March 2, 2022 marks the 159th anniversary of the False Claims Act. In commemoration of the passage of this landmark whistleblower legislation, the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) is hosting a virtual False Claims Act Celebration. NWC recently announced that Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) will deliver the keynote address at the celebration.
Senator Grassley is often described as the “patron saint” of whistleblowers. He was the driving force behind the 1986 amendments which modernized the FCA and turned it into, in the words of the U.S. Assistant Attorney General, “the most powerful tool the American people have to protect the government from fraud.”
Since Grassley helped modernize the FCA, thousands of whistleblowers have won their cases under that law and obtained over $7 billion paid directly from those who defrauded the government. Furthermore, taxpayers directly recovered over $60 billion from fraudsters, while numerous fraudsters were sent to jail, debarred from government contracting, or forced into bankruptcy after pleading guilty to crimes.
Grassley continues to fight to improve the FCA. In July 2021, Grassley and a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the False Claims Amendments Act of 2021, which is designed to close the so-called “materiality” loophole of the False Claims Act. This 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.
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.
Despite the lobbying efforts, the Act was advanced by the Senate Judiciary Committee on October 28, 2021. A full Senate vote on the bill has yet to be held.
Whistleblower advocates see the Act as particularly important in light of the recently released False Claims Act statistics for fiscal year 2021. During FY 2021 the Department of Justice recovered a total of $5.6 billion in FCA settlements and judgments. However, the DOJ only paid out $237 million to whistleblowers, the lowest single-year total since FY 2008.
Grassley is expected to touch on the importance of the False Claims Act Amendments during his remarks at the NWC celebration. Click here to RVSP for the event.