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April 16, 2014

Top Whistleblower Settlements of 2013 - To Date

The theme of the top whistleblower settlements to date in 2013 is, once again, health care fraud. Eight of the largest settlements involve fraud in the health care industry. This is indicative of the number of health care fraud cases being filed in recent years. According to the Department of Justice, since January 2009, over $10.3 billion has been recovered from health care fraud cases. This year, the focus seems to have particularly shifted to cases involving violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute and Stark law, which prohibit the giving of financial incentives for referrals or the use of particular pharmaceuticals or devices. Without further ado, here are the top whistleblower settlements of 2013 to date:

1. Ranbaxy USA Inc. ($500 Million)

Ranbaxy USA Inc., a subsidiary of Indian generic pharmaceutical manufacturer Ranbaxy Laboratories Limited, agreed to pay a total of $500 million to settle criminal and civil allegations filed against the company. Ranbaxy pleaded guilty and agreed to pay a criminal fine and forfeiture of $150 million. The civil settlement, which resolves False Claims Act violations, was for $350 million. Ranbaxy was accused of poor oversight and inadequate testing and maintenance of drugs manufactured at its facilities in Paonta Sahib and Dewas, India. This lead to false claims being submitted to numerous government agencies including the FDA, Medicaid, Medicare, TRICARE, the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, the Department of Veterans Affairs, and USAID. The whistleblower in this case, former Ranbaxy executive Dinesh Thakur, will receive $48.6 million from the federal share of the civil settlement.

For more information about this settlement, read the DOJ press release.

2. C.R. Bard Inc. ($48.26 Million)

C.R. Bard Inc., a New Jersey-based corporation that develops, manufactures, and markets medical products, agreed to pay $48.26 million to resolve kickback allegations filed against the company. Bard was accused of submitting false claims to Medicare for brachytherapy seeds used to treat prostate cancer. According to the complaint filed in 2006, Bard paid illegal kickbacks in numerous forms to both physicians and customers who used the seeds to perform treatment for prostate cancer. The whistleblower in this case, Julie Darity, was a former Bard manager for brachytherapy contracts administration. She will receive $10,134,600 as her portion of the settlement.

For more information about this settlement, read the DOJ press release  

3. Par Pharmaceutical Companies Inc. ($45 million) 

Par Pharmaceutical Companies, Inc., one of the top five U.S. generic pharmaceutical companies, pleaded guilty to federal criminal charges and agreed to settle civil allegations involving the company's promotion of the drug Megace ES. Par was fined $18 million and ordered to pay an additional $4.5 million in criminal forfeiture. The company will also pay $22.5 million to resolve the civil allegations. The civil suit accused Par of promoting Megace ES for non-FDA approved uses that were not covered by federal healthcare programs and of actively ignoring some of the negative side effects the drug has on various patient groups when promoting Megace ES. The settlement resolves three separate whistleblower lawsuits that were filed against the company. Two of the five whistleblowers in the cases, Mr. Michael McKeen and Ms. Courtney Combs will receive $4.4 million as their portion of the settlement. Any payments to the other whistleblowers, Ms. Christine Thomas, Mr. James Lundstrom, and Mr. Elliott, are unknown at this time.

For more information about this settlement, read our blog post.  

4. Dr. Steven J. Wasserman ($26.1 Million) 

This year, the Department of Justice announced one of the largest ever settlements with an individual under the False Claims Act. Florida dermatologist, Dr. Steven J. Wasserman agreed to settle allegations filed against him for $26.1 million. Dr. Wasserman was accused of performing medically unnecessary services and engaging in an illegal kickback scheme. Dr. Alan Freedman, the whistleblower in this case, was a pathologist at a company involved in the kickback operation. He filed his qui tam lawsuit in 2004 and will receive slightly over $4 million as his share in the settlement.  

For more information about this settlement, read our blog post. 

5. CH2M Hill Hanford Group Inc. ($18.5 Million) 

CH2M Hill Hanford Group Inc. and its parent company CH2M Hill Companies Ltd. agreed to settle civil and criminal allegations relating to time card fraud for a total of $18.5 million. CH2M had a contract with the Department of Energy to manage and clean 177 large underground storage tanks that contained radioactive and hazardous waste at a nuclear site in Washington. CH2M employees allegedly regularly overstated the number of hours they worked on time cards submitted to the Department of Energy. As a result, CH2M was overpaid for more hours of work than were actually performed. The civil settlement was for $16.55 million. CH2M will also pay $1.95 million to resolve the criminal liabilities. To date, eight CH2M employees have pleaded guilty to engaging in the time card fraud. The whistleblower in this case, Carl Schroeder, was a former CH2M employee and one of the individuals who pleaded guilty to the scheme. The qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act bar whistleblowers from receiving a portion of the settlements if they are convicted for their role in the fraud scheme. Therefore, Mr. Schroeder will not receive a portion of this settlement.

