Stepping back from previous criticism of the False Claims Act, William Barr, Donald Trump’s nominee for U.S. Attorney General, pledged he would stand by the law that authorizes whistleblowers to sue on behalf of the U.S. government and American taxpayers.
Mr. Barr, who served as the attorney general in President George H.W. Bush’s administration from 1991 to 1993, once described the False Claims Act as an “abomination” and displayed an appetite to challenge the law, which he viewed as unconstitutional.
In 1989, Mr. Barr wrote that the whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act replaced the Judicial Department’s prosecutorial discretion with the “mercenary motives of private bounty hunters,” according to the National Law Journal.
However, the former U.S Attorney General backed down from his past criticisms of the False Claims Act and testified Tuesday, Jan. 15, that he would “diligently enforce” the law, which has become one of the U.S. government’s most effective fraud-busting tools, especially in the fight against Medicare and Medicaid fraud.
Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, who led efforts to strengthen the False Claims Act in 1986 and continues to be one of its most ardent supporters in Congress, questioned Mr. Barr about his views of the False Claims Act.
According to the National Law Journal, when asked whether he believed the False Claims Act was unconstitutional, Mr. Barr replied, “No, senator. It’s been upheld by the Supreme Court.” He also reportedly affirmed that he now believes the False Claims Act protects the American taxpayer.
Reuters reported that Mr. Barr also made some statements in private indicating his past criticisms of the False Claims Act are outdated and that a constitutional challenge is no longer warranted because the Act protects the government’s interests.
The False Claims Act was originally passed in response to rampant fraud against the U.S. military during the Civil War. At that time, devious contractors defrauded the Union Army by selling it sick mules, lame horses, sawdust instead of gunpowder, and rotted ships coated with fresh paint.
Today, the fraud schemes have become more sophisticated and complex, but they are essentially the modern versions of the same problems targeting the U.S. government and taxpayers.
The False Claims Act returned nearly $2.9 billion to the U.S. in fiscal year 2018 through judgments and settlements. Most of those recoveries were made possible through whistleblowers.