whistleblower protection attorneys

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Financial Professionals Win Big in Appeals Court Ruling

Financial Professionals Win Big in Appeals Court Ruling

The Association for Financial Professionals features Eric L. Young and James McEldrew analysis of the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that historic Sarbanes Oxley legislation empowers financial professionals to assert their professional ethics and standards questioning the legality of bills and invoices on the “reasonable belief” that their employers are engaging in fraudulent activities in the April issue of Payments.

The article is accessible at http://www.afponline.org/pub/store/pubs/payments.html, a free access site requiring registration for the full text of the article.

Posted on: 13 Jun 2013
Posted by: Eric Young
United States Joins Whistleblower Lawsuit Against Novartis Pharmaceuticals

United States Joins Whistleblower Lawsuit Against Novartis Pharmaceuticals

Philadelphia, Pa, April 26, 2013 PRWeb, Young Law Group (www.young-lawgroup.com; e-mail: eyoung@young-lawgroup.com)

The United States Department of Justice has announced that it is intervening in a qui tam whistleblower suit under the False Claims Act accusing Novartis Pharmaceuticals Corporation of fraudulently billing Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and other federal and state-funded healthcare programs by Novartis’ Cardiovascular Diseases Division through a wide array of kickback schemes involving drugs including Lotrel, Valturna, and Starlix.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara announced the intervention in court documents that were unsealed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on April 26, 2013.

“Novartis’ pervasive business practices to fraudulently market numerous drugs including Lotrel, Valturna, Starlix, Tekturna, Diovan, and Exforge, cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars” said Eric L. Young, Esquire, Young Law Group, who, with James E. Miller, Esquire, of Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller, and Shah, LLP, and John Minnino, Esquire, of Minnino Law Offices, is representing the whistleblower, former Novartis sales representative, Oswald Bilotta.

“Novartis’ payment of kickbacks to increase market share is yet another example of abuse in the pharmaceutical industry that contributes to skyrocketing medical costs,” said James E. Miller, Esquire, of Shepherd, Finkelman, Miller, and Shah, LLP.

The whistleblower complaint alleges that Novartis committed massive taxpayer fraud by marketing drugs Lotrel, Valturna, Starlix, Tekturna, Diovan and Exforge through a widespread “pay to play” scheme whereby the company paid off doctors who prescribed its drugs.  As detailed in the government’s intervention Complaint, Novartis’ Cardiovascular Division engaged in a number of schemes whereby the company paid kickbacks to doctors to ensure increased prescriptions at the federal government’s expense.

None of this is new for Novartis. In September 2010, the company announced that it would pay approximately $422 million in criminal and civil fines and penalties to resolve claims that it had paid kickbacks to prescribers of Trileptal, Diovan, Zelnorm, Sandostatin, Tekturna, and Exforge, in addition to claims that the company had promoted some of these drugs for unapproved uses. Nonetheless, Novartis continued paying kickbacks and promoting drugs for unapproved uses, the complaint alleges.

After retaining SFMS, Minnino, and YLG, the whistleblower filed a qui tam lawsuit in federal district court in Manhattan on January 5, 2011. The qui tam case was kept under seal, meaning that it was not known to the public, while the government investigated the allegations.  “Thanks to courageous people like Mr. Bilotta, perpetrators of fraud are being held to account for fraudulent sales and promotional activities that artificially increases the burden on taxpayers . . . we are confident based upon the evidence presented by Mr. Bilotta and the results of the ensuing government investigation that Novartis will be held to account for its wrongs”, said Mr. Young, a veteran qui tam litigator.

Case citation: U.S. ex rel. Oswald Bilotta v. Novartis Pharmaceuticals, Corp., S.D.N.Y. 11-CV-00071-PGG.

Young Law Group, specializes in representing whistleblowers (“relators”) throughout the United States and internationally in qui tam lawsuits brought under the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act allows private individuals to sue companies that are defrauding the federal government and to recover funds on the government’s behalf. Whistleblowers may be entitled to 15 percent to 30 percent of the civil recoveries that result from the qui tam lawsuit.

SFMS represents clients, including business entities, consumers, individual and institutional investors, fiduciaries, state and other governmental entities, and whistleblowers, in complex litigation and other matters with offices in California, Connecticut, Florida, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

John Mininno, Esq. has offices in Collingswood, N.J. with practice areas including False Claims Act litigation.

