Halunen Law represents one of the whistleblowers in the $1.5 billion settlement with Abbott Laboratories announced today by the Department of Justice in a case involving government fraud. The case alleged illegal sales of Abbott’s anti-epilepsy drug, Depakote in violation of federal and state False Claims Acts. The company was accused of marketing the drug off-label, including for nursing home patients, persons with schizophrenia, and children, and providing kickbacks to medical providers who prescribed the drug. The $1.5 billion settlement is the second largest payment by a drug company in the history of the False Claims Act. Abbott has pled guilty to a criminal misdemeanor violation of the Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act for misbranding and will pay a $700 million criminal penalty. Abbott will also pay $800 million to resolve civil claims under the federal False Claims Act and various state laws.
Attorneys Clayton Halunen and Susan Coler of Halunen Law represent one of the six “relators” who filed lawsuits against Abbott and participated in the Government’s prosecution of the case. Coler remarked “the government can’t root out all corporate fraud by itself. Our firm takes pride in assisting courageous whistleblowers to blow the whistle on corporations, large and small, who are cheating the government and, in effect, U.S. taxpayers.” Federal and State False Claims Acts allow individuals with personal knowledge of fraud to bring an action, some times called a qui tam case, on behalf of the governments and to assist in recovering dollars stolen from the government. Whistleblowers who bring forth evidence of fraud in a successful case are entitled to a statutory reward of 15 to 30% of the amount recovered. In this case, the relators will share 15% of the civil recovery. Halunen further commented, “False Claims Acts, including the one recently passed in Minnesota, are powerful tools to deter fraud in health care, education, defense and other government contracts. These cases are not easy, but they are gratifying for our clients and the firm. They right a serious wrong and help to make sure that U.S. taxpayer money is used for the purposes for which it was intended.”