Archive for June, 2015

$75.5 Million Settlement in Whistleblower Suit against VMware

VMware Inc. and Carahsoft Technology Corporation have agreed to pay $75.5 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by misrepresenting their commercial pricing practices and overcharging the government on VMware software products and related services, the Department of Justice announced today.  VMware is a Delaware corporation that specializes in computer virtualization software and has its principal place of business in Palo Alto, California.  Carahsoft is a privately held Maryland corporation that distributes information technology products to federal, state and local governments and has its principal place of business in Reston, Virginia.

“Today’s settlement demonstrates our continuing vigilance to ensure that those doing business with the government give the taxpayers a fair deal,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer, head of the Department of Justice’s Civil Division.  “Government contractors who seek to profit improperly at the expense of taxpayers face serious consequences.”

“Transparency by contractors in the disclosure of their discounts and prices offered to commercial customers is critical in the award of GSA Multiple Award Schedule contracts and the prices charged to government agency purchasers,” said U.S. Attorney Dana J. Boente of the Eastern District of Virginia.

“We will continue to look into all allegations of false claims in GSA contracts,” said Acting Inspector General Robert C. Erickson of the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA).  “I appreciate the hard work of our auditors, our agents and the attorneys on this complex case that has resulted in a large amount of money being returned to the United States.”

Under the Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) Program, prospective vendors agree to disclose commercial pricing policies and practices to the GSA in exchange for the opportunity to gain access to the broad federal marketplace and the ease of administration that comes from selling to any government purchaser under one central contract.  GSA regulations require that, during contract negotiations with GSA, prospective vendors seeking an MAS contract make “current, accurate and complete” disclosures of the standard and non-standard discounts they offer to commercial customers.  The GSA relies on the accuracy of these disclosures in order to negotiate fair pricing for government purchasers.  Additionally, after the MAS contract is awarded, regulations require that MAS Program vendors disclose to the GSA changes in their commercial pricing practices, including improved discounts that are offered to commercial customers, after the MAS contract is in place.

The settlement resolves allegations that VMware and Carahsoft made false statements to the government in connection with the sale of VMware products and services under Carahsoft’s MAS contract.  These false statements allegedly concealed the companies’ commercial pricing practices and enabled the companies to overcharge the government for VMware’s products and services from 2007 through 2013.

The civil settlement resolves a lawsuit filed under the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, which permits private parties to file suit on behalf of the United States for false claims and obtain a portion of the government’s recovery.  The civil lawsuit was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia by Dane Smith, who is a former vice president of the Americas at VMware Inc.  Mr. Smith’s share of the recovery has not been determined.

The settlement was the result of a coordinated effort by the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch, the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of Virginia and the GSA’s Office of Inspector General, with assistance from the Defense Criminal Investigative Service Mid-Atlantic Field Office.  The case is captioned United States ex rel. Smith v. VMware, Inc., et al., Case No. 10-CV-769 (E.D. Va.).  The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only; there has been no determination of liability.

 

Can Attorneys Still Be Whistleblowers?

Whistleblower Case

2000px-Northrop_Grumman.svgIn United States ex rel. Holmes v. Northrop Grumman Corp., No. 1:13-cv-00085-HSO-RHW (S.D. Miss. June 3, 2015), a district court tossed the whistleblower, who was an attorney, and his case because of a series of serious ethical misconduct including the blatant violation of court orders. Some are hailing the case as a “strong warning” and a “staunch reminder to attorneys that their ethical obligations are paramount,” suggesting that the order stands for the proposition that attorneys can rarely, if ever, be whistleblowers.
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James Hoyer Whistleblower Attorneys Win Favorable Tri Verdict

Whistleblower Attorneys

James Hoyer whistleblower attorneys Sean Estes and Jesse Hoyer swapped their suits for spandex to successfully complete the 2015 Crystal River Triathlon on June 13th. The triathlon included a 0.25 mile swim, a 15 mile ride, and a 3 mile run. Although Sean beat Jesse by a full four minutes, we consider both of them winners!

Congratulations on a great finish!
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Children’s Hospital to Pay $12.9 Million to Settle False Claims Act Allegations

The United States Department of Justice released this statement in regards to the settlement:

Children’s Hospital, Children’s National Medical Center Inc. and its affiliated entities (collectively CNMC) have agreed to pay $12.9 million to resolve allegations that they violated the False Claims Act by submitting false cost reports and other applications to the components and contractors of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), as well as to Virginia and District of Columbia Medicaid programs, the Department of Justice announced today.  CNMC is based in Washington, D.C., and provides pediatric care throughout the metropolitan region.

