Pursuing a Qui Tam Claim Under the False Claims Act
If an individual has evidence of fraudulent activity against the United States government, he or she may decide to come forward with that evidence and file a qui tam lawsuit under the federal False Claims Act. For the individual with the incriminating information – also known as the whistleblower or the relator – exposing the entities that are defrauding the government can be extremely intimidating, particularly if the wrongdoer takes steps to retaliate against them. However, the False Claims Act protects and rewards whistleblowers for the personal and professional risks they have taken to expose the fraud against the government.
One of the first things a person must do if they have evidence of fraud is to seek legal representation from an experienced 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 Justice Department 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.
Examples of Violations Under the False Claims Act
- 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
- Knowingly selling products that are defective or dangerous
- Marketing drugs for uses that have not been approved by the FDA
Steps of the Whistleblower Process
Anytime an individual suspects fraudulent activity, he or she can pursue legal action. This decision should not be made lightly, though, since it can have a significant impact on personal and professional relationships. If a worker does decide to report the fraud, the specifics can vary depending on the type of fraud and the different whistleblower laws, but the process generally involves the following steps:
- Collecting evidence
- Filing the claim
- Investigation by the government
- Case settlement or judgment
If the evidence presented is strong, and your qui tam lawyer has successfully presented your case, you may be entitled to a sizeable compensation. Specifically, you may receive a “relator’s share” of the amount the government recovers. The amounts can vary, depending on whether or not the Department of Justice (DOJ) gets involved with the case. If the DOJ does intervene, you can expect anywhere from 10 to 15 percent, and up to 25 to 30 percent if you pursue the matter privately. The plaintiff will only receive compensation if the government recovers money from the lawsuit.