Recently, whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before a Senate subcommittee that Facebook has been deliberately putting its own profits before users’ safety. As Facebook’s former product manager for civic misinformation, Haugen calls for federal regulation of social media platforms and asserts that Facebook will not solve what she calls a “crisis” of deliberately ignoring users’ wellbeing for the sake of its own profits without Congress’s help. She points to tobacco, automobiles, and opioids, stating that when it became clear that those products were harming people, the government took action.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reached a rather auspicious milestone in September when it announced that, with the addition of two recent awards totaling $114 million, the aggregate amount of monies paid out under the SEC’s whistleblower program since its implementation in 2011 has exceeded $1 billion. In fiscal year 2021 alone, the SEC has awarded a record $500 million. The SEC also reported that award payments have been made to a total of 207 whistleblowers. In a statement, SEC Chairman Gary Gensler said, “[This] announcement underscores the important role that whistleblowers play in helping the SEC detect, investigate and prosecute potential violations of the securities laws.” The two most recent awards included a payment of $110 million to an individual who, according to the SEC, provided the SEC and another regulatory agency with “independent analysis that substantially advanced the SEC’s and the other agency’s investigation” and culminated in successful enforcement actions. Another whistleblower also provided original information to the SEC and received an award of approximately $4 million, although the smaller amount reflects the fact that the information passed on was significantly more limited in scope. As is its standard policy, the SEC declined to specifically name either of the whistleblowers involved or the cases and companies to which they were connected.
Whistleblowers are crucial to the Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC) ability to enforce regulatory standards. Because of their knowledge, they can help the SEC protect investors and capital markets, as well as hold those performing unlawful conduct accountable. Through Section 21F of the Exchange Act the SEC has power to award whistleblowers for the information they provide. Last month, an amendment was added to this section altering the rules of whistleblower award allocations.
In a 9-0 decision, the Supreme Court on February 22, 2018 decided Digital Realty Trust, Inc. v. Paul Somers, a case challenging the definition of a whistleblower under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, commonly referred to as Dodd-Frank. The court held that “Dodd-Frank’s anti-retaliation provision does not extend to an individual, like Somers, who has not reported a violation of the securities laws to the SEC [Securities and Exchange Commission].” This is a narrowing of the definition of whistleblower and as such has a number of implications for companies and their compliance departments.
The United States Department of Justice (“DOJ”) recently intervened in a qui tam action against UnitedHealth Group (“United”) and its subsidiary, UnitedHealthcare Medicare & Retirement, the nation’s largest provider of Medicare Advantage (“MA”) Plans. The suit alleges that United engaged in an “up-coding” scheme to receive higher payments than they should have under MA’s risk adjustment program. Assuming these allegations of United’s false claims are true, then United billed and received hundreds of millions of dollars in improper payments from Medicare.
Lauren Rushing Associate Editor Loyola University Chicago School of Law, J.D. 2018 In the span of one week, two financial services companies paid penalty fees to the Securities and Exchange Commission for intentionally undercutting the Whistleblower Program. Impeding whistleblower communication is averse to quashing misconduct in the marketplace, which is the program’s main goal. …
Kaitlin Lavin Executive Editor Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2017 In 2011, Vanguard Healthcare, LLC (“Vanguard”) settled a whistleblower suit for Medicare and Medicaid fraud and entered into a Corporate Integrity Agreement (CIA). Now the federal government is suing Vanguard for submitting fraudulent claims for services that were “either non-existent or grossly …
Alanna J. Kroeker Executive Editor Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2017 Unprecedented DOJ Healthcare Fraud Takedown: On Wednesday June 22, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Burwell announced the largest healthcare fraud takedown in history. This action was led by the Medicare Fraud Strike …
Gail Jankowski Executive Editor Loyola University Chicago School of Law, JD 2016 Although the DOJ reached 70 settlements involving 457 hospitals in 43 states for more than $250 million related to cardiac devices that were implanted in Medicare patients which violated coverage requirements, they were not done yet. Another batch of 51 hospitals settled …