Pennsylvania Record

Monday, February 24, 2020

A misguided view of whistleblower laws

Their View

By Eric L. Young and James J. McEldrew, III | Mar 29, 2017

Letter editor 03

The view of the Taxpayer Protection Against Fraud Act portrayed in the Pennsylvania Record on March 21 is badly misguided. At its core, the law empowers whistleblowers and their attorneys to defend taxpayer dollars against greedy corporations engaged in fraud. 

From 2012 until 2016, attorneys at our Philadelphia law firm represented multiple whistleblowers in a False Claims Act lawsuit against Salix Pharmaceuticals, which was acquired by Valeant Pharmaceuticals in 2015. As a result of the information provided by our clients, the U.S. Government and many states were able to recover $54 million for taxpayers from its suspected violations of the Anti-Kickback Statute. 

Pennsylvania, however, has not passed a whistleblower law and did not participate in the recovery effort.

Our clients are simply Americans who believe that businesses should not break the law. Most of them would prefer to remain anonymous rather than receive any publicity whatsoever.

Since we work on a contingency fee basis only, we front our time and money on behalf of our clients and the government. There is no way we would spend years of our lives and our money to prosecute a case brought by “attention-starved malcontents trying to secure 15 minutes of fame” over “counterfeit controversies.”

If we were truly “greedy attorneys looking for easy targets,” as you say, we would represent our opponents or patent trolls. As whistleblower attorneys, we attempt to recover taxpayer money, lost to fraud, through complex, multi-year litigation on a contingency fee basis against some of the world’s largest companies in healthcare, government contracting and finance.

We are currently engaged in one lawsuit that has been going on for more than a decade and has yet to move past the initial stages. The counsel for our opponents, meanwhile, have been charging an hourly fee we estimate is north of $500 per hour to defend them regardless of whether they win or lose. 

Yet, neither the corporations that wrongly take millions from taxpayers or the attorneys that defend them for up to $1,000 an hour are portrayed as greedy in this debate.

We have worked with whistleblower laws around the country, and we have not seen the parade of greed feared if Pennsylvania adopts whistleblower rewards. Washington State, for example, passed a version of the False Claims Act in 2012 and conducted a review of its history as part of the 2016 reauthorization process. For every dollar the state expended on the program, it recovered $2.96. It also found no evidence to support concerns about frivolous lawsuits despite soliciting such evidence from opponents.

Pennsylvania will spend approximately $81 billion in the 2017-18 fiscal year. To deter fraud and recover money lost to corporate wrongdoing, the Taxpayer Protection Against Fraud Act is needed. The whistleblower rewards are a small price compared to the money saved by such laws.

Eric L. Young and James J. McEldrew, III are partners at McEldrew Young, a Philadelphia law firm representing whistleblowers.

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