“Whistleblowers are the government’s eyes and ears in uncovering and deterring fraud. Without whistleblowers, the False Claims Act would simply not work.” As part of a March 2 virtual event commemorating the passage of the False Claims Act and co-sponsored by Whistleblower Network News and the National Whistleblower Center (NWC), Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) gave a keynote address about the False Claims Act and the importance of whistleblowers. The virtual event also included a panel discussion with lawyers versed in working with the False Claims Act.
In his keynote address, Grassley called the False Claims Act “one of the most important pieces of legislation I have ever got passed.” Grassley is often called the “patron saint” of whistleblowers; he was essential to the Act’s 1986 amendments, which modernized the law.
“Today, the False Claims Act is the federal government’s most powerful tool to protect taxpayer dollars and root out waste, fraud, and abuse,” Grassley continued. Since the 1986 amendments, Grassley said that the False Claims Act “has helped recover more than $70 billion of the taxpayer’s dollars.” Grassley also mentioned how important the False Claims Act is in the era of COVID-19, since the government has provided extensive aid programs to help individuals and businesses during the pandemic.
“Unfortunately, the False Claims Act is constantly under attack by industries looking to make it easier, to make a dollar out of defrauding the government,” Grassley remarked. “And I know that makes you sick. Their army of lawyers do their very best in these industries to twist the meaning of the False Claims Act and exploit misrepresentations and misinterpretations from the courts.”
“This is exactly what has happened and is happening in the last few years when many courts have contorted a Supreme Court opinion to say that if the government pays for a claim despite knowledge of that fraud, then the fraud wasn’t material and I guess, you know, can’t be prosecuted. We all know that is not how things work in the real world,” Grassley continued. In his keynote, he highlighted the False Claims Act Amendments of 2021, a bill he co-sponsored that the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced on October 28, 2021. The full Senate has yet to vote on the bill.
The 2021 Amendments are designed to close the “materiality” loophole that Grassley mentioned during his keynote address. In other words, the “loophole has, in recent years, allowed some companies to escape prosecution simply by proving that any government employee, somewhere in the many layers and departments of the federal government, had knowledge of the fraud in question,” previous WNN reporting states.
“The False Claims Amendments Act of 2021 is widely supported by whistleblower advocates but has faced stiff opposition by lobbyists for the pharmaceutical industry. It was reported that Pfizer and other large pharmaceutical companies are actively trying to block the legislation,” according to WNN.
“My legislation would clarify that the government can still hold fraudsters accountable if other reasons existed for their continued payment,” Grassley said about the False Claims Act Amendments of 2021. “Additionally, my bill makes it harder for the Justice Department to dismiss a whistleblower’s claim by requiring that the whistleblower state their reasons and present evidence. And it extends protections against whistleblower retaliation to post-employment retaliation. These changes will continue to provide the federal government and whistleblowers with a means to continue to recover billions of dollars per year.”
“I’ll always keep fighting to strengthen the False Claims Act to combat fraud for years to come,” Grassley promised. In closing his speech, Grassley celebrated whistleblowers and their courageous actions. “The False Claims Act is the most powerful tool the government has to combat fraud, and it’s the brave whistleblowers who make the law successful. Whistleblowers are the government’s eyes and ears in uncovering and deterring fraud. Without whistleblowers, the False Claims Act would simply not work.”
As part of the celebration of the anniversary of the False Claims Act’s passage, WNN and NWC co-hosted a panel discussion featuring experts from Henrichsen Law Group, Kohn, Kohn and Colapinto, Whistleblower Law Collaborative, and Taxpayers Against Fraud. During the event, panelists talked about their work representing whistleblowers and working with the False Claims Act. They discussed False Claims Act cases that have stuck with them throughout their careers, what they’d change about the Act, and things to consider when choosing an attorney.