Fraud against the United States government is fraud against taxpayers. Individuals who learn about conduct that defrauds the government can file a whistleblower action under the False Claims Act. These actions, also known as qui tam lawsuits, allow eligible whistleblowers to receive a portion of recovered funds.
Qui tam lawsuits are exceptionally complex actions and are unlike other lawsuits. If you’re aware of someone who has committed fraud on the government, you need an attorney who is familiar with this unique area of law. You need the experience of Newman & Shapiro.
What Is A Qui Tam Lawsuit?
The False Claims Act (FCA) is a federal law that is used to hold companies and individuals civilly liable when they defraud the United States government. The FCA enables whistleblowers, also known as relators, to file a claim on behalf of the government against those engaging in fraud.
A qui tam lawsuit is a possible option for anyone who suspects that an employer, company, or individual is doing the following:
- Committing financial fraud against the federal government
- Abusing government contracts
- Defrauding government programs for financial gain
- Presenting fraudulent claims for payment to the government
- Overbilling for government services or keeping an accidental overpayment
Some examples of qui tam lawsuits include fraud involving Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance, defense contractors, and more. Relevant industries in which qui tam claims arise include healthcare, pharmaceuticals, construction, technology, telecommunications, banking, and others.
Who Can Be A Whistleblower?
Any private citizen can file a qui tam action against an employer, company, or individual who is defrauding the federal government. However, those who wish to bring a lawsuit must possess non-public information about wrongdoing. In other words, if you know about fraud against the government solely on the basis of a news report or a court case, you cannot bring an action based on that knowledge.
The information provided by the relator should be sufficiently detailed to pinpoint the responsible individuals or entities committing fraud. This usually means having supporting documentation or other tangible evidence.
Timing is also critical to bringing these lawsuits. If another person has already filed a qui tam lawsuit based on the same evidence you have, or the government already possesses the information, you cannot bring a claim.
Why Would Someone Want To Be A Whistleblower?
Some people choose to be whistleblowers for the principle of stopping fraud on the government (which is fraud on the taxpayers). However, many individuals who know of wrongdoing are often afraid to report it for fear of retaliation. The FCA provides two major incentives to come forward: whistleblower protection and financial rewards.
Workplace retaliation against employees who sound the alarm is a real problem, and discourages whistleblowers from speaking up. This retaliation can be in the form of something obvious like a demotion or termination, or something less conspicuous like being passed over for a promotion. The FCA protects employees, agents, and contractors who file qui tam lawsuits from retaliation, including harassment and threats. The relator can seek compensation in the form of reinstatement, double the amount of back pay, interest on back pay, reimbursement of legal fees, and more.
The FCA also provides a financial incentive to expose abuse. Relators who successfully help the government recover damages can apply for a portion of that money. This compensation is separate from damages you may be awarded in a workplace retaliation claim, and many factors (discussed below) go into the amount you can receive. Due to the complexity of qui tam lawsuits, however, you should consult an attorney before pursuing a claim.
I Have Evidence of Someone Defrauding the Government – What Do I Do?
If you know of information about fraud being committed against the government, time is of the essence. Remember, to successfully file a qui tam action, the information you have must be non-public, and you have to be the first person to report it. Depending on the nature of your employment or other position, other individuals may have access to the same evidence you do, and they may try to initiate their own actions.
Therefore, the first thing you should do is retain a lawyer experienced with qui tam claims. Special rules apply to these lawsuits, so it’s best to have an attorney who is familiar with them. One rule that may apply to your case is what’s known as a statute of limitations. Statutes of limitations set deadlines to file civil actions. For qui tam lawsuits arising under the FCA, one of the following time limits will generally apply:
- Six years from the date of the FCA violation
- Three years after the government knows, or should have known, about the FCA violation
- In any event, a maximum of ten years after the FCA violation
Statutes of limitations rules can be complicated, so it’s better to act sooner rather than later.
The qui tam action must be filed under seal in federal district court. The confidential nature of these lawsuits allows information to be given to the government without it becoming a public record. A copy of the complaint must be served confidentially on the U.S. Attorney General and the U.S. Attorney for the district in which the complaint is being brought. The Federal Rules of Civil Procedure govern the contents of the complaint and the method in which it is served.
Your evidence will be presented to the government in a document known as a disclosure statement. The disclosure statement contains a summary of all of the relevant evidence in the relator’s possession and is served, along with the complaint and the evidence itself, in the method described above.
What Happens Next After The Qui Tam Lawsuit Is Filed?
The Department of Justice (DOJ) will investigate the claims presented in the complaint and the disclosure statement. Sometimes the DOJ will work with other law enforcement agencies to look into the allegations. The DOJ typically interviews the relator, subpoenas documents that may be material to the case, interviews other witnesses, and consults with agency personnel and other experts.
Next, the government has to decide whether to intervene in the qui tam claim. If the government intervenes, it takes over the case; if it does not, it is up to the whistleblower to decide whether to continue the case on behalf of the government. The government’s decision of whether to intervene or not will affect the potential share of recovered funds to which the relator is entitled.
Claiming A Reward Under the FCA
The amount of the whistleblower reward depends on numerous factors. One is whether the government intervenes. If the government intervenes and recovers funds, either through a settlement or trial, the relator is entitled to between 15 and 25 percent of the recovery. If the government does not intervene, the whistleblower is entitled to 25-to-30 percent of the recovery.
Other factors that affect the amount of the reward include the quality of the relator’s information and the assistance that the relator and relator’s counsel provide to the government. The more honest and cooperative the relator is, the higher the potential reward. The FCA also allows the government to seek treble damages, or three times the amount of actual losses. Ultimately, it takes a skilled qui tam lawyer to negotiate the amount of the reward if the government recovers damages.
How Can Jeffrey Newman Help Me?
Jeffrey Newman understands qui tam lawsuits and the rules and procedures involved with them. Having worked on numerous qui tam claims in the past, he knows how to present your evidence to the government in a sufficiently detailed and convincing manner. The first-to-file rule is especially important to preserving your position respective to other potential whistleblowers and therefore preserving your right to claim a reward later. You need a skilled qui tam lawyer who can file an effective claim as expeditiously as possible.
Your anonymity will be protected for a time, but eventually, your identity will become known. Relators run the risk of workplace harassment and retaliation once it gets out that they sounded the alarm. You need an aggressive attorney like Jeffrey Newman who will take action in the event you are punished by your employer.
In some cases, employers try to turn the tables by accusing the whistleblower of participating in the defrauding scheme. Or the information that the relator turns over to the government may be protected by non-disclosure or confidentiality agreements. Where these agreements are in effect, your employer could try to seek remedies against you for sharing protected information with the government. You need an attorney who will anticipate and respond to these actions, and that means you need Jeffrey Newman.
Whistleblower cases can take years. There will be periods of time when you hear little or nothing from the government about your lawsuit. The attorney you choose will be a critical point of contact between you and the government. Jeffrey Newman keeps his clients updated on the progress of their cases and will do what he can to move your case along.
Finally, and perhaps most important, your lawyer will be responsible for negotiating any reward to which you may be entitled. Remember, the amount of your reward depends on factors like the nature of your evidence and how cooperative you are. Assistance from the whistleblower’s legal counsel also goes into the calculation. Jeffrey Newman will advocate for the maximum reward possible.
Contact Our Qui Tam Whistleblower Lawsuit Attorney Today
If you have evidence or knowledge of fraudulent activity and believe you may have a qui tam case, contact our office for a confidential consultation today. We will discuss the information you have and advise you as to your legal rights. Our firm takes qui tam cases seriously and we will bring our knowledge and professional dedication to your case. Contact us to get started.