Under the False Claims Act (FCA), whistleblowers who assist a government prosecution can receive for themselves part of the damages or financial penalties recovered by the government as a result of the prosecution. Known as qui tam/whistleblower actions, these lawsuits allow eligible whistleblowers with nonpublic information about the fraud to receive a percentage of any funds recovered by or on behalf of the federal or state governments.
When someone files a qui tam suit, they might be taking professional and personal risks. For this reason, the FCA includes provisions to protect whistleblowers from retaliation by employers. Sharing in the monetary recovery of a successful action can provide some compensation for the risks taken. Still, the process can be quite a challenge, especially without the right legal team to rely on.
The Joseph Saveri Law Firm has extensive experience with qui tam suits. We are at the leading edge of developing innovative cases at the intersection of antitrust and qui tam litigation. And our extensive antitrust experience allows us to successfully prosecute qui tam actions across almost any industry. For example, the firm has filed suits on behalf of the U.S. Government and dozens of states seeking to recover billions of dollars against pharmaceutical companies for antitrust violations that have defrauded numerous government health programs, including Medicare, Medicaid, the Veterans Administration, and TRICARE.
WHAT IS QUI TAM/WHISTLEBLOWER?
Qui tam is an abbreviation of a Latin phrase that means “who as well for the king as for himself sues in this matter.” The FCA’s qui tam provisions were enacted over 150 years ago to encourage private citizens to come forward with information about entities defrauding federal programs in order to provide the government a chance to recover stolen funds. Many states also have laws similar to the False Claims Act that prohibit fraud against the state government, and which also can be enforced through qui tam suits.
Any individual with non-public information about fraud against the government may become a whistleblower and initiate a qui tam suit. This is often an employee of the company committing the fraud, but can be a competitor, a contractor, or other person(s) with nonpublic information about the fraud. An attorney then files the qui tam suit on behalf of the whistleblower, who is called a “relator.” The suit and supporting documents provide the government with specific information about the fraud. In many cases, the government would have been unaware of the fraudulent activity had the relator not come forward; consequently, relators are entitled to a financial reward for their assistance if the litigation is successful.
Qui tam/whistleblower suits are based on any of the following violations by an individual or entity that:
- knowingly presents, or causes to be presented, a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval;
- knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used, a false record or statement important to a false or fraudulent claim for payment or to an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the government; or
- knowingly conceals or knowingly and improperly avoids or decreases an obligation to pay or transmit money or property to the government.
A qui tam/whistleblower suit brought under the FCA is filed in federal district court confidentially “under seal,” so that only the government is aware of the case. After the case is filed, the government investigates the allegations and determines whether it will join or “intervene.” Under the FCA, a qui tam case is sealed for 60 days while the government investigates, but courts generally extend this period to allow the government to complete its investigation and determine whether it will join the case. Even the person or entity being accused of fraud is not told about the qui tam case without the court’s permission. The case only becomes public once the government decides whether to join.
The government intervenes in only a small percentage of qui tam/whistleblower suits. When it does, it has primary control over the case, but the relator and their attorney still participate. If the government intervenes and the case is successful through a settlement or a trial, the relator is entitled to 15%-25% of the amount collected by the government. If the government declines to intervene and the relator chooses to pursue it on their own and is successful, they will receive 25%-30% of the collected amount.
If you are aware of an undisclosed fraud against the government, it is important for you to choose an attorney who understands how to preserve your rights and protect your interests. Our attorneys are adept at handling these sensitive matters and counseling clients through the complexities of qui tam/whistleblower litigation. Please contact us for further information. We will answer your questions and evaluate your situation without charge, and any conversations will be kept confidential as provided by law.