How to Bring a Qui Tam Whistleblower Lawsuit under the False Claims Act
Understand The Basics Of The LawOnly certain types of fraud violate the False Claims Act, and only people with certain types of information can bring qui tam lawsuits.
Not every false statement to the government violates the False Claims Act. False Claims Act cases require: (1) that the defendant has made a request to the government for money; and (2) has supported that request with false information or a false statement.
A qui tam lawsuit is brought by an individual, but on behalf of the government. Not everyone who knows about fraud on the government can bring a qui tam lawsuit. The goal of the False Claims Act is to encourage disclosure of fraud on the government. Generally, to bring a qui tam lawsuit, you must have information that is not already public or already known to the government.
Most qui tam cases involve fraud by government contractors, or fraud by health care providers on Medicare or Medicaid systems. But any type of financial fraud on the government could violate the False Claims Act.
Organize Your InformationBefore contacting an attorney, gather and organize your information. You should be able to answer the following basic questions:
1. When did the defendant make a claim (or claims) for money to the government, and how much money did the defendant seek?
2. What false information or false statements were given by the defendant to the government?
3. What documents exist that would prove the fraud? Where are those documents kept?
4. Who was involved in, or knew about, the fraud, and what connection do those people have to the defendant? Would any of them be willing to help an investigation of the fraud?
5. What is your connection to the defendant, and how did you learn about the fraud?
Keep It ConfidentialIf you are considering bringing a qui tam lawsuit, you should keep your information confidential, and not discuss it with anyone other than an attorney. There are a number of reasons for this. Two important reasons are:
1. The lawsuit will initially be filed "under seal," which means that the plaintiff is not permitted to disclose the existence of the lawsuit to anyone. If you violate that "seal," you may forfeit your right to recover the 15%-30% reward.
2. Only the first person to bring a qui tam lawsuit disclosing a particular fraud will be entitled to recover the 15%-30% reward. So, to preserve your ability to claim that reward, it is important both to move quickly, and to not tip others off to the fact that you are considering a qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act.
Do not try to contact an attorney about a potential qui tam whistleblower lawsuit using your company email address or company phone, as such communications may not be confidential.
Choose The Right AttorneyThe False Claims Act is an unusual law, and qui tam whistleblower lawsuits have unique requirements. Only a small number of attorneys around the country have substantial experience and expertise in this field. Do not choose an attorney simply because he or she has an office nearby. The best False Claims Act attorneys handle cases nationwide. If you have a strong qui tam case, those attorneys will be willing to handle your case regardless of where you live.
You should gather information about a few different attorneys, talk to all of them about your case, and then choose the one that you feel most comfortable with.
Most attorneys will not charge you anything for an initial, confidential evaluation of your case. And most attorneys who handle False Claims Act qui tam lawsuits are willing to do so on a "contingency fee" basis. This means that the attorney only gets paid if you win the case or get money through a settlement.
Prepare For A Long SlogQui tam whistleblower lawsuits do not move quickly. The lawsuit is initially filed "under seal," and given only to the government. The government then has the right to conduct its own investigation before deciding whether or not to join the lawsuit. When the government decides to join, that is called "intervening." Convincing the government to intervene is important because having the government on your side greatly increases the chances of a good result. But government investigations can take many months (or even years) to conduct. So, qui tam plaintiffs need to be patient, and need to be as cooperative with the government as they can.
Get Rewarded For Doing The Right ThingThe False Claims Act is designed to encourage whistleblowers to help the government fight fraud. Most whistleblowers are motivated by a strong sense of morality and patriotism; they want to do the right thing, and protect their fellow taxpayers from fraud and corruption. But the False Claims Act also provides that a qui tam plaintiff is given a share of any money recovered through the lawsuit. Under the Act, the share can range from 15% to 30%, and is typically in the 15% to 20% range. So, for every $1 million the government recovers, the succesful qui tam whistleblower typically receives between $150,000 and $200,000. This is the government's way of saying "thank you" to the whistleblower for putting himself or herself on the line for the good of the country.