Maryland is for Whistleblowers: Legislators Pursue New FCA Bill
The State Legislature is considering a new bill to create a stronger false claims law for Maryland.
Currently the Maryland False Claims Act only allows for claims when the case involves a state health agency losing money. The new proposed legislation would allow individuals to file claims when any state government funds are implicated.
Steve Lash of the The Daily Record reported on this development recently, noting the Attorney General’s support of the bill.
The new Attorney General Brian E. Frosh issued a press release calling the legislation his top priority. The press release quotes the Maryland AG using language which demonstrates he understands the whole point of False Claims Act law:
“The False Claims Act multiplies our resources to fight against fraud,” Attorney General Frosh said. “What this law does, in effect, is incentivize integrity.”
“When the government is being cheated, it often remains in the dark,” Frosh said. “Employees often have the most detailed knowledge about what is going on, and this new law would help bring that information to light, for everyone’s benefit.”
The bill apparently enjoys bi-partisan support in the Maryland legislature. The AG’s release quoted one co-sponsor as saying:
“This is a common-sense measure that gives Maryland a much-needed boost in the battle against waste, fraud and abuse,” said Sen. Michael Hough, a co-sponsor of the bill who sits on the Judicial Proceedings Committee. ”
So here’s hoping it will pass. According to the Attorney General, the new law would make it possible to sue not just for fraud committed against a state agency, but also for any fraudulent government contracting that occurs in Maryland. Both Virginia and the District of Columbia already have similarly expansive False Claims Acts modeled on the Federal Law.
The Text of the bill as filed in the Senate is pretty expansive. Government money would give rise to a claim whether provided by the State or a county. While the law does allow for treble damages, it incorporates some mitigating factors which seem to allow for less than treble damages in some cases. It also maintains Maryland’s unusual provision which allows for an individual to file a case but not to pursue a case without the intervention of the government. Under the federal False Claims Act if the government declines to intervene, an individual may attempt to proceed with the case.
The law has just been introduced, so we’ll see what the final version looks like and compare it to the Federal False Claims Act when the time comes. Any attempt to expand the reach of this kind of legislation is to be applauded from this corner.