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Earlier this week we wrote about our urging the IRS to remain true to Congress’s plain intent to attract a greater number and variety of tax whistleblower claims. Our written comments on changes needed to the IRS Whistleblower regulation were published in today’s Tax Notes.

We will be in Washington on May 11 to address the IRS in person. In the meantime, here is some additional discussion of why these changes are so important.

As the annual deadline for filing state and federal income tax returns has passed, honest taxpayers might be shocked to learn that the government will experience an estimated $350 billion shortfall between what is owed and what is collected, thanks to those who cheat on their taxes. To help plug the multi-billion-dollar tax gap, the IRS has instituted new whistleblower rules, but Michael A. Sullivan, a leading whistleblower lawyer, says the IRS needs to revamp its rules dramatically to encourage participation by the public to help the government recoup what is owed. Sullivan and Richard Rubin, an Atlanta-based federal and international tax attorney, plan to address the IRS in Washington, D.C. May 11 on how the rules can be revised to accomplish the law’s intended goals.

“The new rules are supposed to help citizens participate in closing the almost $350 billion tax gap by removing roadblocks to whistleblowers making claims, and by facilitating reward payments from those claims”

.Earlier this year, the Internal Revenue Service responded to sharp criticism of its existing rules by Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) by announcing new rules to broaden the kind of claims that will merit rewards to whistleblowers who alert the authorities to fraudulent taxpayers. However, Sullivan, attorney with Atlanta-based Finch McCranie, LLP, and author of the leading whistleblower blog,, says the new rules do not address key obstacles and create pointless delays for whistleblowers, which ultimately discourage citizens from reporting fraudulent taxpayers to the IRS. According to Sullivan, the new rules actually limit payment of whistleblower rewards in certain types of cases and thwart the intent of Congress to expand those rewards.
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We have written previously about how the “Troubled Asset Relief Program” (TARP) that began with the financial meltdown in 2008 would undoubtedly beget fraud that may be actionable under the False Claims Act. The qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, the country’s major whistleblower law, allow whistleblowers (“relators”) who report fraud or false claims to share in the government’s recovery of damages.

Yesterday, the first TARP fraud criminal charges appeared. Federal prosecutors in New York’s Southern District announced the arrest of Charles J. Antonucci, Sr., former President and Chief Executive Officer of The Park Avenue Bank.

The criminal complaint filed on March 13, as summarized by prosecutors, alleges “self-dealing, bank bribery, embezzlement of bank funds, and fraud, among others. ANTONUCCI also was alleged to have attempted to fraudulently obtain more than $11 million worth of taxpayer rescue funds from the Troubled Asset Relief Program, or TARP. ANTONUCCI is the first defendant ever charged with attempting to defraud TARP. Additionally, ANTONUCCI was alleged to have used The Park Avenue Bank in a scheme to defraud two pastors of a Florida congregation out of more than $100,000 set aside to build a new church.”

Antonucci likely will not be the last former bank executive to have to surrender his passport and post bond. If it were not for the dearth of restrictions on permissible uses of TARP funds–which has provoked outrage as TARP recipients paid large bonuses–more TARP cases for “misuse” of TARP funds would have appeared by now. (We received many calls from potential TARP whistleblowers interested in bringing cases under the False Claims Act).

Nonetheless, Antonucci’s case alleges some of the more traditional types of fraud that will be prosecuted as they undoubtedly surface in the TARP program, especially as more TARP whistleblowers come forward.

With the billions used to fund TARP, those TARP whistleblowers may be motivated by the prospect of receiving 15-25% of money that the government recovers when the whistleblowers use the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act to pursue TARP fraud.

The government’s full announcement is reprinted below.
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The facts about how the AIG Financial Products unit took down AIG begin to emerge more clearly, as AIG whistleblowers begin to speak.

Former AIG auditor Joseph St. Denis described his concerns about AIG’s Financial Products unit–and how AIGFP’s Joseph Cassano refused to let him investigate:

“Mr. Cassano shouted at me for several minutes, and then said, as previously noted: ‘I have deliberately excluded you from the valuation of the Super Seniors because I was concerned that you would pollute the process.”