For more information about this settlement, read the DOJ press release. 

6. American Sleep Medicine LLC ($15.3 Million) 

The Department of Justice announced a $15.3 million False Claims Act settlement it reached with American Sleep Medicine LLC. American Sleep is a Florida-based company that owns and operates 19 diagnostic sleep testing centers across the country. Its primary business is to provide testing for patients who suffer from sleep disorders. American Sleep allegedly submitted false claims to Medicare, TRICARE, and the Railroad Retirement Medicare Program for tests that were performed by technicians who lacked the proper certification required by these agencies for reimbursement. The whistleblower in this case, Daniel Purnell, will receive about $2.6 million as his portion of the settlement.  

For more information about this settlement, read the DOJ press release.   

7. Adventist Health System & White Memorial Medical Center
   ($14.1 Million) 

This month, Adventist Health System and its affiliated hospital White Memorial Medical Center agreed to a $14.1 million settlement. The settlement was the result of a qui tam lawsuit filed against the companies accusing them of violating the Anti-Kickback Act and the Stark Statute. Of the $14.1 million, $11.5 million will go to the federal government and $2.6 million will go to California's Department of Health Care Services. Adventist Health was allegedly improperly compensating physicians for patient referrals to White Memorial by transferring medical and non-medical supplies and other inventory to the physicians at less than fair market value. White Memorial was also accused of paying referring physicians at a rate above fair market value for teaching services at the family practice residency program. The whistleblowers in this case were Dr. Hector Luque and Dr. Alejandro Gonzalez, who were members and partners of White Memorial. They will collectively receive $2,389,219 as their portion of the settlement. 

For more information about this settlement, read our blog post. 

8. Cooper Health System ($12.6 Million) 

Cooper Health System and Cooper University Hospital, a hospital and health care system in South New Jersey, agreed to a $12.6 million settlement that resolved allegations that Cooper engaged in an elaborate illegal kickback scheme. According to the complaint, Cooper created a sham advisory board to pay high-volume medical practices upwards of $18,500 each to attend four meetings over the course of a year with the true goal of encouraging medical practices to refer patients to Cooper. The whistleblower in this case, Dr. Nicholas L. DePace, is a prominent Delaware Valley cardiologist. Dr. DePace was invited to join the sham advisory board and, after attending one of the meetings, figured out Cooper's true intentions. Dr. DePace's whistleblower reward has not yet been determined. 

For more information about this settlement, read our blog post.

9. Hospice of Arizona ($12 Million)

Three Arizona hospice companies, Hospice of Arizona LC, American Hospice Management LLC and American Hospice Management Holdings LLC, agreed to settle a False Claims Act lawsuit with the government for $12 million. In order for hospice care to be reimbursed by Medicare, patients are required to have a life expectancy of, at most, six months.The qui tam lawsuit, filed against the companies in 2010, accused the defendants of submitting false claims to Medicare for patients who did not need to be admitted to the Hospice of Arizona. Additionally, they were accused of submitting false claims by overbilling Medicare for some of the hospice's services. Ellen Momeyer, the whistleblower in this action, was a former Hospice of Arizona employee. Momeyer will receive $1.8 million (approximately 15%) as her share of the settlement.  

For more information about this settlement, read our blog post.

© 2014 by Tycko & Zavareei LLP

About the Author

Jonathan K. Tycko, Civil Litigation Attorney, Tycko Zavareei Law firm
Partner

Mr. Tycko has represented clients in numerous qui tam whistleblowing cases, in areas including Medicare fraud, government contracts fraud, and tax fraud. In addition, with the 2010 passage of the Dodd-Frank Act, Mr. Tycko’s practice has expanded into representation of whistleblowers in the areas of securities and commodities, and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Mr. Tycko focuses his practice on civil litigation, with special concentrations in whistleblower cases, consumer class actions, unfair competition litigation, employment litigation and housing...

202-973-0900

About the Author

Practice Group

In recent years, the laws of the United States have undergone a whistleblower revolution. Federal and state governments now offer substantial monetary awards to individuals who come forward with information about fraud on government programs, tax fraud, securities fraud, and fraud involving the banking industry. Whistleblowers also now have important legal protections, designed to prevent retaliation and blacklisting.

The law firm of Tycko & Zavareei LLP works on the cutting edge of this whistleblower revolution, taking on even the most complex and confidential whistleblower...

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