOJ’s continuing commitment to pursuing pandemic fraud cases.
Cybersecurity is also a top DOJ Civil Fraud priority. Ms. Yavelberg’s expression of DOJ’s commitment to this area is echoed in DOJ press releases on FY 2022 and FY 2021 FCA recoveries.
Senator Grassley is considered the architect of the modern FCA. His work over the past almost-40 years has strengthened and protected the FCA. In his keynote remarks, he stressed the success of the FCA, the importance of whistleblowers, and his commitment to protecting the FCA. He called out some recent “absurd readings” and overly-restrictive interpretations of the FCA by some lower courts. Senator Grassley noted that in the past the Supreme Court and Congress have stepped in to set the record straight. He hopes they will do so again.
He concluded his remarks with what he considered most important:
The False Claims Act is the most powerful tool the government has to combat fraud, but it is the brave whistleblowers, let me emphasize, the brave whistleblowers, who make the law successful. Whistleblowers are the government’s eyes and ears in uncovering and deterring fraud. Without you, whistleblowers, the False Claims Act would simply not work.
The Whistleblower Law Collaborative thanks Senator Grassley for his longstanding devotion to the False Claims Act and whistleblowers.
Feb 27, 2015American Bar Association, Section of Public Contract Law, Recent Cases Interpreting the False Claims Act, and Consequences for Conducting Internal Investigations, Friday, August 8, 2014, from 9 a.m. to noon at...
Aug 6, 2019Whistleblower Law Collaborative LLC attorney Erica Blachman Hitchings, a former Department of Justice civil fraud prosecutor, will be speaking about the False Claims Act and other tools to combat fraud...
Feb 18, 2021One of the more astute things I learned from an experienced lawyer as I was coming out of law school three and a half decades ago was this: It’s much...