Washington, DC – Whistleblower Protection Caucus Co-Chairs Congresswomen Jackie Speier (CA-14) and Kathleen M. Rice (NY-4) were joined by Representatives Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-7), Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC-at-large), Jamie Raskin (MD-8), and Ro Khanna (CA-17) in urging Attorney General William Barr to establish a task force to monitor and investigate violations of the False Claims Act under federal programs supporting the response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
With potentially trillions of taxpayers’ dollars going to support efforts to combat the effects of COVID-19, it is critical the Department of Justice (DOJ) does everything in its power to ensure the prevention and detection of fraud. As federal agencies work together to ensure the protection of the American people, the False Claims Act can serve as a critical tool of protection.
The Members’ letter notes that “[b]efore emergency funding was even made available, scams related to COVID-19 were numerous. The Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Drug Administration recently jointly issued warning letters to seven sellers of unapproved products that claim to treat or prevent the virus.” Further, they commend Attorney General Barr “for instructing the Department’s attorneys to remain vigilant in investigating and prosecuting those who engage in wrongdoing as a result of this public health crisis.”
“The 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 Members’ letter reads.
The letter calls 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.
A copy of the letter is attached to this release.
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