Government strikes back against Amgen whistle-blower

Under the federal False Claims Act, citizens can blow the whistle on a business or person that is defrauding the government or violating government regulations. Often, employees bring such lawsuits because they have inside knowledge of wrongdoing. As a reward for blowing the whistle, False Claims Act whistle-blowers are entitled to a piece of any resulting financial settlement; this is called a relator’s share. However, these lawsuits are very complicated. In a case that just ended, the government has moved to dismiss a case due to a whistle-blower’s actions.

The case involves a physician who filed a False Claims Act lawsuit arguing that Amgen, Inc. — which pleaded guilty last month to promoting an anemia drug for uses that were not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration — paid kickbacks to doctors to encourage them to prescribe certain drugs.

Amgen has agreed to pay $612 million to wrap up that civil claim as well as at least 10 other related whistle-blower claims. The doctor, who worked undercover gathering evidence against Amgen for the government, has declined to sign onto the settlement because he wants the government to provide more information about his cut first.

He has argued that qui tam whistle-blowers should have notice of their share and an opportunity to challenge the settlement in court it if they so choose.

A judge denied his request without explanation, and because the man did not sign off on the settlement, government prosecutors have asked the court to dismiss his whistle-blower lawsuit entirely. In their request, prosecutors noted that the man is a professional whistleblower, having sought out and filed numerous False Claims Act lawsuits.

This case poses interesting questions about relator’s shares. The size of a relator’s share depends on several factors, including whether the government or the relator prosecuted the case and whether the relator was involved in any wrongdoing. Should relators be able to negotiate their share? If someone is a serial whistle-blower, does that mean their involvement in a particular case is any less important or that they have any fewer rights under the False Claims Act?

Source: Bloomberg.com, “Amgen Whistle-Blower Loses Bid to Challenge Aranesp Deal,” Christie Smythe, Jan. 3, 2013

  • Additional information about this area of law is available on our Milwaukee law firm’s False Claims Act page.

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