Articles Posted in Recent Developments

Two days ago on 1/28/08 President Bush signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act for the fiscal year 2008. This legislation includes a provision protecting defense contractor employees who blow the whistle on contracting fraud. 10 U.S.C. § 2409 has specifically been amended via Section 846 to protect employees for disclosing “information that the employee reasonably believes is evidence of gross mismanagement of a Department of Defense contract or grant, a gross waste of Department of Defense funds, a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety, or a violation of law related to a Department of Defense contract (including the competition for or negotiation of a contract) or grant.” Obviously, this new whistleblower protection encourages defense contractor employees to come forward if they have knowledge of such misconduct.

The new whistleblower law is intended to protect all defense contract employees to come forward in good faith so that they need not fear reprisal if they do so. If the employee who blows the whistle on contractor fraud is retaliated against, the affected employee may file a complaint with the Inspector General of the Agency and unless the complaint is determined to be frivolous, the Inspector General will conduct an investigation. If the employee is not satisfied with the Inspector General’s handling of the complaint, the employee may bring an action in federal court and is entitled to a jury trial. If the complainant is retaliated against for bringing legitimate good faith complaints of government contract fraud out in the open, then his or her remedies would include reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages, attorneys fees and costs.

This new law is a giant step forward when it comes to protecting whistleblowers who are brave enough to come forward and expose defense contractor misconduct. By protecting such employees from retaliation, the law is intended to encourage their coming forward to expose waste, fraud and mismanagement. If the employee who does come forward is retaliated against as a result of blowing the whistle, this law is intended to make sure that they will be fully compensated for any damages sustained as a result of such retaliation including reinstatement of the job taken from them or reimbursement for wages and benefits lost as a result of any retaliation. As stated, the employee is also entitled to have his or her attorneys fees and costs paid should they be retaliated against for blowing the whistle.

Our whistleblower lawyer blog has followed closely investigations of hedge funds and other offshore investors for tax fraud and other IRS violations. After investigating a tax fraud conspiracy involving offshore companies and offshore bank accounts, the Justice Department and the IRS have announced that an attorney and two certified public accountants have pleaded guilty to tax fraud and aiding the preparation of a false tax return.

Attorney Graham R. Taylor of Tiburon, Calif., pleaded guilty last week, shortly before a trial scheduled in Salt Lake City before U.S. District Court Judge Tena Campbell. Certified Public Accountants Stephen F. Petersen of Coalville, Utah, and Reed H. Barker of Littleton, Colo., pleaded guilty to the tax fraud a week earlier, and Petersen also entered a guilty plea to aiding in the preparation of a client’s false tax return.

The alleged $20 million fraud scheme included using phony documentation for fictitious currency transaction losses, false insurance expense deductions, and “bogus” capital losses for the purpose of fraudulently offsetting taxable income for clients, according to the government. The defendants used offshore companies, offshore bank accounts, the services of offshore nominees, and opinion letters that allegedly gave legal authority for the fraudulent transactions.

CPA Petersen of Coalville also admitted that he and an attorney who still faces charges would typically receive a fee of up to 30 percent of the tax evaded by the clients.

Attorney Taylor admitted that he devised, marketed and implemented a tax shelter known as “The Hybrid” to assist others in evading income taxes. Taylor also admitted that he prepared tax opinion letters with fraudulent misrepresentations; that he used persons in the Cayman Islands as nominees for his clients; and that he falsely disguised client funds through fraudulent transfers.

The three defendants who pleaded guilty, together with alleged co-conspirators attorney Dennis B. Evanson of Sandy, Utah, accountant Brent H. Metcalf of Cottonwood, Utah, and investment broker Wayne F. DeMeester of Sammamish, Wash., had been indicted in late 2005 for conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to commit mail fraud, and wire fraud. Five of these defendants also were charged with tax evasion and assisting in the filing of false tax returns.

The case was investigated by the IRS Criminal Investigation division. It is being prosecuted by the Department of Justice’s Tax Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Utah. Jury selection for the remaining defendants began yesterday.
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The “Big Dig” collapse has led to a $458 million settlement by contractors responsible for the Boston Central Artery/Tunnel highway project. Whistleblowers using the federal and state False Claims Acts helped bring about that result.

Of the $458 million settlement, $23 million is being paid to the United States under the federal False Claims Act, and $40 million will go to Massachusetts under its state False Claims Act, as a result of qui tam whistleblower litigation. (As we have written about extensively on this whistleblower lawyer blog, more and more states are enacting state versions of the federal False Claims Act to recover damages for fraud against the government. Private citizen whistleblowers or “relators” can receive up to 25 or 30% of the recovery.)

Congratulations to Massachusetts and the Justice Department for concluding this settlement.

The new IRS Whistleblower Office’s Rewards Program that we have followed closely on this whistleblower lawyer blog made further progress this week. The IRS gave notice on January 9 that it intends to create a proposed new system of records–“Whistleblower Office Records.”

The purpose is to allow the new IRS Whistleblower Office to administer the IRS Whistleblower program more effectively, in contrast to the “old,” decentralized procedures that the IRS used before Congress authorized the new IRS Whistleblower Rewards in December 2006.

The new Whistleblower Office Records will contain records pertaining to whistleblower award applications that were filed before or after the new Whistleblower Office was created in early 2007. Based on my earliest discussions with IRS Whistleblower Office Director Stephen Whitlock, it is an essential step to bring all whistleblower submissions to the same place so that the Whistleblower Office can administer the program effectively.