Contact: Young Law Group
123 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, 19109
Phone 215-367-5151
Eric Young, Young Law Group, 215-367-5151, eyoung@young-lawgroup.com

Posted on: 26 Apr 2013
Posted by: Eric Young
Do You Have a Qui Tam Whistleblower Case?

Do You Have a Qui Tam Whistleblower Case?

How Do I Know If I Have A Qui Tam Whistleblower Case?

The term “whistleblower” is very broad and can have multiple meanings. Any time someone reports a wrong, arguably they could be considered a whistleblower.

Only if the wrongdoing involves fraud against the government does a whistleblower have the right under federal and state false claims acts to file a qui tam case  on behalf of the government and collect a reward in the event of a recovery.

The following questions can help you determine if you have a qui tam whistleblower claim.  If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions, you may have a case.

Did this unjust conduct cause a governmental entity to lose money?

To bring a claim under federal or state False Claims Acts you have to have government money involved. In other words, there needs to be fraud on the taxpayers. For example, if you discover that your employer is defrauding its customers, you can certainly become a whistleblower and report that misconduct, but you cannot file a qui tam whistleblower case because there is no fraud on the government. The exception is, of course, when the government happens to be one of the customers.

Sometimes the fraud against the government can be very subtle. For example, maybe the company took a grant as part of a government program and it might be in violation of a contract it signed as a condition for getting the government grant.

Is your information based on something you saw or heard firsthand?

Generally speaking, you cannot base your qui tam case on something you learned from publicly available information. You must be an original source for the information – you must have first-hand and exclusive knowledge of the misconduct.

For example, there may be extensive discussion on web sites on how a pharmaceutical company is marketing one of its drugs off-label, which is arguing against the law. You cannot file a qui tam suit based on the information that is freely available on those web sites. If, however, you have specific first-hand knowledge of this off-label marketing, you might have a case.

Do you have any documents to back up your report?

The government is limited in terms of the time and resources they have to devote to qui tam false claims act cases, so they work on what they believe to be the best cases, with the most potential upside. Part of that consideration is the evidence a whistleblower has to support the case.

The reality is that if you don’t have any documentary evidence, this puts you at a severe disadvantage in getting the government’s attention. You want to be in a position where you’re giving the government a really good head start on the case.

Evidence could be, for example, emails or memos where people are talking about the fraud, or sometimes people record conversations when it’s legal to do so.

Does the government not yet know of this unjust conduct?

Generally speaking, you can’t make a case based on information that is already known. This can be a tricky question. Because qui tam cases are filed under seal, sometimes it is hard to tell whether there are other cases already on file. The simple truth is that in many cases there is more than one whistleblower, and the first whistleblower to file is the one that is entitled to any reward that might be paid.

An experienced whistleblower lawyer can help you work through these challenges.

Has anyone done anything to try to cover up this fraud?

Here, we get back to the question of whether you have evidence to support your claims. An experienced whistleblower attorney will counsel a client about how to maintain evidence that the client already has, or to gather additional evidence without being in violation of any laws that protect a defendant’s confidentiality or trade secrets.

If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, you might have a qui tam whistleblower case. Please call us for a no-commitment, no-cost discussion. Qui tam whistleblower lawsuits can be complex, and you need an experienced qui tam attorney to help you get started on the right foot.

Young Law Group, P.C., Attorneys-at-Law, represents whistleblowers nationwide. For a free confidential consultation, please call Eric L. Young, Esquire at (215) 367-5151 or email to eyoung@young-lawgroup.com.

Posted on: 21 Dec 2012
Posted by: Eric Young
How to Choose a Whistleblower Attorney?

How to Choose a Whistleblower Attorney?

Choosing a Whistleblower Attorney

If you are considering becoming a whistleblower, one of the best things you can do for yourself is to find the right attorney.  A good whistleblower lawyer will be a valuable ally in your fight for vindication and can make the difference between winning and losing your case.

