As if the recent increase in whistleblower suits and whistleblower rewards was not enough, employers should also be aware that America’s Watchdog, self-proclaimed as “one of the best known consumer advocacy groups in the United States,” has created the Corporate Whistle Blower Center – an organization whose sole purpose is to assist whistleblowers in obtaining the maximum amount possible, especially in the healthcare arena.
According to its website, the Center’s targets include:
- Fraud and overbilling related to Medicare and Medicaid, including unnecessary admission of Medicare patients, “up-coding,” or bundling services for higher fees,
- Fraud related to defective medical devices, and
- Fraud related to defective pharmaceuticals.
Armed with press releases and social media, the Corporate Whistle Blower Center explicitly discourages potential whistleblowers from going to the government, news media, or whistleblower law firms – and does not even mention a company’s internal reporting channels – and instead urges whistleblowers to report directly to them.
The Corporate Whistle Blower Center also targets specific groups. For example, it recently urged orthopedic surgeons and physicians to contact the Center with information related to the sale of defective medical devices or bribery by medical device companies, stating that “there can be multimillion dollar rewards” for the information. The Corporate Whistle Blower Center also offers assistance in packaging the information and getting it to the “best whistleblower lawyers in the nation.”
The number of whistleblower cases in the healthcare industry has increased dramatically in recent years, resulting in significant jury verdicts, settlements, and federal agency initiatives. Notably, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently announced its intention to amend the agency’s Incentive Reward Program by raising from $1,000 to nearly $10 million the amount a whistleblower could receive for reporting Medicare fraud.
While it remains to be seen whether the Corporate Whistle Blower Center’s national initiative will lead to an increase in whistleblower suits, the ability to bring such lawsuits is clearly becoming much easier.