Phillips & Cohen in the News - Experts on Whistleblower Cases

Phillips & Cohen's expertise with whistleblower cases - including those brought under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act and claims filed with the Internal Revenue Service, Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission whistleblower reward programs -- is well recognized in the media. Below are excerpts from stories where Phillips & Cohen attorneys have been quoted about various whistleblower programs and whistleblower issues.

News articles about Phillips & Cohen's whistleblower cases are listed on a separate page.

"Medicare Fraud Is Committed Well Beyond U.S. Borders," Bloomberg, 8/20/15.

"[Medicare fraud] is still an ongoing challenge," says Peter Budetti, who oversaw fraud investigations at CMS until 2013 and is now an attorney at Phillips & Cohen in Washington. "Bad guys are always trying to find new ways to game the system."

"WikiLeaks Crowdfunds for Trade Documents," Wall Street Journal, 8/17/15.

Any money that WikiLeaks raises can only go so far. "WikiLeaks can't protect anyone's job and there are serious questions as to the legal consequences a leaker might face," says Erika A. Kelton, attornet at Phillips & Cohen LLP in Washington, D.C. Government whistleblower programs, on the other hand, shield employees who come forward as well as offer financial compensation.

"Bloomberg BNA Q&A with Peter Budetti, Of Counsel to Phillips & Cohen and Former CMS Deputy Administrator," Bloomberg BNA, 6/24/15.

"However, public sector resources are never going to be enough [to fight fraud against the government]. The brilliance of the Lincoln Law that set up the FCA [False Claims Act] and then the amendments in 1986 that modernized it was to get the private sector involved in fighting fraud against the government."

"...It's just critically important that we continue to have very powerful incentives for private sector people to get involved in fighting fraud on behalf of the government."

"5 Things GCs Need to Know About Whistleblowers," Law360.com, 5/27/15.

"We've found that employees are going to report internally anyway, but they have the additional incentive now because of the way the SEC reward factors are structured," said Colette Matzzie, who represents whistleblowers at Phillips & Cohen LLP.

"So it's a real opportunity for inhouse counsel to be attentive to internal reporting and address problems as quickly as possible," Matzzie added. "If a company is cooperative with federal agencies and conducts its own investigation and shares it with the government, that is always helpful to the company in our experience."

"Whistleblowers dodge disaster in Supreme Court's KBR decision," Reuters, 5/27/15.

That holding, said whistleblower lawyer Colette Matzzie of Phillips & Cohen, is a "tremendous victory." It's quite common in FCA litigation, she said, for dismissed first suits to be followed by new complaints that flesh out or expand upon the original allegations. The Supreme Court's decision will permit the government to continue to collect in such cases, she said.

"How do you make millions by doing good? Become a whistleblower," The Guardian, 5/14/15.

One of these veteran whistleblower law firms is Phillips & Cohen, founded in 1988 by John Phillips. Phillips worked closely with Congress to pass the False Claims Act and brought the first whistleblower lawsuit after the law passed, against an eye clinic for submitting false Medicare claims. Currently, the firm has 23 attorneys in Washington, DC and San Francisco dedicated to whistleblower cases.

"We are one of just a few law firms that focus their practices solely on representing whistleblowers," [Phillips & Cohen partner Claire] Sylvia told the Guardian.

"Arrest of U.K Trader Puts a Spotlight on Whistle-Blowers," Institutional Investor, 5/12/15.

Anonymity has been central to the successes that have occurred so far, according to Erika Kelton, a partner at Phillips & Cohen in San Francisco and Washington. "Congress quite rightly recognized that in the financial services sector, the risks are great for whistle-blowers," says Kelton. Her law firm, which specializes in the whistle-blower practice, represented the client who won the $30 million award from the SEC.

"Phillips & Cohen Nabs Obama's Former 'Anti-Fraud Czar,'" Law360.com, 3/16/15.

The Obama administration's former "anti-fraud czar" for Medicare and Medicaid has joined whistleblower law firm Phillips & Cohen LLP, adding insider savvy aimed at weeding out weak False Claims Act cases and fortifying promising ones.

[Peter] Budetti, who will be based in D.C., said the firm's reputation for winning set it apart as he decided to enter private practice and take on bogus billing from a new vantage point. "The track record of Phillips & Cohen is just so terrific in the amount of money that's been returned to [the] government," he said.

"Whistle-blowers Should Be Rewarded, Says US Lawyer," Folha De S. Paulo, 2/23/15. ("Delatores devem ser premiados, afirma advogada norte-americana," translated from Portugese.)

Executives who want to report harmful practices to the public coffers should be "encouraged, rewarded and protected" . . . This is the opinion of the American lawyer Erika Kelton, a leading expert in the laws of "whistleblowers."

