As first reported by Whistleblower Network News (WNN), pharmaceutical lobbyists were recently successful in a last-minute campaign to have the False Claims Amendments Act removed from the 2021 Infrastructure Bill. The amendments to the False Claims Act (FCA) would have bolstered the nation’s landmark anti-fraud whistleblower bill, which has allowed the U.S. government to recover over $64 billion from contract fraud cases.
The False Claims Amendments Act was introduced by a bipartisan group of Senators led by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) on July 26. The Act is widely supported by whistleblower advocacy groups, including the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) and the Project on Government Oversight (POGO). Now in response to the last-minute lobbying efforts to kill the Act, whistleblower advocates are calling for immediate action by Congress.
NWC sent out an action alert requesting that individuals demand that Congress pass the False Claims Amendments Act.
“The success of the False Claims Act is now under threat by corporate interests and Big Pharma,” the action alert reads. “Lobbyists spreading misinformation have attempted to kill the False Claims Act by opposing crucial amendments, introduced by Senator Charles Grassley, which would protect whistleblowers from retaliation and blacklisting. The same corporate interests successfully blocked the addition of these amendments to the 2021 Infrastructure Bill in a major loss for whistleblowers and whistleblower advocates. By raising false flags about these amendments and locking progress through complex and endless court cases, these lobbyists have secured an anti-whistleblower victory – which could open the floodgates for future attacks on these highly successful whistleblower protections.”
The alert contains a form to contact the Senate Judiciary Committee and demand the passage of the FCA amendments. “Congress must stand with whistleblowers and pass these amendments. Lobbyists have scored their first victory, let’s make it their last,” the alert states.
“Corporate influence on Congress must end,” said NWC Executive Director Siri Nelson. “The False Claims Act is an essential tool to root out fraud, and opposition to these amendments is a huge red flag. The foxes are in the hen house and Congress must boot them out by passing these critical improvements.”
Sen. Grassley’s False Claims Amendments Act would have clarified confusion about the question of “materiality” in FCA cases. It would have “shift[ed] the burden of proof to the defendant to prove by clear and convincing evidence that the government’s conduct, such as continued payment, was material.” This would have cut down on the number of cases where a serious violation of the FCA has already been proven, but the defendant is allowed off the hook for what amounts to a technicality.