Whistleblower Protection Caucus Co-Chairs Urge Barr to Establish COVID-19 FCA Task Force
Efforts to combat the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States will require potentially trillions of taxpayer dollars. Given the amount of money involved, and the speed at which the crisis is progressing, Whistleblower Protection Caucus Co-Chairs Congresswomen Jackie Speier (CA-14) and Kathleen M. Rice (NY-4) have sent a letter to Attorney General Barr urging him to establish a nationwide COVID-19 fraud prevention task force. The task force would rely on whistleblowers to ensure fraudsters and scammers are prevented from siphoning taxpayer money that is desperately needed to fight this crisis. Speier and Rice are joined in their letter by Representatives Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-7), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-at-large), Jamie Raskin (MD-8), and Ro Khanna (CA-17).
The letter commended Attorney General Barr “for [already] instructing the [DOJ’s] attorneys to remain vigilant in investigating and prosecuting those who engage in wrongdoing as a result of this public health crisis.” To further those goals, the Representatives highlighted the vital role the False Claims Act has historically played in preventing and detecting fraud, stating “[t]he False Claims Act was signed into law during a similar time of crisis in our nation. At the height of the Civil War, the law was passed to help prevent sale to the Union Army of defective products that would have put soldiers at risk. More recently, the False Claims Act has been used to hold federal contractors liable for stealing from disaster sites, selling defective body armor to police, and providing substandard healthcare to Medicaid patients.” The Representatives also championed the role whistleblowers play in detecting and preventing fraud, stating that “[w]histleblowers have always been the eyes and ears of Congress and, through the False Claims Act, they have helped recover billions of dollars in taxpayer funds. The Department of Justice should prioritize claims made under the False Claims Act and related to COVID-19 to help ensure a successful federal response.”
The Representatives called on Attorney General Barr to create a task force that would:
- Ensure a prompt and aggressive federal response to any allegations of fraud related to COVID-19, including fraud that impacts patient care.
- Initiate investigations of any whistleblower claim on the basis of a whistleblower’s “disclosure statement.” The Department should not wait to commence an investigation until a formal complaint is filed in federal court.
- Prioritize the investigation of all COVID-19 cases.
- Promptly prosecute meritorious cases and hold those who have committed fraud accountable to the fullest extent of the law (both civilly and criminally).
- Immediately inform whistleblowers if a case lacks merit so that the person can continue to work without concern as to the legality of what they have witnessed.
It is almost certain that fraudsters are already stealing taxpayer money to line their own pockets, at the expense of every American affected by this crisis. Establishing a task force in line with the Representatives’ recommendations would put a stop to fraud and ensure the proper use of the trillions of taxpayer dollars needed to fight this pandemic.
- COVID-19 Fraud and the Role of Whistleblowers
- Our Response to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Crisis
- The COVID-19 Crisis, Whistleblowers, and the Constantine Cannon Whistleblower Team