Neal Roberts on the First False Claims Act Law Firm With Whistleblower Members

Since the modern False Claims Act was passed thirty years ago, more than 3,500 cases have been resolved.

Neal Roberts

Neal Roberts

But only 400 or so of those cases (11 percent) have settled for $25 million or more.

That’s according to False Claims Act relator and lawyer Neal Roberts.

Roberts has just launched a new kind of False Claims Act law firm — ProtectUS Law — in Washington, D.C.

It’s a one of a kind firm that includes non lawyer whistleblowers as members of the firm.

Roberts recruited those whistleblower members from the list of 400 relators who settled for $25 million or more.

“We did a Freedom of Information Act request on all of the (400) cases,” Roberts told Corporate Crime Reporter in an interview last month. “I sent thirty letters in the beginning of the year to those relators. And by letter, I mean the old fashioned piece of white paper. And out of those, we recruited three members to our firm.”

Do you have that list of over 400 relators who settled for over $25 million?

“Of course,” Roberts says.

Would you be willing to share it with us?

“No. It’s part of our proprietary advantage. We know the cases, we know the whistleblowers, we know the recoveries. And I don’t think anybody else does. We use that effectively in arguments with defendants about relator’s share. You can do it. You can FOIA the information. But it takes forever.”

What would be the downside of making that list public?

“I don’t think any other law firm has it,” Roberts says.

What made you think of this innovation — a law firm with whistleblowers?

“There is a wonderful organization that John Phillips founded — Taxpayers Against Fraud. I don’t know how it happened. But here is a public interest lawyer who settles his first case in the early 1990s. And he took the whole fee and set up a non profit educational institution to protect the law. And that’s called Taxpayers Against Fraud. And that group is dedicated to whistleblowers and their attorneys.”

“They brought together the top ten whistleblowers for dinner. And we brought in maybe $10 billion. And all of them were all lamenting the fact that they had this great expertise, they couldn’t get a job, and they weren’t lawyers. And they wanted to help whistleblowers. You live this life. And I said — it’s too bad that you couldn’t fix that — help relators help other relators.”

“These are people who are not old and want to keep working. That’s where the premise came from. In most jurisdictions, you can’t have non lawyers in the law firm sharing in actual individual cases. The District of Columbia was different. That rule was probably designed by members of Congress — non lawyers — who wanted to join a law firm to lobby.”

“They have a second rule, which I really like, which is that you can make loans to your clients to help them live. They know that unless a person can stay afloat until the case is brought, there is little chance of success. DC is probably the second biggest False Claims Act site in the country.”

How do your colleagues in the false claims bar view your firm?

“They are all lawyers and lawyers are competitive. But I thought about that question going into it. The strength of our firm is first that we have non lawyer members. And second, we can make loans to individual relators if they need it. And third, we are putting together a fund to invest in cases. We can bring financing to False Claims Act cases that need experts. I was an expert in the big accounting firm cases. I’m friends with my colleagues in the false claims field. And I received a very cordial reception. It will be quite collaborative. The proof is in the pudding. But so far, no one is negative at all.”

You mentioned that you went to school of with John Phillips. Are you friends with him?

“The last time they had a big meeting of Taxpayers Against Fraud, we went to his villa in Italy. It turns out that he has done well and is now the Ambassador to Italy. I stayed at his place. He’s a good guy. He’s done us all a great service by changing the law and founding Taxpayers Against Fraud.”

There are three lawyers in the Roberts firm — Neal Roberts, his son Daniel Roberts and Lee Glass.

The whistleblowers in the firm are Neal Roberts, Blair Hamrick, Sean Hellein and Chris Gobble.

The private investigators are John Sboto, Larry O’Brien and Stephen Vale.

And the financial and damages professionals are Neal Roberts, John Herold and John Sboto.

Roberts worked for years with Price Waterhouse — and was a relator against the big accounting firms in two major series of cases — one which recovered $70 million for the government and another which recovered close to $310 million for the government.

The firm’s web site says the firm is “the first law firm with former whistleblowers as members who have personally been through the journey from start to finish.”

It also says — “we understand what it is like to blow the whistle.”

If someone is out there who is a whistleblower and wants to go to a law firm that has whistleblowers in the leadership, this law firm is that only one where that is the case?

“We are unique in that respect,” Roberts says. “It was sad to me to know that other whistleblowers in big cases like my own, couldn’t get a job in a major industry. We provide a home for them. We are in the middle of negotiating our next wave of partners. They know everything there is to know about FDA testing, about hospital administration, about the arcane areas of Obamacare pricing. They bring this technical expertise. And we join them with three licensed investigators and two CPAs who are skilled with matters involving fraud. And then of course we have our lawyers who are good at doing what we do.”

[For the complete q/a format Interview with Neal Roberts, see 30 Corporate Crime Reporter 1(13), January 4, 2016, print edition only.]

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