Well that didn’t take long.

The 2014 session of the Legislature was exactly two days old when the House of Delegates Democratic leadership butted heads with the business community.

The trouble started when the House Judiciary Committee, under new chairman Tim Manchin, rushed through H.B. 4001, the False Claims Act.   The legislation establishes qui tam proceedings, legal action brought by private citizens against the state or companies doing business with the state believed to have committed fraud or violated the law.

(Qui tam, pronounced kwee tam, is Latin for “who as well.”)

If the suit is successful, the person bringing the claim is entitled “to receive at least fifteen percent, but not more than twenty-five percent of the proceeds of the action or settlement of the claim.”

Proponents, including new House Speaker Tim Miley, are marketing the bill as a way to root out fraud and corruption.

“It incentivizes reporting internally from anyone working inside the government or anyone working inside private companies who see their companies overcharging the government,” Miley said on Metronews Talkline last week.

Business leaders don’t see it that way.  State Chamber of Commerce President Steve Roberts believes the legislation will lead to a rash of baseless lawsuits by disgruntled employees.

“It’s a ‘sue and settle’ bill,” said Roberts.  He adds that the many of the small businesses that have contracts with the state don’t have a team of lawyers to review every contract.   “What problem does this solve?”

Miley has made government accountability a priority.  The scandal in Mingo County, the suspicious loans and spending in the state Department of Agriculture under former Commissioner Gus Douglass, and the wasted stimulus money on Internet routers have all focused attention on allegations of government fraud.

“I’m not sure why they (business leaders) believe taking steps to discourage fraudulent behavior is anti-business,” Miley says.

But Roberts is unconvinced and has pledged to go to the mat on this one.  “The business community is 100 percent adamantly opposed to a plaintiffs’ lawyers ‘sue and settle’ statute.”  He pledges opposition at every stage of the legislative process, adding that the Chamber would also hold it against bill supporters at election time.



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  • Barbara

    This is a bill the Chamber wants to fight right now? Stopping government fraud? Please House Leaders, please don't let WV down. We need true leadership right now and the Chamber doesn't care about WV only their profits.

  • The bookman

    This is nothing more than a state version of the federal whistleblower act that has allowed the federal government to recover funds due to fraud. All we complain about is cleaning up fraud and abuse, and this is nothing more than a tool in the arsenal to achieve that end... Roberts is protecting his constituent, but is on the wrong side of this one in my view. Frivolous suits will occur, as they always do, but the opportunity to impact fraud and abuse trumps the fear of people attempting to game the system. Prosecutors need to be vigilant to only bring cases with merit and verifiable, documented proof and to not react on accusation alone. This could be a very good thing if implemented properly.

    • TD

      good points bookman

      No surprise the Chamber is WRONG AGAIN

      • The bookman

        They aren't always wrong, but like all lobbyists, they are unwavering in their support for their constituency. Much of what they support is good for business, and I usually support their stance. In this case, however, the benefits of qui tam far outweigh the limited benefit to business of insulating them from a frivolous claim. Defending yourself from a false claim is expensive and frustrating, but with prudent prosecutorial discretion, frivolous claim can be minimized.

    • liberty4all


      Is there any evidence that on a federal level (or in any of the other states with similar laws) that an "explosion" of frivolous lawsuits occurred? If such evidence exists let's see it.

      Without knowing all the details, I understand that prosecutors will be involved to review claims for "probable cause". If so there should be some provision for a portion of recovered funds to be used to pay for the extra resources necessary in such review. That way a noble effort will not cause an increase in government spending. Any other plausible alternative (like hiring more employees/auditors to investigate fraud) increases the budget without a specific funding mechanism.

      • The bookman

        I saw no statistics on the several sites I visited, but did notice a statement regarding guidance to prosecutors. Reacting to accusations only would quickly overwhelm a system, so prosecutors would need to be provided verifiable and documented proof of the accusation to avoid the frivolous filing of claims.

  • Mike

    H.B 4001 should be renamed "The Plaintiffs Lawyers' Job Expansion Bill."

    • Barbara

      The attorney general will prosecute the criminals that try to fraud the government.

      • Rich

        The Attorney General has no authority to prosecute a criminal case.

        • Michelle P

          He would have the authority to investigate these claims for fraud against the government.

          • Rich

            and bring a civil action, but not prosecute any criminal wrongdoing.
            Big business put him in office. You think he's going to go after them?

  • Jacob

    Do other states have this bill?

    • The bookman

      It appears 30 other states and many cities have their own qui tam statutes.

      • The bookman


        Above is the link to the various statutes in place for the different jurisdictions.

  • ShinnstonGuy

    Well employees should be able to call foul something that is outright terrible and not be punished for it, but to reward whistleblowers with 15 percent seems a bit ridiculous. If we don't stop all the legal battles we will send every government agency into insolvency.

    • Kim

      We have whistleblower laws. People still get too worried about the repercussions. It's understandable but something needs to be done to stop fraud in our government. The Fairmont State fraud is up to over 1 million dollars now. ONE MILLION DOLLARS!

  • Clint

    Does the Chamber support Freedom Industries too?

  • Clint

    Did the chamber support the Mingo county candidates?

  • LT Smith

    This state is so backwards. You actually have people that are anti-stopping government fraud? The CHAMBER of all groups? Why would the Chamber be against stopping government fraud you think? Anyone have a guess????

    • Concerned

      Yep. Same ones are anti government as well. Doesn't make any sense.