“The false reporting alleged in today’s settlement deprived the Medicare Trust Fund of millions of taxpayers’ dollars,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “Such conduct wastes critical federal health care program funds and drives up the costs of health care for all of us.”

“The integrity of federal health care programs depends on honest and accurate reporting from the hospitals and other health care providers that receive hundreds of billions of tax dollars every year,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Vincent H. Cohen Jr. of the District of Columbia.  “This settlement demonstrates our commitment to defending the integrity of the system and ensuring that taxpayer money goes to meet the most critical health care needs.  We will continue to work with whistleblowers like the former employee who came forward in this case to battle waste, fraud and abuse that fuel the skyrocketing cost of health care.”

According to the settlement agreement, CNMC misstated information on cost reports and applications in two distinct manners to HHS.  This false information was used by HHS and Medicaid programs to calculate reimbursement rates to CNMC.  The United States contended that CNMC misreported its available bed count on its application to HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration under the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) Payment Program.  The CHGME Payment Program provides federal funds to freestanding children’s hospitals to help them maintain their graduate medical education programs that train pediatric and other residents.  The United States further contended that CNMC filed cost reports misstating their overhead costs, resulting in overpayment from Medicare and the Virginia and District of Columbia Medicaid programs.

The settlement resolves allegations brought in a lawsuit filed under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act by James A. Roark Sr., a former employee of CNMC.  Under the act, a private citizen can sue on behalf of the United States and share in any recovery.  The United States is entitled to intervene in the lawsuit, as it did here.  As part of the resolution, Mr. Roark will receive $1,890,649.98.

This settlement illustrates the government’s emphasis on combating health care fraud and marks another achievement for the Health Care Fraud Prevention and Enforcement Action Team (HEAT) initiative, which was announced in May 2009 by the Attorney General and the Secretary of Health and Human Services.  The partnership between the two departments has focused efforts to reduce and prevent Medicare and Medicaid financial fraud through enhanced cooperation.  One of the most powerful tools in this effort is the False Claims Act.  Since January 2009, the Justice Department has recovered a total of more than $24.3 billion through False Claims Act cases, with more than $15.3 billion of that amount recovered in cases involving fraud against federal health care programs.

This matter was handled by the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the District of Columbia with assistance from the Civil Division’s Commercial Litigation Branch and the HHS’ Office of Inspector General.

The case is United States ex rel. Roark v. Children’s Hosp., et al., No. 1:14-cv-00616 (D.D.C.).

The claims resolved by the settlement are allegations only, and there has been no determination of liability.

 

Al Jazeera America Profiles Whistleblower Case Alleging Babies Endangered for Profit

James Hoyer Whistleblower Attorneys Represent Dr. Judy RobinsonDr. Judy Robinson, represented by James Hoyer whistleblower attorneys, filed a qui tam case that was the subject of an in-depth story on Al Jazeera America’s flagship news program America Tonight.  Dr. Robinson’s suit alleges poor, pregnant women and their newborn babies were put at risk in a fraud scheme designed to increase profit for Indiana’s largest healthcare system. Dr. Robinson’s suit alleges IU Health and HealthNet used midwives to care for high risk patients to save money.

Correspondent Lori Jane Gliha profiled high risk patients who suffered harm after getting the majority of care from midwives, instead of doctors.  Indiana Medicaid rules require that doctors handle the care of high risk, low income, pregnant mothers, not midwives, because complications can arise quickly and put mother and baby in danger. The video below is an excerpt from Gliha’s report.

 

 

First Tennessee Bank N.A. Agrees to Pay $212.5 Million to Resolve False Claims Act Liability Arising from FHA-Insured Mortgage Lending

First Tennessee Bank N.A. has agreed to pay the United States $212.5 million to resolve allegations that it violated the False Claims Act by knowingly originating and underwriting mortgage loans insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) Federal Housing Administration (FHA) that did not meet applicable requirements, the Justice Department announced today.  First Tennessee is headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee.

“First Tennessee’s reckless underwriting has resulted in significant losses of federal funds and was precisely the type of conduct that caused the financial crisis and housing market downturn,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Benjamin C. Mizer of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.  “We will continue to hold accountable lenders who put profits before both their legal obligations and their customers, and restore wrongfully claimed funds to FHA and the treasury.”

