The complicated nature of the many laws, codes and regulations in the United States isn’t typically something your average citizen knows a great deal about. There is simply too much of this type of information to digest and often the language of this material is hard for some folks to grasp. Aside from these deterrents, people also find comfort knowing that if a legal issue arises, they can simply call a lawyer to help handle and explain what’s going on. Though this often works out just fine for most, there has been a noticeable growing trend of people who are becoming more and more conscious of what the governments laws are, and the motivations behind them.
This rise in political and legislative awareness can be attributed to a variety of factors, but one topic has perhaps stoked people’s interest more so than the others. That topic is government whistleblowers and the rights and allowances private citizens have when exposing fraud or other illegal activity meant to damage the federal government. Though many people connect whistleblowing to folks like Edward Snowden, who exposed the United States and other countries of illegally spying on its citizens; however, the term can also be used to describe people who help the government.
Though the current political climate in the United States is somewhat divided, there are still active and aware individuals who seek out the governments help when they notice something illegal going on. In these instances, the Federal False Claims Act is used in order to protect and reward the person who is helping the government stop whatever illegal activity is going on.
These types of situations can happen to anyone and that is why having a concrete understanding of the Federal False Claims act is important for people to know. Thankfully, this article will give you a rundown of what this act entails and how it is used not only to help the government catch criminals, but also to protect individuals from retaliation sought by those they expose.
In order to get the clearest picture of what the Federal False Claims Act is, it’s best to first know about its history. The Act was passed into law by Congress on March 2nd 1863 in response to the government becoming aware of various successful acts of fraud used to procure money from them. Basically, a whistleblower told the government that some of the companies supplying the Union army were committing fraud by selling the government moth ridden blankets and boxes of saw dust instead of guns. There were certainly many more instances of dishonest activity, which the government soon realized, and, in response, Abraham Lincoln enacted the Federal False Claims Act. This gave provisions to allow private citizens to sue those defrauding the government on its behalf. In order to persuade people to do this, the government would give the whistleblower 50% of the money recovered from the case and punish those responsible.
As time went on the United States government began to change the Federal False Claims Act by first lowering the reward amount and adding stipulations that prevented people from getting their rewards if the evidence leading to the exposure of whatever illegal activity was going on was already in the government’s possession.
These changes, made is 1943, began to dissuade people from cooperating until the act was again amended in the late 1980s when the government again became aware of widespread fraud used to swindle money from them. In this particular instance, Cold War defense contractors were drastically overcharging the government for items, but no one on the inside was willing to provide the information needed to prove it because they were afraid they would lose their jobs. To counteract this fear Congress revised the Federal False Claims Act to prevent workplace retaliation and also added a number of other stipulations that encouraged more people to cooperate with the government including getting rid of the evidence clause mentioned above. There have since been a few other amendments which were mainly in response to the growing number of fraud instances seen in the healthcare industry and wall street.
Now you’re probably wondering if these changes were successful or not in the government’s attempt to persuade private citizens to help them and the answer is a resounding yes. The incentives and protections added to the Federal False Claims act were certainly not perfect. Since the 1980s, however, there have been billions of dollars recovered and in the year 2015 alone the amount was a massive $3.5 billion and that number has continued to hold steady each year.
The bulk of this money can be attributed to defense contracting companies, as well as banks, investing firms and health care. Not only have whistleblowers helped catch these fraudulent and greedy individuals, but they’ve also helped decrease the amount of criminal activity that some of these industries were accustomed to doing. Of course, that’s not to say that these actions have all gone by the wayside, but those looking to defraud the government certainly think twice about their actions because of the Federal False Claims Act.
In closing, it’s important to understand that the term whistle blower is not something to scoff at or connect to any positive or negative assumptions. It’s essential for morally conscious people to expose wrong doings for the benefit of everybody. If these actions were to go unchecked our society would cease to exist. Nothing is perfect in this world and whatever your views on the government and whistleblowers are, it is still comforting to know that the Federal False Claims Act will protect you when you expose any wrongdoings. Even though some people will claim and believe that whistleblowers are only providing information to the government in hopes of getting a large monetary reward from the case, the majority of these folks simply have a value system that urges them to take action.
Hopefully, you now have a better understanding of the Federal False Claims Act and a somewhat clearer view of what whistleblowers are. There is certainly more information available and It’s important to learn about laws like these because you may find yourself needing to incorporate what you’ve learned here at some point in your life.