U.S. Joins Whistleblower Lawsuit

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The United States has intervened in a whistleblower suit accusing Renal Care Group (“RCG”) and Renal Care Group Supply Company (“RCGSC”), wholly owned subsidiaries of Fresenius, of fraudulently billing Medicare for supplies and equipment provided to End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) patients who received dialysis treatments at home. Notice of the United States’ intervention was announced in court documents that were unsealed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri on Tuesday.

“RCG’s fraudulent billing practices are yet another example of abuse in the healthcare industry that contributes to skyrocketing medical costs”, said Eric L. Young, a Pennsylvania attorney who is representing the whistleblowers, Julie Williams and John Martinez, M.D. “

Under federal law, the Medicare program pays companies that provide dialysis supplies to ESRD patients only if the companies that provide the supplies are truly independent from dialysis facilities and the ESRD patient chooses to receive supplies from the independent supply company. As detailed in the unsealed complaint, the companies set up a sham supply company, RCGSC, that was not independent from RCG, and that did little more than submit bills to Medicare. It’s further alleged that RCG interfered with ESRD patients’ choice of supply options, requiring patients to “move” to RCGSC. Even after RCG employees raised concerns and industry competitors closed their supply companies, RCG kept RCGSC open because of the illicit revenue it created.

After retaining Eric L. Young, the whistleblowers filed the qui tam lawsuit in federal district court in St. Louis, Missouri, in June 2005. The qui tam case was kept under seal, meaning that it was not known to the public, while the government investigated their allegations.

Eric L. Young, Esq. represents whistleblowers (“relators”) in qui tam lawsuits brought under the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act allows private individuals to sue companies that are defrauding the federal government and to recover funds on the government’s behalf. Whistleblowers are entitled to 15 percent to 25 percent of the recoveries that result from the qui tam lawsuit.

Case citation: U.S. ex rel. Julie Williams and John Martinez, M.D. v. Renal Care Group, et al., E.D.Miss. 05-CV-00985-DJS.

 

We Settle Wage & Hour Case For Zinc Production Workers

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Young Law Group, P.C., Attorneys-at-Law, is pleased to announce final approval of a $1.2 million dollar settlement with Horsehead Corporation to resolve a collective action lawsuit brought under the Fair Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) on behalf of over 500 present and former unionized zinc production workers in Monaca, Pennsylvania. (Figas, et. al. v. Horsehead Corporation, 2:06-cv-01344, W.D.Pa.).

Plaintiffs, members of the United Steelworkers of America, Local 8183, asserted that Horsehead violated the FLSA by failing to pay production workers for time spent donning and doffing protective clothing and equipment before and after paid time.  Plaintiffs also sought compensation for the time spent by production workers traveling to and from their respective work locations.

Eric L. Young, lead attorney for the plaintiffs, commented, “Horsehead’s Zinc Production Workers labor tirelessly in a difficult and dangerous work environment — they deserve to be paid for all of the time spent at work.  We are honored to have been successful in obtaining additional wages for these dedicated workers.”

For more information about this settlement, please contact Eric L. Young, Esquire at 215-367-5151 or eyoung@young-lawgroup.com  Young Law Group, a Philadelphia-based law group, is dedicated to representing employees throughout the United States in wage and hour collective and class action litigation.

Don’t Allow Companies To Buy Their Way Out of Fraud Investigations Today

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For many, today is the day to exercise their right to participate in a representative democracy established more than 200 years ago by the founders of the United States of America. For others, it is the time to change a political climate hostile to their business and put a friendlier face in office in case their corporation needs a political ally in the future.

Today’s midterm election has been the most expensive in U.S. history. A non-partisan group tracking political spending has projected $4 billion in spending by politicians and interest groups. Approximately 25% of the money spent, or roughly $1 billion, came from interest groups not formally tied to a party or candidate.

What did their $1 billion buy? At best, the opportunity to promote a candidate with a more favorable platform to a win at the election. At worst, they urged Americans to vote for a sympathetic ear to their cause gained through past political donations or other connections.

Corporations have been using using their money and connections to attempt to influence elections for years. As a New York Times op-ed last week pointed out, the SEC does not even require companies to disclose to shareholders their political spending. The fact that many of the organizations they donate to are created for the sole purpose of supporting the election of candidates with particular beliefs and obfuscate the identity of supporters poses additional concerns.

