May 10, 2022. Last week, the United States Attorney General announced the creation of the Office of Environmental Justice (OEJ) within the Department of Justice. The OEJ will manage DOJ’s environmental justice projects and “serve as the central hub for our efforts to advance our comprehensive environmental justice enforcement strategy” and address the “harm caused by environmental crime, pollution, and climate change.”
In his speech, Attorney General Merrick B. Garland remarked that OEJ will “prioritize the cases that will have the greatest impact on the communities most overburdened by environmental harm” in partnership with the Civil Rights Division, Office for Access to Justice, Office of Tribal Justice, and United States Attorneys’ Offices.
Whistleblowers take note: violations of environmental laws (Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act) can be a basis for a False Claims Act case.
In 2019, the DOJ settled a case against a domestic producer of Omega-3 fish oil supplements, fishmeal, and fish solubles for livestock and aquaculture feed. The producer allegedly falsely certified compliance with federal environmental laws on a loan application. Under the terms of the settlement, the fish oil producer paid $1 million. A former employee blew the whistle on their employer’s fishy business and was rewarded $200,000 as part of a qui tam lawsuit.
False certification of environmental law compliance harms taxpayers, workers, residents, and the environment for generations. The Assistant Attorney General of the DOJ’s Civil Division said about the case, “Companies will face appropriate consequences if they misrepresent their eligibility to participate in federal programs and divert resources from those who should receive federal support.” It’s up to employees of manufacturers, contractors, construction companies, power plants, and others who receive government funds to report environmentally hazardous misconduct, so that, as the U.S. Attorney said, “Businessmen and companies that lie to get their hands on taxpayer money will be held accountable for their actions.”
If you would like to report government contracts fraud, you can contact attorneys at Tycko & Zavareei LLP. Eva Gunasekera and Renée Brooker are former officials of the United States Department of Justice and prosecuted whistleblower cases under the False Claims Act. Renée served as Assistant Director at the United States Department of Justice, the office that supervises False Claims Act cases in all 94 United States District Courts. Eva was the Senior Counsel for Health Care Fraud. Eva and Renée now represent whistleblowers. For a free consultation, you can contact Renée at [email protected] (tel.: 202-417-3664) or contact Eva Gunasekera at [email protected]. You can also go to Tycko & Zavareei LLP’s website for whistleblowers to learn more at https://www.fraudfighters.net/.