WASHINGTON, DC, December 6, 2016 – Below are comments from Claire M. Sylvia, a partner at whistleblower law firm Phillips & Cohen LLP, regarding today’s Supreme Court decision on State Farm v. United States ex rel. Rigsby.
Ms. Sylvia has extensive experience representing whistleblowers in qui tam cases. As an expert on the False Claims Act and whistleblower cases, she has testified before Congress and the California legislature and co-teaches a course at Berkeley Law on whistleblower law and policy. She is the author of a major treatise on the False Claims Act and its qui tam (whistleblower) provisions, “The False Claims Act: Fraud Against the Government,” which is used as a reference by judges and attorneys for qui tam cases.
Comments from Claire M. Sylvia:
In its decision, the Supreme Court rejected for the second time this year an effort to undermine the False Claims Act, which has become the government’s most powerful weapon to fight fraud against the government.
State Farm was attempting to create a harsh rule that companies accused of ripping off taxpayers could have used to dismiss meritorious cases that were filed to recover money for the government.
Significantly, the court recognized how important whistleblowers are in helping the government fight fraud. It noted that adopting State Farm’s argument that dismissal is required whenever a seal is violated ‘would make little sense’ as it would hurt the government ‘by depriving it of needed assistance from private parties,’ meaning whistleblowers and their counsel.
As in its decision in Universal Health Services, Inc. v. United States ex rel. Escobar earlier this year, the Supreme Court rejected policy arguments about why cases under the statute should be limited. Instead, the court has shown it favors interpreting the statute in a way that is consistent with Congress’s purposes of redressing fraud and enlisting whistleblowers and their attorneys to assist in that effort.