How to Prepare for Your Meeting with a Whistleblower Lawyer
Make sure you bring whatever evidence and documents you do have. If you have them in their original form, this is better. Let the attorney decide in the meeting what is most important- don’t leave anything out in the original discussion.
Review whether or not there were phone, in-person, or other meetings in which you witnessed fraud but do not have any direct evidence of it. Think about other people who were there. Write down these memories while they are still fresh in your mind, because it will be easier to recall it now.
Make a calendar of when things happened so that you can present it in clear fashion to your attorney. Meeting with your lawyer in person is important because if the case proceeds, you should be ready to meet with the government investigators and prosecutors. Your lawyer will be able to review this information with you so that you have a clear idea of what to expect if the case does move forward at that point.
Do You Have Evidence Of Reckless Conduct?
The False Claims Act also covers instances of reckless conduct. This means that your claim of a legal violation is not limited only to those who have intentionally misrepresented something to the government. If you have evidence of reckless behavior that ultimately defrauded the government or put public safety at risk, this information should be shared in your initial consultation with a whistleblower lawyer. If submissions to the government for payment requests were not legitimate but someone in the company failed to check this, such an instance could become an example of deliberate ignorance and reckless conduct.
The FCA has been used to address many different kinds of misconduct and fraud. It has been used to recover funds associated with defense procurement fraud, HUD fraud, and healthcare fraud. Essentially, an FCA case can involve any claim of the government being defrauded intentionally or recklessly.
What is the Role of an Attorney in a Whistleblower Case?
The lawyer plays one of the most important roles in helping a person who has knowledge of fraud and needs assistance with filing a case or determining next steps. As the whistleblower, you deserve to know about some of the issues in your claim and to be fully prepared for what it means when the government begins their investigatory period. The lawyer should be fully informed about what the whistleblower must do to proceed with the case and should be ready to provide information about how the process works.
The right attorney will have the knowledge and resources available to handle a complicated situation from the first meeting all the way through the end of the case.
In the first meeting, the attorney speaks with the person who believes they have a claim for fraud. The initial meeting will usually include more than one lawyer, a paralegal, and the potential whistleblower. The attorneys will ask questions about the information known by the whistleblower and can provide some insight about whether not this can explain what cause of action this gives that person to bring a claim, if there is any.
If it is determined through this initial consultation that there are grounds to proceed with a case, then the whistleblower discusses with the attorneys how this fits with relevant case law and rules over whistleblowers. At this point, the attorneys will turn their attention to figuring out whether there is sufficient evidence to meet the standards that would be applied by the federal courts with regards to those kinds of cases.
If the lawyers agree that there are grounds to move forward with the case, the next phase is investigation. The evidence and facts will be analyzed closely to determine the most appropriate way to present these details to the DOJ and U.S. Attorney.
At this stage, research is carried out, witnesses are spoken to, and evidence is directly analyzed. The attorneys in the case will pull upon their past experience in similar cases to figure out the right way to approach the claim.
Filing Suit Under Seal
It’s natural that you’re concerned about protecting your identity at that point in the case. Once the claim has been fully organized, it will be filed under seal with the U.S. Attorney. This means that there can also be steps taken to protect the identity of the whistleblower. If the case has been filed under the False Claims Act, these claims don’t enter the public record until the government makes a decision about whether or not to pursue the case.
Many whistleblower cases are long in nature and the other side will eventually figure out they have been named in a potential investigation. This can give the other side the time to prepare a counterattack and gather their own legal resources to fight back. For claims against a company, the legal response can be quite strong.
After the lawsuit is put under seal, there is a waiting period to determine if the U.S. Attorney will intervene in the case. The whistleblower still plays an active role, since he or she must notify the government of any additional information and be available to answer questions. If the government decides not to get involved, the whistleblower and his/her attorneys will play less of an active role, but will still be important in the case.
There is also the possibility that the government elects not to get involved in the case at all. This does not mean that the case is dead entirely, simply that the government has decided for their own reasons not to take an active role in pursuing the case. This leaves the whistleblower open to continuing with the claim on their own and with their own legal team. The law firm working with the whistleblower must then take on all the costs associated with bringing the suit.
If you are on your own with the help of your attorney, you’ll want the assistance of an attorney who is highly knowledgeable about many of the issues in this kind of claim. Pursuing the case on your own comes with both risks and rewards, but you want to know that you’re in good hands with a lawyer who knows the lay of the land and will exercise all possible avenues to help you work towards the case outcome.
Can A Lawyer Help with Retaliation Issues?
As you might already know, employees are able to bring retaliation litigation claims if there is an event of discrimination or retaliation. The protection is availabel to anyone who has been threatened, demoted, fired, harassed, or discriminated against by their employee because the employee has filed, participated, or investigates an issue involving fraud.
If you’re successful with a retaliation claim, you could be eligible for reinstatement to your position and damages up to double the amount of lost wages if the employee was terminated.
How Do I Pay My Qui Tam Lawyer?
As a potential plaintiff, you have probably taken numerous steps to move forward with your claim and research what’s required of you. You’re probably concerned about how you will be able to pay for a lawyer, especially if you were already terminated from your job due to your whistleblower actions. Knowing that the cost of the case will be higher if the government does not intervene, many potential whistleblowers choose to work with a law firm on a contingency basis. This means that the law firm will be paid for their part on the conclusion of the case.
Law firms working in this way will carefully evaluate the underlying claim because of the stakes involved. The attorneys will be looking for strong evidence that a case exists because they would only get a percentage of the fee recovered in a successful case. The law firm will not get paid by the plaintiff unless the case has an outcome in favor of the fraud.
You should bring whatever documents you have, preferably in their original form (for instance, if you have emails on a laptop, you should bring the laptop rather than print them out). Don’t try to guess in advance what documents the attorney will consider important – that’s part of the attorney’s job! Better to bring too much than too little.
If you have documents or materials that the company may consider proprietary or confidential, your attorney will discuss those issues with you. Depending on circumstances, you may still be able to provide those documents to your attorney and to the government.
You should also think about meetings, phone and in-person conversations, and other times you personally witnessed evidence of fraud, but where there may not be any documentation or record of it. You should consider writing down your memories of specific meetings and conversations, including who was there, when it took place, and any documents, memos or presentations that were associated with it. Because qui tam cases can last for years, it is best to record your memories while they are still fresh in your mind. If you are still employed by the company and are witnessing evidence of fraud in “real time,” you should write down this information as soon as you can so that it can be as accurate as possible.
One of the reasons that your qui tam attorney wants to meet you in person is because, if you file a qui tam lawsuit, you will have to meet in person with the government prosecutors and investigators so they can evaluate your credibility and the strength of your evidence. Your attorney will try to anticipate what questions you might be asked. An experienced qui tam attorney will know what to expect when you meet with the government.