Life Science Compliance Update

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April 18, 2014

Senator Grassley Announces Plans to Create Whistleblower Caucus

Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) plans to create a "Senate Whistleblower Protection Caucus." Grassley's plan coincides with the 25th anniversary of the Whistleblower Protection Act, which he co-authored.

Over the next six months, Grassley will discuss the caucus with colleagues and encourage them to join with an eye on an official start in the new Congress, according to an announcement by the Congressman's office.

"Whistleblower protections are only worth anything if they're enforced," Grassley stated. "Just because we've passed good laws does not mean we can stop paying attention to the issue. There must be vigilant oversight by Congress. The best protection for a whistleblower is a culture of understanding and respecting the right to blow the whistle." He added that he hopes "this whistleblower caucus will send the message that Congress expects that kind of culture."

"Whistleblowers are often treated like skunks at a picnic. It takes guts to put your career on the line to expose waste and fraud, and whistleblowers need senators who will listen and advocate for them."

Policy and Medicine has recently covered Senator Grassley's activities regarding the Physician Payments Sunshine Act, which he co-authored. But Grassley has been a long-time whistleblower advocate. In addition to co-authoring the 1989 whistleblower law, Grassley authored the 2006 overhaul of the IRS whistleblower program to fight major tax fraud. The Congressman's office notes that the IRS has recently paid out several awards, but has acknowledged, after scrutiny from Grassley, that the agency must be more timely and responsive in processing whistleblower claims.

Grassley also authored the 1986 update of the False Claims Act to include qui tam provisions so that insiders could bring wrongdoing forward and sue in the name of the government. Over the last several years, we have covered a broad array of settlements, legal cases, and government investigations and enforcement actions regarding healthcare entities and the life sciences industry. One critical aspect of this increased enforcement has been the use of qui tam relators.

In almost every major settlement, a former employee of the hospital, drug company, or medical device manufacturer used their inside information or knowledge of misconduct to bring a case against the company under the False Claims Act and took advantage of the opportunities offered under the whistleblower provisions.

Click here for our article on how Sunshine Act data will help qui tam whistleblowers and their attorneys.

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