Washington, D.C. -- The International Association of Whistleblowers (IAW), whose members include hundreds of whistleblowers from across the globe, awarded "Profiles in Courage" Awards to two of the toughest whistleblowers in U.S. history- James Holzrichter and Zena Crenshaw, Esq.
IAW co-chairs Dr. James Murtagh and Michael McCray, Esq. made the awards at a closing ceremony, citing Mr. Holzrichter and Attorney. Crenshaw's unswerving devotion to the cause of whistleblowers, despite adversity.
The awards capped off a week of intense conferences. Qui Tam laws, also known as the "Lincoln Laws" emerged as a dominent theme. Mr. McCray made clear: "We need to return the government to the service of citizens, so that government 'of, by and for the people' will not vanish from the earth."
Participants noted that the Qui Tam laws were passed during the civil war to protect soldiers from unscrupulous war-profiteering contractors. "Now, these same laws are our front-line defense to protect our soldiers in Iraq, and our citizens against healthcare fraud." Dr. Murtagh noted.
Mr. Holzrichter's attorney, "Lawyer of the Year," Michael I. Behn of Chicago, delivered the keynote address to the annual assembly. He was introduced by General Charles Henry (ret.), formerly the highest ranking military procurement officer in the United States.
The IAW teamed up with the Washington, D.C.-based Taxpayers Against Fraud ("TAF"). TAF's members are attorneys and whistleblowers who pursue state and federal False Claims Acts, against companies who have defrauded the government. Under the False Claims Acts, whistleblowers can be entitled to legal protection and incentives of up to 30 percent of funds recovered for the government.
."This assembly gathers courageous heroes in the never-ending battle against crooks who steal from American taxpayers and endanger our nation's safety," said Behn. "The heroes who attend this important international convocation already have proven their commitment to the public interest, at great risk and personal sacrifice. Congress and the public should listen carefully to what they have to say."
Choosing just two whistleblowers to receive the Profile in courage award was a difficult task. This year's IAW speakers also included a large number of other incredibly tenacious and successful whistleblowers:
o John Schilling, the largest False Claims Act Qui Tam relator in history, whose exploits are detailed in a new book "Undercover".
o Sal Barbera, a former Hospital Administrator uncovered physician kickbacks and other violations occurring at Tenet Hospitals also described his history-setting Qui Tam case that led to criminal charges filed against Tenet's attorney.
o Kevin McDonough, a former Mobile X-Ray Provider who uncovered a scheme to defraud Medicare by IHS the former nursing home conglomerate. Schilling, McDonough and Barbera are founding Partners of EthicSolutions, LLC.
o Dr. Janet Chandler, a qui tam relator who achieved a major victory in the U.S. Supreme Court after 18 years of insisting on the truth for her patients. Presidential candidate Barack Obama was one of Chandler's lawyers in this precedent-shattering case.
o Patrick Campbell MD provided evidence to the FBI that lead to the successful raid at Tenet's Redding Hospital, where 83% of cardiovascular surgeries were found to be unnecessary. Dr. Campbell, supported by an amicus from TAF, prevailed through a landmark court of appeal decision.
Jeffrey Wigand, advisor to the IAW, previously declared, "What we need is a false claims act that would cover all Americans, not just those who report federal fraud. Any person who makes a legitimate report and tells the truth should be covered, period."
The 16-year Holzrichter case, which was the largest whistleblower settlement in Chicago, resulted in Northrop Grumman paying $134 million to resolve a False Claims Act case allegation involving the B-2 "Stealth" bomber. Behn, also one of Chandler's lawyers in her landmark False Claims Act case, established that municipal governments can be held accountable when they cheat the public.
This past March, Behn again garnered national attention for representing a pharmacist-whistleblower in the $37 million Medicaid fraud settlement .
oTAF president Jeb White and TAF Dir. of Communications Patrick Burns expressed high praise for the whistleblowers and their attorneys. "This is a very, very difficult process," Mr. Burns emphasized. "The odds against whistleblowers are astronomical. They persevere even though few achieve success."
oMr. White urged Congress to modernize the false claims act. Senate Bill 2041, the False Claims Act Corrections Act of 200, has received overwhelming bipartisan support from the Senate Judiciary Committee, which has reported it out to the full Senate for consideration. "This is common sense legislation that we expect to sail through the House and Senate," said Jeb White, President of Taxpayers Against Fraud. "This bill has broad bi-partisan support. It's hard to be opposed to building a better rat trap to catch corporate cheats, chiselers, and con artists."
oAttorney Crenshaw agreed, and showed that judicial and legislative reform go hand in hand. "Certainly, we need to pass new laws to protect the public. We must also make certain that the courts understand and enforce laws already on the books."
oMr. Holzrichter and Dr. Chandler announced the formation of new mentoring programs to support the hundreds of citizens who face immense hurdles in attempting to alert the public to hazards and waste. "No one volunteers to be a whistleblower" stated Holzrichter. "Someone has to stand up and support the citizens who stand up for the public." The mentoring project, initially designed for use by TAF whistleblowers, has been hailed by the other 40 organizations that teamed up with the IAW, including the Government Accountability Project (GAP) and the Semmelweis Society. All hope to use the mentoring project as a pilot project to be spread to public interest groups.
The IAW honored all the history-making Qui Tam relators who took place in the conference, and urged other successful relators to join the organization and plan for next year's conference.
o"We need everyone," empasized the IAW co-chairs. "We especially need the successful to come back and show us the way to victory."