Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Those British

Before the hurricanes hit, the nation's interest was directed toward the Mega jackpot, a multi-state lottery that was headed towards numerical heights that were going to propel the winner to a lifestyle rivaling Richard Branson's. If won singularly, (which is was) even after taxes, the three quarter of a billion dollar plus prize was certainly going to be a lifestyle changer.

Let it never be said that the mass media ever misses a potential story. Crews were sent to convenience stores and microphones were put in front of people asking them what were they going to do if they won. Yadda, yadda, yadda.

I will admit, I only heard a few of these responses, but I can guarantee that none of them can match what Andrew Patrick in Britain said he was going to do with the whistle-blower funds he stood to pocket as a customs duty avoidance case of a British knitwear company makes its way through a Federal court in Maine. The intentful duty avoidance was accomplished by flying under the radar and splitting orders that exceed the threshold for duty into a series of smaller orders that put each order under the minimum amount for duty.

Whistle-blower cases can be BIG in this country. They gain their oxygen from a Civil War statute about cheating the government. The False Claims Act, a qui tam proceeding, has apparently recovered more than $4.7 billion in fiscal 2016 from defendants, and disbursed $158 million to 48 whistle-blowers.

In the life I had before this, I distinctly remember a lawyer attending our NHCAA (National Health Care Anti-fraud Association)  conference who told us he was looking for that one whistle-blower case that he could hang his hat on. One the female attendees, thinking in home and hearth terms, asked how his wife felt about his Captain Ahab quest. Do you get to eat while fishing?

Our country's zeal to sue is unmatched. According to Friday's NYT story by Anita Raghavan, when a U.S. law firm, Constantine Cannon, tried to convince the British that whistle-blowers should be monetarily rewarded, the British vehemently declined to start any kind of reward program. It would seem they have an elevated sense of "fair play" or whatever it might be in cricket that prevents them from acting like a nation of common plaintiffs. They probably call us ruffians. Might be that stiff upper lip that keeps getting in the way.

The law firm Constantine Canon apparently found a way around the British reluctance to award whistle-blowers by finding Brits who can snitch on companies that are doing business with the U.S. A successful recovery can award the foreign whistle-blower a legitimate  monetary award, and since it can be 15 -30 percent of the recovery, there is incentive to "drop the dime."

Forget Brexit. There is a Yank invasion flying over those white cliffs of Dover of hungry whistle-blower firms setting up shop in London and looking for litigation that can go back across the pond. Kim Philby died way too soon.

When my grandfather passed away in 1956, even though I was perhaps only in second grade, I distinctly remember my father and his three brothers grousing about the $4 or so that the undertaker was adding to the bill for each of the pallbearers. And there were going to six of them! Seems NYC, being a strong union town, had a union for pallbearers. If my father and uncles were to grab the handles they would be in effect strikebreakers, and my grandfather's burial might have been delayed by court proceedings and Federal injunctions. They relented and paid.

The amount of an award that Andrew Patrick stands to receive is still up in the air. The case has yet to reach a conclusion. But he is the only ticket holder to whatever reward might be generated from a company that shipped $126 million in cashmere goods from 2000 to 2016 to the United States, avoiding duty on nearly all of it.

We're here today with Mr. Patrick at the petrol stand and are asking him what does he plan to do with his payout?

Mr. Patrick, like all good sons, says he'll do something nice for his 77-year old mum. But after that blast of generosity, he envisions giving up his pallbearer job and perhaps having enough dough to buy a 3,000 to 4,000 quid auto rather than the 250 quid clunkers he's been driving for 20 years or so. .

Given even a high rate of exchange between pound sterling and U.S. dollars, what kind of rattle traps can the poor man be driving? Unsafe at any speed. Consider we've got people who are going to be knocking each other over to pay $1,000 for a new iPhone, and you have to wonder what kind of internal combustion engine can be had for what might really be a moderately expensive dinner (with wine) over here?

One shudders. We wish him well.


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