2421 2nd Avenue North, Suite 1 Birmingham, Alabama 35203
When contractors commit fraud while performing work for the federal government, recovery under the False Claims Act may be possible. The fraudulent behavior may fall under the following areas:
Just like a corporation or individual, when the government requires a service, it solicits bids from contractors. The bidding process for government contracts are rife with potential for fraud. The government often seeks bids from certain types of contractors — those owned by a type of minority group, or of a certain size — and fraud in professing to fit the government’s specifications for a bid gives rise to a false claims act violation. Likewise, collusive bidding, or “bid rigging” amongst contractors, or excluding qualified bidders both give rise to False Claims Act liability.
Even if a contractor has obtained its government bid fairly, it may still commit fraud in its performance on the contract. Change order abuse, where a dishonest contractor submits unjustified or inflated change orders to increase profits, can create liability under the False Claims Act. Similarly, contractors can commit fraud by co-mingling of contracts — submitting multiple bills over different contracts for work performed only once. Corrupt contractors may also simply fail to perform their contractual obligations, but falsely certify to, or conceal from, the government that they have done so. Contractors may also submit false or duplicate invoices, both of which constitute fraud.
In both the procurement and performance of government contracts, contractors often engage in bribery and kickbacks. A bribe involves the giving of something of value to procures something, usually the award of a contract, whereas a kickback is a bribe given by the contractor after the contract has been awarded.
Price Armstrong has experience prosecuting government contractors who have defrauded the government, and the attorneys of Price Armstrong protect and guide relators through the whistleblowing process.
The False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to aid the government in recovering money lost through customs fraud. Customs fraud occurs when companies importing goods fail to pay tariffs and import duties. These taxes are designed to protect domestic manufacturers from unfair foreign competition. When violators do not pay the applicable tariffs, they gain unfair price advantages over their fair-playing competitors.
Customs fraud is nearly impossible to detect, so the government relies on evidence from whistleblowers to find and penalize wrongdoers. Observant competitors and shipping employees can spot fraud by watching for these types of fraudulent activity:
Importers often forge invoices to establish a false lower valuation of the goods, which then leads to fraudulently lowered import duties.
Import tax rates are determined by the Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States. Importers commit customs fraud by misclassifying their goods and thereby avoid paying the applicable tariff. This, of course, gives them an unfair price advantage over their competitors.
Violators often misrepresent their goods’ country of origin in committing customs fraud. To do this, they ship goods through a third country – a process called transshipping – to avoid antidumping duties and countervailing tariffs. Anti-dumping duties protect American industries from foreign goods that are sold in the U.S. at less than a fair value (“dumped”). Countervailing tariffs protect domestic manufacturers from foreign competitors that are subsidized by the government of their country of origin, thereby creating predatory pricing against their American competitors.
The attorneys at Price Armstrong have much experience navigating qui tam claims rising from customs fraud. We protect and guide whistleblowers through the False Claims Act process and maximize their recovery.
The United States government relies upon self-reporting and voluntary compliance by its private contractors whose work for the government may impact the environment. This, of course, creates numerous opportunities for bad actors receive fraudulent payment for work that fails to meet the applicable environmental regulations.. Whistleblowers are valuable witnesses for the government as it investigates and prosecutes contractors’ failure to comply with environmental regulations such as the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, and other environmental regulations.
False Claims Act liability is triggered when the government contractor fails to comply with or report violation of applicable environmental regulations, then submits its invoice to the federal government with a certification that it complied with all applicable regulations. The qui tamI attorneys at Price Armstrong have experience litigating in the environmental sector and provide the necessary expertise for whistleblowers to shed light on fraud by government contractors damaging the environment.
The False Claims Act provides whistleblowers with protection from retaliation from their employers. The Anti-Retaliation provision of the False Claims Act prohibits an employer from retaliation against an employee “because of lawful acts done by the employee . . . in furtherance of an action.” (31 U.S.C. § 3730(h)). This means that if an employer terminates, suspends, demotes, harasses, or otherwise discriminates against a potential whistleblower, regardless of whether a qui tam action has been filed, the employee may seek protection. Relief under the statute includes reinstatement to the previous position with same seniority status, two times back pay plus interest, and compensation for any special damages sustained because of the discrimination, including litigation costs and attorneys’ fees. The anti-retaliation is a valuable tool for whistleblowers, and the attorneys.
Conservative estimates state that 10% of Medicare/Medicaid spending is wasted on fraudulent claims. Medicare spending totaled over $650 billion in 2016, so an estimated $65 billion went to pay fraudulent claims. The for-profit hospice and home health business has exploded over the past two decades, often injecting fraudulent practices and greed into what should be a community and patient driven field. The result has been dozens of suits by whistleblowers and the Department of Justice, and hundreds of millions of dollars in recoveries for taxpayers. The government relies on whistleblowers and the False Claims Act to uncover this fraud. For their efforts, whistleblowers receive a percentage of the funds recovered. Price Armstrong has extensive experience litigating healthcare qui tam suits and can help maximize the whistleblower and government’s recovery.
Medicare provides for hospice care for terminally ill patients. To be considered “terminally ill,” a patient must have been judged likely to live less than six months, and the patient chooses to forego curative treatment in favor of palliative care. A host of regulations govern the symptoms a patient should display to be admitted to hospice under varying diagnoses. For example, if a patient is to be admitted for hospice care under a diagnosis of post-stroke symptoms, she must demonstrate certain behaviors indicating that she is indeed terminal under that diagnosis.
Hospice companies exploit the Medicare system by preying upon elderly and ill people, offering the “help” of hospice care to people who do not meet any terminal diagnosis, often manipulating or falsifying their records to reflect an appropriate diagnosis. They also recertify patients for years of hospice care, defying the “end of life” purpose for which hospice was created. Hospice companies often misclassify patients for the type of hospice care they ought to receive, opting for more expensive levels of care (a type of “upcoding”) to maximize their reimbursement. These bad actors exhaust their patients’ hospice eligibility, drain Medicare resources, and profit wildly in the process. The government relies upon the brave reporting of whistleblowing nurses, aides, and physicians to shed light on this tremendous source of fraud and wasted resources.
Like hospice care, to qualify for home health services under Medicare, a patient must meet certain criteria. In an effort to maximize profit (and defraud the government), home health providers manipulate patients’ diagnoses and records to receive reimbursement from Medicare for the maximum number of home health visits, often with little thought to the patient’s actual needs or improvement. This drain on Medicare’s home health resources diminishes the help available for those who need it, and the False Claims Act has proven a valuable tool for the government to recover lost money.
Attorneys at Price Armstrong have recovered millions of dollars on behalf of whistleblowers and the United States government from dishonest hospice and home health companies. If you have a hospice or home health Medicare fraud qui tam case, the qui tam lawyers at Price Armstrong would be happy to provide a free and confidential case evaluation.