One of the first and most frequent arguments defendants make in fighting qui tam allegations under the False Claims Act (FCA) is that the case brought by the whistleblower, or “relator,” is not viable because it is based on publicly available information, the relator is not an “original source” of that information, or both. On February 19, 2020, the First Circuit Court of Appeals issued an important decision clarifying that to qualify as an original source, a relator need not have participated in the fraud or observed it in operation. Instead, a relator may qualify as an original source if the relator sees or receives information that is suggestive of fraud, hears suspicious conversations, and discovers additional evidence of fraud through personal investigation. United States ex rel. Banigan v. PharMerica, Inc., No. 18-1487, 2020 WL 813258, at *8-9 (1st Cir. Feb. 19, 2020).
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Heidi Weber talks in-depth with Clayton Halunen, founder of Halunen Law, in Season One, Episode Two of her podcast, the Whistleblower Revolution. They cover whistleblower laws, protections available to whistleblowers, steps to take when blowing the whistle, and what goes into bringing a case to trial. This podcast is a welcome reunion for Weber and Halunen. Halunen represented Weber in her 2013 landmark case against Globe University.
Get to Know Heidi Weber and Clayton Halunen
Halunen and Weber share the journey they experienced in their successful challenge of Globe University. Halunen offers insight into his long-standing professional motivation to hold companies and corporations responsible for illegal actions. He explores the impact his work has on creating societal change, and the obstacles whistleblowers face in bringing their concerns to light through a legal process. The podcast sheds light on the different types of whistleblowing claims, intricacies of the False Claims Act, the legal complexities of these cases, whistleblowers currently in the news, and much more.
We encourage you to listen and learn from these two engaging personalities as they offer personal perspective and professional expertise on those courageous enough to blow the whistle on wrongdoing.
About Heidi Weber: As Dean of the Globe Medical Assistant Program, Heidi Weber was fired in April 2011. She claimed the for-profit school engaged in consumer fraud by making misleading statements to students about its job placement rates and failing to meet its commitment to place all qualified medical assistant program students in externship programs, according to the court record. Rather than address her concerns constructively, Globe University officials chose to silence her by firing her. Represented by Clayton Halunen and Ross Stadheim of Halunen Law in Minneapolis, Weber won a $400,000 verdict in a civil court case in 2013.
About the Whistleblower Revolution: The launch of Weber’s Whistleblower Revolution podcast provides whistleblowers from around the country a unique space to share their stories. With her fierce spirit and empathetic approach, Weber highlights the daunting task of blowing the whistle and the personal toll the ordeal can take.
Halunen Law is proud to sponsor Season One of the Whistleblower Revolution podcast.
Episode 2: Whistle 101 with Clayton Halunen
This episode is 1 hour long
As a whistleblower, or “relator,” under the False Claims Act (FCA), you have filed a complaint against a company that defrauded the federal government. The government investigated your allegations and indicted the defendant company on federal criminal charges. At sentencing, the government seeks restitution of the amount it lost due to the defendant company’s fraud. Can you receive a whistleblower reward from the restitution paid in the criminal case?
The short answer is maybe, but probably not in the context of the criminal action itself. Continuing a trend favorable to whistleblowers, a recent court decision may help you receive an award from the restitution paid in the criminal action if your whistleblower case under the FCA is successful.
There are many different statutes that provide protections to whistleblowers, and in some instances, also provide specific procedures to follow. That is the case with the federal whistleblower in the news these days. That whistleblower works in the Intelligence Community, where blowing the whistle may involve classified information. The intelligence community defines whistleblowing as “the act of reporting waste, fraud, abuse, and corruption in a lawful manner to those who can correct the wrongdoing.” For more information about the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act, download the Congressional Research Service report on “Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protections.”
On this National Whistleblower Day, Halunen Law recognizes the tremendous contribution that whistleblowers make to our everyday lives— protecting our health, safety, and taxes. These contributions have been happening since the earliest days of the United States. The Founding Fathers unanimously supported whistleblowers in both words and deeds, including providing government records and monetary assistance to prevent retaliation against whistleblowers.  It is a privilege for us to carry on with that support and work with whistleblowers as they make companies accountable for their wrongdoing. Every whistleblower we honor today makes a difference. Thank you.
A few years back, a news article reported that a meeting of corporate defense attorneys had called out whistleblowers as primarily “disgruntled employees.” This remark reflects a too-common perspective that whistleblowers are a nuisance rather than a contributor to the well-being of our businesses and our government. Far from being a nuisance, whistleblowers are champions of ethical conduct and play a powerful role in prodding businesses to do what is right. Are whistleblowers often disgruntled employees? Of course. Read more
Becoming a whistleblower is a process that is not invited or welcome.
It confronts individuals with a reality they cannot ignore
and calls them to take a stand in a place they would not choose.
But for their sense of integrity,
whistleblowers would prefer to remain among those who are silent.
Beginning in 2005, Allegiance entered into agreements with hospitals located in the Southeastern United States to provide Intensive Outpatient Psychotherapy services to patients who were Medicare beneficiaries on the hospitals’ behalf. The settlement resolves allegations that many patients were provided services that did not qualify for Medicare reimbursement but were billed as such.
Halunen Law attorneys Ross Stadheim and Blaine Balow filed a lawsuit in United States District Court—District of Minnesota on behalf of Karen Abbott, a special education teacher in Independent School District 518. The suit claims the district unlawfully retaliated against Ms. Abbott —including harassment and a formal reprimand—because she reported special education violations. Ms. Abbott’s complaints also prompted an investigation by the Minnesota Department of Education.
Contrary to popular rhetoric, there is no Constitutional impediment to outlawing assault weapons. Federal law has banned them before, as evidenced by the 1994 Assault Weapons Ban, which—unfortunately—was allowed to expire in 2004. Importantly, the Supreme Court has clearly stated that the Second Amendment does not protect assault weapons. District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 624-25, 627-28 (2008). Circuit Courts have applied Heller to uphold state and local laws banning the possession of assault weapons and/or large ammunition clips. E.g., Kolbe v. Hogan, 849 F.3d 114 (4th Cir. 2017).
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