Greene LLP Recovers $18.6 Million in False Claims Act Fee Recovery Case

Greene LLP recently reached an $18.6 million settlement on behalf of Cross & Bennett L.L.C., a Colorado firm that like Greene LLP represents False Claims Act whistleblowers. The fee recovery settlement concludes nearly two years of active litigation, and also awards Cross & Bennett the rights to substantial statutory fees from the underlying case which were later recovered from GlaxoSmithKline pursuant to a confidential settlement.

Attorneys Keith Cross and Joseph Bennett filed a qui tam case on behalf of clients Gregory Thorpe and Blair Hamrick in January 2003. The case against pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline alleged illicit off-label promotion of several drugs, including the asthma drug Advair, which in turn caused Medicare and Medicaid to pay for millions of prescriptions not legally reimbursable under the Social Security Act. After thousands of hours of investigation and working closely with government attorneys, Cross was informed in late 2009 by government attorneys that GSK was interested in a “handshake deal” within a few months. When he passed the news along to clients Thorpe and Hamrick, they immediately attempted to renegotiate the contingency fee due to Cross & Bennett.

When Cross refused to drop Cross & Bennett’s contingency fee percentage from 40% to 24%, his firm was terminated. “This is the nightmare scenario for all contingency lawyers,” said Thomas M. Greene. “It’s clear from the litigation records that Cross and Bennett were responsible, responsive, highly effective, and even inventive in ways that grew the case and protected their clients’ interests. After more than seven years of hard work, being threatened like that at the eleventh hour of litigation means your very livelihood is at risk.”

Making the litigation more difficult was that at the time Cross filed on behalf of his clients, only a single False Claims Act case was public that had asserted an off-label promotion theory of liability. That case, Franklin v. Parke-Davis, was originally filed by Greene in 1996, later settling for $430 million in civil penalties and criminal fines in 2004. At the time Cross was investigating the GSK case on behalf of Thorpe and Hamrick, however, the off-label theory of liability was still in its infancy.

The GSK case was ultimately settled for $3 billion, becoming not only the largest off-label case ever resolved, but the largest False Claims Act case recovery in the 150-year history of the statute. Under the False Claims Act, whistleblowers – known as relators – are entitled to between 15% and 30% of any recovery. For their role, Thorpe and Hamrick were awarded $75 million for blowing the whistle on GSK.

Cross & Bennett filed an attorneys’ lien and a complaint for unjust enrichment, alleging that they had been terminated in bad faith. They engaged Greene LLP to represent them in their fee recovery claims, with attorneys Greene, Michael Tabb, Sarah E. Godfrey and Margaret N. Rosenberg all playing key roles in the ensuing litigation.

“I am proud of the work done by this firm to safeguard the bar of attorneys who represent False Claims Act relators and the interests of those who represent plaintiffs on a contingency basis,” said Greene. “Contingency fees are an important way to provide access to justice for many people who have been harmed or who are trying to do the right thing, especially in False Claims Act cases, which can stretch on for several years.”

Greene LLP is a complex civil litigation firm that specializes in representing qui tam whistleblowers in False Claims Act litigation. Its attorneys have over twenty years of experience representing whistleblowers, with a track record of successes in a variety of industries, including health care. Located in the heart of Boston, the firm has unparalleled experience in successfully pursuing whistleblower cases regardless of whether the government elects to intervene.

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