Happy New Year, whistleblower blog readers! Today, I am looking back on the unexpected year that was 2020. For our firm, it was a transitional year, as we expanded, moved, and even recovered a little money for the federal government. And like most, if not all of you, we are excited for 2021!
COVID-19 Impacts Firm Operations, Cases
COVID, the elephant in the room for any yearly recap, was of course no fun for anybody. On a local level, it drove us all out of the office and into the solitude of our home offices. Our meetings with clients and the government took place on computer monitors.
What we lost in fellowship was mitigated by a reduction of time stuck in Atlanta traffic. Not to mention, the joys of seeing Assistant United States Attorneys lose the suit and tie, as well as their collective composure when children and dogs barged in on important meetings.
Still, it will be nice to get back to seeing our friends and colleagues in person.
On a False Claims Act level, the consequences were severe. Not just at our firm, but nationwide, fewer cases were resolved last year. Jury trials have been delayed for months in courts throughout the country. Government investigations and discovery screeched to a halt as defendants were unable to even staff their offices for document productions. Witness interviews and depositions became highly problematic ventures.
Healthcare cases in particular took a dive, as providers were slightly more preoccupied with other matters. And many promising cases were crushed by the simple fact that businesses that had made fortunes defrauding the government were now hemorrhaging money and often going out of business.
Still, we had some successes this year, including involvement in our biggest False Claims Act settlement to date – a $117 million settlement with the psychiatric hospital system Universal Health Services (UHS). We were one of eighteen total cases filed against UHS, and the first alleging fraud in the state of Michigan.
We also settled a local matter with Comfort Community Center, an adult daycare provider just a few miles down the road from our office. Unfortunately, this was an example of a very promising case that was directly affected by COVID, as behavioral healthcare providers were crushed by the pandemic.
Also, Bracker & Marcus LLC represented the second-filed relator in a settlement against the Georgia-based hospice care provider Interim Healthcare of Atlanta.
Lastly, the federal government intervened in our Mississippi lawsuit against Mitias Orthopaedics, giving us the rare opportunity to actively litigate an intervened False Claims Act suit.
Bracker & Marcus LLC Expands
Those results alone would make this a pretty good year, but what we are most excited about in 2020 was our investment in the future, adding two veteran qui tam attorneys to our roster: Anna Dover and Nathan Peak. Anna and Nate have been incredible additions to the firm, in terms of knowledge, experience, and camaraderie.
Bringing on two new lawyers allowed us to increase our caseload by 50% while continuing to offer all of our clients a high level of attention. In 2020, we filed nineteen new False Claims Act cases, with four more planned for January.
Unsurprisingly, many of these cases were COVID-related, containing allegations such as performing medically unnecessary services on COVID patients and fraud related to the government’s Paycheck Protection Program and CARES Act initiatives. Of course, any time the government is giving away money, there will be grifters ready to take more than their fair share.
Our peers in the qui tam bar and elsewhere took notice of our recent accomplishments as well. Julie and I were again both honored by Super Lawyers magazine, and Julie was chosen for a Women In Law Award. Julie was also named to the Vanderbilt Law School Board of Advisors.
I was kept busy as Chair of the new Taxpayers Against Fraud Young Lawyers Division. We were both frequent speakers on the False Claims Act lecture circuit as well, giving presentations at the annual Taxpayers Against Fraud conference, the Federal Bar Association qui tam section’s “FCA Today” webinar, and the Atlanta-based False Claims Act Summit.
Like most of you, we are looking forward to seeing what 2021 brings. We are glad for the opportunity to mix the new (Zoom, home offices, and more time with our families) with the old (handshakes, lunch meetings, and travel). The relationships that we have formed with our friends, colleagues, and clients are certain to propel us to even greater heights in the coming year.
Happy New Year, everybody!