Attorney in the Justice Department’s Whistleblower Unit Busted in FBI Sting
The government’s use of the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act hit a bit of a snag as of late last month when the Justice Department prosecutors accused Jeffrey Wertkin of attempting to sell information about a whistleblower’s confidential lawsuit against a Silicon Valley company. At the time, FBI agents had yet to discover whether Wertkin, who left the government last month, got the lawsuit from someone inside the Justice Department or if he sold other secrets as well. The government says that Wertkin attempted to sell secrets about a pending case for $310,000. “They’re going to have to review all his cases,” said Glenn Grossenbacher, a San Antonio whistle-blower attorney not involved in the case. “Did somebody give this case to him? Did he take it with him? Are there other cases involved? It’s a Pandora’s Box of questions.” A spokesperson for the FBI, Matthew Bertron, declined to comment on the accusations.
The government uses information provided by whistleblowers to strengthen its case against agencies that are accused of defrauding it. Wertkin, 40, has worked at the Justice Department since 2010. He worked on cases related to the government’s ongoing crackdown on healthcare fraud and remained there until his departure in April 2016. Wertkin began working at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld in Washington, DC that same year. His job at the company was to defend companies that were being sued under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. According to a legal recruit at Major, Lindsey & Africa, attorneys with Wertkin’s credentials typically make in excess of $500,000 a year.
According to prosecutors, Wertkin attempted to sell information to a man he believed worked for the Silicon Valley tech company by saying that he could help him “get ahead of the investigation.” The man turned out to be an undercover FBI agent. Wertkin was later arrested in a California hotel. During his tenure with the Justice Department, Wertkin tried cases involving AseraCare, Inc., PharMerica Corp and Medco Health solutions. PharMerica Corp and Medco Health Solutions paid $31.5 and $7.9 million dollars in settlements respectively. If you have chosen to disclose False Claims Act violations to the government it is also advised that you contact qui tam attorneys. A Qui tam attorney can advise you in such matters and will work to protect your rights under the law.