Dr. Gabriel Ethan Feldman’s quest to do the rightthing took more than mere persistence. The doubleboard–certified physician complained for yearsabout Medicaid fraud committed by New York Cityagainst the federal government, but no one would listento him until the law firm of Levy Phillips & Konigsberggot involved.
Ultimately, Dr. Feldman’s efforts as a whistle-blowerpaid off in more ways than one. In October, he wasawarded $14.7 million for his role in helping taxpayersrecover $70 million.
“This is frankly the largest case that I’ve been involvedin,” says founding firm partner Alan J. Konigsberg.
The settlement resulted from a qui tam complaint filed under the federal False Claims Act, which permits whistleblowers to sue on behalf of the government to recover money and earn a 15 to 25 percent reward. Konigsberg and associate Theresa A. Vitello filed a lawsuit on behalf of Dr. Feldman, which resulted in a federal investigation into the extensive fraud.
“Dr. Feldman was not only instrumental in bringing thecase to the attention of the federal government but he wasalso extremely valuable in providing ongoing information tothe government,” Konigsberg says.
The case stemmed from a personal care service programNew York City operated on behalf of New York State usingfederal Medicaid dollars. Dr. Feldman’s job tasked him withreviewing the records of applicants to the program, and hebecame concerned that patients who did not meet theprogram’s regulatory requirements were being admittedanyway. His concerns were ignored repeatedly, permittingthe fraud to continue.
“The program was costing the taxpayers much moremoney than it should,” Konigsberg says. “Dr. Feldman wasinstrumental in bringing the case to the federalgovernment.”
Dr. Feldman tried to stop the fraud as early as the 1990s,but his complaints fell on deaf ears. He even went so far asto testify before the New York City Council. However,there was never any action.
“We have a reputation for handling large and complex cases of all kinds…we take on thetough cases.” —Alan J. Konigsberg
Dr. Feldman eventually moved away from New YorkCity for many years and returned in 2006, only to realizethat the Medicaid fraud remained rampant. This time, heturned to Levy Phillips & Konigsberg, who decided topursue his cause.
“We have a reputation for handling large and complexcases of all kinds, and I think that’s probably what attractedhim to us,” Konigsberg says. “We take on the tough cases.”
After diligent preparation, the case was filed in federal court in November 2009. Dr. Feldman’s case was completed relatively quickly, almost two years to the date after itwas filed in court. Konigsberg credits the court and the government for handling the case in an expeditiousmanner and the firm for preparing the case as if it were going to trial.
“Our philosophy is that if you prepare the cases for trial in the best possible way, then you will get the best possible result if the case settles,” Konigsberg says.
The 26-year-old law firm has been involved in many qui tam cases throughout the country during the past five years. In addition to the federal False Claims Act, many cities and states have their own laws to reward citizens who know that the government has been defrauded. Both New York City and the state of New York reward citizens who bring actions to expose fraud against the government.
Konigsberg notes that whistle-blower cases areparticularly stressful for the client because they oftenhave to speak out against their own coworkers.Therefore, Levy Phillips & Konigsberg gives specialattention to their clients’ well-being and nonlegalneeds when pursuing a case.
The firm has been involved in domestic and international liability cases involving many topics, including asbestos, lead poisoning, airplane and automobile designs, pension funds, class actions, medical devices and birth defects.
Konigsberg himself has been a litigator for more than 40 years and finds his work rewarding, especially his cases on behalf of children who suffer from lead poisoning.
“Those cases are very rewarding,” Konigsberg says.“The funds we obtain in these cases really do make asignificant difference in these children’s lives.”
The firm is dedicated to representing people in allsorts of complex litigation situations but is highlyselective in the cases it takes. However, Konigsberg says,“Once we accept a case, we are all in.”