Whistleblowers play a vital role in our society. They point out fraud and help stop corruption that costs taxpayers significant sums of money. It’s easy to see why whistleblowers are seen as providing a public service.
In cases where fraud is being perpetrated against the government (and, by extension, the people), whistleblowers seek justice through what is known as a “qui tam suit.” Qui tam cases have helped the government recover billions of dollars lost to fraud.
What is a qui tam suit?
A qui tam suit occurs when a person files a claim on behalf of the government, citing fraud and providing evidence that is used to investigate the perpetrator of the fraud. Qui tam suits were made possible by the False Claims Act, passed in 1863 to prevent fraud against the government.
Qui tam suits are slightly different than other types of whistleblower lawsuits and, therefore, require different considerations and different processes. It’s for this reason that a whistleblower should consider using the assistance of an experienced whistleblower attorney who is familiar specifically with qui tam suits.
If you have witnessed fraud at your own company, or even as an outside observer, or if you simply want to know more about what the process is like for a whistleblower in qui tam suits, here is a general outline of what a whistleblower can expect from the process of a qui tam case.
Consulting A Whistleblower Attorney
Upon meeting with a whistleblower attorney, your case will be reviewed along with the facts and documentation that you are able to provide to verify claims of fraud. This is why it is so important to consult with an attorney who knows these types of cases thoroughly, since the decision to proceed will be based on the knowledge of someone familiar with what will be effective once the case reaches the Justice Department.
It is during this stage of the process that your attorney will consider when the fraud took place and what role your company took in the fraud. These are key determinations that will be vital to the success of your case.
Be prepared to confirm any allegations that you would like to make with specific facts and, where possible, evidence of the fraud. Your attorney will help you figure out which information will be the most helpful to your case.
Preparing and Filing the Complaint
Once enough information is gathered, your attorney will draft the documents necessary to file your complaint in U.S. District Court. Again, an experienced whistleblower attorney will be familiar with what is required, and what is effective, in a formal complaint. This information will also be helpful in persuading the government to intervene in your case, which will be of significant benefit.
After the documents are drafted, they will be filed in United States District Court. At this stage, the documents will be sealed and the company that might be subject to an investigation will not be notified. This means that your information will not be public and your role in the investigation will not be known by your employer. It is important to seek the counsel of your attorney so that you know what you can and can’t say about your case at this stage of the process. Violating the terms of the provisions set forth in the False Claims Act can have a major impact on your case.
The Government Reviews and Considers Your Case
After the complaint is filed, it will be up to the Justice Department to determine whether or not they will intervene in your case. They will make this decision based upon an investigation of the evidence provided by you and your attorney. This part of the process may last for a significant period of time, during which the initial seal on the case can be extended.
If the Justice Department makes the decision to intervene, they will then begin investigating the case with their own resources and the role of you and your attorney will be largely turned over to the hands of the government, though you will likely still receive a large reward if the case is successful.
If the government decides not to get involved in your case, you will then have the choice of proceeding with the help of your attorney in direct litigation or whether you’d like to stop the case there. This is a decision that you and your attorney will make.
The Importance of the First-to-File Policy
Potential whistleblowers also need to be aware of the first-to-file policy in qui tam suits. The policy states that if a whistleblower action is pending investigation, then no related action can be brought forth. This policy is designed to encourage whistleblowers to bring fraud to light as soon as possible and to eliminate redundant actions that might dilute the resources of the Justice Department.
In other words, if you know about fraud involving the government and wish to bring action against the company, then it is in your best interest to act quickly before any other whistleblowers have the chance to do so.
The government typically offers 15 to 30 percent of their total recovery to the whistleblower. This serves as an incentive for people to come forward about fraud against the government, and it also helps whistleblowers who are taking a big financial risk by blowing the whistle on their employers.
There are plenty of examples of the payouts awarded to whistleblowers regarding fraud against the government. They occur frequently, which is a positive sign not only for whistleblowers but for all Americans who are concerned about fraud that has big implications on how their tax dollars are being spent.
If you want to learn more about filing qui tam suits or are interested to beginning the process of filing a qui tam suit, the whistleblower attorneys at Louthian Law Firm PA are here to help. Whistleblower lawsuits are a key part of our practice. Our experience and knowledge in this specific area of the law can be to your benefit, and our legal team will be able to help you in every step of the process. Contact us today to learn more.