Whistleblowers play a critical role in protecting the public from unsafe practices, fraud, waste, abuse and other illegalities. In a very real sense, whistleblowers are the “eyes and ears” of the public. It’s not easy to blow the whistle on an employer, and too often whistleblowers are retaliated against for reporting wrongdoing and telling the truth. They deserve tough, tenacious advocates who are committed to protecting them. Below are just a few clients we have proudly represented.
Dr. Rick Bright
Katz Banks Kumin represents Dr. Rick Bright, a federal scientist who served as director of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority until his involuntary removal in April 2020.
In a whistleblower complaint filed with the Office of Special Counsel, Dr. Bright charged that he was removed from his position in retaliation for his insistence that the government invest the billions of dollars allocated by Congress to address the COVID-19 pandemic into safe and scientifically vetted solutions, and not in drugs, vaccines and other technologies that lack scientific merit. He further charged that he clashed repeatedly with HHS political leadership because of his resistance to fund potentially dangerous drugs promoted by those with political connections and he limited the broad use of chloroquine and hydroxychloroquine, promoted by the Trump Administration as a panacea. The Administration, over Dr. Bright’s objections, demanded that New York and New Jersey be “flooded” with these drugs, which were imported from factories in Pakistan and India that had not been inspected by the FDA. Dr. Bright rightly resisted efforts to provide these drugs which lacked scientific merit on demand to the American public and insisted that they be provided only to hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 while under the supervision of a physician. These drugs have potentially serious risks associated with them, including increased mortality demonstrated in some recent studies in patients with COVID-19. Dr. Bright also raised dire and urgent concerns beginning in January of 2020, about the nation’s lack of critical supplies necessary to combat COVID-19, such as masks, respirators, and swabs. Thereafter, HHS political leadership retaliated against Dr. Bright. On May 14, 2020 Dr. Bright testified before the House Committee on Energy and Commerce’s health subcommittee.
On May 8, 2020 three days after Dr. Bright filed his complaint with the Office of Special Counsel, the OSC found "reasonable grounds to believe" that that the administration was retaliating against Bright, and recommended that Dr. Bright be reinstated pending the outcome of its investigation into his retaliation claim.
On August 9, 2021, it was announced that Dr. Bright had settled his complaint with the government for an undisclosed sum that accounted for back pay, emotional stress, and reputational damage. He is now developing a new pandemic-prevention institute for the Rockefeller Foundation.
Katz Banks Kumin represented Janet Herold, a senior attorney at the U.S. Department of Labor (“DOL”), with her whistleblower complaint against then-Secretary of Labor Eugene Scalia.
In 2012, Ms. Herold was appointed as Regional Solicitor for the Western Region, DOL’s largest enforcement region, and quickly earned a reputation as a dedicated and effective advocate for workers’ rights. Over the last few years, Ms. Herold led the trial team in the largest wage discrimination suit prosecuted by the federal government. DOL alleged that Oracle, a federal contractor, violated anti-discrimination laws by systemically underpaying women, Asian-American and African-American employees by up to 30%.
Eugene Scalia was appointed Secretary of Labor in September 2019, and according to Ms. Herold’s complaint, broke with departmental practice, intervened in settlement discussions with Oracle, and abused his power as Secretary. While a government expert witness calculated the back pay owed to workers at $300-$800 million, an unnamed Labor Department official claimed that prior to trial, Ms. Herold informed him that she was informed that Secretary Scalia aimed to settle the case for less than $40 million.
Oracle has a history with the Trump administration – its Chief Executive Safra Catz was a member of the Trump transition team, and its Executive Chairman Larry Ellison was a public supporter of President Trump, including hosting high-dollar fundraisers for him.
After Ms. Herold objected to his improper actions, Secretary Scalia sought to reassign her to a job in Chicago with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, a position for which she was not qualified and which did not involve legal work.
On August 7, 2020, Ms. Herold filed a whistleblower complaint with the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (“OSC”), the federal agency charged with investigating retaliation against federal employees, alleging that the reassignment was in retaliation for Ms. Herold’s objection to Secretary Scalia’s improper actions, as well as her vigorous enforcement of federal laws protecting workers.
