April 3, 2020
Joel Androphy Interviewed by Forbes Magazine – Calls for Oversight Task Force to Prevent COVID-19 U.S. Stimulus Package Fraud and to Empower Qui Tam Whistleblowers
English-born, American political activist and philosopher Thomas Paine wrote in 1776 that, “THESE are the times that try men’s souls.” Paine was of course talking about the Revolutionary War and not the current and unprecedented crisis America and the entire globe is experiencing due to the rampant pandemic brought about by the spread of the COVID-19 coronavirus. Indeed, while the Spanish Flu of 1918 – which lasted for nearly two years and infected 500 million people, about one quarter of the world’s population at the time – is an example of a similar pandemic, only a handful of individuals are still alive who lived through that trying time and they were but infants during the outbreak and have no memories of the event. For every other human living on the planet right now, we are in completely uncharted waters.
America is a far different country than we were 100 years ago, with massive infrastructure, industry and commerce – not to mention a much larger population – serving as the foundations of our capitalist society. The measures being enacted now by Local, State and Federal Government to stave off and prevent an economic collapse are again, unprecedented. With most service-industry businesses – particularly the Food Service industry – reduced to take out-only commerce, most restaurants, bars, pubs and nightclubs have shuttered their windows and locked their doors, effectively laying off hundreds of thousands of cooks, servers, greeters, valets, dishwashers and bartenders. Many if not most other “non-essential” businesses have also closed their doors temporarily – either by government order, request, or downright fear and alarm for the health of workers and customers.
The trickle-down economics of so many Americans being without income will impact America in a manner already being considered as potentially devastating as the Great Depression. According to CNN reporting, “Initial jobless claims soared to a seasonally adjusted 3.28 million in the week ended March 21, according to the Department of Labor. That is the highest number of initial jobless claims in history, since the Department of Labor started tracking the data in 1967. The previous high was 695,000 claims filed in the week ending October 2, 1982.” And then, 6.6 million U.S. workers filed for their first week of unemployment for the week ending March 28 – nearly double of that fateful week before.
Federal lawmakers have already passed two bills to deal with the coronavirus outbreak, but the big one is being hammered-out by Republicans and Democrats as this post is being written – an astounding $2 trillion dollars in government spending – which Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell non-hyperbolically admits is a “wartime level of investment.” HOW the funds will be distributed, and to WHOM, are big questions that have not been answered as of yet.
Joel Androphy, an expert in Qui Tam litigation and an attorney who has represented whistleblowers in hundreds of lawsuits dealing with fraud in Healthcare, Defense and other industries, sees this necessary and massive financial expenditure as a scenario that is ripe for fraud on a massive scale.
In a Forbes Magazine article written by Walter Pavio and published online on March 24th, Androphy however takes a cautiously optimistic stance. “There is an opportunity now to put protections in place,” he says.
According to the Forbes reporting, “Androphy believes that part of the oversight of the distribution of these funds should be part of a task force. Androphy said, ‘I think we need a select group of retired government prosecutors, whistleblowers, and trusted politicians like Sen. Charles Grassley, master craftsman of the False Claims Act and champion of efforts to hold the wrongdoers responsible, appointed to lead the effort.’ The legislation should have special provisions for whistleblowers to report their claims, a designated prosecutor’s office to investigate, and specialized courts to expedite any litigation. Penalties should be most severe.”
As a veteran practicing attorney who has been a primary partner in the law firm of Berg & Androphy since 1985, Androphy understands the insidious nature of governmental fraud and how it saps at the life force of our country. Again, from the Forbes reporting, “One concern Androphy has is whether or not corporations and some of the individuals that previously were involved in fraud and corruption will also be beneficiaries of any stimulus program. “I want the money to go to the American worker, not the American fraudster,” Androphy said.
As an enlightened reminder of just how pervasive fraud has become as part of “the American Way,” Mr. Pavio’s article includes some rather startling facts.
“Where there are large budgets, there are larger frauds. Enforcement actions in healthcare range from a woman falsely billing Medicaid for a few thousand dollars, to multi-million dollar kickback schemes for medical devices. According to a Department of Defense Report, during the five year period from 2013-2017, there were 1,059 criminal cases of defense contracting fraud resulting in the conviction of 1,087 defendants, including 409 businesses. Fraud is big business.”
If you or someone you know is aware of fraud in the workplace, or in regards to the soon-to-come massive COVID-19 stimulus package, Berg & Androphy can be of assistance. Please view our Qui Tam FAQ page for answers to many of the basic questions you may have. Ready to have a conversation? Please complete our confidential form for whistleblowers and Berg & Androphy will evaluate your potential case immediately.