Our Whistleblower lawyers have helped people use the federal False Claims Act to protect them when they expose wrongdoing on the part of businesses and government agencies. The False Claims Act not only provides relief to a Whistleblower who has been the victim of retaliation, but it also allows for private citizens to sue on behalf of the government and get a portion of awards in cases where firms defraud the government. Typically, the Whistleblower receives a percentage of the lawsuit settlement funds. The Whistleblower lawyers at our firm will make sure that all of the Whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act are employed to get Whistleblowers the compensation they are entitled to.
History of the Federal False Claims Act
Whistleblower lawsuits date all the way back to 13th century England and were commonly called “Qui Tam” suits, shorthand for a longer Latin phrase meaning “Sharing with the King.” The False Claims Act dates back to the Civil War, when it was enacted to combat fraud in the execution of military contracts. Following the Civil War, the False Claims Act was rarely used. But in 1986, Congress revived the False Claims Act by adding Whistleblower protections to its provisions.
Since Whistleblower protections where added to the False Claims Act in 1986, the legislation has encouraged hundreds of people to expose wrongdoing that is a threat to public welfare. In fact, since 1986, almost $17 billion dollars have been returned to the U.S. Treasury in this way, and Whistleblower rewards for Qui Tam cases exceed $2.5 billion.
Specifics of the False Claims Act
The protection afforded by the False Claims Act extends to Whistleblowers whose allegations could legitimately support a False Claims Act case even if the case is never filed. Congress chose to give Whistleblowers a share of the recoveries that result from Whistleblower lawsuits to give people a strong incentive to step forward and take the personal and professional risks involved in reporting fraud. Filing a Whistleblower lawsuit under the False Claims Act requires the expertise of a Whistleblower lawyer, like those at our firm, who understands the intricacies of this law.
A relator is the legal term for a Whistleblower who files a lawsuit under the False Claims Act. The relator files the Whistleblower lawsuit in federal court “under seal,” meaning it is not available to the public and cannot be discussed with anyone except the government officials investigating the case. Even the entity or individual charged with committing fraud will not be told about the lawsuit. This confidentiality gives the government time to investigate the fraud allegation. The seal initially lasts for 60 days, although some Whistleblower lawsuit cases are routinely extended for one or two years or even longer while the government investigates.
At the end of the sealed investigative period, the government decides whether to join in the Whistleblower lawsuit. If the government joins the case, the litigation is conducted jointly by the government and the Whistleblower’s attorney, with the government as lead counsel. If the government declines to intervene, the relator may go forward with the lawsuit and assumes primary responsibility for running the case.
The timing of a lawsuit can be critical. The first person to file a case under the False Claims Act for a particular fraud preempts all other cases. So anyone who plans to bring a Whistleblower lawsuit should do so before someone else is able to. Potential Whistleblowers also should keep in mind that the False Claims Act has a statute of limitations that may be as short as six years.
Whistle Blower Rewards
Under the False Claims Act, entities found liable for wrongdoing must pay three times the government’s losses plus a fine for each false claim. When settling a case, the government often agrees to forego the civil penalties and accepts two to three times the amount of damages suffered by the government. The defendant also must pay the fees and the case-related expenses of the Whistleblower’s attorney.
When a Whistleblower lawsuit is successful, the False Claims Act allows for rewards paid to the Whistleblower. The law states that Whistleblowers are entitled to 15 to 30 percent of whatever amount the government recovers as a result of their Whistleblower lawsuits. The amount varies, depending on whether the government intervened in the case and other factors. Because of these variations, it is important that Whistleblowers retain an experienced Whistleblower lawyer to insure they are granted the maximum award the law allows.
Under the False Claims Act, a Whistleblower is also entitled to damages if they were a victim of retaliatory firing. These remedies include reinstatement with seniority, double back pay, interest, special damages sustained as a result of discriminatory treatment, and attorneys fees and costs. To successfully file a retaliatory discharge claim under the False Claims Act, the Whistleblower must engage in conduct protected by the False Claims Act. The courts also require a showing that the defendant had some notice of the protected conduct that the Whistleblower was either taking action in furtherance of a Qui Tam action or assisting in an investigation or actions brought by the government. Finally, the Whistleblower must show that the termination was in retaliation for the protected activities. Our Whistleblower lawyers work hard make sure that a Whistleblower lawsuit is filed in such a way as to protect the relator’s rights should a defendant decide to take retaliatory action.
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