This is the fourth segment of Tony Munter’s interview with Gary Farmer, an experienced attorney who handles false claims cases in Florida. In the interview below Gary Farmer discusses the Department of Financial Affairs. (Click here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 5). Tony Munter is not licensed in the jurisdiction of Florida.
Gary: Yes. I think so.
The Attorney General unfortunately is aligned to and tied with the real hardcore Republicans compared to a guy like Jeff Atwater who is the CFO who oversees the Department of Financial Services. That’s something to talk about. That’s unique I think to our statute. Maybe a couple of other states have it. But the fact that is that there are two different agencies in Florida that do have jurisdiction over these cases…
Gary: There’s still a public disclosure bar, but there are circumstances, which do not bar a Relator from bringing the case. For example the case that I just told you about that I just settled is an example. Our guy, our Relator had gone to the inspector general with some of his concern and that got related to financial services because it related to a contract. So they open an investigation and then he filed the lawsuit. We filed the lawsuit. So under those circumstances it’s not a public disclosure bar. His complaint relates back to his initial disclosure and he was deemed the whistleblower because he was also being retaliated against. That’s how it all came about. So because they have that open investigation when we filed the false claims case, DFS was able to take it and run with it because they already had an open investigation.The Attorney General hates that.
Jeff Atwater as an elected official his team has kind of been stamping out fraud. He went after the [PIP auto] insurance and the clinic a couple of years ago.
He’s also the Chief Fire Marshall. He’s done a lot to stop fraudulent fire claims. And the rumor is he’s going to run for either US Senate or Governor when Rick Scott is done. So his theme has been to be the anti-fraud guy. Doing Qui Tam and false claims cases is right in this wheelhouse and it is how people know him. He likes to be able to do more of them. Unfortunately the AG gets them all and then kills them. So there’s nothing more to do. positive experiences filing False Claims Act cases in Florida. The federal law is doing very very well. Florida is a good center of healthcare cases. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of fraud, but I guess that’s a lot of opportunity for people to file good cases down there.
Tony: I was wondering, obviously as practitioners you run into problems and it always what you talk about. You must have moreGary: Yes. It is a unique thing and thankfully right now we have it. Otherwise I think you’d see a tremendous chilling effect as a result of the AG’s actions on the willingness of attorney to pursue these cases. I mean these cases can take a long time and we can spend a lot of our own money on these cases. I’ve had Relators who’ve worn wires and gone in and recorded marketing schemes and gotten CEOs of companies making statements. There’s no way I could counsel for my client to do something like that and take that kind of risk if I knew that after doing all that that just on a whim and for no reason without any notice to the court or us that they could just drop our case and its outrageous.I mean there’s no provision in the law for notice to us and an opportunity be heard if the AG is going to dismiss. So, fortunately, we do have the State CFO office, which provides us with an option.