Finding “reasonable grounds” that the reassignment was unlawful, OSC repeatedly requested that DOL take no action until it had completed its investigation. DOL, however, terminated Ms. Herold on January 11, 2021, in the waning days of the Trump Administration and prior to OSC completing its investigation.
On February 10, 2021, DOL reinstated Ms. Herold as Regional Solicitor for the Western Region.
In a statement, Ms. Herold said, “I am pleased to be reinstated and am eager to continue my work at the Department of Labor fighting and standing up for workers.”
$3.2 Million SEC Whistleblower Award
Financial Whistleblower Alerted SEC to Securities Violations, and Provided Documents and Expertise Leading to Successful Enforcement Action
The Securities and Exchange Commission awarded $3.2 million to a Katz Banks Kumin client who reported securities violations at a large U.S. financial institution to the agency.
The whistleblower went above and beyond, providing a key “roadmap” of “subject matter expertise,” documents, and assisting the SEC staff in investigating the company’s illegal activity.
Read more here.
Boeing Engineer who blew the whistle on safety issues with 737 MAX Jet
Katz Banks Kumin represents Curtis Ewbank, a Boeing engineer who filed an internal ethics complaint regarding the design process of the 737 MAX plane, which has been grounded worldwide following tragic crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. As originally reported in the New York Times and Seattle Times, Mr. Ewbank’s complaint reported that the company rejected adding potentially critical safety systems during the development of the 737 MAX jet due to a focus on cost and pilot re-training concerns.
Mr. Ewbank worked on the cockpit controls and displays design of the airplane, which pilots use to monitor and control the plane.
In his complaint, Mr. Ewbank reported that Boeing did not implement a synthetic airspeed system that uses software to provide an indirect calculation of airspeed. This system would serve as a check on the plane’s “angle of attack” sensors that measure the plane’s angle in the sky, and could prevent incorrect data from being distributed to other systems if the sensors’ readings disagreed with one another. In both of the crashes of the 737 MAX flights, it is believed that the angle of attack sensors sent incorrect data to the plane’s automated MCAS system, contributing to irrecoverable nose dives.
Three of Mr. Ewbank’s former colleagues interviewed by the Seattle Times concurred that the synthetic airspeed system could have potentially prevented the tragedies in Ethiopia and Indonesia. The news coverage further noted that Mr. Ewbank’s complaint also reported concerns that Boeing’s corporate culture promoted fear over raising concerns and a lack of transparency with government aviation safety regulators.
Katz Banks Kumin is representing Mr. Ewbank with regards to his involvement with federal investigations.
Julian Craig v. Veritas of Washington
Former Chief Medical Officer who testified about misconduct affecting health and safety at United Medical Center
Katz Banks Kumin represents Julian Craig, the former Chief Medical Officer of United Medical Center, in his whistleblower retaliation and wrongful discharge lawsuit against the hospital and its management consultants.
Dr. Craig oversaw all clinical operations for the southeast D.C. hospital, where he witnessed unsafe and fraudulent practices being implemented by Veritas of Washington, a consulting firm contracted to manage the hospital. In November 2017, Dr. Craig testified at a D.C. Council hearing on health about “malfeasance affecting patient health and safety” and about Veritas executives’ “submission of fraudulent statements to Medicare and Medicaid.”
In the weeks following Dr. Craig’s testimony, the D.C. Council announced that it would not renew Veritas’s contract, with some council members explicitly citing Dr. Craig’s testimony as a determining factor for their vote.
Veritas then fired Dr. Craig, prompting Katz Banks Kumin to file a whistleblower lawsuit against the consulting firm and its executives in February 2018.
While under direction by Veritas, the hospital experienced three patient deaths, including the death of a man who died of a heart attack at UMC’s nursing facility after falling out of bed and yelling for help, only to receive delayed and negligent care from a registered nurse. Regulators also closed the nursery and delivery rooms after a pregnant woman died while in care, and conditions at the facility were deemed unsafe. Dr. Craig’s courageous actions potentially saved lives by ending Veritas’s management of the hospital.
Read the Washington Post’s coverage here.
SEC Whistleblower Award
Public employee who blew the whistle on a mutual fund company’s illegal conduct
The Securities and Exchange Commission awarded $2.4 million to a Katz Banks Kumin client who provided valuable information to the SEC about a mutual fund company’s illegal practice of manipulating mutual fund shares’ prices.