  • Mitch

    It's about time someone butts heads with business in the state!!!!!!

    • Cigarman

      Yep Mitch and if we are persistent enough we can drive what's left to another state and become totally dependent on government

  • Toolman

    So, we have lawyers in Charleston trying to make laws that will increase their business revenues. How is that any different than a company doing business with the government and charging a little more to increase its business revenues? Pot, meet Kettle!

  • Jeff

    It's easy to determine which side I'm on. If the CoC is against something, I'm more than likely for it. They're nothing but a lobbying group whose position is usually opposed to the benefit of the people.

    • Aaron

      I don't see how allowing anyone doing business with the state be allowed to sue with a monetary reward at the end of the tunnel can be anything but bad.

      • The bookman

        It is a statute that allows the state government to prosecute fraud by empowering employees to blow the whistle on the their employer. The law empowers the employee by granting them a portion of the recovered funds, which averages 17%. There are currently no protections given to employers for false claims as they have been ruled unconstitutional.

        • Aaron

          Should there be protections for those who levy false claims?

          • The bookman

            Nothing in addition to the laws already in place protecting employees from wrongful termination where applicable.

      • Jeff

        Really, you don't see? Take a poll around the US about the first thing to come to mind when WV is mentioned. Corruption would be in the top 2 right after coal, which aren't mutually exclusive. It's time to wake up.

        • Wirerowe

          That is your assumption. I think that if you took a national poll on West Virginia.,the first two things would be
          (1) don't know any thing about it and (2) could care less

          • vashti

            1)they don't think we are state
            2) we are ignorant and toothless

          • RR

            Every other state thinks we are toothless and ignorant. They also think we deserve to drink contaminated water because we only care about coal.

    • Wvfriendly

      The chamber is out in the tall weeds on a number of issues. They are dead right on this one. Bad legislation.

  • Wowbagger


    I don't know or have time to look it up right now, but are Manchin and Miley lawyers by any chance? Since he is chair of the Judiciary Committee Man chin must be!

    • Hillbilly

      Lots of the legislators are lawyers. I bet half of them already have people from their firms out in the Kanawha valley trolling for lawsuits right now..

    • Wvfriendly

      The speaker, president of the senate and both judiciary chairmen are lawyers. A step backwards for West Virginia.

      • Wowbagger

        The problem with lawyers is that they have the perfect jobs to allow them to become part time legislators and feather their nests and then some transition into full time politicos and continue the process. Frankly West Virginia has too many lawyers and teachers in the legislature. Although theoretically county employees teachers are really state employees and shouldn't be allowed.

        It's really refreshing when a Doctor or an Engineer serves since these people really understand how the world works.

        • Michelle P

          Absurd comparison? Do you know how many legislators work for companies and vote their (and their) companies best interest? How about the small business owner that gets government contracts? You think lawyers and teachers are the ONLY ones voting for their interests.

          I had no idea one could be so naive.

        • Michelle P

          The perfect job to allow them to become part time legislators? How about the coal company employees, the gas company employees, and all of those paid by big business to vote the way they want them to?

          That is the perfect job -- the one where your company pays for your employment and buys your vote all in one shot.

          • liberty4all

            Wire, I think Michelle is referring to a situation such as Senator Cann. He works for Dominion (I think). I have no idea whether he gets paid his salary while serving in the legislature, but what Michelle is arguing is that one would think Senator Cann would vote for legislation which was friendly to his employer's interests.

            If I am wrong I'll stay out of it and mind my own.

          • Wirerowe

            That. Is an absurd comparison. How exactly with private ballots do coal companies pay their employees to vote a certain way whether or not the companies are union or non union. Union coal members and their employers are not going to be on the same on a number of issue.Teachers and lawyers elected to the legislature have built in conflicts of interest. Most of them don't abuse except when it is in there interest to.

      • liberty4all

        So are many of the republican legislators (Armstead, Lane, Ellem, McCuskey, Shott, Evan Jenkins). If you go through the roster, there are way more delegates/senators with a business/insurance background or an education background than there are attorneys. There's even a car salesman for crying out loud.

        Not sure how having intelligent professionals with post-graduate degrees is automatically a "step backwards". I personally believe all should be judged individually - if they are good legislators who work hard for the citizens, let them be judged on their records.

        I once had a negative impression about lawyers, until I needed one to represent my business against baseless claims by another business. I now realize how naive I used to be.

  • Wvfriendly

    Tim Miley is an upgrade as speaker the problem is that we now have a Manchin as judiciary chairman. A Manchin that is a trial attorney. A very bad combination.

    • zero tolerance

      Miley is also a trial lawyer who advertises for personal injury claims.

      Ask his tiger......

  • Lawyers ruining state...

    No matter what results the tests turn out -- you can bet ya the lawyers will make a pile of money from the chemical spill incident. If I had a business -- I would sure as heck "get out of Dodge" -- West Virginia.

    • Aaron

      Who are they going to sue?

      • Randall

        The prosecutor (AG or County) will look at the evidence the employee brings and decide whether or not to prosecute based on the findings. The suit would be against the company/person committing the government fraud.

      • Hillbilly

        They file suits and include everyone possible in them.. them everyone has to get counsel, go to court, and have a judge decide who is not involved. Big waste of time and money for all involved.

        • Randall

          Hillbilly needs to learn the legal system much better.

  • Randy

    Frivolous lawsuits are a HUGE problem, but the truth is that for every lawsuit filed(including frivolous) there are three that deserve to be filed, but aren't.