What is the False Claims Act?
The False Claims Act is the government’s most important tool to uncover and punish fraud against the United States. The key enforcement mechanism in the False Claims Act is its reliance upon “insiders” or whistleblowers to provide credible information documenting fraud against the U.S. government. These whistleblowers assist the government to protect the public trust and hold those who would defraud the government accountable.
Anyone who has information about fraud against the government is a potential relator. Qui tam relators include employees, patients, vendors, bookkeepers, medical care providers, accountants, auditors, independent contractors, analysts and service providers — if you are aware of fraud against the government at either the federal or state level, you may be able to start a False Claims Act case.
What It Covers
The Federal False Claims Act and similar state statutes provide significant financial rewards to whistleblowers who expose fraud against government agencies or programs. It relies on private citizens who have information about fraud to start False Claims Act cases. The False Claims Act also makes it illegal to retaliate against whistleblowers.
How It Works
A whistleblower first files a complaint under seal and provides the United States Attorney or the state equivalent with a disclosure statement containing all the information known about the fraud. Then the government investigates the claim and decides whether it will “intervene” in the case. Once that decision is made, either the government litigates the case with varying degrees of involvement by the whistleblower, or the whistleblower may litigate on his or her own if the government does not intervene. The investigation process and litigation can take several years.
In a successful case, whistleblowers (called “relators”) are typically entitled to anywhere from 15 to 30 percent of the amount recovered by the government. This amount can be significant because a defendant found guilty of fraud must pay three times the government’s losses, additional penalties, and attorney’s fees for the case. For example, in a case involving false billing for work on helicopters, the federal government recovered $150 million and the relator received $22.5 million.
What Does Qui Tam Mean? How does it relate to the False Claims Act?
The term “qui tam” is often heard in connection with cases under the False Claims Act. ” Qui tam” is shorthand for ” Qui tam pro domino rege quam pro ipso,” which means, “Who sues on behalf of the King, as well as for himself.” A qui tam case is one where a private citizen can sue on behalf of the government, which is what happens when a complaint is filed under the False Claims Act. Based on the qui tam concept, whistleblowers are rewarded by sharing in the proceeds recovered by the government.
The qui tam provision has provided ordinary Americans with essential tools to combat fraud, to help recover damages, and to bring accountability to those who would take advantage of the United States government – and ultimately American taxpayers.
- Types of False Claims Act or Qui Tam Fraud
- State False Claims Acts
- Complimenting the Federal False Claims Act, many states have False Claims Acts to fight fraud against state governments. See if your state has a False Claims Act here.
Contact a Qui Tam / Whistleblower Attorney
If you have knowledge of government fraud, we can advise you on what to do next. At Halunen Law, our lawyers represent people involved in federal and state qui tam/False Claims Act cases across the United States. Contact us for a free, confidential consultation.