“…Piacentile is what you might call a professional whistleblower. According to his lawyer, David Stone of the Short Hills, New Jersey, office of Boies, Schiller & Flexner, Piacentile used to be one of the doctors courted with lavish attention by drug companies. Then he stopped going to the fancy parties and started filing False Claims Act suits based on what he’d seen and learned. Not all of his cases have been as spectacularly successful as those against Medco, Bristol-Myers, and Cephalon, but with one-third of the government’s recovery going to whistle-blowers in successful cases, Piacentile doesn’t need to win ’em all…”
“Piacentile is a “serial filer” of whistle-blower complaints, having lodged at least 13 such cases against various companies in federal courts, prosecutors said in documents filed in November seeking to dismiss the case”…
DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE
Drug Enforcement Administration
[Docket No. 96-37]
Joseph M. Piacentile, M.D.; Revocation of Registration
American culture seems to be all about money worship, and although we live in an extremely materialistic world generally and greed is rampant globally, no place on the planet does greed quite like the Americans.
When I read articles about GSK’s 3 Billion dollar fine, or about people like Joe Piacentile, the articles invariably mention money in amounts of millions, and (in the case of GSK) often billions too. These amounts of money are unfathomably alien to me. I don’t come in contact with figures containing multiple zeros. Two or three figure sums are a big deal to me; a four figure sum is a lot to me. I just can’t imagine dealing with seven or eight figure sums. I don’t even think I’d be comfortable being rich anyhow. There is too much inequality in this world, and I can’t bear inequality, it’s inequality, and the hoarding of wealth by the few which has the planet in the state its in. The hoarding of wealth and accumulation of stuff, just adds to the landfills. It’s all just more waste, more damage to the environment.
Furthermore, I certainly wouldn’t want to be driven or blinded by money and thankfully it’s just never been a main motivator for me. I’ve seen people ruined by money, and destroyed by greed; some of them were members of my own family. There is much humility in knowing that greed will never consume you.
Greed consumes the soul.
Money seems to taint almost everyone who comes under its spell. It seems to be human nature for some, to always want more and more.
For some people, enough is never enough.
Dr Joe Piacentile, is (what some journalists have called) a ‘professional whistle blower’. It is estimated that Piacentile has collected up to 17 million, or more, from his various whistle blowing adventures against pharmaceutical companies over the years.
I can understand one individual blowing the whistle against one pharmaceutical company because perhaps they saw some underhanded, illegal or unethical behaviour, and they decided to report it, but how can one person be involved in several different claims against several different companies at different times in their life?
Is this just cynical opportunism?
Interestingly, on Piacentile’s own web-site (‘Whistle-blowers Against Fraud’), he seems to semi-admit, that it was his company’s own foray into medicaid fraud (‘falsifying medicaid forms’) which first opened the good doctor’s eyes into the mechanics of how the justice system investigates these types of crimes. This, it seems, led Percentile, to the epiphany that there was considerably more money to be made in blowing the lid on fraud then there was in committing it, and 23 years later, Piancentile is now a multi-millionaire from his long and lucrative whistle blowing career.
The American dream, is paved with stories like this isn’t it? In America the harder your neck, and the more dog eat dog you are, the more you are rewarded- it seems..
From the blurb on his own site (Piacentile foundation), Joe tells us:
“...Joseph Piacentile, M.D., who goes simply by “Dr. Joe,” is the Founder and CEO of Whistleblowers Against Fraud (“WAF”). Dr. Joe has dedicated more than 23 years of his professional career to seeking justice against those who commit fraud against the U.S. government. Dr. Joe has assisted the U.S. government in recovering more than $9 billion. Fighting fraud alongside those whistleblowers courageous enough to step forward and pursue justice is Dr. Joe’s passion.
