Retraction Watch readers may recall the case of Erin Potts-Kant, who pled guilty to embezzling funds from a lab, and now has 15 retractions, and Michael Foster, both formerly of Duke. You may also remember that we’ve featured discussions of the False Claims Act, which some attorneys are trying to use to expose wrongdoing — and earn large settlements for whistleblowers in the process.
It turns out those two threads are intertwined, as we learned only last month when a federal court case against Potts-Kant, Foster, and Duke was unsealed last month. (False Claims Act cases are frequently sealed when initially filed, with big penalties for anyone — including the attorneys — who talk about them, which is why we didn’t know of this link before.) In today’s Science, as part of our new partnership, we tell the story in a lot more detail, and describe the potential ramifications for Duke and other universities.
The whistleblower in the Duke case is named Joseph Thomas, and it’s his brother John, whose law firm Gentry Locke is representing him — and who wrote about the False Claims Act for us. The suit alleges that Potts-Kant, Foster, and Duke included “fraudulent data in more than 60 federal grants worth some $200 million,” our Alison McCook writes in Science, and “should scare all [academic] institutions around the country,” one attorney unrelated to the case told her.