This article was originally published by the Dominion Post on Oct. 6, 2020. The following is an excerpt.
As the saying goes, Mountaineers are always free in West Virginia. Unfortunately, the cost of fraud is not. And as evidenced by the eye-popping $50 million fraud settlement the federal government just secured from Wheeling Hospital, there is a lot of fraud going around these days. The problem for the Mountain State is it does not have the proper tools to deal with it. Luckily for Charleston, there is an easy legislative fix. Simply enact a state false claims act.
That is what more than 30 states have done in one form or another. They are all modeled after the federal False Claims Act, which deputizes individuals to act as private attorneys general and sue companies defrauding the government, rewarding whistleblowers with up to 30% of any recovery. Much like West Virginia, the law was born out of the Civil War. It was in response to profiteers trying to dupe the Union Army with lame mules and faulty munitions.
This kind of whistleblower rewards law is not new to West Virginia. The state previously considered false claims act legislation in 2014. The bill made it out of committee but the House ultimately rejected it in a 55-42 vote, driven largely by concerns it would be bad for business. What that vote ignored, and the Legislature still ignores, is the proven track record of whistleblowers stepping up to root out fraud that otherwise goes undeterred and undetected.
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