Maryland House passes watered-down Little FCA

I previously reported on how the Maryland Senate watered down its "Little FCA" bill so that lawsuits would not cost so much for the contractors who actually commit fraud against the State of Maryland. The amended version of SB 279 does not permit a court to require fraudsters to pay compensatory damages, and it prohibits whistleblowers from pursuing qui tam lawsuits unless the Maryland Attorney General chooses to intervene. It also makes the award of attorney fees discretionary. Now the Maryland House has concurred in the amended Senate bill.  While the new bill is better than having no False Claims Act (FCA), it is not good enough to give Maryland the millions of dollars it would receive from federal FCA cases if it had a full strength "Little FCA."

The House did beat back two amendments that would have either decimated or limited the Little FCA.  One, by Delage Shank, would have the State police fraud by contractors by hiring yet another contractor to audit the other contractors — and would have erased all the qui tam provisions.  Another, by Delegate Tarrant, would have allowed whistleblower lawsuits only for those frauds committed after October 1, 2010 — allowing fraudsters another six months to commit fraud without fear of this new liability. This Maryland web page will soon have links to the roll call votes so Maryland citizens can see if their delegates voted for this weak protection, or for no protection at all.

Perhaps now will be a good time to ask Maryland’s legislators to plan for passage next year of a bill that will actually qualify Maryland for the millions it is missing if it had a whistleblower law strong enough to qualify for the federal Grassley Amendment.

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