March Whistleblower Rewards Include $500,000 in Cargo Price-Fixing Case

March Whistleblower Rewards Include $500,000 in Cargo Price-Fixing Case

 The U.S. Department of Justice announced settlements in three large qui tam cases during March — including a price-fixing case where the whistleblower earned a half-million-dollar reward.

The False Claims Act (FCA) penalizes fraud against the U.S. government. Its qui tam provision allows whistleblowers to sue on behalf of the government, and to get up to 30% of recovered funds as a reward.

  • In U.S. ex rel. Stallings v. Sea Star Line LLC, two ocean shipping companies agreed to pay a total of $3.4 million to settle claims that they conspired to fix prices for cargo services provided to the U.S. Postal Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The companies, Sea Star Line and Horizon Line, previously had pleaded guilty to related criminal charges. The FCA lawsuit was filed originally by William B. Stallings, a former Sea Star executive who will receive $512,719 for his role as a whistleblower, according to the Justice Department. Mr. Stalling continues to pursue a third shipping company, Crowley Liner Services, which did not settle with the government.
  • In U.S. ex rel. Salters v. American Family Care Inc., a network of medical clinics agreed to pay $1.2 million to settle claims that it submitted inflated bills to the government’s Medicare insurance program, a practice known as “upcoding.” American Family Care, which operates in Alabama, Tennessee, and Georgia, did not admit wrongdoing. The FCA lawsuit was filed originally by whistleblower Anita C. Salters, a former American Family Care employee; her share of the settlement hasn’t yet been determined, the Justice Department said.
  • In U.S. ex rel. Saiz Construction Co. v. Okland Construction Co., a large Utah construction company agreed to pay $928,000 to settle claims that it fraudulently won eight government contracts that were set aside for small and disadvantaged businesses. In order to get the business, Okland Construction misrepresented its relationship with Saiz Construction, a smaller Utah-based company, the Justice Department said; Okland didn’t admit wrongdoing. The FCA lawsuit was filed originally by Saiz Construction and its owner Abel Saiz; together they will get $148,480 for blowing the whistle, according to the Justice Department.

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