This is Part 3 by whistleblower lawyer blog of a detailed explanation of the major qui tam whistleblower statutes, the federal False Claims Act and the new state False Claims Acts. It is taken from a recently published article by whistleblower lawyer blog author Michael A. Sullivan, and is reprinted with the permisssion of the Georgia Bar Journal.

The Part 3 explains the history of the False Claims Act and why effective qui tam whistleblower laws are important.

II. Background of the False Claims Act

Although the False Claims Act may be the best known qui tam statute, it is far from being the first. Qui tam actions date back to English law in the 13th and 14th Centuries. This tradition took root in the American colonies and, by 1789, states and the new federal government had authorized qui tam actions in various contexts. [12]

According to one writer:

In the early years of the Nation, the qui tam mechanism served a need at a time when federal and state governments were fairly small and unable to devote significant resources to law enforcement. As the role of the Government expanded, the utility of private assistance in law enforcement did not diminish. If anything, changes in the role and size of Government created a greater role for this method of law enforcement. [13]

Birth of the False Claims Act: The Civil War prompted Congress to enact the original False Claims Act in 1863. As government spending on war materials increased, dishonest government contractors took advantage of opportunities to defraud the United States government. “Through haste, carelessness, or criminal collusion, the state and federal officers accepted almost every offer and paid almost any price for the commodities, regardless of character, quality, or quantity.” [14]

One senator explained how the qui tam provisions of the Act were intended to work:

The effect of the [qui tam provisions] is simply to hold out to a confederate a strong temptation to betray his co-conspirator, and bring him to justice. The bill offers, in short, a reward to the informer who comes into court and betrays his co-conspirator, if he be such; but it is not confined to that class. . . . In short, sir, I have based the [qui tam provision] upon the old fashioned idea of holding out a temptation and setting a rogue to catch a rogue, which is the safest and most expeditious way I have ever discovered of bringing rogues to justice. [15]

The original Act provided for double damages, plus a $2,000 forfeiture for each claim submitted. [16] If a private citizen or “relator” used the qui tam provision to file suit, the government had no right to intervene or control the litigation. A successful “relator” was entitled to one-half of the government’s recovery. [17]

The Act survived in substantially its original form until World War II. [18] In a classic and oft-quoted 1885 passage, one court rejected the argument that courts should limit the statute’s reach on the grounds that qui tam actions were poor public policy:

The statute is a remedial one. It is intended to protect the treasury against the hungry and unscrupulous host that encompasses it on every side, and should be construed accordingly. It was passed upon the theory, based on experience as old as modern civilization, that one of the least expensive and most effective means of preventing frauds on the treasury is to make the perpetrators of them liable to actions by private persons acting, if you please, under the strong stimulus of personal ill will or the hope of gain. Prosecutions conducted by such means compare with the ordinary methods as the enterprising privateer does to the slow-going public vessel. [19]
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This is Part II of this whistleblower lawyer blog’s description of how IRS Tax Whistleblower officials have explained many of the long-awaited details of the new IRS Whistleblower Rewards Program to whistleblower attorneys at the annual Taxpayers Against Fraud Conference in Washington, a national organization of whistleblower lawyers who represent whistleblowers under the False Claims Act, the state False Claims Acts, and the new IRS Whistleblower Rewards Program for tax whistleblowers. Both parts summarize information provided by IRS Whistleblower officials at this Conference, at which I had the pleasure of participating in a panel discussion with the Director of the IRS Whistleblower Office, Stephen Whitlock, and later spending time with other IRS officials from the IRS group responsible for the Financial Services industry (including hedge funds), Large and Mid-Sized Business Division, Stuart Mann and Nicole Cammarota.

The investigation of matters submitted by whistleblowers will be handled not by the Whistleblower Office, but by other IRS officials–in the field. The Whistleblower Office will initially perform a screening function at the beginning of the process, with “classifiers” reviewing the claim submissions and directing them to the appropriate persons within the IRS for investigation, if an investigation is warranted.

