Justice slow in whistle-blower suits

July 2, 2008 at 9:38 AM
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WASHINGTON, July 2 (UPI) -- Hundreds of whistle-blower cases against U.S. government contractors and drug-makers are backlogged because the Justice Department can't keep up, lawyers say.

Many of the cases brought by employees alleging their companies defrauded the government have sparked renewed interest among lawmakers and non-profits, The Washington Post said.

Since 2001, between 300 to 400 civil cases have been filed annually, but because of the process governing the suits, whistle-blowers typically wait at least 14 months to learn whether the Justice Department will get involved, the Post said. Once a case is determined to have merit, it can take years to resolve.

"Even if no new cases are filed, it might take 10 years for the Department of Justice to clear its desk. Cases in the backlog represent a lot of money being left on the table," said Patrick Burns, a spokesman for Taxpayers Against Fraud.

Verdicts and settlements in recent years returned nearly $13 billion to the U.S. government's coffers, advocates said.

"Whistle-blowers are the key to the secrets locked in closets throughout the federal bureaucracy and government contractors," said Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa. "These patriotic Americans stick their necks out ... to help the federal government pursue fraud and save taxpayers tens of billions of dollars that would otherwise be lost."

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