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DC United: States Attorney’s Office Encourages Whistleblower Attorneys

May 8, 2015

Yesterday was an unusual and very productive day for the small cottage industry of attorneys who file False Claims Cases here in the District of Columbia.

About 30 lawyers from the local qui tam bar accepted the invitation of the U.S. Attorney’s Office Civil Enforcement Section. The session was billed as a seminar on best practices and was led by Deputy Chief Keith Morgan.

I suppose the cold hard news presented was that in the last five years, qui tam cases handled by the USAO in DC have returned over $68 million to Relators, meaning, of course, that the government has collected several times that amount as a result of cases filed just in this jurisdiction.

However, this event went beyond the usual seminar/meeting on False Claims cases. The event has already had an impact. Indeed, before 8:15 this morning, one of my fellow False Claims Act attorneys, Julie Grohovsky, had already posted information about the meeting on the Taxpayers Against Fraud list serve for False Claims Act lawyers and called for this to be an annual event. Rightfully so.

As the meeting progressed, we listened to the government attorneys, they had a great deal to say, and they asked us for our questions. That created one of, if not the most open and frank exchanges of information between the private attorneys and the government on False Claims issues really anywhere. I would note the absence of the usual caveat “I’m only speaking on behalf of myself not the Department,” which was not uttered. Instead, it was taken for granted that experienced government attorneys were going to tell us what they really thought. In addition to the technical issues discussed (when, whether, and how to contact their office prior to filing a case, for example), the open atmosphere was very helpful to this group.

Certainly there were fine points of concern, but the more the meeting went on, the more open and helpful it seemed to be. It may seem obvious to say this, but the private qui tam bar is always looking to help the government as much as we possibly can to bring these cases and help them in any aspect of the case. Sometimes, for very good reasons, they simply cannot let us help them.  That and the long time it takes for these cases to come to fruition can be frustrating for everyone, especially our clients. So a meeting like yesterday’s was helpful both for the technical information provided and the atmosphere it created.

It was clear to those of us who file cases here that the US ATTY’s office in DC really wants to handle good qui tam cases. They took this step, which can only be seen as an attempt to encourage Relators to file good cases in their office, and since the False Claims Act allows for wide latitude in picking a venue, it is exciting to know that the home office is enthusiastic and encouraging about attracting cases.

I look forward to future meetings like yesterday’s, and to filing more cases in this district.