While many people are aware of the impact whistleblowers can have on both their employers and society at large, it can be easy to confuse a basic whistleblower lawsuit with "qui tam" (pronounced "kee tam" )suits under the False Claims Act. Also known as the "Lincoln Law", the False Claims Act imposes liability on individuals or companies who are found to have financially defrauded the federal government.
What kinds of cases may be considered qui tam cases? Today, we'll take a look at these whistleblower suits and what to do if you suspect or have proof that your employer or someone you know is committing fraud against the federal government.
What Kind of Fraud is Covered Under Qui Tam?
Essentially, any action an individual or company undertakes which defrauds the federal government could potentially be grounds for this sort of lawsuit.
Some of the most common qui tam cases involve Medicare/Medicaid fraud and types of fraud perpetuated by defense contractors. In effect, the person or persons committing this fraud are committing financial theft, with United States taxpayers and the government itself as the victims of the theft.
What to Do If You Suspect Fraud
Contact a legal representative immediately. We cannot emphasize this enough.
While the False Claims Act may allow financial rewards and provide protection to whistleblowers who are able to report financial fraud committed against the federal government, it's essential to contact a lawyer immediately to discuss bringing a case.
The Information Will Not Be Public Right Away
There are a few common concerns we have heard from those hoping to bring forward a Qui tam suit. It's common to wonder if you'll be the next "face on the news" if you do bring a suit forward, especially in the amount of money involved is large.
The False Claims Act actually provides for a level of secrecy in these cases — qui tam lawsuits are filed "under seal", which means that the specific details of the suit remain secret from everyone but the federal government itself, in order to give the Justice Department the time it requires to thoroughly investigate. Even the person or entity that has been accused of fraud will not be told about the case initially.
The lawsuit itself, as well as the supporting documents provided with it, will provide the government with the detailed information it requires to thoroughly investigate the alleged fraud.
What Happens After the Allegations
After the whistleblower files the complaint under seal along with a disclosure statement detailing the basis for the claims, the government will investigate the allegations while the complaint remains under seal. The government will decide whether or not it will choose to join, or "intervene", in the case. The truth is that the federal government actually chooses not to intervene in most qui tam lawsuits. While you'll have the option to pursue the lawsuit further on your own, there is a much greater chance of success if the government chooses to become involved.
Under the False Claims Act, the qui tam cases will be sealed fo an initial period of 60 days but the Court is able to (and generally do) extend this seal multiple times in order for the government to have enough time to thoroughly investigate and decide on their level of involvement, if any, in the case. These investigations can take several months depending on the scale of the scheme alleged. The seal may be partially lifted, at the request of the government, in order to facilitate further discussions on the case, or a possible settlement with the individual or entity accused of fraud.
Most successful qui tam cases end up resolved through settlements rather than a full court trial, although trials are not uncommon. If a defendant is found liable under the False Claims Act, they may be required to pay as much as three times the losses sustained by the government, plus penalties for each false claim submitted to the government.
Is the Whistleblower Rewarded?
Rewards vary. The amount of the reward depends on factors such as the quality of the case as presented to the Justice Department, the work of the whistleblower's attorney in helping prove the case, and other issues that might arise during the investigation.
If the government does choose to intervene and recovers funds (whether via settlement or trial), the whistleblower is entitled to 15% to 25% of the recovery. If the government chooses not to intervene and the whistleblower's legal team pursues the case and succeeds, the whistleblower's reward may be substantially higher — between 25 to 30% of the recovery.
Do You Suspect Government Fraud? Give Us a Call.
If you suspect that a person, company, or entity you know is defrauding the federal government, it may be a good idea to schedule a consultation with a legal representative right away.
At Bluestein Attorneys, our legal team would be happy to sit down with you to go over your documentation and help you to make the decision on what steps you may need to take next. In addition to Qui Tam claims under the False Claims Act, we also have experience with Social Security disability, Workers' Compensation, Personal Injury, Veterans' Disability, and more, and we make it our mission to help our clients here in South Carolina and elsewhere protect their individual rights. Reach us by phone at (803) 779-7599 or contact us online at any time to request your FREE consultation.