Georgia Taxpayer Protection Act: False Claims

This page is part three of a series on the new Georgia whistleblower laws. Tony Munter speaks with Jason Marcus about the Georgia Taxpayer Protection Act and the origins of this state legislation.

Click here for Part 1 and Part 2.

    Jason: Now the Taxpayer Protection Act has a separate team under the AG’s office and generally it’s going to be for a case that you file just under the Georgia Act, so you’re not going to get the AUSA’s. You’re not going to get the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. It’s just going to be the state attorneys. I think that toughest part is usually when you’re dealing with local and state fraud is just finding something big enough. There’s not multi-million dollar state grants like there are federal grants.
    Tony:  Right.
    Jason:   We’ll get called and someone will tell us they think the boss is misusing $10,000 of funds and that’s probably not going to be worth the time. But if you find something big enough, you gave a great example is we’ve seen cases with highway funds, state transportation funds. That’s a huge issue in the Atlanta area especially– transportation. And misuse of those funds can make a lot of people very angry. So we’ve seen those cases for sure.
    Tony:   Obviously federal government contracting, Medicare, and that sort of thing has impacted our perception. I mean we all get kind of blinded by how big the potential cases are.  But at the same time, I would think you can certainly make a decent case out of a more modest collection and it will be a lot of money to a state. I mean that the threshold fund investigating for intervening the case might be a little lower in some states I think and Georgia is a pretty big state. Obviously there is a threshold below which you would not go but…
    Jason:  Yeah, absolutely and one other thing that’s great about it that people tend to overlook is the retaliation aspect. We get a lot of calls from other states of people who are fired for complaining about misuse of state grants. And they don’t really have a cause of action but the Georgia Taxpayer Protection Act provides a standard retaliation claim for reporting misuse of a state and local funds. So that’s an additional benefit that we get from that as well.
    Tony:  Oh and with just a Medicaid only law, you wouldn’t have that.
    Jason: Correct.
    Tony: So that must have been a big advantage for enacting this law in Georgia. Do you have any idea how this law came about and why they decided to enact it? It’s interesting because Maryland expanded the scope of their false claims act recently. Vermont enacted one recently and of course, we lost one in Wisconsin. So, I’m just curious if you know why suddenly Georgia decided to expand?
    • Jason: Well I think Georgia benefits from having a really strong Relator’s bar. I don’t know how many firms there are across the country that handle False Claims Act cases and the vast majority of them seem to be in states such as California and the DC area, Pennsylvania.

Then there’s a lot of states that have maybe one firm or no firms but the Atlanta area has been blessed with five or six not only good false claims act firms, but with lawyers who have a lot of influence either because they’ve settled major nationwide False Claims Act cases or just because they have political backgrounds. We had a handful of false claims act lawyers here who really pushed the legislature on the benefits of having one of these false claims acts. They worked very closely with the legislature in framing one. That’s why it is unusually broad, it’s because of their involvement. They did a wonderful job with it.

    Tony: That’s good to hear. Are the rest of the provisions of the acts relatively speaking similar – I mean Relator share and statute of limitations and that sort of thing roughly nearly the federal law?
    Jason: The basic stuff is generally the same. Relator’s share, statute of limitations, basic issues like that, it very much mirrors the federal act.
    Tony: Okay and public disclosure bar and those kind of issues maybe some minor differences but that kind of thing is roughly similar to the federal law is that right.
    Jason: Yes. Absolutely.

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