A Backlog Of Cases Alleging Fraud
Whistle-Blower Suits Languish at Justice
By Carrie Johnson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, July 2, 2008; A01
More than 900 cases alleging that government contractors and drugmakers have defrauded taxpayers out of billions of dollars are languishing in a backlog that has built up over the past decade because the Justice Department cannot keep pace with the surge in charges brought by whistle-blowers, according to lawyers involved in the disputes.
The issue is drawing renewed interest among lawmakers and nonprofit groups because many of the cases involve the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, rising health-care payouts, and privatization of government functions — all of which offer rich new opportunities to swindle taxpayers.
At issue in most of the cases is whether companies knowingly sold defective products or overcharged federal agencies for items sold at home or offered to U.S. troops overseas. Under the Civil War-era False Claims Act, workers who file lawsuits alleging such schemes cannot discuss them or even disclose their existence until Justice decides whether to step in.
Frederick M. Morgan Jr., a Cincinnati lawyer who represents whistle-blowers, said that the numbers of lawyers willing to take on cases involving defense contractors has dwindled, in part because of Justice's slow decisions.
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