Kelton won both cases producing the greatest rewards for whistleblowers in history and also for the government. The defendants were the pharmaceutical companies Glaxo and Pfizer . . .

"Lawyers on All Sides See Whistleblowing Evolving Fast," Corporate Counsel, 1/6/15.

In September, the commission [SEC] authorized a payout of $30 million to a whistleblower living abroad. Erika Kelton of Phillips & Cohen, the attorney responsible for securing that award and a webinar speaker, thinks the word is getting out about the benefits of whistleblowing, and that this will result in more tips. "As these big awards become publicized, you're going to see the trends spike up," she said, adding that she's confident there will be a whistleblower award "fairly soon" that surpasses $30 million.

"These whistleblowers earn millions," Le Journal du Dimanche, 12/28/14. ("Ces lanceurs d'alerte qui gagnent des millions," translated from French)

"Now the people who really know what is happening within a company know that if they reveal fraudulent acts, almost always at the risk of their careers, they will receive in return substantial compensation and could perhaps cause the culture of their employer to become more ethical," said Erika Kelton.

"Companies Risk SEC's Wrath By Discouraging Whistle-blowers," FierceCFO, 12/12/14.

In that vein, Erika Kelton, a partner in the Washington, D.C., office of law firm Phillips & Cohen, a leading representative of whistle-blowers, observed during the Gibson Dunn webcast that the biggest mistake a company can make is "isolating and victimizing the whistle-blower." Added Kelton, "When somebody is not heard, you're putting that person on the periphery and putting them in an extremely uncomfortable position."

"Foreign Whistleblowers Gaining Traction," The Wall Street Journal, 12/12/14.

Whistleblower attorney Erika Kelton, also speaking at the seminar, said foreign tipsters primarily find her over the Internet, though some come through referrals or after hearing her speak abroad. "Many really understand the program quite well," she said. Ms. Kelton, of Phillips & Cohen LLP, represented the foreign tipster who earlier this year was awarded the SEC program's largest-ever whistleblower award.

"Who Would Be a Whistleblower?" The Independent, 11/12/14.

Phillips & Cohen, the law firm representing the latest whistleblower, said the Dodd-Frank Act allows SEC whistleblowers to remain anonymous "to the fullest extent allowed by the law" to encourage and reassure people who often put their careers and more at risk by reporting wrongdoing.

Phillips & Cohen said the company exposed in the latest case went to great lengths to conceal a fraud.

"Our client exposed extraordinarily deceitful and opportunistic practices that were deeply entrenched and well hidden," said Erika Kelton of Phillips & Cohen.

"Whatever Happened to Pharmaceutical Swag?" The Atlantic, 11/07/14.

ProPublica, which performed a four-year investigation of drug-company payments to doctors, found that more than three-quarters of doctors have at least one financial tie to a drug or medical-device company.

When they do make physician visits, pharmaceutical reps are still often caught saying that a drug is more effective than it has been proven to be, "or saying that it's also effective for populations of patients that it hasn't been proven to treat," said Erika Kelton, a lawyer who represents whistleblowers against the pharmaceutical industry.

"Judge Orders Mediation in Guardrail Lawsuit," The New York Times, 10/28/14.

Erika A. Kelton, a whistle-blower lawyer with Phillips & Cohen who is not involved in the litigation, said it was not uncommon for both sides of a False Claims Act case to discuss a potential settlement after a liability finding.

"It becomes a question of whether a compromise can be worked out to facilitate a settlement both sides can live with, or if they'll continue fighting in court," Ms. Kelton said.

"SEC: Banks May Be Shifting Asset Risk for Better Capital Treatment," American Banker, 10/22/14.

Bigger is definitely the signal the SEC is sending, according to Phillips & Cohen LLP attorney Erika Kelton. The SEC last month announced the largest ever whistleblower payout in its history. Kelton helped negotiate the record $30 million check that the SEC awarded her client.

"I'm very confident there will be even larger cases moving ahead, but they are not only focused on large ones."

"Guardrail Maker Trinity Industries Liable for Fraud in Texas," The New York Times, 10/21/14.

Legal experts in False Claims Act cases say the $175 million verdict is on the higher end of recent judgments.

"There's no denying it's a big number," said Erika A. Kelton, a whistle-blower lawyer with Phillips & Cohen who is not involved in the Trinity litigation.

Ms. Kelton said that the government usually joins the fray in successful False Claims Act cases. But in the Trinity case, the Federal Highway Administration did not participate.

"Phillips & Cohen: 'Giant Killers of the Whistleblower Bar,'" Lawdragon, 9/29/14.

The list of Phillips & Cohen's takedowns is long, punctuated by a leading role in the record-setting $3 billion settlement with GlaxoSmithKline in 2012 for improper marketing practices and financial inducements to doctors . . . and a $1.8 billion settlement with Pfizer Inc. in 2009 for illegally marketing painkillers.

