Cornell Law School Launches Whistleblower False Claims Act Course

Cornell Law School has launched a semester-long course on the rapidly expanding area of citizen-initiated whistleblower actions.

Law School Dean Stewart Schwab and Neil Getnick, a Cornell Law alum who has handled some of the nation’s largest whistleblower cases, will co-teach the course.

They taught the first class last week.

The course, is called — Whistleblower Law: Involving Private Citizens In Public Law Enforcement.

It analyzes how the law protects and encourages whistleblowers who report wrongdoing.

The course focuses on citizen-initiative enforcement pursuant to the qui tam provisions of the federal and state False Claims Acts and other (SEC, CFTC and IRS) whistleblower laws.

It also looks at legal provisions protecting employee-whistleblowers from retaliation, as well as broader issues of combating corruption and promoting business integrity.

More than 40 leading practitioners representing plaintiffs, defendants, and the government will assist as guest lecturers.

“The number of federal and state whistleblower laws has increased dramatically over the past several years, and we believe that a strong understanding of these matters will prove valuable to our students as they embark on their careers,” said Dean Schwab. “The course is a good fit for the initiatives we are undertaking with our Clarke Business Law Institute and their focus on business integrity.”

Getnick, a member of the Cornell Law School class of ’78, said whistleblower laws are increasingly being used by the government to combat fraud throughout the country and internationally.

“These laws have become essential tools for fighting fraud, and knowledge of their complexities is important for both government lawyers and lawyers in private practice,” Mr. Getnick said.

Getnick is the managing partner of the Manhattan law firm Getnick & Getnick LLP and chairman of the Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund, a Washington, D.C.-based organization dedicated to educating the public about combating fraud against federal and state governments through the use of federal and state false claim acts and whistleblower laws.

The Department of Justice last year celebrated the 25th anniversary of the federal False Claims Act amendments which, in the mid-1980’s, revitalized the law first enacted at the urging of President Lincoln in response to government contractor fraud during the Civil War.

The False Claims Act has resulted in more than $40 billion in fraud recoveries, including a record $9 billion last year. The continued growth in whistleblower cases is expected, in part due to provisions included in the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, commonly known as the SEC and CFTC whistleblower laws.

The course was developed with Claire M. Sylvia, a partner in the law firm of Phillips & Cohen LLP and author of the treatise The False Claims Act: Fraud Against the Government.

Also assisting in the development of the course were Kristin Amerling, president and executive director, and Cleveland Lawrence III, director of legal education, at the Taxpayers Against Fraud Education Fund.

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