A colleague has suggested to me –my first blog comment—that I introduce myself, explain my expertise and experience in this area, and explain why I am writing this False Claims Act/Qui Tam blog. So, here goes:
First, as to my experience, I have practiced law here in Tampa and throughout Florida for over 20 years, and much of my practice has concentrated in the areas of white collar criminal defense and the defense of regulatory matters. A number of the white collar matters that I have defended involved allegations of health care fraud. Though many of these cases were criminal, over the years the criminal health care fraud cases gave way to more and more cases and investigations involving health care fraud related False Claims Act and qui tam cases. I see far more False Claim Act cases now than ever before.
I served as U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Florida from 2008 to 2010. The Middle District of Florida has traditionally been one of the nation’s most active districts in the prosecution of health care fraud cases and in the number of qui tams filed, and that was certainly true when I served. As U.S. Attorney, I oversaw numerous investigations and prosecutions of False Claims Act matters, qui tams, and health care fraud cases, including U.S. v. WellCare Health Plan, Inc., which arose from a qui tam filed in the Middle District of Florida.
Second, I write about the False Claim Act and qui tams because I have genuine interest in the False Claims Act statute, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729–3733, and how it is applied in practice. It is an incredibly powerful weapon to combat fraud given its treble damages, fees, ruinous penalties, and in some industries, terrible collateral consequences if a company is found to have violated it. In my experience, the government often uses it aggressively, especially while the cases are under seal and it is able to apply maximum settlement leverage. Add to that weapon, the financial incentives enjoyed by relators and plaintiffs’ counsel to bring such suits and you have a formidable threat to corporations who receive funds from either the state or the federal government.
Third, in blogging about the False Claim Act and qui tams, my first aim is to share with readers on a weekly basis the cases and news about the False Claims Act and qui tams that I believe are important to understanding the statute and practicing in this area. Though I will try to provide such information objectively and direct readers to my sources, including other blogs, this blog will not be some disembodied voice that only reports the news-of-the-day about the False Claims Act and qui tam. Rather, in light of my experience in criminal and civil, both as a defense attorney and as U.S. Attorney, I have a point of view which I hope that readers will find interesting and helpful in the subject: A healthy skepticism about how government wields and applies this powerful statute and about relators who bring these matters due to the huge financial rewards. That said, I certainly believe in the need for such a statute, recognize that government spending with private companies can be fertile ground for fraud to occur, and have seen far too many well-founded cases and well intentioned relators to doubt the importance and usefulness of the statute. (Please note: My views expressed in this blog are solely mine and do not represent the firm’s. I speak for myself only and do not speak for Phelps Dunbar LLP.).
Readers, this blog is not a soliloquy. I hope this site will serve as a forum for discussion about the False Claims Act practice. Please share your experiences with the False Claims Act and qui tams and do not hesitate to comment about what you read here. Also, I invite you to contact me directly and let me know what you would like to hear about on the blog or to share any cases, documents or other blogs and websites that you believe should be posted or cited.
A. Brian Albritton