Based on your knowledge of the fraud you have witnessed, your attorney may draft document requests or subpoenas for the government. You should also tell the government whether there are any former employees who would be willing to talk to agents about the fraud, and provide them with contact information if you have it.
An important warning about this stage of the case: once you file a qui tam lawsuit, you could be considered an agent of the government. Your experienced qui tam attorney will warn you, as will the government attorneys when they meet with you, that you should not “conduct your own investigation” especially if you still are working at the defendant company. Generally, you are entitled to receive and review documents and information that you would normally get in the course of business. However, you cannot and should not “gumshoe” within the company, look in other people’s electronic or paper files, secretly record conversations, or otherwise do anything or access any information outside what you normally would in the course of business. You should discuss with your qui tam attorney in detail what you can and can’t do at the office, and if you have any doubts about doing something, consult with your attorney first before taking action.
If you are still working at the company, and are continuing to witness fraud, the government may decide to “wire you up” with video and/or audio recording devices. The government considers this to be very valuable assistance, and if you participate, the government may increase your monetary reward if the case settles or resolves favorably. However, it is very important to remember not to do your own investigating, especially not recording anyone else on your own without being specifically directed to do so by the government.
Particularly if the government has decided to conduct a criminal investigation, the attorneys may not be able to report their progress in much detail. Depending on the particular attorneys assigned to the case, your qui tam attorney may be able periodically to get information about the progress of the civil investigation.
As the investigation continues, the government team may have additional questions for you to answer. The government attorney may ask your attorney to research legal issues that come up and provide memoranda addressing them. The government may also want the relator and counsel to provide damages estimates, which may require your attorney to hire an expert. Sometimes the government may ask you and your qui tam attorney to have additional meetings, often to review and explain documents they have received from the defendant. Occasionally, one or more of the attorneys or agents may be reassigned to other cases during the investigation, which may require another meeting to present and explain the case to the new people working on it.
You may wonder, particularly if you are still working at the company, whether management will figure out that you’ve filed a qui tam lawsuit. Often the first inkling that the company has about the existence of a lawsuit will be when they receive a subpoena or other formal document demand from the government. The company will immediately retain defense counsel, attorneys who are also likely to be expert in qui tam lawsuits, many of them former government attorneys. The company may start an internal investigation to try to find out more about the alleged fraud. If this happens, you should tell your qui tam attorney about it, as many sensitive issues are raised in these circumstances that could affect your case and the government’s investigation. Of course, if you feel that you are being singled out for bad treatment because management or fellow employees suspect that you’re a whistleblower, you need to tell your attorney.