Following the arrest of former Department of Justice (“DOJ”) attorney Jeffrey Wertkin for attempting to sell a confidential whistleblower lawsuit, many involved in the whistleblower field worry about the long-term effects of the incident. Mr. Wertkin’s arrest in January 2017 came when he was caught attempting to sell details regarding a False Claims Act lawsuit while in disguise at a California hotel. Mr. Wertkin believed he was meeting with a company representative that would pay him $310,000 for information on a confidential case. In reality he was meeting with an FBI agent who promptly arrested Mr. Wertkin for attempting to sell secrets.
The FBI is now questioning DOJ attorneys to gain more information about Mr. Wertkin to determine how he came to have documents related to the whistleblower lawsuit. The inquiry is focused on whether Mr. Wertkin received the documents from someone within the DOJ and if he sold more secret details while serving at the DOJ between 2010 and 2016.
The possibility that information on other cases was taken or sold has cast a shadow over the whistleblower community that relies on DOJ secrecy and discretion during investigations into whistleblowers’ claims. Under the False Claims Act DOJ has recovered approximately $24 billion over the past eight years. Mr. Wertkin worked on multiple False Claims Act cases while at the DOJ including cases against AseraCare, Inc. and Pharmerica Corporation.
Whistleblower attorneys may fear the possibility that other investigations could be partially compromised if anyone that was covertly working with Mr. Wertkin to sell secrets is still at the DOJ. While the investigation is still in an early phase, doubt could creep in among those representing whistleblowers that rely on the discretion of the DOJ to protect their clients’ information pending investigation into the allegations in a False Claims Act lawsuit. Moving forward, whistleblowers and their representatives alike seek reassurances that DOJ officials will not use information provided to the government discreetly for personal gain.
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