FAQ – Whistleblower Rights
What is the False Claims Act?
The False Claims Act is a federal law that allows someone who knows about fraud against the government to sue on the government’s behalf to recover three times the amount of the fraud, plus civil penalties. That person, known colloquially as a “whistleblower” and technically as a “relator,” is entitled to a reward equal to between 15 and 30 percent of the recovery. Individual whistleblowers have received billions of dollars for their efforts.
Why was the False Claims Act enacted?
President Lincoln signed the False Claims Act into law in 1862 in response to dishonest wartime suppliers defrauding the government. Accordingly, the False Claims Act is also known as “Lincoln’s Law.”
What does “qui tam” mean?
The qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act allow individuals to sue on the government’s behalf to recover money from wrongdoers who commit fraud against the government. The term “qui tam” is short for a Latin phrase that means “he who sues for the king as for himself.”
Can I afford a lawyer to bring a qui tam False Claims Act case?
Yes. Our firm works these these kinds of cases under contingent fee arrangements, which means you owe us nothing unless we are able to recover money for you.
What types of fraud are covered under the False Claims Act?
Virtually any type of fraud against the government can support a False Claims Act case. The fraud can be in any industry or sector, although most cases have been in the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries for defrauding the Medicare and Medicaid programs, the defense industry, and the for-profit education industry.
Who can be a whistleblower under the False Claims Act?
Anyone who has information about fraud perpetrated against the U.S. government can be a whistleblower, known as a “relator.”
What type of reward can I expect for bringing a False Claims Act case?
Whistleblowers are entitled to 15 to 30 percent of any recovery, either through settlement or trial. This amount is usually negotiated with the government, but if your attorney and the U.S. Attorney can’t find a middle ground, you are entitled to a hearing before a federal judge to determine the amount of your reward. Factors that courts use to determine an appropriate award include your strength as a witness, your involvement as an original source of information, and your cooperation in the case.
Over the last 10 years alone, qui tam whistleblowers have been rewarded $1.6 billion.
How long does a False Claims Act Lawsuit take?
Like most civil lawsuits, a qui tam lawsuit can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to be resolved.
The qui tam lawsuit starts with the filing of the complaint in federal court. The complaint is placed under seal, which means that the defendant does not know that it has been sued. The purpose of this procedure is to give the government an opportunity to conduct an investigation. The investigation is made so the government can determine whether it believes there is a case, and, if so, whether to intervene – that is, take over the case.
While the government is supposed to take 60 days to decide whether it wants to intervene and take over the case, the investigation can sometimes last several years.
Once the government decides whether to take over the case, the seal is lifted. In cases where the government intervenes, the wrongdoer typically settles shortly thereafter. Cases where the government does not intervene proceed in the same way as other civil lawsuits.
Will my employer (or the entity that is committing the fraud) find out that I’m the one who blew the whistle?
Yes, but not right away. When a qui tam lawsuit is filed, it is put under seal while the government conducts an investigation to determine whether it wants to intervene and take over the case. During this “seal period,” which typically lasts at least one year, the wrongdoer won’t even know it’s being sued, and therefore won’t know about the whistleblowing.
Does the False Claims Act protect me from retaliation?
Yes. Even if the government does not intervene and take over the case, the False Claims Act still protects people from retaliation for bringing a lawsuit under the Act. The False Claims Act makes it illegal for anyone, including employers, to retaliate against someone for bringing a qui tam lawsuit. If an employer violates that prohibition, the employee is entitled to damages such as lost wages, emotional harm, and attorney fees.
Do I need a lawyer to bring a lawsuit under the False Claims Act?
Yes. Courts have determined that people cannot bring a qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act without being represented by a lawyer.
To learn more about your rights, we encourage you to speak with one of our attorneys. You can call us at 612.486.5540, or use our contact form to request a free case evaluation. Your privacy is important to us, and we promise to treat any information we receive as strictly confidential.
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