Passed in July of 2007, the Florida False Claims Act, Fla. Stat. §§ 68.081 to 68.09, is very similar to the federal FCA in that it is intended to deter persons and businesses from knowingly submitting false claims for payment or causing such claims to be submitted for payment by the State of Florida. In fact, most of the provisions of the Florida’s FCA exactly match those found in the federal FCA; the same penalties ranging from $5,500 to $11,000 per claim, the same statute of limitations that covers conduct up to 6 years from the filing of the complaint, the exact same qui tam provision, and the exact same whistleblower protection mechanism that prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who either report potentially false claims or assist with FCA actions.
Persons with information about fraud committed against the state of Florida are urged to preserve their rights by consulting an attorney and filing a case as soon as possible. Furthermore, individuals who have knowledge of fraud should disclose it to the Florida state government to preserve their status under Fla. Stat. § 68.087(3) as an original source of information about that fraud.
In cases where a settlement is reached or a judgment is awarded, the Florida False Claims Act states that any defrauded state agency shall be awarded only compensatory damages, with all remaining proceeds going to the state’s General Revenue Fund. Moreover, should Florida bring a case under its False Claims Act, or intervene in one, the state can recover attorneys’ fees, expenses, and costs.
In 2013, the Florida legislature significantly updated the Florida False Claims Act to keep pace with the federal version, which was amended by Congress in 2009 and 2010. Since violators are often prosecuted under both acts simultaneously, keeping the state False Claims Act in line with the federal FCA serves to facilitate dual prosecution, enforcement, and public policy.
The majority of Florida False Claims Act cases are prosecuted by the state’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit. Cases of state fraud dealing with consumer protection issues fall within the purview of the Consumer Protection Division.In November 2013, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced that the state had settled a False Claims Act case with its custodian bank, the Bank of New York Mellon, for $28 million. The settlement resolved allegations that the investment bank systematically overcharged Florida’s Retirement System Trust Fund through its handling of foreign currency trades and other transactions. The State of Florida contracted with New York Mellon to handle foreign currency transactions for the state’s billions of dollars in international investments. By overcharging for currency exchanges, New York Mellon defrauded Florida out of millions of dollars and kept the difference. The agreement also resolved allegations of fraud related to the bank’s investments in medium-term notes issued by Sigma Finance, Inc., which defaulted on certain of those notes in late September 2008 and went into receivership.