“…In the mid-1980s, Dr. Joe was a partner in a national durable medical equipment company. In charge of a sales force of 160 employees, Dr. Joe grew sales from $1 million to $20 million in a mere three years. However, this early success did not end well. Dr. Joe and his partners each pled guilty to one count of fraud for reportedly “falsifying Medicare forms.” This brush with the justice system opened Dr. Joe’s eyes to the real damages caused by fraud and gave him a front row seat in observing the inner workings of the justice system’s prosecution of such crimes.”…
A recent article from NBC News reports that Dr Joe (as he likes to be called) attempted to donate $100,000 dollars to President Obama, in the hope that he could swing a ‘presidential pardon’ for his conviction in 1991 for medicaid fraud and tax evasion-
Obama’s fundraisers returned the check and NBC Reported that:
“…In December, Picacentile filed an application with the Justice Department seeking a pardon from Obama in which he expressed remorse over his 1991 felony convictions…”
“The bottom line is that I was the president of a corrupt company that ripped off Medicare for millions of dollars,” he wrote in the application, a copy of which was obtained for NBC News…”
“… On Feb. 6, with the pardon application pending, Piacentile wrote a $100,000 check to Organizing for Action. The emails obtained by NBC News show that Piacentile’s check was written in response to an OFA fundraising appeal for the dinner and reception with Obama…”
“It is $25,000 per person to attend and for those that raise or write $100K, there will be small clutch with the president,” Maltzman wrote in a Jan. 15 email to another New Jersey doctor and potential donor, Munr Kazmir, who was an acquaintance of Piacentile and invited him to be his guest at the dinner…”
Not content with his 23 years of ‘professional whistle blowing, Dr Joe now offers advice to other potential whistleblowers, through his consultancy role. How much income Dr Joe receives from his ‘whistleblowers against fraud’ enterprise is anyone’s guess, however it seems that Dr Joe also has a somewhat charitable side to him (according to his website anyhow), and apparently he also has a keen interest in ‘social justice’ too.
“…But there is a darker perspective on Joseph Piacentile. Unlike most qui tam relators, he doesn’t blow the whistle as an employee or business partner of the companies he has sued. Instead he relies on secondhand information collected through his own investigations. (Piacentile declined to comment for this article.) Defense counsel call him a professional mudslinger; some qui tam lawyers and former government lawyers say that he’s a parasitic bully who files vague or questionable complaints and then pushes his way into settlements based on his qui tam savvy and his willingness to litigate. And Piacentile has a criminal history of his own–a 1991 conviction on fraud and tax charges–which some lawyers say can undercut his credibility as a plaintiff”..
It seems to me that Piacentile is perhaps more interested in his cut from the many cases he has been involved in, then genuinely trying to expose the misdeeds of pharmaceutical companies. I have not seen any articles, websites, or videos of Piacentile, talking about how the fraudulent behaviour of pharmaceutical companies harms patients. I have not seen him asking for the jailing of CEO’s. I have not seen him campaign for patients’ rights, or the rights of those harmed by dangerous drugs like Paxil/Seroxat. Surely, some of this 17 million he received from his various whistle blower suits, could have been spent on exposing the dangers patients face when dealing with these sociopathic drug companies? He is, after all, supposedly a Doctor? If Piacentile was genuinely interested in exposing the dirty tricks of drug companies, and protecting patients from harm, then perhaps he would have invested more time, and money, into activism?
Just a thought..
I understand that some might argue, that people like Dr Joe, are doing a public service, and it is true, blowing the whistle on corruption, is beneficial in societal terms. However in these types of cases, the victims of pharmaceutical crimes do not get a cent from these fines. The government gets its cut, as do the lawyers, and the whistle blowers get theirs- of course. Victims of the crimes get nothing. Some whistle blowers only need to repeat what the first whistle blower said in an FCA complaint and they can get a claim to millions. Some just have to literally sit back, and wait for the cash to come. Personally, I think this type of whistle blowing is based on greed more than anything else.
Even after a whistle is blown on a drug company’s corrupt practices, it’s often too late for those who have already been harmed. Furthermore, by the time the whistle blower’s claim comes to fruition (some can take a decade), the drug companies usually have continued their corrupt practices up until the case is unsealed. It’s only after they are fined, and they strike a deal with the DOJ, that the company, agrees to stop its unethical practices, and the profits are already made. Therefore, we could ask, who does whistle blowing benefit ultimately? and does the monetary incentive to a potential whistle blower to expose dangerous and fraudulent practices, make any difference to patient safety in the longer term?
Personally, I don’t believe it does.
As I said, the damage is often already done.
We are not any safer despite these many fines for the pharmaceutical industry. The industry factors in the inevitable fines into their business plans. GSK, for example, paid their DOJ fine with cash already hoarded. The DOJ case made no impact upon their business, and it’s arguable whether it has impacted upon their corporate behaviour either. These settlements give us an illusion of justice which suits the governments and the pharmaceutical companies. It is not a deterrent, it could be doing quite the opposite in fact, because, the companies know the score now, they know what they can get away with. They’ve been given a paradigm to work with. These companies operate above the law, and their high ranking executives do not get punished.
