Long Time Qui Tam Advocate United States Senator Grassley awarded the 2015 “Honest Abe” Integrity in Government Award by Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund
On August 18, 2015, United States Senator Charles E. Grassley (R. Iowa) was awarded the 2015 “Honest Abe” Integrity in Government Award by Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund. For decades years, Senator Grassley has worked tirelessly to investigate and legislatively address fraud, waste, and abuse against the Government and the taxpayers. His most significant accomplishment was drafting and co-sponsoring the 1986 amendments to the Federal False Claims Act harnessing and empowering qui tam whistleblowers to bring False Claims Act actions on behalf of the United States. Because of Senator Grassley’s efforts to pass these amendments, according to Department of Justice statistics, over $25.58 billion dollars has been returned to the United States Treasury from 1986 to 2014 in False Claims Act actions originated by qui tam whistleblowers.
In accepting the award, Senator Grassley discussed the importance of the False Claims Act:
The biggest violators of the False Claims Act make a lot of noise about “strengthening” the law. But, in nearly three decades, no other law has been nearly as effective in combating fraud. In fact, I have yet to see any concrete proposal that can do better.
Yet, critics continue to try and hamstring the False Claims Act in the courts and in Congress.
This is no time for that. Now more than ever, we cannot afford a weak False Claims Act.
Fraudsters’ tricks are multiplying, and the reach of Government is expanding with sprawling programs like Obamacare. All that does is give wrongdoers bigger and bigger targets.
Is it any surprise that the Government recovered more than $2.4 billion last year in health care fraud alone through the False Claims Act? And, across the federal government, we now spend 1 trillion dollars in contracts and grants each year.
Senator Grassley also discussed the necessity of protecting whistleblowers who risk so much to “expose and correct wrongdoing” from fraudsters efforts to “muzzle” them:
Inspectors general, the Government Accountability Office, and congressional oversight committees simply haven’t been able to keep up.
Yet whistleblowers succeed when other oversight resources fail. We need whistleblowers more than ever.
First, we need to make sure they’re protected.
Large corporations argue that whistleblowers should be forced to report wrongdoing internally before going to the government. In many corporations, that just paints a target on your back. Requiring whistleblowers to report internally would chill reporting and allow misconduct to continue in the shadows. Critics say that “gold standard” compliance programs would address employees’ fears about coming forward and keep a company honest. But such a “get out of jail free” pass is just not going to work.
No one can tell you exactly what a “gold standard” program is, or how small or medium-sized companies can afford it. At any rate, in a number of cases, the corporate giants that already spend so much on their own compliance programs are still cheating the taxpayers.
Those same compliance programs are also often nothing but an arm of a corporate legal department. That way, companies can extend attorney-client privilege to whistleblower reports.
Many companies also require employee whistleblowers to sign so-called non-disclosure agreements. These muzzle whistleblowers who wish to expose and correct wrongdoing.
Fortunately the Securities and Exchange Commission has taken a great step forward in condemning such agreements. In May of this year, the SEC settled charges against KBR for using improperly restrictive language in its non-disclosure agreements. The gag orders threatened discipline and even termination for talking with anyone outside the company without first getting the go-ahead from KBR’s lawyers.
These gag orders do nothing but chill reporting and make whistleblowers easy targets for retaliation. The whole point of whistleblower reward programs is to incentivize whistleblowers, not silence them.
Finally, Senator Grassley also discussed the importance of rewarding whistleblowers:
[W]e also need to honor whistleblowers’ contributions by making sure that wrongdoers are held accountable. This is a sad story that I hear all the time, whether it’s in the public or private sector. Whistleblowers are treated like skunks at a picnic, but the individuals responsible for waste, fraud, and abuse get a free pass.
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When we protect whistleblowers, value their contributions, and hold wrongdoers accountable, we get the best results. We recover lost taxpayer money and keep the market for government business operating fairly and honestly.
You can review Senator Grassley’s insightful remarks in full on his website.
Firm president, James B. Helmer, Jr., testified before Senator Grassley in support on the 1986 amendments in a 1985 hearing before the Subcommittee on Administrative Practice and Procedure of the Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Mr. Helmer had the opportunity to personally congratulate Senator Grassley on his award and on the success of the 1986 amendments to the False Claims Act. If you would like more information or have any questions, feel free to contact us.