We congratulate Mr. Whitlock and the Whistleblower Office on their continued efforts and progress to make the Whistleblower Program as effective as it can be.

The Notice is “Whistleblower Office Records — Treasury/IRS 42.005,” 73 F.R. 1667-1669. It is reprinted below:
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Two important topics of this whistleblower lawyer blog are addressed in a recent Government Accounting Office (GAO) Report on tax cheating by Medicaid providers. The Report shows the wisdom of the new IRS Whistleblower Program, which fills a “gap” in the coverage of the major whistleblower statute, the False Claims Act.

GAO reports that thousands of Medicaid providers collect large amounts of federal dollars each year, while cheating the government by failing to pay taxes owed–usually payroll taxes and personal income taxes. In testimony before the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, GAO’s Gregory D. Kutz, described these abuses.

These tax abuses reportedly included:

Anticipating the new IRS Whistleblower Program regulations that are due by the December 20, 2007 first anniversary of the new IRS Whistleblower Program, the IRS Office of Chief Counsel has just issued a Notice on “Coordination of Section 7623 Whistleblower Claims in the Tax Court.”

As discussed extensively on this whistleblower lawyer blog, one of the major features of the new IRS Whistleblower Program is that whistleblowers who meet the program’s criteria now have an enforceable right to share in money recovered by the government based on the whistleblower’s information submitted. The Tax Court now has jurisdiction to consider appeals of whistleblower rewards.

The Notice on November 1, 2007 from the IRS Office of Chief Counsel, CC-2008-001, provides guidance relating to this new cause of action in the Tax Court, the review of award determinations made by the IRS Whistleblower Office. (See

Continuing this whistleblower lawyer blog’s discussions of the IRS’s strong interest in hedge funds and private equity firms, there have been several recent public statements and reports about IRS efforts to identify and stop tax fraud and tax noncompliance in these segments of the financial services industry.

Today, suspected tax abuses by hedge funds and private equity managers were the subject of a Tax Notes report, which cites a November 1, 2007 statement by the IRS. That same day, Bloomberg reported that IRS officials have identified seven areas of “interest” to examine for tax violations and abuses:

(1) failing to file or improper filing of tax returns and information returns;

This week, the United States Supreme Court agreed to hear a False Claims Act whistleblower case filed against the General Motors Corporation and its former division, Allison Engine Company. The alleged fraud concerns subcontracts for building parts for the U. S. Navy’s guided missile destroyers. Each of the 50 destroyers in question costs the taxpayers over $1 billion.

At issue in this case is an argument being made by the defendants that the whistleblower and the government cannot attack the alleged fraud scheme under the False Claims Act based on the failure of the subcontractor (Allison Engine Company) to personally present claims for payment to the United States government. (In short, even if fraud occurred, the subcontractor cannot be sued under the False Claims Act because the subcontractor did not itself present false claims to the federal government.) This rule, known as the “Totten” rule, was first articulated by the now Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Roberts when he previously served on the U. S. Court of Appeals for the D. C. Circuit. The “Totten” rule allows subcontractors to escape liability under the False Claims Act if they were not the actual party who formally presented the claim to the government for payment.

In the case which the Supreme Court has agreed to review, the lower Appeals Court supported the whistleblower’s claims and explicitly rejected the “Totten” rule. The Court of Appeals reasoned that the subcontractor’s liability should not depend on a technical presentment of a claim to the government, but whether government money was used to pay a false and fraudulent claim for payment on the contract.

On this whistleblower lawyer blog, we have written previously about abuse of stock options–and how the IRS has declared that tax fraud and evasion from back-dating of stock options is a “Tier I” priority. Now, stock option fraud and income tax evasion will send a former stock options administrator to prison for almost four years.

The Securities and Exchange Commission has announced that Vencent Donlan was sentenced in a California federal court to 46 months in prison after pleading guilty to wire fraud and tax evasion charges. He was alleged to have fraudulently obtained stock and stock options from Wireless Facilities Inc.

Between November 2002 and November 2003, Donlan allegedly received more than $7 million by abusing his position as WFI’s stock option grant administrator. The SEC alleged that Donlan issued and transferred more than 700,000 shares of the company’s stock and stock options to a brokerage account that Donlan held with his wife. Donlan was alleged to have made false entries in WFI’s stock options software to hide unauthorized stock option grants he made to his wife, as well as to have provided false information to the company’s brokerage firm and transfer agent.

Accounting fraud can create liability for violating the securities laws and IRS tax rules and regulations. This whistleblower lawyer blog regularly comments on cases of interest, as whistleblowers often play an important role in bringing the violations to light.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission has announced civil fraud charges against Nortel Networks Corp. and Nortel Networks Ltd., alleging improper revenue recognition by Nortel between 2000 and 2003, designed to make the company look appear more profitable. Nortel agreed to pay $35 million to resolve these accounting fraud allegations.

Previously, the SEC reportedly announced civil fraud charges against Nortel’s former CEO Frank Dunn, former CFO Douglas Beatty, former Controller Michael Gollogly, and former Assistant Controller Mary Anne Pahapill for their roles in the alleged accounting fraud. The SEC also later alleged involvement in the fraudulent scheme by four former vice presidents of finance of Nortel’s business units.

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