If an investigation results, and the government recovers funds (tax liability, interest, penalties, or other amounts), Director Whitlock then will determine the amount of any award to the whistleblower or whistleblowers. The new statute allows the whistleblower to appeal any determinations to the Tax Court to review decisions about rewards.

The threshold question for persons seeking to submit IRS Whistleblower claims is to demonstrate plainly to the IRS why–with so many potential matters that the IRS already has to investigate, and with limited resources–pursuing an investigation suggested by an informant is the best use of the IRS’ limited resources. Not all potential tax violations can be investigated–or will be investigated–by the IRS. Thus, the challenge is to present a whistleblower claim that the IRS will decide to pursue–and pursue vigorously.
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From potential clients seeking information about the new IRS Whistleblower Rewards Program that our attorneys have written about extensively, questions have been asked about the statute of limitations for tax whistleblower cases.

If a whistleblower informant possesses information concerning false of fraudulent tax returns filed with the intent to evade taxes, 26 U.S.C. § 6501(c)(1) provides for no statute of limitations. In the case of a willful attempt in any manner to defeat or evade income tax obligations, once again, the IRS may assess such taxes at any time without regard to a specific statute of limitations.

Thus, in cases involving fraud, these provisions provide no statute of limitations. The same is true in the case of a failure to file a return. If the taxpayer fails to file a return and has earned income on which taxes are owed, once again, these provisions provide for no specific statute of limitations.

Another False Claims Act Recovery by Government Lawyers Is Part of $42.65 Million Heath Care Fraud Settlement

A qui tam whistleblower case alleging Medicaid fraud by Maximus, Inc. of Reston, Virginia led to a $30.5 million settlement under the False Claims Act this week.

According to the Justice Department, the whistleblower case settlement accompanied a deferred prosecution agreement and corporate integrity agreement by Maximus to end the government’s investigation of Maximus’ contract with the District of Columbia’s Child and Family Services Agency (CFSA). Maximus had contracted to assist CFSA in submiting claims to Medicaid for services that the District allegedly provided to children in its foster care program. The services were known as “target case management “(TCM) services, which were intended to help foster children with their medical, social and educational needs.

Taxpayers every day lose money because of fraud against their government. Current examples include government contracting fraud in Iraq, procurement fraud regarding the efforts of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Hurricane Katrina and numerous false claim schemes under both the Medicare and Medicaid programs. Those who are bent of fraud are usually clever and devious. This is the very reason why President Abraham Lincoln enacted the False Claims Act during the American Civil War in 1863.

During the Civil War, as today, there were greedy contractors bent on defrauding the government at taxpayer’s expense. At President Lincoln’s request, the False Claims Act was enacted into law and was specifically directed at an effort to “root out fraud against the government. . .[a]nd to encourage individuals who are aware of fraud being perpetrated against the government to bring information forward.” Thus, “Lincoln’s law,” the False Claims Act, has literally been on the books for over 140 years.

The False Claims Act as sponsored by President Lincoln was designed to help the government stop procurement fraud during the Civil War. Congress intended that the False Claims Act would encourage private citizens to file cases in the name of the United States to recover damages when false and fraudulent claims were submitted to the government. These lawsuits, oftentimes called Whistleblower or Qui Tam cases, provide a way for private citizens to share in the recovery of damages recovered. The term “Qui Tam” described the procedure well and derives from a Latin phrase which means “Who pursues the action on our Lord the King’s behalf as well as his own.”

As former federal prosecutors, it is always of interest to us to read about grand jury indictments involving fraud schemes. We have presented many such indictments to grand juries ourselves and know how the system works. On Tuesday of this week, a grand jury in Washington, D.C., returned an indictment against three Army Reserve Officers and two civilians based on allegations that they steered more than $8.6 million dollars in Iraqi reconstruction funds to a contractor in exchange for a variety of kickbacks and other inducements. The 25 count indictment, which includes charges of conspiracy and money laundering, is obviously the “Tip of the Iceberg” because the amount of money at issue in this particular scheme ($8.6 million) is insignificant when it comes to the billions of dollars that are still unaccounted for according to the Special Inspector General’s Office responsible for the oversight of the expenditure of government monies in Iraq.

