Cynthia Fitzgerald had found her dream job after 20 years in sales; a managerial position at one of the nations largest discount pharmaceutical sales company’s, Novation. As a new employee she attended training classes that included ethical purchasing procedures. Once work began, she found that her new workplace did not square with what had been taught in her training.
A meeting had been scheduled for Cynthia and her boss to meet with a group of sales people who had bid on a contract for 30 million dollars worth of IV equipment. The meeting had been arranged during a “silent period”, when she was not supposed to meet privately with any of the bidding companies. This type of interaction was prohibited. The meeting included discussions behind closed doors, tipping off on how to structure a winning bid and “naming her price” (bid rigging), among other potential felonious behavior. Cynthia even recalls one sales person asking how much it would take to get the contract. When she did not respond the sales person assured her that “others before you have done it”.
Cynthia confronted her boss.” Shouldn’t they report the incident to the legal department?” Her boss offered no satisfaction, being more concerned about the integrity of a bidding process that they were responsible for. Cynthia began pursuing the matter herself. She took her concerns to Novation’s legal department, human resources and even the company’s president, she was only rebuffed and scrutinized for her findings.
Cynthia moved on to the next contract and the same thing started to happen. Feeling uncomfortable, she asked her supervisor if she could be taken off the contract. Her supervisor agreed, but then gave her a negative performance review stating that she was rude, unable to meet deadlines, among many other false accusations. Fifteen days after she had asked to be taken off the contract, Cynthia was fired from Novation for “nonperformance of duties that were clearly identified as part of her job description”. Cynthia believes she was shown the door because she had stumbled onto illegal behavior that involved sales manipulation, resulting in millions of dollars of Medicare reimbursements and she had refused to look the other way. Her firing left her unable to get another job in her field; word of her demise at Novation seemed to precede her wherever she went.
Cynthia was contractually forbidden from disclosing any information about Novation or filing lawsuits against it for three years. Once that period lapsed, she gradually became aware of the False Claims Act, a federal law that allows private individuals to sue on behalf of the United States if they believe that they have inside knowledge of a fraud. It can be seen as protection for people who are willing to risk their lives and livelihoods, their careers and reputations. Cynthia did finally go to court, but the case is still under investigation.
If you can’t trust Human Resources, where do you go ?
Should Cynthia have confronted her boss about the illegal behavior instead of asking to be taken off the Contract?