About Hagens Berman and our Whistleblower Practice
Hagens Berman represents whistleblowers under various programs at both the state and federal levels. All of these whistleblower programs, including under federal and state False Claims Act statutes, the SEC and CFTC whistleblower programs, and the IRS whistleblower program reward private citizens who blow the whistle on fraud.
Our firm has more than 25 years of experience in whistleblower matters and all forms of fraud. Hagens Berman was founded in Seattle, Washington, and now operates globally. The firm’s attorneys are dedicated to litigating on behalf of persons challenging corporate fraud and other abuses, giving us the scope and resources necessary to tackle a wide range of whistleblower and other fraud cases.
We have litigated several successful cases under federal and state False Claims Act statutes, including many cases declined by the government and litigated by our firm alone, and have filed several substantial complaints with the SEC, CFTC, and IRS whistleblower offices.
The leaders of our whistleblower practice, Shayne Stevenson and managing partner Steve Berman, have pioneered the firm’s growing whistleblower practice, going after some of the country’s largest entities for False Claims Act violations, securities and commodities fraud, tax fraud and other fraudulent practices.
Steve Berman, founder and managing partner of Hagens Berman, represents whistleblowers as well as consumers, investors and employees in large, complex litigation held in state and federal courts. Berman’s trial experience has earned him significant recognition and led The National Law Journal to name him one of the 100 most powerful lawyers in the nation, and to repeatedly name Hagens Berman one of the top 10 plaintiffs’ firms in the country. Mr. Berman is one of the nation’s strongest and most accomplished advocates for those challenging fraudulent practices.
Hagens Berman partner, Shayne Stevenson, is head of practice for Hagens Berman’s whistleblower actions and has litigated cases in federal district courts and at the courts of appeal across the country. Mr. Stevenson graduated summa cum laude from Gonzaga University and the Yale Law School. He went on to prestigious clerkships with the Hon. Charles S. Haight, Jr., United States District Judge for the Southern District of New York, and the Hon. Judge Betty B. Fletcher at the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. Currently, Mr. Stevenson, a former prosecutor, is handling qui tam litigation under the False Claims Act in several federal and state courts, while also handling whistleblower actions under the SEC, CFTC and IRS whistleblower programs. Mr. Stevenson is a frequent speaker and commentator in these areas of practice.
Recently Mr. Stevenson helped settle whistleblower cases against Bank of America that culminated in the historic $1 billion settlement between the Department of Justice and Bank of America addressing mortgage fraud. Mr. Stevenson also represents SEC whistleblower Haim Bodek in his challenge to high-frequency trading and exchange practices.
Unlike many smaller whistleblower firms with little to no background in financial fraud, securities or commodities fraud, or other complex fraud schemes, Hagens Berman has been litigating multimillion, even multibillion-dollar cases challenging fraud, for more than 20 years.
Our depth and reach as a leading national plaintiffs’ firm with significant success in varied litigation against industry leaders in finance, health care, consumer products, and other fields causes many whistleblowers to seek us to represent them in claims alleging fraud against the government.
Our firm also has several former prosecutors and other government attorneys in its ranks and has a long history of working with governments, including close working relationships with attorneys at the United States Department of Justice offices across the country.
False Claims Act
Under the federal False Claims Act, and more than 30 similar state and local laws, a whistleblower reports fraud committed against the government, and under the law’s qui tam provision, may file suit on its behalf to recover lost funds. Such suits are among the most effective tools in fighting Medicare and Medicaid fraud, defense contractor fraud, procurement fraud, financial fraud and other types of fraud perpetrated against governments.
The whistleblower-plaintiff initially files the case under seal, giving it only to the government and not to the defendant, which permits the government to investigate. After the investigation, the government may take over the whistleblower’s suit, or it may decline. If the government declines, the whistleblower can proceed alone on his or her own behalf. In successful suits, the whistleblower normally receives between 15 and 30 percent of the government’s recovery as a reward.
Since 1986, federal and state false claims act recoveries have totaled more than $22 billion.
Some examples of our cases brought under the False Claims Act include:
- U.S. ex rel. Lagow v. Bank of America
Represented former District Manager at Landsafe, Countrywide Financial’s mortgage appraisal arm, who alleged systematic abuse of appraisal guidelines as a means of inflating mortgage values.
RESULT: The case was successful, ultimately triggering a settlement of $1 billion, and our client received a substantial reward.
- U.S. ex rel. Mackler v. Bank of America
Represented a whistleblower who alleged that Bank of America failed to satisfy material conditions of its government contract to provide homeowners mortgage relief under the HAMP program.
RESULT: The case succeeded and was settled as part of the 2012 global mortgage settlement, resulting in an award to our client.
- In U.S. ex rel. Horwitz v. Amgen
Represented Dr. Marshall S. Horwitz, who played a key role in uncovering an illegal scheme to manipulate the scientific record regarding two of Amgen’s blockbuster drugs.
RESULT: $762 million in criminal and civil penalties levied by the U.S. Department of Justice and an award to our client.
Securities and Exchange Commission / Commodity Futures Trading Commission Whistleblower Programs
Since implementation of the SEC/CFTC Dodd Frank whistleblower programs in 2011, Hagens Berman has naturally transitioned into representation of whistleblowers with claims involving violations of the Securities Exchange Act and the Commodities Exchange Act.
We represent, among several others, the high-profile securities whistleblower Haim Bodek, whose whistleblowing efforts led (in 2015) to the largest fine ever levied against a financial securities exchange.
Unlike the False Claims Act, whistleblowers under these new programs do not file a lawsuit. Instead, they provide information directly to the SEC or the CFTC regarding violations of federal securities or commodities laws and regulations. If the whistleblower’s information leads to an enforcement action and recovery of over $1 million, they may be entitled to between 10 and 30 percent of the recovery.
Hagens Berman has worked alongside government officials and regulators since the inception of these programs, establishing the credibility necessary to bring a meaningful and well-presented case to the SEC or CFTC. When Hagens Berman brings a claim, we work hard to earn the respect of regulators with our high-caliber research and analysis. We have that respect.
Internal Revenue Service Whistleblower Program
Hagens Berman also represents whistleblowers under the IRS whistleblower program enacted with the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006.
The IRS program offers rewards to those who come forward with information about tax fraud. In the event of a successful recovery of government funds, a whistleblower can be rewarded with up to 30 percent of the overall amount collected in taxes, penalties and legal fees.
Hagens Berman helps IRS whistleblowers present specific, credible tax fraud information to the IRS.
Unlike some traditional False Claims Act firms, Hagens Berman employs attorneys with backgrounds in tax and accounting, and we have experience representing governments facing lost tax revenue due to fraud, such that we are well-positioned to handle these cases.