The Department of Justice has always tried to publicize indictments in specific areas because of the “deterrent affect” it might have relative to others. Here, however, the proverbial horse is already out of the barn and there is not going to be much deterrence with respect to the billions already spent and unaccounted for (typically in no bid contracts). Hopefully, this indictment is a sign of things to come in terms of holding accountable those who would defraud their own government when it comes to schemes of this nature.

We continue to believe that Whistleblowers and Qui Tam lawsuits are the best deterrent there is for schemes of this nature. When you hit someone’s pocketbook, particularly companies who enrich themselves at taxpayers’ expense, with the treble damages and attorney’s fees and other remedies available under the False Claims Act, this truly does have a deterrent effect on others. Indictments, of course, are necessary in order to prosecute the guilty but with respect to the ill-gotten gain, indictments are not the best vehicle for getting taxpayer money back. While the government presumably will proceed in this case with forfeiture actions because of the money laundering charges, nonetheless, whistleblower suits are still the government’s most effective tool at combating fraud and waste.

In February, 2006, President Bush signed into law the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005 (DRA). An obscure provision within this Act mandates that entities receiving greater than $5 million per year in Medicaid payments must educate their employees about “whistleblower” claims under the Federal False Claims Act. Under the DRA, effective January 1, 2007, as a requirement of continued eligibility for the receipt of Medicaid payments, any entity receiving annual payments of $5 million or more in Medicaid funds must have mandatory compliance and education programs in place for its employees to provide detailed information about the Federal False Claims Act. This education must include information provided to employees about administrative remedies, state laws pertaining to civil or criminal penalties, whistleblower protections, and the role of such laws in preventing and detecting fraud, waste, and abuse in federally funded healthcare programs.
Congress has clearly recognized that the government has a strong need to contain costs through increased fraud and abuse enforcement. Medicaid spending, like Medicare spending, is exponentially increasing. Medicaid enrollment increased from ten (10) million beneficiaries in 1967 to over 44.7 million beneficiaries in 2006 according to statistics published by the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Along with this increase in beneficiaries, Medicaid expenditures have also dramatically increased. In fiscal year 2005 Medicaid expenditures approximated twenty percent (20%) of total federal outlays.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in its fiscal year report for 2005 documented that $484.3 billion had been spent in the fiscal year 2005. Given this staggering amount of money, and because the percentage of the total federal outlay was expected to exceed twenty percent (20%) of the total federal budget, Congress enacted the mandatory employee education provisions about false claims recovery to encourage whistleblower lawsuits and, hopefully, thereby decrease fraud and abuse.

In addition to providing written policies for all employees, the mandatory policies and compliance programs must include detailed provisions regarding the employer’s policies and procedures for detecting and preventing fraud, waste and abuse. The written policies must include a specific discussion of federal and applicable state False Claims Acts, and the rights of employees to be protected from retaliation as whistleblowers. Ironically, as of the effective date of this provision, there is no state False Claims Act in Georgia. This is very discouraging. Nonetheless, this too may change depending upon the actions of the Georgia Legislature when it meets in 2007.

Section 6031 of the Deficit Reduction Act encouraged the enactment of state False Claims Acts by providing financial incentives for states to enact laws dealing with false or fraudulent claims (specifically including Medicaid claims) that parallel the federal False Claims Act. All states that enact state False Claims Acts are eligible for a ten percent (10%) increase in their share of Medicaid fraud recoveries. Many states have already availed themselves of this opportunity to participate in an increase share of Medicaid fraud recoveries but Georgia has yet to pass such legislation. Whether it will do so, of course, depends upon Governor Perdue and the Republican controlled State House and Senate.
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