FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE|
THURSDAY, APRIL 14, 2005
TDD (202) 514-1888
UNIVERSITY OF ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM WILL PAY U.S. $3.39 MILLION
TO RESOLVE FALSE BILLING ALLEGATIONS
WASHINGTON, D.C. - The University of Alabama at Birmingham and two related entities will pay the United States $3.39 million to settle allegations that they violated the False Claims Act with respect to claims submitted in connection with the school's health science research activities, the Justice Department announced today.
The settlement resolves allegations that the university misled the National Institutes of Health and other sponsors of federally-funded grants, as well as the Medicare program, into paying more money than the school was lawfully entitled to receive. The government alleged that in completing applications for federal health science research grants, the school overstated the percentage of work effort that the researchers were able to devote to the grant. It was also alleged that the university, and the entity through which its medical school faculty provide clinical services, unlawfully billed Medicare for clinical research trials that were also billed to the sponsor of research grants.
“This settlement illustrates the importance to the Department of Justice of ensuring that universities do not overcharge the United States in connection with their medical research activities,” said Peter D. Keisler, Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Civil Division.
The civil settlement includes the resolution of claims brought in two separate lawsuits under the qui tam or whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act. The suits were brought by former employees of the university - Dr. Jay Meythaler, a physician specializing in rehabilitation medicine who previously served on the university's medical school faculty, and Thomas Gober, who was employed as a research compliance officer for the school.
Mr. Gober filed his suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama in April 2001 and Dr. Meythaler filed his suit in the same court in January 2004. The two whistleblowers will collectively receive $395,000 of the total recovery as their statutory award. Under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act, a private party can file an action on behalf of the United States and receive a portion of the settlement if the government takes over the case and reaches a monetary agreement with the defendant.
The Department received analytical support in this case from the Department of Health and Human Services' Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) in Birmingham, Alabama. The case was investigated by the Birmingham, Alabama offices of HHS-OIG and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case was handled by the Justice Department’s Civil Division and the Office of the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Alabama in Birmingham.