What is a False Claims Act Whistleblower?
Committing an act of fraud against the federal government is obviously illegal. In order to deter fraud, as well as encourage reporting of fraudulent actions against the government, the False Claims Act was created. Under this Act, created in 1863, private individuals are incentivized to report any fraudulent acts against the government in what is known as a qui tam action. This is where a False Claims Act whistleblower plays an important role.
Employees who speak out about fraud by their employer enjoy broad protection from retaliation such as termination, demotion, or harassment. Whistleblowers may also receive financial rewards under the False Claims Act if their allegations are later deemed valid. From our offices in Red Bank, NJ, and Marlton, NJ, McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C. helps employees report the crimes their employer commits while aggressively protecting the right of whistleblowers in New Jersey.
Qui Tam Action and The False Claims Act
Under the False Claims Act, Congress provides individual, private citizens who have evidence of fraud against the federal government the right to bring a lawsuit through a qui tam action. Qui tam, meaning “in the name of our king,” allows a private actor, commonly known as a whistleblower or the ‘relator’ in legal terms, can both pursue an action against a defendant and is entitled to a percentage of the recovery amount. The specific amount that can be recovered depends, in part, on whether or not the government intervenes in the action.
Who Can Bring Forth A Qui Tam Action?
A whistleblower, also referred to as a relator under the law, can prosecute a cause of action against a defendant if he or she has evidence of fraud against the government, such as fraud against federal programs or contracts. Direct personal knowledge of the fraudulent scheme, and other evidence that false claims were submitted to the government for payment, drives the success of these cases.
One of the first things a person must do if they have evidence of fraud is to seek legal representation from an experienced New Jersey qui tam lawyer who has a successful track record for handling whistleblower claims. The qui tam lawyer will file the lawsuit “under seal,” which means that it is kept a secret so that the government can fully investigate the allegations, often with the help of the whistleblower’s lawyer. In some cases, the government may decide to intervene. If not, the plaintiff may continue to pursue legal action on its behalf.
It is important that qui tam action remains confidential, so whistleblowers must be careful not to discuss the potential case with anyone other than an attorney.
The False Claims Act & Prevailing Wages
In order to be qualified for federal construction projects, contractors have to hold a certification that each laborer or mechanic has not been paid less than the necessary wage rates, and are in compliance with the Davis-Bacon Act. If the contractor gives a false certification stating that their workers were paid the correct wage rates in correlation to the Davis Bacon Act, then they are subjected to FCA (False Claims Act) liability.
The False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to file a Qui Tam lawsuit for David-Bacon certifications that are false, which means that a whistleblower can pursue action against a defendant and is entitled to a percentage of the recovery amount.
Common Examples Of False Claims Act Violations
False Claims Act violations are any fraudulent activities by a company or entity that result in a financial loss to the federal government. This includes conduct outside of the United States, as long as federal spending is involved. Examples of these violations include, but are not limited to:
- Presenting a claim for payment to the federal government knowing it is false or fraudulent;
- Attempting to get a claim paid by the federal government using a false record or statement;
- Conspiring with other individuals to get the federal government to pay for a false or fraudulent claim;
- Intentionally using false records or statements to avoid satisfying a financial obligation or transmit property to the federal government;
- Overcharging for goods and services provided by government contracts;
- Marketing or promoting drugs or medical devices for uses that have not been approved by the FDA;
- Telemarketers who make direct telephone solicitations with no legitimate medical referral and attempt to induce someone into purchasing medical products; and
- Under the New Jersey False Claims Act, fraudulent conduct by contractors and subcontractors who fail to do their job.
What is the Compensation for a False Claims Act Whistleblower?
If the evidence presented is strong, and if the plaintiff’s qui tam lawyer has successfully presented the case, a plaintiff may be entitled to compensation. Specifically, the plaintiff may receive a “relator’s share” of the amount the government recovers. The amounts can vary, depending on whether or not the government intervenes in the case. If the government does intervene, a plaintiff can expect anywhere from 10 to 15 percent of the recovery, and up to 25 to 30 percent if the matter is pursued without the government’s assistance. The plaintiff will only receive compensation if the government recovers money from the lawsuit, and the plaintiff’s recovery is determined by a settlement or court judgment.
Statute Of Limitations for Qui Tam Action
If you have evidence of a fraudulent action taken against the government and are considering filing a qui tam action under the False Claims Act, you must do so within the statute of limitations. A case must be filed within either six years of the False Claims Act violation or three years from when the government knew or should have known of the violation.
Can a Whistleblower Remain Anonymous in NJ?
Many employees want to do the right thing by coming forward about an illegal action by their employer, but have concerns about confidentiality. Many whistleblowers want to know if they can remain anonymous in New Jersey.
Unlike CEPA whistleblower claims, the False Claims Act allows you to file a complaint without revealing your identity to your employer. The Act does not contain any specific provisions about filing anonymously. The filing will initially be kept ‘under seal’ and away from public view. However, once the case is unsealed, it is difficult in most cases for whistleblowers to keep their identity hidden.
This is why employee protection and anti-retaliation laws are so important, and why it is critical to contact an experienced New Jersey whistleblowing and retaliation lawyer to discuss your options before moving forward.
Get Help From Qualified NJ False Claims Act Attorneys
At the law office of McOmber McOmber & Luber, P.C., our false claims attorneys in New Jersey are available to help you navigate a prevailing wage or qui tam action if you have evidence of another defrauding the government. Please contact our lawyers today for a free consultation to discuss the best course of action for your False Claims Act case.