At the time, the client was only the 45th person to receive an award through the SEC whistleblower program, and just one of 14 to receive an award greater than $2 million.
Read more here.
U.S. ex. rel. Cloninger v. Dyncorp
Former defense contractor employee who filed a False Claims Act Lawsuit against employer accused of gross mismanagement and fraud
Katz Banks Kumin represents Max Cloninger, a former employee of defense contractors DynCorp Aviation and Northrop Grumman, in his qui tam fraud and whistleblower retaliation case.
Mr. Cloninger alleges that the contractors violated the False Claims Act when they “grossly mismanaged hundreds of millions of dollars of government property” and “devised numerous fraudulent schemes” in their work on the U.S. Counter Narcoterrorism Technology Program Office in Afghanistan.
In 2017, Katz Banks Kumin participated in oral arguments before the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia that the case should proceed despite the defendants arguing that the Complaints failed to meet legal standards. Even though the government has not intervened, Mr. Cloninger soundly defeated the motion to dismiss, and his case was allowed to proceed.
Read Law360’s coverage here.
Woolstenhulme v. MasTec Incorporated
Two Construction Executives filed a whistleblower retaliation complaint
Katz Banks Kumin represented two whistleblowers, Ricky Woolstenhulme and Michael Pickering, who were construction executives, in a whistleblower retaliation case filed in federal court in Arizona. Their claims included wrongful termination in violation of the Sarbanes Oxley Act, the Dodd Frank Act, and state law wrongful termination claims. The parties resolved the case.
Thirteen Flight Attendants v. United Airlines
Thirteen flight attendants who filed a whistleblower complaint after suffering retaliatory firings
Katz Banks Kumin represented thirteen veteran flight attendants who were fired by United Airlines after refusing to fly on a plane after learning of a credible and specific threat.
Prior to a July 2014 flight, the attendants saw threatening words and images drawn on the aircraft’s tail cone. They requested a thorough inspection of the plane to ensure it was safe to fly, which the airline refused to do. United then fired all thirteen flight attendants for ‘insubordination.’
Katz Banks Kumin filed a whistleblower complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration of the Department of Labor, alleging that the firings were retaliatory and unlawful.
In March 2016, the two parties reached a resolution reinstating the flight attendants to their duties. The terms of the agreement are confidential.
Watch NBC News’ coverage here.
Inchcape Shipping Services
Whistleblowers who exposed contractor’s wide-ranging overbilling scheme
Along with co-counsel Vogel, Slade & Goldstein, Katz Banks Kumin represented three former employees of Inchcape Shipping Services who blew the whistle on a wide-ranging overbilling scheme.
After trying to alert CEO Claus Hyldager and other executives of the fraud, to no avail, the three employees – Larry Cosgriff, Noah Rudolph, and Andrea Ford – resigned and contacted the government. In November 2015, the U.S. Department of Justice announced that it would join and proceed with a False Claims Act qui tam lawsuit against the British company, and in February 2016 the Department of Justice filed its False Claims Act complaint.
In May of 2018, Inchcape paid $20 million to settle the FCA suit. The three whistleblowers spilt approximately $4.4 million.
Read the Washington Post’s coverage here.
Briggs v. Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Washington
Doctor who filed whistleblower retaliation claim against medical clinic
Katz Banks Kumin represented Dr. Charles Briggs, a former staff doctor at the Catholic Charities clinic in Silver Spring, in a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against his former employer. Catholic Charities runs medical clinics in Montgomery County, Maryland and Washington, D.C., primarily treating low-income and uninsured immigrants.
Katz Banks Kumin filed a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit in D.C. Superior Court on behalf of Dr. Briggs.
Read the Washington Post’s coverage here.
Ferrigan v. Boca Raton
City employee who reported threats and risks to the water system and environment
Katz Banks Kumin represented Christine Ferrigan in her lawsuit against the City of Boca Raton.
Ms. Ferrigan, a former employee of the City of Boca Raton, reported to city management, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (FDEP), and the Palm Beach County Department of Health what she believed to be threats and risks to the potable water system and environment. While the FDEP initially began an investigation, it then began to take retaliatory actions again Ms. Ferrigan, including hiring a private investigator to follow her. After complaining of this outrageous retaliation, the city terminated her employment.
