By Thomas Catan
Score another one for the Ven-A-Care guys.
The four principals of the tiny Florida Keys home infusion company turned professional whistleblowers nearly two decades ago.
On Tuesday, they claimed three more drug company scalps when the Justice Department announced settlements with Abbott, Roxane Laboratories and B. Braun Medical worth $421 million. Click here for the WSJ story.
The Ven-A-Care guys’ share? A cool $88.4 million.
Many whistleblowers are one-offs. Not the Ven-A-Care guys. They’ve brought suit after suit under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, which allows whistleblowers to claim a share of any proceeds recovered by Uncle Sam.
Since filing their first suits in the mid-1990s, they’ve become the bane of the drug industry. The list of companies who have settled their suits with multimillion dollar checks include most of the biggest names in the field: Bayer, Schering-Plough, GlaxoSmithKline, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Aventis, Sanofi and AstraZeneca.
In all, they’ve helped recover more than $2 billion for the U.S. government, according to Patrick Burns of Taxpayers Against Fraud, who’s worked with the Ven-a-Care guys for years. With several cases still pending against drug companies, he reckons that figure will rise to $3 billion before all is said and done.
The whistleblowers’ motivation wasn’t to make money, it was to change the corrupt ways the industry worked, Burns says. A classic WSJ profile, from 2000, shows the extraordinary campaign that Ven-A-Care’s Zachary Bentley embarked on to stop pharmaceutical companies from overcharging government healthcare programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
Of course, the money doesn’t hurt.
No one seems to know exactly how much the four “relators” have netted in their two-decade-long campaign. A quick and incomplete tally from news databases shows they have collected at least $214 million since 2000. But that figure is by no means the whole story.
In several settlements, their cut wasn’t disclosed, so you’d have to assume that the grand total is substantially higher. Making the calculation harder, in at least one case – Bristol-Myers Squibb’s massive $515 million settlement in 2007 – the $50 million prize was shared with several other whistleblowers.
Either way, it’s more money than most of us outside of Wall Street could ever contemplate. But if anyone is thinking of changing careers, Burns warns it’s not easy money.
“The Abbott case, for the record, was first filed something like 18 years ago. I know for sure we gave it a Bar Mitzvah! So for 18 years the lawyers and whistleblowers have been going to court, doing discovery, banging on doors at DoJ, CMS, HHS, and only NOW are they getting paid.”
Thursday, December 09, 2010
Cha-Ching! Payouts Continue For Four Florida Whistleblowers - Law Blog - WSJ