The False Claims Act was originally instituted during the Civil War to protect the Union Army from malicious military contractors and has been amended many times since. Any person may file an action under the FCA, and Wisconsin residents dealing with business that involve the government or an agency that works with the government may benefit from being familiar with its basic principles.
A recent federal appellate court ruling in a whistle-blower case has the potential to affect how Wisconsin and other states handle whistle-blower discrimination and retaliatory discharge claims. In its ruling, the court overturned a district court's decision to dismiss a whistle-blower claim. The appeals court also ruled the whistle-blower has a right to a jury trial on his claim.
The law typically protects state employees from retaliation when they report illegal or unsafe activities. These activities include violating the law, endangering the public, abuse of authority at the state or local level or wasting public funds.
Wisconsin workers may be interested in a case involving an unidentified individual who received a $30 million award from the Securities and Exchange Commission under the agency's whistle-blower program. In a statement announcing the award, a spokeswoman for the SEC only said that the person was located outside of the United States. In its statement, the SEC would not name the company or the individual who committed the fraud.
Wisconsin residents might be interested to learn about a settlement that was reached in a false country of origin lawsuit involving medical device manufacturer Smith & Nephew. On Sept. 3, the London-based company agreed to settle a lawsuit with the U.S. government by paying $11.3 million in damages. In 2008, the company was accused of selling Malaysian-made orthopedic devices to the Department of Veterans Affairs and falsely claiming they were made in the United States.
Wisconsin employees may want to know more about an Aug. 29 announcement by the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has made its first whistle-blower award to an employee involved in audit and compliance activities. The award, which was reported to be in excess of $300,000, was for information the employee provided to the SEC on wrongdoings at the employee's company. According to the announcement, the employee provided the information to the SEC after the company failed to act on the employee's discoveries.
A former assistant controller of a subsidiary of an aircraft company has filed a lawsuit in Milwaukee against her employer after she was terminated. According to the former employee, she was fired as a result of her whistleblower action. According to the woman, her former employer inflated the price for parts sold to the United States government as part of a federal contract.
Some investors in Wisconsin might not know that a man who used to be a manager for Moody's Investors Service filed a qui tam complaint against the company after he was fired for blowing the whistle on its practices. The filing was submitted and sealed on Feb. 24, 2012, but after the U.S. government decided not to intervene, the complaint was unsealed on May 30.
Health care employees in Wisconsin may benefit from learning more about the protections for whistle-blowers provided by the state. The protections are guaranteed under the Health Care Worker Protection statute that was introduced in 1999. People who report standard of care violations in good faith are indemnified against retaliation from their employer. Concerns regarding hospital errors and nursing home complaints have been on the rise, as the frequency of each has increased over the past few decades.
Wisconsin employees who have made certain reports about an employer's activities may be protected by state and federal law. The types of protection that are available are based on the type of claim that was made, the employer's identification, state law and case law. Additionally, contract or tort causes of action may be available for an employee who was retaliated against.