Court tilts legal landscape to favor whistleblowers in False Claims Act cases

Court tilts legal landscape to favor whistleblowers in False Claims Act cases

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Court tilts in favor of whistleblowers
The legal landscape may have tilted in favor of whistleblowers who bring False Claims Act lawsuits to recover misspent federal funds. A ruling from the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals held that the law’s bar against suits based on publicly known allegations is not absolute. The court reversed a district judge’s dismissal of a suit on prior publicity grounds, saying the provision should not apply to a whistleblower who has direct personal knowledge of wrongdoing. The decision revives a suit against Bayer Healthcare which is accused of violating rules in sales of a drug to several federal healthcare programs. According to the Department of Justice, whistleblowers collected $519 million in rewards for 702 lawsuits that recovered $2.9 billion in fiscal year 2016.

Report: Alien detention camps engage in slavery
A report from the Project on Government Oversight aims a spotlight on migrant detention camps, many of them run by private prison companies, where detainees are enrolled in a “voluntary work program” that violates the Constitution’s ban on slavery and minimum wage laws. POGO said detainees are paid $1 a day for their work, noting the pay rate was approved by Congress in 1950 legislation, and that some detainees were threatened with solitary confinement if they didn’t “volunteer” to work.

Cotton and dairy farmers press for unneeded subsidies
Even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture is predicting a whopping 12.6% increase in total farm income this year—with a 26% increase seen for cotton growers and 11.1% for dairy farmers—cotton and dairy lobbyists continue to press Congress for bigger taxpayer subsidies. Taxpayers for Common Sense, a non-partisan watch dog, claims the subsidies are unwarranted in the face of rising farm income and said “ignoring agricultural realities in order to send more cash to the most vocal agricultural special interests is simply something we can’t afford.”

Drug maker fined for opioid kickbacks
Galena Biopharma Inc., of San Ramon, Calif., will pay $7.5 million to settle False Claims Act allegations that the company paid kickbacks to doctors who prescribed Abstral, a fentanyl-based opioid drug, the Department of Justice said. A whistleblower who initiated the lawsuit will receive over $1.2 million from the settlement. DOJ said the company appointed doctors to an “advisory board” and paid them $5,000 plus expenses to meet with the company’s sales staff.

U.S. citizen admits his support for terrorism
Maalik Jones, 32, of West Baltimore, Md., pleaded guilty to charges of providing material support to al Shabaab, a terrorist organization based in Somalia, and carrying and using an AK-47 machine gun, rocket-propelled grenades and other weapons for al Shabaab. According to the Department of Justice, Jones flew from New York City to Kenya and then traveled to Somalia where he was trained and participated in combat against soldiers of the Kenyan government.

Hacker who targeted U.S. officials is sentenced
Justin Liverman, 25, of Morehead City, N.C., was given a five-year prison sentence for accessing government computer systems and the online accounts of several U.S. government officials, the Department of Justice said. Liverman and his co-conspirators attempted to intimidate and harass the officials and their families by posting documents and personal information unlawfully obtained from their victims’ personal accounts. In one instance, DOJ said, Liverman used one of the victim’s government credentials to gain access to a law enforcement database, and he uploaded information about dozens of law enforcement officers to a public website.

Rip ‘n Read is a daily compilation of press releases found on hundreds of websites that are maintained by the federal government, think tanks, watchdog groups and national advocacy organizations. Press releases selected for this feature are, in the opinion of the editor, exceptionally newsworthy, interesting or just plain curious.

The press releases and documents linked to this report were posted on their websites on Friday, September 8

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