But as impressive as the corporate scalps on her wall is [Erika] Kelton's mastery of the art of relating to, protecting and guiding the whistleblower.

"SEC Award May Spur Whistle-Blower Growth," Bloomberg, 9/24/14.

Erika Kelton, the lawyer at Phillips & Cohen LLP who represented the whistle-blower . . . said an employee who blows the whistle "does so at great personal and professional risk." While federal law prohibits retaliation, people sometimes still lose their jobs, both attorneys said.

"4 Tips on Scoring Big for IRS Whistleblowers," Law360.com, 8/18/14.

While killer evidence is key in a whistleblower case, [Erika] Kelton says experts should also be an integral part of a whistleblower's due diligence process, as they can lend authority to his or her claim.

"In advance of submitting a claim, we often consult with experts in the whistleblower's field, flesh out all of the facts, and then also prepare a list of potential witnesses for the IRS to speak to, which includes documents they should request, the nature of the information contained in those documents, what areas of expertise the experts have, and what they would likely say," Kelton says.

This step is important, because the IRS' due diligence process is quite lengthy and involved.

"CFTC Set to Make First Award To Whistle-Blower Under 2011 Program," Securities Law Daily, 5/20/14.

According to whistle-blower lawyer Erika Kelton, Phillips & Cohen LLP, Washington, the award shows that the program is off to a "promising" start more than two-and-a-half years after its inception...

"The agencies have no understanding of the fraud when the submissions are made," Kelton observed. "They need to organize their enforcement team, investigate, then they need to negotiate or in some way take enforcement action. That takes a lot of time."

"FCA Wave Sparks Debate Over DOJ Power to Boot Weak Suits," Law360.com, 5/2/14.

"I think the number of cases where [the Justice Department] could make that call are probably not as many as the defense bar thinks exist," said Claire M. Sylvia, an attorney at whistleblower firm Phillips & Cohen LLP.

"The Plight of an Overseas Whistleblower," i-Sight, 4/1/14.

With an influx of overseas whistleblowers participating in a US government program that offers rewards for uncovering legal violations, it's not uncommon for attorney Erika Kelton to get international calls from people "who are extremely uncomfortable with the business practices that exist internationally."

"Walk, Don't Run - Experts Advise Prudence and Caution for Potential Whistleblowers," CFA Institute Magazine, March/April 2013.

Do make sure that you really want to file a whistleblower claim. "Once it's filed, it sets in motions something that you cannot stop," says Erika Kelton, partner in the Washington, DC, law office of Phillips & Cohen. "It's important to thoroughly reflect on, and be prepared to do this and assess how long it will take, what to expect, how disruptive to your life this can be, and what risks you are taking."

"Tax Court Scrutinizes Whistleblower Office's Delayed Decision," Tax Analysts, 3/14/13.

Erika A. Kelton of Phillips & Cohen LLP told Tax Analysts that the Insinga order is important because "the Tax Court shows it is open to a more common sense approach than the IRS has often been willing to take -- i.e., considering whether there is a "de facto" rejection, rather than simply a formal "technical" rejection." Also, the possibility of jurisdiction under the APA is encouraging because "that could be very helpful for future challenges to agency delay and inaction," she said.

"DOJ Intervenes in Whistleblower Suit Against Lance Armstrong," Legal Times, 2/22/13.

"The United States invests considerable resources in the investigation of cases, interviewing witnesses and reviewing documents, to consider the validity of the claim by the whistleblower," said Colette Matzzie of the whistleblower firm Phillips & Cohen in Washington. "It's a lengthy internal deliberative process for the government." Matzzie said DOJ's intervention can be viewed as a validation of Landis' claims.

"Erika Kelton on the Rise of SEC Whistleblower Cases," Corporate Crime Reporter, 2/5/13.

Erika Kelton is a partner at Phillips & Cohen in Washington, D.C. She's a pro at bringing whistleblower cases.

She has a couple of billion-dollar-plus False Claims Act qui tam cases under her belt . . . . But a significant amount of her caseload is now SEC/CFTC and tax cases.

"Floyd Landis whistleblower suit targets more than Lance Armstrong," The Washington Post, 1/17/13.

False Claims Act whistleblower suits, which date from the Civil War era, are a mechanism for encouraging someoe with information about fraud against the government - oftentimes an "insider" in a case of wrongdoing - to come forward, explains Peter Chatfield of Washington-based Phillips & Cohen, which specializes in such cases.

"The plaintiff's reward is a percentage of the money that's recovered - 15-25 percent if the U.S. Department of Justice joins the action and takes the lead role in the case, or 25-30 percent if the private plaintiff pursues the case without the government's help or resources," Chatfield said.

For stories prior to 2013, please see Phillips & Cohen in the News -- Archive.