FAQs and Answers for Whistleblowers (and Potential Whistleblowers)
Becoming a whistleblower can be intimidating. Wondering what it’s all about? We at the Louthian Law Firm have the information you need to consider your options—or simply to expand your knowledge.
Can you tell me what a whistleblower is?
Anyone with evidence of fraud against the government who then steps forward to report it is a whistleblower.
What would make me a whistleblower?
You can be a whistleblower if you have evidence of fraud or legal misconduct inside a company or organization. You do not necessarily have to be an employee or be associated with the company or organization to be a whistleblower as long as you have solid information. However, a whistleblower often is an employee or former employee.
What are the details of the False Claims Act (FCA)?
Our whistleblower laws began with President Abraham Lincoln, who brought the first whistleblower law into effect in an effort to curb contractor fraud during the Civil War. The False Claims Act is often referred to as the “Lincoln law” for that reason. Under the FCA, ordinary people are allowed to bring qui tam whistleblower cases (cases on behalf of the government), enabling them to achieve awards of 15 to 30 percent of the amount that the government recovers.
Wondering what kinds of cases can be brought under the FCA? Here are a few examples:
- Certifying that a company is in compliance with the law when it is not
- Submitting bills (claims) for services or products that are defective, misrepresented, or that simply are not provided at all
- Obtaining a government contract through the use of kickbacks, bribes, or falsifications
- Not being in compliance with the reimbursement requirements when it comes to Medicare, Medicaid, or TRICARE.
Would you please tell me what qui tam means.
Qui tam is shorthand for a longer Latin phrase meaning, “the one who sues both for the king and for himself as well.” Essentially, when you bring a qui tam suit, you are suing the alleged fraudster on behalf of the government as a “relator,” or one who relates the facts of the case to the court. The government always has the final say regarding whether they will intervene (take part) in a qui tam suit. The relator/whistleblower always has the choice to continue—or not—bringing the suit should the government decline to participate.
What are the whistleblowing statutes of limitations?
It is in your best interests to report fraud as soon as you can. Each set of whistleblower laws has separate statutes of limitation (the time period by which a claim must be filed). You risk your claim no longer being legally actionable if you do not file it within certain time limits. Do not delay if you believe you have actionable information.
Qui tam suits under the FCA have the following time limitations:
- Filing must occur within six years of the date the fraud is committed,
- OR three years following the time when the government knew—or should have known—the fraud existed, but in no event more than 10 years after the date on which the violation is committed, whichever occurs last.
I want to be a whistleblower, but what happens if I participated in the fraud?
You can still file a whistleblower claim and receive an award if you are successful when you participated without your knowledge or under duress (you participated because you were threatened or pressured). Generally, a whistleblower cannot enter a claim if they planned or initiated the fraud and are convicted of the fraud or on a related charge.
What are the legal protections afforded to whistleblowers?
A number of federal laws protect whistleblowers. Among them are the False Claims Act, the Dodd-Frank Act, and a number of whistleblower laws that are industry-specific. Also, there are a separate set of laws for the IRS that cover tax fraud whistleblowing actions.
Can I blow the whistle anonymously?
The usual procedure is for a whistleblower’s identity to stay confidential at the initial stages. The Dodd-Frank Act allows you to submit information anonymously through a whistleblower attorney. Keep in mind, though, that it is possible your identity might need to be revealed in order to bring the case to completion.
What are my risks as a whistleblower?
Whistleblowers do take on some risk in the form of retaliation against them by their employers, including demotion, discharging, harassment, and discrimination. However, whistleblowers have a number of strong protections under Section 3730(h) of the False Claims Act, including reinstatement, double back pay, and compensation for certain additional damages. The extra damages can include legal fees and costs.
If you have blown the whistle and experienced any form of harassment or retaliation, it is critical that you speak with a whistleblower attorney immediately, if you have not already done so.
Why is legal representation important to me as a whistleblower?
Laws governing whistleblowing and related activity are extremely complicated. They require the filing of a disclosure statement and other documents whose intent may not be clear to you. You could go it alone—or you could work with an experienced and skilled whistleblower attorney who can take the load off your shoulders and ease your mind. A competent and caring legal team can assist you in bringing the best case possible, making sure your legal protections are respected, and helping interest the government in intervening, or joining your suit.
The Whistleblower Lawyer: Making a Difference
If you think you have the facts needed to bring a whistleblower case, the experienced whistleblower attorneys at the Louthian Law Firm can review your case and help you file the appropriate disclosure statement. Under some circumstances, the government will intervene, or join in your lawsuit.
Your chances of succeeding are greater if your whistleblower claim is substantive, clear, and to the point. Because of this, meeting with a qualified whistleblower attorney can increase your chances of winning. The Louthian Law Firm can help you form your claim so that the government will be more inclined to intervene in your case; government intervention can sometimes increase the chances of recovering reward money. Even if the government decides not to intervene, it could still be a good idea to pursue your case without government involvement. Our strong support system can assist you through every step of the process.