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False Claims Act Lawsuits

A party who pursues a whistleblower action under the False Claims Act is known as a relator. As explained on this page, False Claims Act lawsuits follow specific steps both for the whistleblower and after the government becomes aware of the allegations of fraud.

False Claims Act Lawsuits

False Claims Act lawsuits can be initiated by whistleblowers who bring their concerns about fraud and illegal behavior or other issues that could endanger the public safety or health to the attention of the government. In exchange for their involvement and the risks taken by the whistleblowers, a False Claims Act lawsuit whistleblower could be entitled to potential recovery of compensation.

This compensation amount varies based on whether or not the government decides to intervene in the case. Today, the false claims act is instrumental in assisting the United States government in recovering billions of dollars every year, and this enables certain whistleblowers to earn sizable recoveries. These False Claims Act lawsuits might also be referred to as qui tam litigation. These often involve allegations of false claims and fraud that led to damages against the United States government.

Not every instance of wrongdoing will meet the grounds for a lawsuit. Many companies, sadly, engage in unethical behavior that employees might see as wrong, but does not necessarily meet the grounds for fraud. Most employees could struggle in attempting to figure out this difference on their own; finding a trusted whistleblower lawyer is critical for anyone in this position to determine their next steps and to get support in bringing forward a claim if litigation is the right course.

Who Can File A False Claims Act Lawsuit?

A private citizen whistleblower, also referred to as a relator, could have standing to begin an action against government defrauders. After qui tam or False Claims Act lawsuit has been started, the government has a responsibility to investigate the claims made by the whistleblower.

The government can then choose to intervene and then take over the case. In certain situations the government decides that they will not get involved in the case, enabling the relator to pursue the case to completion on their own.

If the case is successful, the relator is entitled to a participation in the recovery. Some of the most common types of False Claims Act lawsuits include, securities fraud, tax fraud, insurance fraud and healthcare fraud. Many states have also created False Claims Act legislation items of their own, which enable states to prosecute anyone who defrauds a state government.

Complexity of Litigation

Litigation under the False Claims Act is specialized and complex due to strict procedures that must be followed. The litigation is often extensive, as well as expensive. Many False Claim Act whistleblowers choose to partner with an experienced whistleblower attorney. These whistleblower lawyers should have a firm understanding of the types of business practices that the target companies are accused. The line separating fraud from other types of business activities can be difficult to discern.

Furthermore, a whistleblower will have unique concerns related to his or her involvement in the case and might wish to have a legal representative to assist them with bringing such a claim. A whistleblower has certain protections afforded to him or her as a result of taking the next steps to alert the government to fraud.

Meaning of The Term Qui Tam

Qui tam is the technical legal term for the mechanism under the False Claims Act that enables private entities and persons with evidence of fraud against the government to take action on behalf of the government.

Qui tam lawsuits or False Claims Act lawsuits have become a powerful form of litigation that enables whistleblowers to help the government with stopping many kinds of fraud, including education services fraud, Medicaid and Medicare fraud, defense contractor fraud and more. Rather than being known as a plaintiff, a False Claims Act lawsuit whistleblower is known as a relator, since the federal government is typically the plaintiff.

Next Steps for A Whistleblower Interested in Filing A False Claims Act Lawsuit

Once an individual has evidence of fraud against the government and decides to blow the whistle, the whistleblower should find an experienced attorney who has a background in representing whistleblowers.

Thorough research should be completed and consideration should be given to the selection of a lawyer who has a background in that field. The way that the case proceeds will be a major factor in determining whether or not the whistleblower will receive an award. A qui tam action must be initiated in the federal district court. In addition to a copy of the complaint, all material written evidence and written disclosure statement should also be provided and served to the US Department of Justice and the US Attorney’s Office.

This is the formal notification that the government receives that a whistleblower action has begun. Any False Claims Act lawsuit or qui tam complaints is filed under seal for a minimum of 60 days. This means that the specific facts of the case are kept secret from everyone except the government, so that the Department of Justice has appropriate time to investigate the allegations. Even the person or company accused of fraud is not informed about the case, and the 60 day seal period is often extended on the government’s request. In many False Claim Act lawsuits, the seal period can last for a year or more. This is the point in time in which the government evaluates the claims brought forward by the whistleblower and decides whether or not to intervene in the case.

It’s important for a whistleblower to understand that the government only intervenes in a small percentage of cases. A whistleblower in a False Claims Act lawsuit is eligible to recover between 15% and 30% of the total recovery from the defendant. If the government intervenes, the whistleblower will receive at least 15% but not more than 25% of a successful recovery. In cases in which the government elects not to intervene, the whistleblower could receive up to 30% of the total recovery.     

Sources:

https://www.acfe.com/article.aspx?id=4294968486

https://www.justice.gov/jm/criminal-resource-manual-932-provisions-handling-qui-tam-suits-filed-under-false-claims-act

https://www.rcfp.org/journals/the-news-media-and-the-law-winter-2011/keeping-track-false-claims/

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