A qui tam lawsuit is a lawsuit filed by a private whistleblower on behalf of the government. Qui tam lawsuits are typically filed under the False Claims Act, a federal law dating back to the Civil War that rewards whistleblowers who report fraud against the government. The whistleblower’s reward comes in the form of a percentage of whatever the government ultimately recovers in the lawsuit.
Well, a qui tam lawsuit is a powerful way for a whistleblower to help the government stop many forms of fraud. Some examples of fraud may include Medicare, Medicaid, or defense contractor fraud. These kinds of fraud can cost the federal government billions of dollars, which, in reality, means, the money is stolen from the United States Treasury and you, the law-abiding taxpayer.
Not everyone has the courage to take a stand against powerful companies, and to risk their own time and potentially their employment to put a stop to fraud. Those brave few who will step forward, however, are often current or former employees of companies that have defrauded the government. But a whistleblower need not be an employee—the False Claims Act empowers anyone with knowledge of fraud against the government to step forward and file a lawsuit.
A qui tam False Claims Act lawsuit is filed under seal, which means that the defendants will not initially know about it. While the lawsuit is under seal, the Justice Department privately investigates the allegations with help from the whistleblower’s attorney. The False Claims Act ensures that the lawsuit in under seal for at least 60 days, but courts can and often do extend that seal multiple times while the Justice Department investigates.
When the Justice Department finishes its investigation, it will decide whether to intervene in the case. If the government intervenes, it will be primarily responsible for prosecuting the lawsuit. If the government decides not to intervene, the whistleblower can still prosecute the case with his or her own attorneys. In most cases, and for various reasons, the government decides not to intervene.
Under the False Claims Act, the guilty party must repay the government three times the government’s losses, plus significant penalties for each false claim.
The law recognizes that when whistleblowers decide to act and put a stop to fraud, they are taking on both personal and professional risks. So, under the False Claims Act, if the government recovers funds in a qui tam lawsuit, the whistleblower shares in the recovery and cannot be retaliated against at work.
The reward amount for the whistleblower depends on several factors like the quality of the case presented to the Justice Department and work the whistleblower’s attorney provides in helping the qui tam case succeed. If the government intervenes, and the case is settled or won at trial, the whistleblower will recover between 15% and 25% of the recovered funds. If the government declines to intervene, and the whistleblower’s team pursues it, then they are entitled to between 25% and 30% of the recovery.
Florin, Gray, Bouzas, Owens has won millions of dollars on behalf of whistleblowers.
If you have evidence of fraud against the government, then you should immediately contact an experienced qui tam attorney. Timing can be critical to your ability to share in a recovery, so you should not wait.
You should, however, carefully consider who you will contact because the right lawyer will be critical to the success of your case. Qui tam cases can be highly technical, time-consuming, and expensive to pursue. And the qui tam lawyer that you hire will play a key role in determining if you will receive a reward for blowing the whistle, and if so how much. Before you file a qui tam lawsuit, you should make sure that your lawyer has the time, resources, and experience necessary to give you the best chance to succeed.
Florin, Gray, Bouzas, Owens has a successful track record representing whistleblowers in qui tam lawsuits. If you know that your employer has defrauded the government and would like to discuss your legal options, please contact Florin, Gray, Bouzas, Owens for a free, confidential case review.
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