Posts Tagged ‘whistleblower of the year’

James Hoyer Client Named 2018 Whistleblower of the Year

Karin Berntsen

James Hoyer, P.A. is proud to announce that our client Karin Berntsen was named Whistleblower of the Year at the annual Taxpayers Against Fraud awards dinner, in Washington, D.C. This marks the second time in the past three years that a James Hoyer client has been bestowed with this great honor.

Ms. Berntsen blew the whistle on Prime Healthcare, the 5th largest healthcare system in the country, exposing evidence of improper billing and upcoding which she believed was putting patients at risk and abusing taxpayer dollars. Her fearless, tireless, seven-year commitment to the case resulted in the company paying $65 million dollars to settle civil charges of fraud against the government.

I am very honored to be selected as the 2018 Whistleblower of the Year by Taxpayers Against Fraud,” Ms. Berntsen said. “It wasn’t easy, but sometimes that makes you more determined. The more obstacles I had, the stronger it made me.  I knew the taxpayers were being cheated and the patients were put at risk, so coming forward was just the right thing to do.”

It took incredible courage and perseverance for Ms. Berntsen to continue with the case for seven long years, despite extreme personal hardship, which included serious illnesses, surgeries, and hospitalizations. Nevertheless, she endured through it all, remaining in place as an employee at Prime’s Alvarado Hospital in San Diego and wearing a wire for the FBI on multiple occasions to record evidence.

Partner Elaine Stromgren accepts the Whistleblower of the Year Award on behalf of James Hoyer client Karin Berntsen

“Karin’s dedication to justice was unwavering. I cannot imagine a more deserving individual for this prestigious honor. She put her career on the line against a powerful company, but through it all, she remained strong,” said James Hoyer Partner Elaine Stromgren, Ms. Berntsen’s lead attorney, who accepted the award on her behalf at the TAF dinner Thursday night in Washington, D.C.

Ms. Berntsen has dedicated her life to ensuring patient safety. She began her career as a registered nurse, then served as a patient safety officer, and also authored two published books on patient safety before eventually becoming Director of Performance Improvement at Alvarado Hospital. Her concern for the well-being of the patients was one of her main motivations for coming forward as a whistleblower.

“I continually witnessed blatant healthcare fraud at the highest level of the organization. The patients were becoming commodities. They were becoming dollar signs, not people,” Ms. Berntsen said.

Ms. Berntsen expressed her appreciation for receiving the award in a videotaped statement played at the awards dinner because she was unable to attend due to a recent surgery. Here is an excerpt:

“When my complaints fell on deaf ears and my job was threatened, I researched my options and found the James Hoyer investigative law firm. They had a solid record of success and stellar professionals working there.

I interviewed with Al Scudieri a retired FBI agent with a wealth of experience. My attorney Elaine Stromgren worked tirelessly with other attorneys and the government to expose the fraud at this organization.

Attorneys Clark Bolton, Elaine Stromgren & Jesse Hoyer at the TAF awards dinner.

It took seven years, and we were eventually headed toward trial, but with the work of many, we reached a successful settlement this year. I am very grateful to that team.  I want to say a very special thank you to Taxpayers Against Fraud for this wonderful recognition.”

Please join James Hoyer in congratulating Karin for this deserving recognition.

“We are proud to stand beside Karin and grateful we could assist her in this important battle on behalf of patients and taxpayers,” Stromgren said. “The courage it takes to become a whistleblower is enormous, and we hope her success will inspire others to come forward to do the right thing when they witness fraud against the government.”

Click here to view Karin’s acceptance of the Whistleblower of the Year award.

 

James Hoyer Law Firm Named Whistleblower Lawyers of the Year

TAF Award Group Picture

The James Hoyer team at the TAF Awards Dinner

James Hoyer is honored to have been named Whistleblower Lawyers of the Year by the Taxpayers Against Fraud or “TAF.”  TAF is a national, nonprofit organization dedicated to combating fraud against the government and protecting public resources headquartered in Washington, D.C.

James Hoyer client Peggy Ryan, whistleblower in the off-label marketing case against Endo Pharmaceuticals, was also named Whistleblower of the Year. The Endo case resulted in a $192.7 million settlement for both criminal and civil charges that the company illegally marketed a pain treatment patch called Lidoderm.

“Together, Ryan and her legal team were instrumental in bringing a $193 million dollar case against Endo Pharmaceuticals to resolution, while notching an important victory in the battle for full, fair and justified whistleblower awards,” TAF wrote in its announcement of the award. (Click here to read details on the announcement on TAF’s website.)

