While the Justice Department and a private attorney celebrate a $1.4 billion settlement for Eli Lilly’s misbranding of the drug Zyprexa, the ACLU is throwing down a challenge to the secrecy provisions of the law that made it possible.
The federal False Claims Act provides big rewards for whistleblowers who report fraud on the taxpayer. Six whistleblowers will share in nearly $79 million from the Lilly settlement announced today.
The ACLU has one criticism of the False Claims Act, however. The civil liberties advocates say the secrecy provisions of the law serve to hide Iraq war costs and other critical information from the public. The ACLU and two other watchdog groups today filed suit in Alexandria federal court asking that the FCA’s secrecy provisions be declared unconstitutional.
The lawsuit alleges FCA secrecy provisions have hidden claims of military contractor fraud from the public, raising concerns the government might be sweeping its dirt under the rug. “There is no excuse for an effective whistleblower law to degenerate into a statutory gag order,” said Tom Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project.
The complaint filed by the ACLU, the GAP, and OMB Watch is here.
By Peter Vieth