Whistle blowers are a new type of American hero. Qui tam lawsuits were created to ensure whistle blower protection (also called relators in court) so they can come forward about others who defraud the government.
When a whistleblower comes forward with information and knowledge that someone is defrauding the government, they are protected from retaliation.
If a company retaliates against a whistleblower lawsuit, the whistleblower can take the company or person to court for further compensation.
Qui tam is a shortened version of the Latin phrase, qui tampro domino regequam pro se ipso in hacparte sequitur, which roughly translates as “he who brings an action for the king as well as for himself.” These people are important in helping the U.S. Treasury retrieve money they were defrauded from.
Today is a great day to discuss the intricacies of qui tam lawsuits, from who can file a qui tam lawsuit to the steps it takes to get the lawsuit to court against a fraudulent claim, such as government fraud.
What Is the False Claims Act?
Qui tam is a provision under the False Claims Act which is also called Lincoln’s Law by some. So, what exactly does the False Claims Act do and why was it enacted in the first place?
The False Claims Act was created during the Civil War by Abraham Lincoln so suppliers couldn’t commit fraud against the Union Army after being defrauded constantly. It was enacted on March 2, 1863.
In 1943, the act was revised to lessen the monetary reward that whistleblowers were awarded when the government received the stolen money back. This deterred people from coming forward.
Then, in 1986, it was revised again and more amendments were added. This time whistleblowers who brought forth a winning case against someone defrauding the government were awarded 15–30% of the money the government got back.
What Are the Most Common Ways People Defraud the Government?
There are several types of actions that can be considered fraud under the False Claims Act. Sneaky and dishonest companies and people have found every way possible to con the government throughfraudulent activity and other violations in order to line their pockets with unearned money and should face hefty civil penalties.
A few types of fraud include:
- Defense Contractor Fraud: Defense contractor fraud is fraud committed by a defense contractor that was hired by the government. The government hires defense contractors all the time for various services. They can commit fraud by overcharging for goods or services, charging the government for services that weren’t provided, not following the conditions of the contract between the two, and claiming they’re purchasing American goods and parts when they aren’t.
- Finance Fraud: The financial industry can also commit fraud to the government. Some of these instances of fraud include providing false information to the government to receive financial assistance, providing false information to receive loans or mortgages on the property, and receiving funds to help FEMA and not using them for their intended purposes.
- Grant Fraud: Grant fraud is when someone commits fraud to receive grants from the government. Grants are given for a variety of projects such as education, healthcare, and medical or clinical research. When someone receives a grant for their research or project but spends the money on other things, it’s considered grant fraud.
- Healthcare Fraud: Just like with defense contractors, the government pays for medical services, equipment, and medication all the time. Some healthcare fraud includes hospitals that bill the government for services they didn’t provide, hospitals giving unneeded procedures to patients and billing the government for it, medical companies knowingly billing for defective equipment, and even not giving discounts to medical clients that were given to them by the government.
Who Files Qui Tam Lawsuits?
A whistleblower has personal knowledge of a company or someone that’s defrauding the government. So, the whistleblower heads to court with their lawyers as the plaintiffs in the case. The person committing the fraud is considered the defendant.
Anyone who has knowledge or evidence of someone defrauding the government can file a case as a stand-in for the government.
In most cases, whistleblowers who intervene through investigation are:
- Contractors and sub-contractors
If you’re thinking of filing a lawsuit under the qui tam provision, you need to have everything in order. This means you need to have evidence and documents of the scam. You also need to file the lawsuit before the statute of limitations for qui tam is up.
What Are the Steps of Filing a Qui Tam Lawsuit?
Winning a qui tam lawsuit is not for the weak. It’s a complex process and can take some time for an investigation to end. It can take even longer once the lawsuit goes to court.
The steps of a qui tam lawsuit include:
- First, you need to hire an attorney with the right expertise to help you.
- Them you have to file the appropriate paperwork to start the lawsuit in a federal court. A lawyer can help you with this difficult process.
- The lawsuit that’s been filed is kept under seal and only a U.S. Attorney General will have access. They’ll also have a written statement that provides them all the information and evidence needed in the case. The details of a lawsuit are kept sealed for at least 60 days. You’re also not allowed to discuss this lawsuit with anyone other than your lawyer, otherwise, your case can be dismissed.
- Next, the government has to investigate the claims that you’ve brought forth to federal court. This includes interviewing you to find out what you know of the fraud in question.
- When the investigation ends, they’ll decide if they’ll prosecute your whistleblower case. You’ll be notified of the decision first.
If they decide to prosecute, the defendant will receive notification of the lawsuit and then it will become public. The government then takes over the case but you will be compensated if the case is proven to be true by court standards.
If it’s decided that the government won’t pick up the case, the whistleblower can proceed without the government’s help.
Defrauding the government hurts all taxpayers, meaning all Americans. That’s why whistleblowers are important to a functioning society.