Monday, December 10, 2012

Lance Armstrong Investigation: Lance and Landis Competing Again

The competition between Lance Armstrong and Floyd Landis isn't in the French Alps but, instead, may be in a U.S. federal court room. The Wall Street Journal reported today that Lance's troubles with Landis and the Department of Justice are still ongoing. Floyd was astute enough to file a whistleblower lawsuit against Lance under the Federal False Claims Act which allows whistleblowers to collect up to 30% of any recovery by the Federal Government if the government sues an individual for defrauding them. When Lance was sponsored by the U.S. Postal Service he was prohibited from doping by his contract with the USPS. Unfortunately for him, just when Lance probably would like to pay his last legal bill, it sounds like he may be supporting his all-star legal team for some years to come. Here's what the Wall Street Journal has to say about it...

While federal prosecutors dropped a criminal fraud investigation against Mr. Armstrong, DOJ officials in Washington are still considering whether to join a whistleblower lawsuit filed by his former teammate, Floyd Landis. 
Court documents made public over the weekend show that Armstrong has been subpoenaed for documents in the case, and suggest he has been fighting vigorously to control the flow of information. 
According to the court documents, Mr. Armstrong, who was stripped of his seven Tour de France titles earlier this year, was subpoenaed by the United States Postal Service's Office of the Inspector General in fall, 2010. The Postal Service was Mr. Armstrong's team sponsor during six of his seven Tour de France victories. Under the contract with the team, riders were prohibited from using performance-enhancing drugs. 
When Mr. Armstrong did not comply initially with the subpoena, lawyers with the Justice Department's civil division asked the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., to step in and enforce it. These proceedings were kept under seal for more than a year. But on Thursday U.S. magistrate judge Deborah Robinson ordered that seal to be lifted and the legal battle became public Friday evening. Justice Department lawyers who attempted to enforce the subpoena are the same ones representing the government in its evaluation of whether to intervene in the whistleblower lawsuit. 
Mr. Landis's whistleblower lawsuit accused Mr. Armstrong of defrauding the U.S. Postal Service because he allegedly used performance-enhancing drugs in violation of the team contract. Mr. Landis sued on behalf of the government under the Federal False Claims Act, which allows citizens to sue for alleged fraud against the government. 
Under the whistleblower law, the government can intervene in Mr. Landis's suit, essentially pursuing the case on its own behalf. According to people with knowledge of the case, the Postal Service's Office of the Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Justice have been investigating Mr. Landis's allegations and continue to weigh whether to join the case. ... If found to have violated the False Claims Act, Mr. Armstrong and others named in the suit would be liable for triple the amount of the sponsorship... The organization paid $30.6 million to the team's management company to sponsor the team from 2001 through 2004, according to a contract reviewed by The Wall Street Journal...
According to the documents, Mr. Armstrong at first attempted to quash the subpoena, then considered sidestepping it by asserting his Fifth Amendment rights. The Fifth Amendment offers protections against self-incrimination, barring the government from forcing any person to be a witness against himself. At the time, Mr. Armstrong was facing a criminal investigation into his alleged use of performance enhancing drugs. The case was eventually dropped, allowing Mr. Armstrong to comply with the subpoena... 
Because the criminal investigation was dropped in February, there was no need for Mr. Armstrong to assert his Fifth Amendment rights. After Mr. Armstrong complied with the subpoena this fall, his lawyers fought vigorously to keep the court record sealed from public view. Mr. Armstrong's lawyer, John Keker, warned that if the public found out that Mr. Armstrong had "intended to assert his Fifth Amendment rights," that it would "further damage Mr. Armstrong's reputation." 
The Justice Department, however, wanted the court records made public. "The sealing of judicial records is not appropriate," it wrote, "if it is done merely to protect parties from embarrassment." 
None of the documents that Mr. Armstrong turned over, were made public in the court records. The whistleblower lawsuit remains under seal.

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