Even Christian pastors are stepping into the game, flouting IRS rules requiring tax-exempt 501(c)(3) organizations to steer clear of endorsing or funding political candidates. Instead, thousands are now endorsing candidates in Sunday sermons to help elect politicians who will create rules that support their beliefs.

Improper influence is not limited to elections, either. Last week, the New York Times had an extensive article about corporate lobbying of State Attorneys General in order to avoid litigation or minimize the cost of settling charges of misconduct.

This is an issue that hits home here. We are frequently called on to convince state attorneys in the 29 states with a version of the False Claims Act to take the information our clients give them and use their resources to prosecute the company. Their decision to intervene should be based on the quality of the information provided, the merits of the legal arguments and the resources required of the state. It should not be a political decision dependent on the quality of the corporation’s lobbying efforts.

Lobbying is not limited to the states, unfortunately. Healthcare companies, the industry most targeted by the False Claims Act in the past ten years, have spent millions lobbying the Senate and House for regulatory approvals and favorable CMS reimbursements. According to Modern Healthcare, which tracks healthcare lobbying, organizations representing health professionals spent $85 million on lobbying last year alone.

Although we recognize that many individuals are dedicated public servants who work hard to protect their citizens, the anecdotal evidence is still alarming. The power of elected officials to exercise their discretion or change the rules of the game in order to help their friends and contacts is too great.

If an individual stands for issues that you care about, then by all means vote for them in the election today. But do not be swayed by the marketing machine of corporations that spend their money to ensure career politicians will help them avoid the consequences of their actions when they are later caught breaking the law.

YLG Files 2nd Employee Class Action Against Best Buy

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New York Employees Subjected to Off-the-Clock Security Searches & Missed Breaks

NEW YORK – Jan. 24, 2008 – Eric L. Young, Esq. has filed a 2nd Class Action Complaint against Best Buy in the Supreme Court of New York on behalf of a class of current and former Best Buy employees alleging violations of New York state labor laws. The lawsuit contends that employees at 33 New York Best Buy stores are subjected to off-the-clock security checks at the end of each shift which can take up to 15 minutes. It also accuses the Richfield, Minnesota-based company of forcing employees to work through meal and rest breaks without compensation.

The suit alleges that after clocking out, employees are required to wait in line at a security checkpoint along with customers and submit to a search. Employees who work the closing shift are subjected to the longest waits since store policy dictates that all employees gather at the front of the store before beginning security checks.

“Workers are not being paid for mandatory searches which frequently add up to a half hour or more a week per employee,” said Eric L. Young, Esquire.

The suit also maintains that employees are routinely required to work during paid meal and/or rest breaks.

The Forefront of Whistleblower Representation

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SPURRED BY DODD-FRANK, PLAINTIFFS’ BAR DIGS FOR WHISTLEBLOWERS
November 09, 2010 | Westlaw News & Insight
A newly expanded whistleblower program in the Dodd-Frank law has opened a fertile business opportunity for plaintiffs’ lawyers –and sparked a feverish multimedia marketing effort aimed at people in a position to report financial skullduggery to the Securities and Exchange Commission. The new government program, which provides for lucrative payouts to financial whistleblowers and their lawyers, has attracted a wide variety of practitioners — from employment and personal-injury lawyers to class-action specialists — to what traditionally has been a niche practice, known as qui tam, or false claims, law. But clients in this area are hard to find: The new law is still little known, and potential whistleblowers are typically skittish about ratting out bosses and colleagues. So some lawyers are taking client-development to a new level, combining traditional approaches such as emailing newsletters with aggressive use of social media. Dozens of law firms in recent months have established web sites and Facebook pages aimed at publicizing the whistleblower provisions. Others have taken to Twittering or blogging about the new law. Phillips & Cohen, a Washington, DC, law firm that specializes in bringing whistleblower complaints, is one of several firms that have placed ads on Google so the firm’s name shows up among the top results for anyone who does a search for “SEC whistle-blower” and related terms. “The marketing is becoming more competitive and aggressive,” said Phillips & Cohen partner Erika Kelton. In the last couple of months, she said, her firm has received tips about accounting irregularities and companies overcharging for securities, and has filed several claims with the SEC.
“The Qui Tam Team, a new joint venture formed by Pennsylvania law firms Egan Young and L.E. Feldman & Associates, has created a Facebook page that includes links to news articles about whistleblowers and to its own website. The page notes that the Qui Tam Team’s favorite movies are “Michael Clayton” and “The Informant!” both of which, of course, involve whistleblowers.”

