Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle reintroduced a bill on Thursday to permit employees of all government contractors to bring whistleblower actions when their company overcharges or otherwise defrauds the state or locality.
Attorney General Brian E. Frosh called the passage of the Maryland False Claims Act his “top legislative priority” for this General Assembly session.
“What this [proposed] law does, in effect, is incentivize integrity,” Frosh said in a statement. “When the government is being cheated, it often remains in the dark. Employees often have the most detailed knowledge about what is going on, and this new law would help bring that information to light, for everyone’s benefit.”
The proposed law would enable whistleblowers to collect attorney’s fees and up to 25 percent of the state’s recovery through that litigation. The bill would also permit the state to recover triple damages and prohibit companies from retaliating against the whistleblowers.
Sens. Jamin B. “Jamie” Raskin, D-Montgomery, and Michael J. Hough, R-Frederick and Carroll, are Senate cosponsors of the measure. Del. Samuel I. “Sandy” Rosenberg, D-Baltimore City, is sponsoring the bill in the House of Delegates.
Raskin said Frosh offered his “passionate” support for the legislation when the two men met in the senator’s office on the morning of Jan. 14, the first day of the General Assembly session. Frosh had also backed the bill while chair of the Senate Judicial Proceedings Committee, a position the Montgomery County Democrat relinquished in running for attorney general last year.
Similar legislation has failed in recent years in the face of strong opposition from the business community, which argued the measure would spur frivolous lawsuits.
Currently, whistleblower lawsuits are allowed only against health care institutions and providers under the 2010 False Health Claims Act. Under that law, Maryland has recovered $56 million over the past two years from Medicaid-related cases initiated by whistleblowers and others, according to the attorney general’s office.