Getting to Know Tony Munter (Part Four)
In the fourth segment of Getting to Know Tony Munter, we ask Mr. Munter questions about finding the right attorney for you, building strong whistleblower cases, and the attorney-client relationship.
When someone is looking for the best whistleblower attorney for their case, what factors should they consider?
Tony Munter: I would suggest that in this day and age, it’s helpful if your whistleblower lawyer has done a few cases of a similar type to what you’re bringing and understands whistleblower law and, if it’s a False Claims Act case, generally does False Claims Act cases as much as or more than anything else they do.
Are there any specific credentials someone should consider while looking to hire a whistleblower attorney?
Tony Munter: To be fair about it, there’s no particular qualification that is required. If you’re going to be a patent lawyer, there’s a special bar, but as far as I know, there’s nothing that says that one person can be a whistleblower lawyer and another cannot be a whistleblower lawyer.
How do you build a strong whistleblower case?
What are some of the first things you do from an investigative standpoint?
Well, of course, you really want to establish the liability of the defendant. Have they basically lied for lack of a more technical term? The more that you can say that the defendant lied to get money out of the government, the more you can demonstrate that, the more likely it is that you can build a successful whistleblower case, a successful False Claims Act case.
It’s usually that the industry involved is complicated, but the fraud, once you understand the industry, is not so complicated. They have to make a misrepresentation in order to get paid. There has to be some connection between the misrepresentation that they make and the money that they are now getting out of the government and that misrepresentation can be in many different forms.
It can be that they’re using some inferior metal and they’re supposed to be using steel in a bridge. It can be that they don’t have medical necessity when they are billing Medicare for services but you have to be able to explain what that is and be able to direct the government, at least with some idea of how to direct the government, how to substantiate that.
Why is having a strong attorney-client relationship important in qui tam cases?
Well, I think it’s important in these cases, because they go on quite a while and you don’t really know sometimes what’s happening when the government is involved.
It’s important because for one thing, usually when a whistleblower comes to see me, it’s a traumatic situation. It involves probably the most important thing in their professional life. They probably have only recently figured out that the company that they put some faith into and worked hard for and showed loyalty to actually is dishonest. Now, you have to work with that person and try and help them to remember every detail of theirs on the idea that the company is committing fraud against the government.
Well, human beings sometimes need a little time to adjust. Sometimes, it takes time to figure out which facts are relevant to a False Claims Act case and which facts are not and this just isn’t the process that you can put together overnight.
So even from the beginning, it takes a while for people to adjust to the type of case that they’ve got and the work that they have to do to handle such a case and if you can’t develop a relationship with a client so that they feel comfortable presenting you with that type of information, going over that type of information a lot of times to be sure that the way you’re presenting it in paper reflects their best understanding of what happened, it’s not going to work. You just have to have that as a way of working with your client.