What a great next few days are planned! I am here in Washington, D.C.,
to attend the Twelfth Annual
Taxpayers Against Fraud Conference. Three hundred lawyers who represent either the Government
or the relators in False Claims Act cases have gathered to learn more
about the qui tam laws.
It’s Continuing Legal Education (“CLE”) at its very best.
The speakers come from all over the country, and they are talking about
relevant, fresh, legal information from cases they have just finished
pursuing. Qui tam/whistleblower law is, quite simply, the fastest-changing
law in America, and so it is difficult for anyone to keep up with the
changes. This conference pulls together some of the brightest minds in
the field to talk about the fast-breaking changes in this area of the law.
We started the conference with an overview of the Federal False Claims
Act and qui tam practice in general. The new President and Executive Director
of TAF, Kristin Amerling, led off the discussion. Daniel Anderson, who
is the Acting Director of the Commercial Litigation Branch of DOJ, and
Shelley Slade and Jeb White, who are FCA lawyers from Washington, D.C.,
and Philadelphia, joined Kristin on the panel. The group did an absolutely
terrific overview of the FCA and all of the many changes and amendments
that have been made to the law in the last twenty-five years or so, and
especially in the last three years.
The beauty of attending a CLE meeting like this one is that it is so specific
to what I do as a qui tam lawyer. As I listen to the speakers, I am constantly
getting ideas for my cases. I always come home with a to-do list that
is chock-full of great ideas for the whistleblower cases that I have pending,
or that I am getting ready to file.
Of all the bars I have belonged to over the years (a lawyer sometimes use
the term “bar” to refer to a subsection of lawyers who handle
similar cases, so you might hear a lawyer refer to the “product
liability bar”, or the “personal injury bar”), the qui
tam bar is by far the smallest, even when you add together all the lawyers
from around the nation who are in this field. Perhaps for that very reason,
the bar is also very supportive and collegial. It was great to reconnect
with old friends and to meet new ones.
A lawyer handling qui tam cases, just because of the nature of the cases,
generally files lawsuits in jurisdictions around the country. In order
to do that, the lawyer obtains the support of a local lawyer, called a
“local counsel”. Likewise, when lawyers need to file False
Claims Act cases in Georgia, they may call me to be their local counsel.
Sometimes the term “local counsel” is considered slightly
pejorative, as if the “local” counsel is not the “real”
counsel. In the qui tam world, however, the local counsel generally labors
right alongside the lawyer who pulled the local counsel into the case.
One of the great advantages of this conference is that I get to see most
of the lawyers from all over the country with whom I am working, all in
one place and at one time. We have an opportunity to talk about the cases
we have together and to work out our next steps.