California Whistleblower Lawyer
Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto represents whistleblowers who report fraud and violations of the federal and California False Claims Act
Our attorneys have decades of experience representing whistleblowers who file qui tam lawsuits against those defrauding the State of California and other local government agencies. We’ve built our law firm on a simple premise: to protect those who risk their careers and livelihood, and help them obtain a reward for their courageous acts of bravery. We’ll be by your side every step of the way, because we believe in more than just justice – we believe in you.
Take our client Aaron Westrick for example. Dr. Aaron Westrick was the research director for America’s largest body armor company – Second Chance Body Armor – and was the first official to oppose the sale of bulletproof vests made with Zylon fiber. His False Claims Act lawsuit against the manufacturers of these defective vests forced them off the market, which in turn saved police officers’ lives.
On March 15, 2018, the Japanese manufacturer of Zylon, agreed to pay the United States $66 million to resolve the allegations of False Claims Act violations against it. And on July 16, 2018, the former Second Chance president and CEO agreed to pay the government $125,000 to settle claims related to the False Claims Act suit filed against Second Chance.
Although Westrick lost his career in the body armor industry, he was able to obtain his whistleblower reward from Toyobo, the Second Chance bankruptcy, and other smaller settlements, including one under the California False Claims Actas well as under the federal False Claims Act qui tam reward law.
- California State False Claims Act law covers spending by state and local governments and more whistleblower-friendly.
- Any person who files a false or fraudulent claim shall be liable for 3 times the amount of damages which the State of California sustains as a result of the claim(s), which range between $5,500 – $11,000 and does not include legal fees.
- Successful California False Claims Act whistleblowers who bring a qui tam suit may receive a portion of the government’s recovery, which is between 15% and 30%.
What is the California False Claims Act?
Each state has its own rules and regulations regarding filing a state qui tam whistleblower reward case. But to facilitate filing state qui tam cases, Congress amended the federal False Claims Act to make it relatively easy to include California claims as part of a related federal qui tam lawsuit.
Other than filing requirements, the California False Claims Act is substantially identical to the federal law, except that it covers spending by California state and local governments. It also has some features that make it more whistleblower-friendly than the federal qui tam law.
Unlike the federal False Claims Act, the California law makes a “beneficiary” of a false claim potentially liable. This is true even if the false claim was the product of an “inadvertent submission.” This significantly expands the scope of liability under the law.
This provision in the California law creates liability when:
“a beneficiary of an inadvertent submission of a false claim, subsequently discovers the falsity of the claim, and fails to disclose the false claim to the state or the political subdivision within a reasonable time after discovery of the false claim.”
The California False Claims Act also has a provision that explicitly defines “deliberate ignorance of the truth or falsity” of a claim made to the government sufficient to establish a “knowing” fraud under the law.
How California False Claims Act Cases are Filed
Many state False Claims Act cases are filed as part of a larger federal lawsuit. If you are also filing a federal False Claims Act lawsuit, the California claims can be included in that case as a separate count in the complaint.
If your case does not involve federal funds, you must file the case in a California Superior Court. You must serve, by postage “return receipt requested” the Attorney General of the State of California on the same day you file your complaint. You also must serve your disclosure statement to the Attorney General on the same date you file our complaint. The complaint must be filed under seal.
Types of Frauds Covered Under the California False Claims Act
- COVID-19 Frauds – in which California monies are used;
- Medicaid Fraud – committed by doctors, hospitals and other types of medical care facilities; Unnecessary medical procedures billed to Medicaid; Illegal marketing of drugs by pharmaceutical companies.
- The California False Claims Act would cover the monies spent by the state or local government in California. Healthcare fraud cases are almost always filed under both federal and state False Claims Acts, as these programs are generally funded by both federal and state funds;
- Bank & Mortgage Fraud – in which bankers commit financial fraud or submit fraudulent claims based on wrongful foreclosures;
- All claims covered under the federal False Claims Act that concern monies spent (or owed) to the State of California, or local governments in California;
- Fraud committed in obtaining contracts from the State of California (or local governments in California), or the willful failure to perform work as required under California government contracts;
- Underpayments to the California government entities: A reverse false claims action can occur when defendants knowingly make a false statement in order to avoid having to pay the government when payment is otherwise due.
Fines for Violating the California False Claims Act
Any person who files a false or fraudulent claim shall be liable for 3 times the amount of damages which the State of California sustains as a result of the claim(s), which range between $5,500 – $11,000 and does not include legal fees. Note: the amount of fines are increased for inflation and are now over $20,000 per false claim (August 20, 2020).
California Whistleblower Awards
Whistleblowers who present original information leading to sanctions against a violator of the California’s False Claims Act, may file a qui tam lawsuit to receive protection and a possible reward. Successful whistleblowers who bring a qui tam suit may receive a portion of the government’s recovery, which is between 15% and 30%.
If you’re unsure whether you have a case, please get in touch with one of our California whistleblower attorneys for a free and confidential case evaluation. If Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto agrees to represent you, one of our founding partners will manage your case.
Federal and California State Whistleblower Protections
Both federal and California State whistleblower protection laws allow employees to stop, report, or testify about an employer’s illegal, unhealthy, or unethical actions that violate public policies – without risking retaliation.
Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto cases have set precedents preventing companies from using settlement agreements as a way to persuade an employee from reporting fraud to government regulators. Our whistleblower attorneys have advocated for key reforms that strengthened whistleblower protections for corporate employees that have been incorporated into the Dodd-Frank and Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
Reward for Reporting Violations of the Securities and Exchange Commission Whistleblower Program
The SEC whistleblower program pays whistleblower awards to whistleblowers who provide the SEC with original information on violations of the Securities Exchange Act if the information leads to a successful enforcement action resulting in monetary sanctions exceeding $1,000,000. The range for awards is between 10 and 30 percent of the money collected.
Reward for Reporting Fraud under the Commodities Futures Trading Commission
The CFTC whistleblower reward program, established in 2010 under the Dodd-Frank Act, pays whistleblower awards to eligible individuals who voluntarily provide the CFTC with original information on violations of the Commodity Exchange Act that leads to a successful enforcement action resulting in monetary sanctions exceeding $1,000,000. Rewards under the program are mandatory for qualified whistleblowers and are in the range of 10-30% of the collected proceeds. Employers cannot retaliate against whistleblowers or encumber potential whistleblowers from communicating with the CFTC.