Part 1: The False Claims Act and How It Has Inspired a Wave of State Qui Tam Whistleblower Laws–An Introduction

We at whistleblower lawyer blog hope this detailed article assists those interested in the federal False Claims Act and the new state False Claims Acts with qui tam whistleblower provisions. A version of this article by whistleblower lawyer blog author Michael A. Sullivan [1] has just been published in the October 2007 Georgia Bar Journal. For ease of reading, we have divided the article in six parts–this is Part 1.

The federal False Claims Act [2] has inspired a wave of new state False Claims Acts with qui tam whistleblower provisions, as the New York False Claims Act, the Oklahoma Medicaid False Claims Act, and the Georgia State False Medicaid Claims Act [3] in 2007 have joined sixteen other state laws that allow qui tam whistleblowers to pursue cases based on fraud and false claims that rob taxpayers’ dollars.

These new state qui tam whistleblower laws are critical to stopping fraud against taxpayers. For example, in April 2007, the Georgia Legislature enacted a state version of this important-but commonly misunderstood-federal law, the False Claims Act. The new “State False Medicaid Claims Act” mirrors the federal False Claims Act in important respects, but differs in some significant ways.

Both the state and federal Acts create civil liability for treble damages and potentially huge penalties for fraud and false claims submitted to the government. Both authorize “qui tam” or “whistleblower” lawsuits by private persons, who may share in the government’s recovery. Both have unique procedural requirements that are foreign to most lawyers. Like the federal whistleblower law, most state qui tam whistleblower laws protect all state government funds. A few states such as Georgia have opted for the narrower reach of the Georgia Act, which applies only to fraud or false claims affecting the Georgia Medicaid Program, rather than all State programs.

This article explains how the new state False Claims Acts work, which itself requires an explanation of the unique and sometimes perplexing federal False Claims Act on which the state Acts are based. This article summarizes the background of the federal False Claims Act, outlines how it operates, and discusses the Act’s increasing use to combat fraud directed at public funds. This article also highlights the important differences between the state and federal Acts, using Georgia’s as an example. Finally, this article also compares other states’ False Claims Acts and discusses some of the recoveries that other states have obtained to date.
The new Georgia “State False Medical Claims Act” became law on May 24, 2007. Participating in the signing ceremony with Governor Sonny Perdue were (shown above from left to right) Carrie Downing, Director of Legislative and External Affairs of the Georgia Department of Community Health; Dr. Rhonda Medows, Commissioner of the Georgia Department of Community Health; Inspector General Doug Colburn; Governor Perdue; Rep. Edward Lindsey, sponsor of the State False Medicaid Claims Act; whistleblower lawyer blog author Michael A. Sullivan of Finch McCranie, LLP; and Philip Consuegra, Legislative Assistant to Rep. Lindsey.

1 Michael A. Sullivan has worked with the False Claims Act since the late 1980s and has both defended and prosecuted cases under the False Claims Act. He is the co-author of At the request of Georgia legislators, Mr. Sullivan provided input in the drafting of the new Georgia State False Medicaid Claims Act and testified in each of those legislative hearings to explain the False Claims Act. His practice includes whistleblower litigation under the False Claims Act and the IRS Whistleblower Program, serious injury litigation, and white collar criminal defense. He is a graduate of the University of North Carolina and Vanderbilt Law School, where he was Senior Articles Editor of the Vanderbilt Law Review. He clerked for U.S. District Judge Marvin H. Shoob in Atlanta from 1984-86. From 1995-98, he served as a federal prosecutor in the Independent Counsel investigation of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, including the prosecution of a former Secretary of the Interior. His most recent article appears in the Health Care Compliance Association’s September 2007 edition of Compliance Today, entitled “New State ‘False Claims Acts’: An Executive Summary for Health Care Compliance Professionals.” He also appeared with the Director of the new IRS Whistleblower Office in discussing and explaining the new “IRS Whistleblower Program” in September 2007 at the Taxpayers Against Fraud Annual Conference in Washington.

2 The federal False Claims Act is at 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-33.

3 The new Georgia State False Medicaid Claims Act is codified at O.C.G.A. §§ 49-4-168 to 49-4-168.6.

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