Whistleblower Receives $78 Million Relator Share in False Claims Act Suit Against Pharmaceutical Giant Celgene

Through a negotiated settlement and a court order, whistleblower Beverly Brown has received a total relator share award of more than $78 million for her efforts in obtaining a $280 million False Claims Act settlement against Celgene Corporation. The $280 million settlement was the second largest recovery ever recorded in a non-intervened case brought under the federal False Claims Act and the relator share award to Brown is also among the largest in history.

The False Claims Act allows whistleblowers – known as “relators” – to bring suit in the name of the government against individuals or entities that caused the fraudulent or improper expenditure of government funds. If the case is successful, the relators receive a portion of the government’s recovery, known as a “relator share.”

Brown is a former Celgene sales representative who filed suit against Celgene under the False Claims Act on behalf of the United States government and 29 states and municipalities in 2010.* Brown alleged that Celgene illegally promoted two of its drugs – Thalomid and Revlimid – for uses that were not approved by the FDA and paid illegal kickbacks to healthcare providers and others in an effort to increase the sales of its drugs.

After Brown filed suit, the case remained under seal for four years while the government investigated. In 2014, the government declined to intervene, leaving Brown to either dismiss the case or pursue it on her own. Brown elected to pursue the case on her own.

The case was thereafter one of the most extensively litigated pharmaceutical cases ever brought under the False Claims Act. It involved the review of millions of documents, numerous discovery motions and potentially case-dispositive motions, approximately 40 fact and expert depositions, and dozens of pre-trial motions. The parties collectively designated 17 expert witnesses, consisting of some of the nation’s leading experts in the fields of pharmaceutical economics, drug safety and medical ethics.

In early 2017, Brown negotiated the $280 million settlement with Celgene after the trial court denied Celgene’s motion for summary judgment as to Brown’s off-label promotion claims and set the case for trial. Celgene paid most of the settlement amount ($259,269,640) to the federal government, and paid the balance to the state and municipal plaintiffs.

Under the False Claims Act, Brown was entitled to between 25 percent and 30 percent of the settlement amount. After the federal government offered Brown only the statutory minimum 25 percent, she filed a motion with the court asking the judge to determine the relator share percentage. The court ruled that the extensive efforts by Brown and her counsel to bring the case to a successful resolution warranted a 28 percent relator share, resulting in a relator share payment $72,595,499.20.

Brown previously received a negotiated $5,475,551.15 relator share award on the portion of the settlement paid to the state and municipal plaintiffs, making her total relator share award for the Celgene lawsuit $78,071,050.40.

“This relator share award is a testament to the hard work and many years of sacrifice by our client, Beverly Brown. Beverly took on personal and professional risk by coming forward about Celgene’s illegal practices and rightly deserves to be rewarded for her efforts,” said Thomas H. Bienert, Jr. of Bienert, Miller & Katzman, PLC (“BMK”), one of the lawyers who represented Brown in the case.

BMK partner Michael R. Williams added: “It is only fitting that Beverly has received one of the largest relator share awards in history given that her efforts resulted in the historic recovery of hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars.”

BMK partner Ariana Hawbecker also played a key role in the case.

In addition to BMK, Brown’s legal team included Washington, D.C.-based Guttman, Buschner & Brooks and Richard A. Harpootlian, P.A. of Columbia, South Carolina.

*United States ex rel. Beverly Brown v. Celgene Corporation, Case No. 2:10-cv-03165-RGK-SS (United States District Court for the Central District of California)

SOURCE: Bienert, Miller & Katzman, PLC

About Bienert, Miller & Katzman, PLC

BMK is a San Clemente-based trial firm that consists of former federal and state prosecutors, federal public defenders, and large-firm trained attorneys who collectively have conducted hundreds of jury and court trials. The firm combines nationally-recognized expertise and relentless creativity with a boutique legal setting that ensures personalized attention to every client and case. The result in this case is the latest in a string of outstanding results for the firm’s clients, including both multi-million dollar recoveries and major defense victories. BMK continues to advocate for whistleblowers in a number of ongoing False Claims Act suits. Learn more at http://www.bmkattorneys.com.

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