Ruling Draws Attention to Federal Research Grant Abuse in Higher Education


October 15, 2012

Contact: Kipp Lanham 202-449-9807

Kate Connors 202-449-9804


Virginia Jury Rules in Favor of University of Virginia Whistleblower for $819,000


Ruling Draws Attention to Federal Research Grant Abuse in Higher Education

Charlottesville, VA – After alleging misuse of higher education research grants from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at the University of Virginia, a jury has awarded Dr. Weihua Huang just over $819,000 in a retaliation case brought under the federal False Claims Act. This is a precedent-setting case since it is one of the only cases tried to a verdict since the anti-retaliation provision of the False Claims Act was amended in May 2009.

In June 2009, Dr. Huang received a grant for research regarding the genetics of nicotine addiction and smoking behavior.  He alleged grant funds were charged without authorization and for work that was never performed on the grant from June 2009 to November 2009 by Dr. Ming D. Li, a former colleague and mentor of Dr. Huang. This manipulation of federal funds led Dr Huang to file a lawsuit alleging that Dr. Li and Dr. Bankole A. Johnson, Chairman of the University of Virginia’s Department of Psychiatry and Neurobehavioral Sciences, retaliated against him for speaking out about the misuse of federal research grants from the NIH.  Drs. Johnson and Li terminated Dr. Huang’s employment due to what they deemed to be performance issues with supervisors, very soon after his whistleblowing.

“Dr. Li was someone who I had respected and appreciated for many years, but he manipulated these grants funds, and Dr. Johnson allowed him to do it,” states Dr. Huang.  “Since I was the Principal Investigator on this grant, it was up to me, and not Dr. Li, to decide how grant monies ought to be spent.  I am very happy with the jury’s verdict.”

“This case should encourage other whistleblowers that are seeing abuse in federal grants to come forward,” stated Adam Augustine Carter, lead counsel for Dr. Huang from The Employment Law Group® law firm. “It is tough for people to come forward in such situations, but Dr. Huang’s courage has set an example.”

A later decision in this case from Judge Norman K. Moon will determine whether to pay lost future earnings or require Huang’s reinstatement.

About The Employment Law Group® Law Firm

The Employment Law Group® law firm is one of the premier employment law firms representing individuals from all over the United States and around the world in EEOC, Sarbanes-Oxley and other whistleblower cases against the government and publicly held U.S. corporations. The firm’s attorneys have more than 70 years of experience litigating on behalf of individuals against employers who disregard federal and state whistleblower and employment laws.