The Strange Case of Jeffrey Wertkin
One area of the Strange Case of Jeffrey Wertkin appears to be coming to a close.
Mr. Wertkin is a former Department of Justice Lawyer who went into private practice at a major law firm and took Justice Department files with him. He then attempted to sell information regarding Sealed False Claims Act cases, when he got caught by an undercover agent.
He was just sentenced in a San Francisco Court to 30 months in prison.
Keep in mind that if a Whistleblower in a case they file were to violate the seal of the Court in a False Claims Act case by talking to the press about their allegations, even if the reason for talking was concern about fraudulent activity and not personal gain, that Whistleblower would lose the right to recover under the Act and could be charged.
Mr. Wertkin is a former Justice Department Lawyer who attempted to sell such sealed and confidential information, knowing of course the likely buyers would be people attempting to deliberately undermine an investigation. So, to me, 30 months does not seem like too much of a punishment.
The Department of Justice says Wertkin wanted to use the documents in 40! lawsuits he stole to drum up business at his law firm…I’m not really sure how he was planning to drum up business with that, but it can’t be good.
Mr. Wertkin’s actions even after he got caught hardly sound contrite. According to Reuters:
After his arrest, Wertkin returned to [his firm] to destroy evidence and stage his office to falsely implicate other Justice Department officials as the source of the complaints, prosecutors said.
Click here to read more of the article.
Its hard for me to have any sympathy for a guy who worked at the Department of Justice, which paid him about $150,000 and then landed a big time Corporate Law firm job, reported by Bloomberg News to pay $450,000, feels he needs more money, then gets caught and then wants to implicate his former colleagues. The former colleagues were the ones still in the Department of Justice trying to do the right thing and were not making big law money. The former colleagues no doubt had to go through some form of a painful process as a result, so there are personal victims to this crime.
It is also, unfortunately, somewhat difficult for me to believe that he suddenly got greedy upon landing the law firm job.
Hopefully the Department, including the former colleagues this guy tried to bring down, will be so offended by his actions that they will review all his work.
Did Wertkin make any decisions about or influence decisions on declination decisions by the Department? Is there any evidence he was on the take prior to joining his big time law firm?
The Department of Justice and the investigators are to be congratulated for finding out about and prosecuting Mr. Wertkin.
They must take the next step to assure all those who file False Claims Act cases in good faith and abide by the seal and Defendants that expect an independent and fair evaluation of any allegations, that he did not falsely influence the process before he left to pursue this illegal scheme.
Let us hope we never have to hear about a lawyer doing this again.