In Maryland, whistleblower lawsuits are only allowed against health care companies under the False Health Claims Act of 2010. Under a proposed expansion of the law, employees of contractors could bring whistleblower claims when their employer defrauds the state of Maryland by overcharging, lying about expenses, or otherwise engaging in unethical behavior. The law would authorize whistleblowers to receive up to 25 percent of a monetary award, which can be substantial.
At The Cochran Firm, D.C., we strongly believe this proposed bill – HB 867 – will provide whistleblowers the proper incentive to step forward and report fraud. Whistleblowers save government time and resources and consequently, save taxpayer funds, when they report fraudulent behavior.
Not surprisingly, the business community does not like the prospect of employees being incentivized to report fraudulent and unethical behavior. In a letter to the Maryland General Assembly, the Maryland Chamber of Commerce, which is a pro-business interest group, calls the bill an “unwarranted expansion of liability” and complains about the amount of time whistleblowers would have to report fraud. Under the proposed law, whistleblowers are able to file qui tam lawsuits when “material facts are known” to the whistleblower. From the Chamber of Commerce’s perception, this amounts to an unlimited statute of limitations period. The Chamber believes a law that incentivizes whistleblowers to report fraud that cheats Maryland taxpayers is a “solution in search of a problem.”
HB 867, which is supported by the Maryland Association of Counties, is a positive for Maryland taxpayers and will encourage honest business practices. Businesses that do not defraud Maryland taxpayers have nothing to be concerned about in this bill. But businesses that engage in fraud that wastes taxpayers’ money will risk significant civil liability. The law also protects whistleblowers by prohibiting retaliation against employees who report or refuse to participate in a fraudulent action that is the basis for the whistleblower lawsuit. At The Cochran Firm, D.C., we encourage Maryland residents to get in touch with their delegate and let them know you want to stop fraud and you support HB 867.