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NY and CA Whistleblowers Score Against Bristol-Myers Squibb as Federal False Claim Act Lawsuit Stalls

Pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Meyers Squibb has faced whistleblower lawsuits in numerous courts in recent years, losing in California and New York, but escaping trial in a federal qui tam lawsuit under the federal False Claims Act. 

The spotty record highlights the importance of whistleblowers getting trustworthy legal guidance before they initiate an action. If you have inside knowledge about criminal activity by a drub manufacturer, you have a moral duty to come forward for the sake of patients whose health is at risk. 

Federal and state legislatures, recognizing the positive role of whistleblowers, have enacted laws that offer staggering incentives. But before you rush forward with what you know, you must receive trustworthy legal counsel from experienced attorneys. These three cases vividly illustrate the importance of choosing a knowledgeable attorney to present your case.

In California, three whistleblowers who had worked as sales representatives for BMS brought a qui tam lawsuit against the company, citing drug marketing fraud and physician kickbacks. A qui tam lawsuit means that a private citizen is suing on behalf of the government under a specific statute that allows such an action.  

In the California case, the plaintiffs presented facts that showed BMS had violated the California Insurance Frauds Prevention Act with a scheme designed to defraud private health insurers by using kickbacks to advance its sales. 

The plaintiffs were able to prove that BMS had enticed physicians to prescribe their drugs by offering various benefits that included cash payments, box suites at sporting events, admission to a Los Angeles Lakers basketball camp, outings at golf courses, tickets to Broadway shows at California venues, dinners, resort stays, and concert tickets. 

BMS settled the allegations for $30 million, and the whistleblowers were entitled to share in that recovery.

In New York, a whistleblower revealed that Lantheus Medical Imaging, a subsidiary of BMS that performs medical radiology and other services, had evaded New York State business franchise taxes and MTA surcharges from 2002 through 2006. The whistleblower, in this case, was a tax service provider who had discovered irregularities in filings in 2012. For coming forward and filing an action under New York State law, that tax professional received a bounty of $1,137,814.80, a little less than twice what the City of New York eventually recovered.

On the downside, two BMS employees who brought a federal qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act have been stymied by the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court of the United States. The plaintiffs claimed that, as former insiders, who had been asked to participate in an illegal scheme, they had sufficient knowledge of wrongdoing. Still, Sixth Circuit found their charges lacked the specificity necessary to proceed, and SCOTUS declined to offer them a hearing. 

Whistleblowers put a great deal on the line when they come forward: their reputation, their job, and their career. If you have inside information about a company’s illegal conduct, make sure you entrust your case to a law firm with a record of success in whistleblower litigation, so you can be assured of the professionalism you deserve.

“The employee who, in the public interest, has the personal courage to challenge illegality is a kind of public hero.”