Why are people like Piacentile not drawing attention to this scam and sham pseudo-justice?
GSK were fined 3 Billion dollars in 2012 by the US Department of Justice, for what was effectively, a literal global sociopathic scam fest; involving, mainly, the off label prescribing of many GSK products, spanning over a decade. In the case of one of the GSK drugs, Paxil (Seroxat), GSK promoted this drug to under-18’s despite information from its own trials into the drug revealing that it could be immensely harmful. GSK’s 3 Billion fine has done nothing to raise awareness of the dangers of Paxil.
In fact, the Paxil aspect was played down considerably in The department of Justice complaint (why?). The media, and the DOJ spun this 3 billion slap on the wrist, as if it was actual justice. It wasn’t. It was far from it. This was a token to GSK, it was a gift from Eric Holder. No justice was served. Patients died, and many continue to die from drugs like Paxil, it’s still being prescribed (and Avandia is too). The 3 billion fine, was a sick joke for patients prescribed these dodgy GSK drugs. The Paxil part of the DOJ complaint was an absolute joke.. in fact it was an insult to all those who were harmed.
As far as I am aware, Dr Joe Piacentile was also involved in some capacity in bringing later claims (jumping on board) the original DOJ complaint against GSK. It always seemed odd to me that, whistle blowers, Thomas Gerahty and Matthew Burke, came into the DOJ complaint years after it was first filed by Greg Thorpe. We don’t hear anything about these two individuals, or what they brought to the table, in regards to exposing GSK’s corrupt practices at the time that they joined the complaint years later. I suppose this kind of thing frustrates me, because people like Dr Joe, and these two whistle blowers- Burke and Gerahty, they could be driving real change, saving lives, speaking out on national TV about the truth of these bogus suits, but they choose, to just take the money and go silent. Meanwhile, bloggers like me, we’re left to do all the work, bringing awareness, with no resources. Anyhow, I’m not complaining, I’m satisfied with the work I’ve done, I did it for myself, and to warn others, so that they could be spared Seroxat/Paxil hell- and I achieved what I set out to do.
If anyone has made a difference in regards to bringing awareness to the Paxil/Seroxat scandal it is firstly the BBC Panorama team (in particular Shelley Jofre), and subsequently, bloggers such as Bob Fiddaman, Seroxat Secrets, and my own blog. Between us bloggers alone, we have thousands of blog posts and clocked immeasurable hours of campaigning for social justice, and patients rights, for over a decade. We have consistently blown the whistle on many topics, over many years, and we have tirelessly campaigned for victims of these drugs- not for monetary gain, but because we believe- as survivors of Paxil/Seroxat- we have a duty to warn others of the dangers of these drugs.
I don’t see much social justice campaigning about companies like GSK, or dangerous drugs like Seroxat/Paxil from any of these so called ‘professional whistleblowers’.
Why do they not speak out?
If Dr Joe is reading this, and I have got anything wrong (or perhaps I am off base with my perspective) please feel free to mail me on firstname.lastname@example.org
Perhaps you can enlighten me to all the activism or causes you have supported -for patients rights to safe drugs- that you have done over the years? or perhaps you have set up withdrawal clinics in the US for Paxil addicts to come off the poison in a safe, supportive environment? Or maybe you have campaigned behind the scenes for real justice for the survivors of pharmaceutical crimes? There could be a lot I’m missing here, If so, I will gladly amend this post..
I won’t hold my breath though…
I have received threats through my mail before from certain people (and I don’t respond to threats, in fact- i ignore them- so people really are wasting their time when they try that) but it’s rare to receive encouragement or support, this leads me to believe that for most whistle blowers, the monetary gain is the prime motivation the rest is mere cynical tokenism.
It seems to me that unless you were the first the blow the whistle, in a cases such as these, then you’re probably just riding the gravy train…
It takes balls to be the first to blow the whistle.. because the first one is the first to take the risk… it takes courage to be the first.. the ones who follow are merely jumping on board.
They obviously see the dollar signs..
Thankfully, I have received occasional support from genuine people over these years of blogging and creating awareness- support from people who matter: mostly victims of GSK’s drugs, people who can’t get off Seroxat, or those who have lost loved ones to the drug, and some other good people who have sincere intentions.
And it’s these folks, who ultimately, I blog for..
There is an old saying that says, “how much would you be worth if they took away all your money?”
I might not have much in the bank but my soul is invaluable to me..
If my soul is my bank account, then it’s really very full indeed..