The evening before the first day of trial, the city agreed to resolve her case out of court. Ms. Ferrigan received $537,500.
U.S. ex rel Tracy Lovvorn v. Extendicare Health Services
Director of Rehabilitation who was fired in retaliation for reporting Medicare fraud
Along with co-counsel Vogel, Slade & Goldstein, Katz Banks Kumin represented Tracy Lovvorn, a former Area Director of Rehabilitation at Progressive Step Corporation, a division of Extendicare Health Services.
Ms. Lovvorn became concerned when she learned that some of the healthcare facilities were providing unnecessary therapy services in order to receive higher Medicare reimbursements. When she notified management, they retaliated against her and then terminated her in November 2009.
Ms. Lovvorn filed a qui tam lawsuit against the company in April 2010, and in 2014, Extendicare settled the suit for $10 million. Ms. Lovvorn received $1.8 million for information provided to the government, and $990,000 to resolve her claims of retaliation and attorneys’ fees.
Read the press release here.
Gordon v. ArmorGroup North America
Defense contractor who filed False Claims Act against former employer
Katz Banks Kumin represented James Gordon, the former director of operations of AGNA, a security company contracted to provide armed guard services at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan.
Mr. Gordon blew the whistle on the company, alleging that AGNA submitted false claims for payment, AGNA guards violated the Trafficking Victims Protection Act by visiting brothels in Kabul, AGNA misrepresented prior work experience, and it failed to comply with foreign ownership, control, and influence mitigation requirements.
AGMA agreed to pay $7.5 million to resolve the allegations, and Mr. Gordon received $1.35 million.
Read the Department of Justice press release here.
Capitol Tunnel Worker v. Architect of the Capitol
U.S. Capitol workers who blew the whistle on asbestos levels and other workplace dangers
Katz Banks Kumin represented ten U.S. Capitol tunnel workers against the Architect of the Capitol. The workers reported to Congress that there were life-threatening levels of asbestos and other extreme dangers to working in the utility tunnels beneath the Capitol. The Architect then harassed and retaliated against the workers.
After filing a complaint with the Congressional Office of Compliance, the two parties reached a substantial out-of-court settlement.
Read the Associated Press article here.
U.S. ex rel Michael Lindley v. Gallup Organization
Former Gallup employee who filed a qui tam lawsuit against the company for inflating its cost estimates
Katz Banks Kumin represented Michael Lindley, a former client services director for Gallup, in his whistleblower qui tam lawsuit. Lindley alleged that Gallup fraudulently inflated the cost estimates it provided to the U.S. Mint and U.S. Department of State in the range of tens of millions of dollars.
After filing the suit in 2009, the Department of Justice joined in 2012. Gallup agreed to pay back the government $10.5 million – with Mr. Lindley receiving just under $2 million.
Mr. Lindley and Gallup also resolved his claims for unlawful retaliatory termination in a confidential settlement.
Find more coverage here.
Richard Pullman v. National Air and Space Museum
Former Smithsonian worker who blew the whistle on the dangerous levels of asbestos in the museum walls
Katz Banks Kumin represented Richard Pullman, a Smithsonian worker who alleged that he was retaliated against after blowing the whistle on the dangerous levels of asbestos in the museum’s walls. Katz Banks Kumin filed a whistleblower complaint under the Clean Air Act on Mr. Pullman’s behalf, and the Smithsonian then admitted that it had been aware of the asbestos for over a decade, but had not informed its workers.
Katz Banks Kumin litigated Mr. Pullman’s case before the Department of Labor and negotiated a successful settlement.
Read the Washington Post’s coverage here.
Giersdorf v. Peninsula Airways
Pilot who filed an AIR 21 whistleblower complaint after being fired for raising safety concerns
Katz Banks Kumin represented Rob Giersdorf, a pilot who was terminated by Peninsula Airways for raising safety concerns. Katz Banks Kumin filed an AIR 21 whistleblower complaint on his behalf, and the Department of Labor found reasonable cause to believe the airline violated federal whistleblower laws. Mr. Giersdorf was awarded reinstatement, back pay, compensatory damages, and attorneys’ fees.