Between January 2006 and October 2008, First Tennessee, through its subsidiary First Horizon Home Loans Corporation (First Horizon), participated in the FHA insurance program as a Direct Endorsement Lender (DEL).  As a DEL, First Tennessee had the authority to originate, underwrite and endorse mortgages for FHA insurance.  If a DEL such as First Tennessee approves a mortgage loan for FHA insurance and the loan later defaults, the holder of the loan may submit an insurance claim to HUD, FHA’s parent agency, for the losses resulting from the defaulted loan.  Under the DEL program, neither the FHA nor HUD reviews a loan before it is endorsed for FHA insurance.  DELs such as First Tennessee are therefore required to follow program rules designed to ensure that they are properly underwriting and certifying mortgages for FHA insurance, to maintain a quality control program that can prevent and correct deficiencies in their underwriting practices and to self-report any deficient loans identified by their quality control program.  In August 2008, First Tennessee sold First Horizon to MetLife Bank N.A. (MetLife), a wholly-owned subsidiary of MetLife Inc., which thereafter originated FHA-insured mortgages under the MetLife name.  In February 2015, MetLife agreed to pay $123.5 million to resolve its False Claims Act liability arising from its FHA originations after it acquired First Horizon from First Tennessee.

Read rest of story here

 

Nearly 78,000 Service Members to Begin to Begin Receiving $60 Million Under Department of Justice Settlement with Navient for Overcharging on Student Loans

The Department of Justice announced today that this June, 77,795 service members will begin receiving $60 million in compensation for having been charged excess interest on their student loans by Navient Corp., the student loan servicer formerly part of Sallie Mae.  The payments are required by a settlement that the department reached with Navient last year to resolve the federal government’s first ever lawsuit filed against owners and servicers of student loans for violating the rights of service members eligible for benefits and protections under the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).  The United States’ complaint in that lawsuit alleged that three defendants (collectively Navient) engaged in a nationwide pattern or practice, dating as far back as 2005, of violating the SCRA by failing to provide members of the military the 6 percent interest rate cap to which they were entitled for loans that were incurred before the military service began.  The three defendants are Navient Solutions Inc. (formerly known as Sallie Mae, Inc.), Navient DE Corporation (formerly known as SLM DE Corporation), and Sallie Mae Bank.

The settlement covers the entire portfolio of student loans serviced by, or on behalf of, Navient.  This includes private student loans, Direct Department of Education Loans, and student loans that originated under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program.  Approximately 74 percent of the $60 million that is about to be distributed is attributable to private loans, 21 percent to loans guaranteed by the Department of Education and five percent to loans owned by the Department of Education.

The checks, which are scheduled to be mailed on June 12, 2015, will range from $10 to over $100,000, with an average of about $771.  Check amounts will depend on how long the interest rate exceeded 6 percent and by how much, and on the types of military documentation the service member provided.

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Garden State Cardiovascular Specialists P.C. Agrees to Pay $3.6 Million for Allegedly Submitting False Claims to Federal Health Care Programs

Garden State Cardiovascular Specialists P.C. (Garden State), a cardiology practice which owns and operates several facilities in New Jersey under the name NJ MedCare/NJ Heart, has agreed to pay more than $3.6 million to resolve allegations that its facilities falsely billed federal health care programs for tests that were not medically necessary, announced today by U.S. Attorney Paul J. Fishman for the District of New Jersey.

The settlement announced today resolves allegations that Garden State and its principals, Jasjit Walia M.D. and Preet Randhawa M.D., submitted claims to Medicare for various cardiology diagnostic tests and procedures, including stress tests, cardiac catheterizations and external counterpulsation, which were not medically necessary.

The allegations resolved by today’s settlement were raised in a lawsuit filed under the qui tam, or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.  The act allows private citizens with knowledge of fraud to bring civil actions on behalf of the government and to share in any recovery.  The whistleblower, Cheryl Mazurek, will receive more than $648,000 as part of today’s settlement.

The settlement is the culmination of an investigation conducted by special agents of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Scott J. Lampert.

Read rest of story here

 

Supreme Court Supports Narrow Interpretation of First-to-File Bar; Rejects Wartime Statute of Limitations

kbr-logoIn a rare unanimous decision last week, the United States Supreme Court issued a long-awaited opinion to False Claims Act (FCA) relator Benjamin Carter in the case of Kellogg, Brown & Root, Inc., et al v. U.S. ex rel. Carter, 575 U.S. ___ (2015). Justice Samuel Alito wrote for the undivided Court. Read More…