If some plaintiffs lawyers are trying to leverage a giant settlement from a corporate defendant, one strategy often pursued is to team with government officials.
Elected officials can seek media coverage and hope to create public relations nightmares for defendants, while well-financed lawyers chase paydays and get support for the costs of litigation.
One famous example is 1998’s tobacco settlement, in which private lawyers represented 46 states in crafting a $250 billion agreement that still sends paychecks to attorneys each year.
The False Claims Act is a federal law that encourages this union. Whistleblowers and their lawyers can purport to represent the federal government, even before the feds have had the chance to review the claims.
And though the cases are sealed at first, they eventually become public. If an administration, like President Obama’s, is sympathetic to the trial lawyer movement, defendants can even find themselves the subject of Department of Justice press releases and press conferences.
But President Trump’s DOJ believes this law is being abused. One business venture went so far as to create entities to act as “whistleblowers” to file 11 FCA lawsuits (three of which are in Philadelphia) against the pharmaceutical industry, and the DOJ says it was forced to use 1,500 employee hours investigating the claims only to discover there is no merit to them.
The DOJ won’t be joining the litigation. In fact, it has asked the judges overseeing the cases to throw them out.
These lawsuits have already damaged taxpayers who pay for the salaries of DOJ attorneys assigned to reviewing them. Judges should stop this litigation before it wastes any more federal resources.