Hoyer Accepting Award

Chris Hoyer Accepting Award

“This is an honor we are very proud to accept as advocates fighting to hold companies accountable when they commit fraud against the government,” said Chris Hoyer, founding partner of the James Hoyer law firm. “Too often, American citizens pay the price when companies try to game the system for profit. The False Claims Act gives whistleblowers the power to fight back on behalf of all taxpayers.”

Peggy Ryan was an Endo sales representative hired to sell Lidoderm, a pain patch approved to treat a shingles complication. She became concerned when the company pressured her to sell the drug off-label. Ryan took her concerns to the government in 2005 and assisted the investigation by turning over hundreds of documents and internal voicemails. She also agreed to wear a wire for the FBI, providing government investigators and prosecutors with more than 200 hours of recorded conversations, including incriminating statements by Endo management.

Ms. Ryan was humbled to receive this award. “It’s not an easy decision to become a whistleblower, but it’s even harder to look away when you know wrongs are being committed. Ten years was a long time to see this through, but it was important to do the right thing,” Ms. Ryan said.

“Peggy Ryan was a tireless advocate for the taxpayer,” Hoyer said. “The courage it takes for an

Adam, Chris & Jesse Hoyer

Adam, Chris & Jesse Hoyer

employee to come forward and risk her career to do the right thing is rare and something we all should celebrate.”

In announcing this year’s award, TAF also pointed to the decision by Judge Robert Kelly to award Ms. Ryan close to the maximum reward for her contributions. She received 24% of the civil portion of the settlement, which amounted to $33.6 million. The judge sent a message with his decision as to how important the role of a whistleblower can be in stopping fraud and returning money to the taxpayers. The judge noted the contributions of Ms. Ryan and her legal team in the Endo case were “nothing short of extraordinary.”

An internal documentary produced by the James Hoyer law firm on the Endo case was instrumental in moving the case forward.  Watch the video below to see a video clip from the documentary.

More pictures from the awards dinner are below:

TAF Linclon

Al Scudieri & Elaine Stromgren

Al Scudieri & Elaine Stromgren

Chris Hoyer & Jillian Estes

Chris Hoyer & Jillian Estes

Chris Hoyer, Angie Moreschi, Jesse Hoyer, Jillian Estes & Adam Hoyer

Chris Hoyer, Angie Moreschi, Jesse Hoyer, Jillian Estes & Adam Hoyer

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James Hoyer Client Wins Whistleblower of the Year Award

Elin-Marlan-Elaine-Pic1

At TAF Awards ceremony (Pictured L-R): James Hoyer Partner Elaine Stromgren, Elin Baklid-Kunz, Attorney Marlan Wilbanks

James Hoyer Managing Partner Chris Casper was proud to be local counsel, along with lead-counsel Marlan Wilbanks, for Elin Baklid-Kunz, whistleblower in the $86-million dollar Halifax Hospital settlement.  Elin was named the Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund Whistleblower of the Year, at an awards ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Upon receiving the award, Elin expressed her sincere gratitude and talked about the often difficult road whistleblowers face to do the right thing.  She said her family and attorneys provided her with incomparable support to help her through the process.

Elin first came to America from Norway as an au pair to learn English and pursue the American dream.  She started working at Halifax in 1994 while pursuing her Masters of Business Administration at Stetson University.  She became Halifax’s Compliance Officer in 2005 and was promoted to Director of Physician Services for Halifax Health Systems in 2008.

As Director of Physician Services, Elin became concerned that Halifax was making improper payments to doctors for referrals, in violation of the Stark Law.  The Stark Law is intended to prevent incentives to doctors which could entice them to make referral decisions based upon financial gain, instead of the patient’s best interest.  Elin also encountered an internal report that indicated Halifax neurosurgeons were performing medically unnecessary surgeries and admitting patients who did not meet admissions criteria.  This led to what she believes were millions of dollars in fraudulent charges to Medicaid and Medicare.   After reporting her concerns to Halifax and having them fall upon deaf ears, Elin felt she had no choice but to file a False Claims Act case on behalf of U.S. taxpayers.

Elin was presented the Whistleblower of the Year award by Cheryl Meads, whistleblower in the $96 million case against GlaxSmithKline which settled in 2010.  Meads commended Elin for her action and  not just standing by when American taxpayers were being defrauded and patients were being harmed.  She ended with a quote from Bobby Kennedy saying, “Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total; of all those acts will be written the history of this generation.”

We applaud Elin for doing her part to stand on the right side of history.