So, how do you choose the right whistleblower attorney?  Here are five essential things you should look for when choosing a lawyer:

Experience in Whistleblower Cases

First and foremost you should find somebody that has real experience in successfully pursuing these types of cases.  There are a lot of lawyers that say they represent whistleblowers, but if you were to ask them specifics about their experience, you might find that they haven’t actually been directly involved in a whistleblower case.

There are many different types of whistleblower cases:  a tax fraud whistleblower case is a lot different from a pharmaceutical sales and marketing Qui Tam case.  It’s important for prospective clients to question the lawyers that they’re consulting about their experience and their ability to handle particular types of cases. Experience in one type does not translate into success in another.

The key in a whistleblower case is to convince the government (the Justice department if it’s a Qui Tam case, the IRS if it’s a tax case, the SEC if it’s a securities case) that the case is worthy of investigation in terms of their time and resources.  There’s more to that than simply drafting a good complaint. Where you file, for example, can be more important to your ultimate success than what you file. This is why you need an experienced lawyer.

The Resources to Pursue a Whistleblower Case

These are undertaken on a contingency basis, so the law firm has to have the resources to be able to underwrite the costs of pursuing the case over the long haul.  Depending on the nature of the case, this may require the retention of expert witnesses, so these cases can be very, very expensive.  The lawyer you choose has to be prepared to make the investment to maximize the chance of success.

A Willingness to Pursue, With or Without the Government

A Qui Tam case under the False Claims Act is technically a civil case, but you’re bringing your claim on behalf of the government.  Once the case is filed, it is kept under seal while the government investigates your allegations.  When the government gets done with its investigation, it makes a decision whether to pursue the case or not.

If the government doesn’t pursue the case, then you have the right to pursue it yourself.  Many whistleblower lawyers have almost a standing policy where, if the government does not intervene in the case, they won’t take it. They’ll even say in their client agreements that if the government doesn’t intervene, they’re going to withdraw from the case and you’ll have to find a new lawyer if you want to continue to go it alone.

Clients need to understand the process, because it can be very complex.  Ask your prospective lawyer if they are prepared to litigate the case even if the government does not intervene.

Expert Knowledge of What Whistleblower Cases the Government Will Pursue

This is another area where experience makes all the difference.  A good whistleblower attorney will have a clear understanding of what cases are going to interest the government.  Aside from strict legal theory and case law, there are the intangibles involved in knowing what cases the government investigators and attorneys are going to take notice of at the outset.  The government investigators and attorneys are only human, and they only have so much time to devote to these cases.  They have to pick and choose which cases are going to get prosecuted and which have to be declined.

You always have the option of pursuing the case yourself if the government declines to intervene, but it is better to have the government do the work.  An experienced attorney can counsel you on whether your case has a good chance of interesting the government, what steps you need to take to improve the chances of government intervention, and whether it is even worth the time, effort, and heartache of filing a whistleblower case.

Guidance on the Risks

Being a whistleblower is not for the faint of heart.  It is a long and complex process that puts your livelihood, your reputation, your professional relationships, and even your personal relationships at risk.  A good whistleblower lawyer can counsel you on all the different considerations that should go into the decision to become a whistleblower.  Not all the considerations are legal ones.

A good attorney will ensure there are no misunderstandings about the process and will help you avoid potential pitfalls.  For example, the False Claims Act has a section that deals specifically with retaliation, but you have to take care in how you position the claim to protect someone if, in fact, there is retaliation.

You want an attorney that can help you make an informed decision about becoming a whistleblower and maximizes your chances for winning your case.

If you use these five criteria to choose your whistleblower attorney, you will save yourself a world of trouble and increase your chance of winning your case:

  1. Experience in whistleblower cases
  2. Resources to sustain a long process
  3. Willingness to go it alone, if needed
  4. Know-how on getting the government to take over the case
  5. An understanding of the personal, professional, and legal risks of being a whistleblower.

Filing a whistleblower lawsuit is not an easy decision, and you want a legal partner who has been through the process and can support you through thick and thin.

Please call us if you have any questions about your own situation. You are not alone in this.

Young Law Group, P.C., Attorneys-at-Law, represents whistleblowers nationwide. For a free confidential consultation, please call Eric L. Young, Esquire at (215) 367-5151 or email to eyoung@young-lawgroup.com.

Posted on: 17 Dec 2012
Posted by: Eric Young