The U.S. Justice Department said today it recorded more than $3 billion in settlements and judgments in fraud cases, pushing the total amount covered since January 2009 to $8.7 billion.
The bulk of the $3 billion recovered in fiscal year 2011 flowed from the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act, which allows private citizens to file suits on behalf of the federal government.
DOJ officials said $2.4 billion of the money recovered was rooted in fraud committed against federal health care programs, including Medicare and Medicaid.
“We are tremendously grateful to whistle blowers who have brought fraud allegations to the government’s attention and assisted us in this public-private partnership to fight fraud,” Assistant Attorney General Tony West of the Civil Division said in a statement.
The pharmaceutical industry, DOJ officials said, was the source of the largest recoveries. The department said it recovered about $2.2 billion in civil claims against the industry. GlaxoSmithKline paid $750 million to settle criminal and civil claims stemming from the manufacture and distribution of drugs from the company’s now-closed plant in Cidra, Puerto Rico, DOJ said.
DOJ said fiscal year 2011 marked the second year in a row the department eclipsed $3 billion in recovery under the False Claims Act. Since 1986, when law was amended, the department has recovered more than $30 billion.
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who sponsored the changes, said in a statement this afternoon that the False Claims Act "proves to be the most powerful tool in rooting out fraud against the federal treasury."
"Not only does the law help recover billions of taxpayer dollars, but it deters untold more, and is a real savior for taxpayers tired of Washington ways,” Grassley said. “The whistleblowers who bring these cases to light know the secrets hidden by those who are ripping of federal taxpayers."
Updated 3:30 p.m.