Posts Tagged ‘military’

Criminal Charges Filed in Ed4Mil Military Education Whistleblower Case

The Department of Justice filed criminal charges in a military education whistleblower case first exposed by whistleblower and James Hoyer client Adam Boyce. Boyce came forward to the government after concerns that Army National Guard members were being subjected to a bait and switch for online certificate courses, that were marked up in cost by 6-times and more when sold to military personnel.

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Las Vegas Paper Profiles Case of James Hoyer Military Whistleblower

The Las Vegas Review-Journal did an in-depth profile on the case Lt Col Timothy Ferner, the military officer who came forward to blow the whistle on fraud, waste and abuse he witnessed at Nellis Air Force Base.  Information exposed by Ferner, a James Hoyer client, led to a nearly $6 million settlement with giant defense contractor SAIC.

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Members of the Military Acting as Whistleblowers in Qui Tam Cases

Can a member of the military or other government employee serve as a whistleblower in a qui tam case under the False Claims Act?

Ferner

Lt. Col. Timothy Ferner
SAIC Whistleblower

The short answer is “yes” — military personnel and other government employees can serve as whistleblowers/relators in a qui tam action pursuant to the federal False Claims Act.  But, the path must be navigated carefully to ensure the relator’s success.

Case in point: the James Hoyer law firm recently announced the settlement of a qui tam case between the United States and Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) that was filed by a member of the military.  In that case, James Hoyer had the privilege of representing a very courageous relator, Timothy Ferner, who was a lieutenant colonel in the United States Air Force when he became aware of SAIC’s efforts to obtain government contracts by circumventing the competitive bidding process.  Lt. Col. Ferner’s qui tam suit resulted in SAIC returning $5.75 million to the government, and Lt. Col. Ferner was ultimately awarded with a relator’s share of those proceeds.

The SAIC settlement would not have been possible if the federal False Claims Act (“FCA”) prevented government employees from serving as qui tam relators.  In 1991, shortly after the modern version of the False Claims Act was signed into law, the Eleventh Circuit addressed the issue of a government employee acting as a relator in a case called U.S. ex rel. Williams v. NEC Corp., 931 F.2d 1493 (11th Cir. 1991).  The court found, “[N]othing in the False Claims Act prohibits a government employee from filing a qui tam action based upon information acquired while working for the government.”  Id. at 1494.

In that case, Williams was an attorney for the Air Force when he encountered the fraud alleged in his qui tam complaint.  The United States argued that Williams was excluded from being a whistleblower because of his status as a government employee.  The Williams court conducted a lengthy analysis of the public disclosure section to determine whether any portion of the FCA precluded a qui tam suit by a government employee.  The court did acknowledge that there may be difficulties inherent in a case involving a relator who is a government employee, but determined that the plain language of the FCA permitted a government employee to serve as a relator.  Id. at 1503.  As a result, Williams’ qui tam was permitted to move forward.

The public disclosure section of the FCA has been amended in the 22 years since the Williams decision, but it has never been changed to exclude government employees from being relators.  In that time, each court that has evaluated the issue has found that the FCA does not exclude government employees, including members of the military.  As recently as 2012, the Fifth Circuit conducted a lengthy evaluation of government-employee relators and determined, “[T]here is no basis to except such an employee from personhood [which allows them to act as a relator.]”  Little ex rel. United States v. Shell Exploration & Production Co., 690 F.3d 282 (5th Cir.2012).

It is important to note that while the FCA does not prohibit a member of the military from being a relator, it does place a limitation against whom a military relator may bring a qui tam suit.  Specifically, the False Claims Act says that a former or present member of the armed forces may not bring a qui tam suit “against a member of the armed forces arising out of such person’s service in the armed forces.” 31 U.S.C. 3730(e)(1).

Despite the fact that the FCA plainly allows government-employee or military relators, the specialized nature of these cases requires experienced qui tam counsel to protect the relators’ interests.

If you are a member of the military or other government employee with knowledge of fraud against the government and you are considering bringing a qui tam case, please contact James Hoyer for an evaluation of your claims.  Click here for more information about the firm and to submit your information electronically, or you may contact our office at 813-397-2300.

Written by Elaine Stromgren

 

 

Media Coverage of James Hoyer’s Defense Contractor Whistleblower Settlement

wtsp-elaine-ferner1Media outlets across the country reported the news of James Hoyer’s nearly $6 million settlement against defense contractor Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC). James Hoyer Partner Elaine Stromgren is pictured here being interviewed by Tampa CBS affiliate WTSP.

This is a rare case of an active duty military officer blowing the whistle on an improper deal condoned by his superiors. Whistleblower Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Ferner bucked the chain of command putting his career on the line to expose the fraud, waste and abuse.

WTSP Investigative Reporter Mike Deeson talked to Lt Col Ferner, who now lives on an alpaca farm in News Zealand, via Skype.  Watch his report below or click here to read the online version of WTSP’s story.

More coverage:

The Las Vegas Review Journal’s story is here.

The Las Vegas Review Journal did an in-depth follow-up report taking a look at Ferner’s case. Click here to Keith Rogers’s story “Coalition and Irregular Warfare Center shows little for $42 million effort.”

The Tampa Bay Times story on the SAIC settlement can be read here.

Click here for a report in the Federal Times.

Lt Col Ferner’s hometown newspaper, the Wilkes Barre Times Leader,  filed this report in which his father calls him “a real hero.”

Here’s the story from the Washington Post.

Click here for the story from Alabama Media Group Newspapers– The Huntsville Times, The Birmingham News & Mobile Press-Register.

 

 

James Hoyer Announces Settlement of Qui Tam Case Involving Military Relator

First Lady Laura Bush & Air Force Lt Col Timothy Ferner

First Lady Laura Bush & Air Force Lt Col Timothy Ferner

James, Hoyer, Newcomer & Smiljanich, P.A. is proud to announce the $5.75 million settlement of a qui tam case against Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), a government defense contractor.  James Hoyer had the privilege of representing Air Force Lt. Col. Timothy Ferner in this whistleblower case, which was filed in 2010.

Click here to read the James Hoyer press release for complete information about the settlement and Lt. Col. Ferner’s role in the case.

Military relators can be whistleblowers, but may face unique challenges in bringing their cases.  To learn more about members of the military acting as relators in qui tam cases,  click here for a blog post by lead attorney and James Hoyer partner Elaine Stromgren.