KMB Client Dr. Rick Bright Settles His Whistleblower Claims Against Trump Administration’s HHS

KMB client Dr. Rick Bright has reached a settlement with the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regarding his allegations that HHS retaliated against him for blowing the whistle about the Trump Administration’s inadequate and irresponsible response to the coronavirus pandemic. While Dr. Bright’s employment claims have been settled, the investigation into his underlying claim of serious government wrongdoing is ongoing.

Dr. Bright’s whistleblower complaint, filed with the Office of Special Counsel (OSC), on May 5, 2020, alleged that HHS involuntarily transferred Dr. Bright from his position as Director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), because he resisted pressure from HHS leadership to award contracts based on politics and cronyism, and during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, he urged the U.S. government to dedicate the appropriate resources and expert personnel to combat the virus. Dr. Bright also objected to the Trump Administration’s efforts to flood communities with hydroxychloroquine, a medication that ultimately proved to be ineffective in preventing or treating COVID-19, and which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded led to potentially serious and life-threatening side-effects.  An addendum to Dr. Bright’s OSC complaint, filed October 6, 2020, alleged that the HHS constructively discharged Dr. Bright’s employment after refusing to adopt recommendations he made regarding wide-spread testing for COVID-19, including in underserved communities.  Dr. Bright alleged that National Institutes of Health (NIH) officials believed it would be “too hot politically” given the Trump Administration’s insistence that such testing was not necessary.  These claims have been resolved by the settlement with HHS.

The OSC Disclosure Unit is overseeing HHS’s investigation of Dr. Bright’s underlying allegations of serious government wrongdoing, including the prioritization of the Trump political agenda over the health of the American public constituting a grave danger to the public health and safety, and the circumvention of established protocol in order to award lucrative contracts without scientific merit. This ongoing investigation, in which Dr. Bright is fully cooperating, is an important step towards holding HHS accountable to its mission to serve the public good.

“By sticking his neck out and risking his career, Dr. Bright sounded the alarm on the Trump Administration’s reckless and chaotic response to the COVID-19 crisis, including its failure to devote adequate resources to containing the virus and its efforts to promote unvetted drugs such as hydroxychloroquine and chloroquine,” said senior partner Debra Katz, who represents Dr. Bright.  “As a result, Dr. Bright shined a bright spotlight on the Trump Administration’s mismanagement of its pandemic response, which forced changes that undoubtedly saved lives.”

“I am grateful to have resolved my employment claims so I can focus all of my attention on my lifelong career goal: containing global outbreaks and preventing pandemics to ensure the world never again suffers the consequences we have seen over the past 18 months,” said Dr. Rick Bright.

Following his separation from government, Dr. Bright served on President Biden’s transition team as a member of the COVID-19 Task Force.  On March 8, 2021, he accepted a position with the Rockefeller Foundation as Senior Vice President of Pandemic Prevention and Response. Dr. Bright works with global public health organizations to prevent future pandemics.

Read further coverage on the settlement at The New York Times and CNN