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Online marketing can be especially fruitful in this field, lawyers say, because prospective whistle-blowers often begin their research about filing claims online. Also, financial whistle-blowing is a relatively arcane subject; lawyers say their first challenge is to educate the public about it, and social media is a good way to share information and interact with potential clients. The new program extends an SEC enforcement scheme that previously covered only alleged insider trading to all manner of financial improprieties, from accounting fraud to misleading investors. Whistleblowers can be awarded up to 30 percent of damages collected over $1m, and their lawyers can collect up to 40 percent of their clients’ take.

‘Opening the door’

The Qui Tam Team, which formed in anticipation of the beefed-up whistleblower program, hasn’t just turned to cyberspace to make connections with potential whistleblower clients. The firm recently assembled a round-table discussion about the Dodd-Frank whistleblower provisions, bringing together an employee benefits administrator, an investment manager, and a consultant to institutional investors. For more than an hour, the lawyers offered tips on how to spot fraud, file claims with the SEC, and perhaps earn big rewards for their effort. “You may be looking at a spreadsheet of a public company and scratching your heads,” said managing partner Eric Young. “You can pick up the phone and call us, and maybe we can make something happen.” The participants, whom Reuters Legal agreed not to identify, seemed intrigued. The investment manager remarked that with Enron’s massive accounting fraud and the Bernard Madoff Ponzi scheme, company insiders may not have had the right incentives to come forward, or a clear means for doing so. “This sounds like a carrot,” he said of the new whistleblower program. “This is opening the door.”

As plaintiffs’ lawyers seek to help would-be whistle-blowers grab those carrots, though, some ethics experts believe the aggressive outreach could be problematic. Rule 7.3(a) of the American Bar Association’s Model Rules of Professional Conduct bars, with some exceptions, “in-person, live telephone or real-time electronic “communication with a prospective client when the goal is “the lawyer’s pecuniary gain.” Nora Freeman Engstrom, who teaches ethics at Stanford Law School, said some of the marketing that’s emerged in the wake of the new whistle-blower program “is conduct that falls close to the line.” (The SEC last week released 181 pages of proposed rules to implement the whistleblower provisions; the rules do not directly address marketing by plaintiffs’ lawyers, though they note that the agency can discipline or ban lawyers who engage in “unethical or improper professional conduct.”)The Qui Tam Team’s Young said the three participants in the whistleblower roundtable had some prior relationship with the firm, which is one of the exceptions to the no-solicitation rule. Besides, he said, “I don’t think it’s solicitation because we are doing nothing more than educating people that we think might want to come forward with a claim. “Some corporate defense lawyers, meanwhile, have raised concerns that the aggressive marketing by the plaintiffs’ bar could lead to dubious claims by disaffected employees. “Law firms realize that if there is a big pie and somebody gets a 10 to 30 percent share, they share in the bounty,” said Allen Roberts, who co-chairs the corporate compliance practice at Epstein, Becker and Green.

‘High quality’ cases

But the SEC itself does not seem to share that worry. Dozens of new whistleblower claims have reportedly been filed in the last few months, and in an interview with Reuters Legal, Stephen Cohen, senior advisor to SEC Chairwoman Mary Schapiro, said most of them are “high quality.” While declining to discuss specific law-firm marketing efforts, Cohen said “the communication of the program’s existence is helpful because there may be potential whistleblowers who are not aware of these Dodd-Frank provisions.” Plaintiffs’ lawyers say they are determined to raise public awareness. Manhattan plaintiffs’ lawyer Stuart D. Meissner recently began a Twitter feed about his whistleblower practice, and he’s readying a local billboard campaign. In late September, he launched an in theater advertising campaign during the premier of the film “Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps” to promote his website www.secsnitch.com. He figured the return of Gordon Gekko would attract a lot of Wall Street-types, any number of whom could be potential whistle-blowers. So far, he said, he has received more than a dozen promising leads. “In this case, the saying ‘greed is good’ has a certain positive twist,” Meissner said. “You can help yourself as well as help society by stopping the next Madoff.”

The Westlaw article was written by and reported on entirely by Brian Grow of Reuters Legal. (Reporting by Brian Grow of Reuters Legal)

 

© Reprinted with permission from the publisher, Thomson Reuters-GRC, http://accelus.thomsonreuters.com

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