FCA whistleblowers are vital to saving billions in taxpayer dollars, holding wrongdoers accountable, and saving lives. The Department of Justice collected over $5.6 billion in FCA judgments and settlements across the fiscal year 2021, $1.6 billion from qui tam (whistleblower) suits in which FCA whistleblowers were awarded $237 million.
Enacted in 1863, the federal False Claims Act (FCA) allows the US government to collect damages and penalties for fraudulent acts. In addition, the FCA allows private citizens to file claims (called "qui tam" suits) on behalf of the government against those who defraud government funds. These private citizens are entitled to a portion of the recovery as a cash whistleblower award.
Do you have information on the fraudulent use of US government funds? Feel free to examine the False Claims Frequently Asked Questions below for answers on filing qui tam suits and qui tam whistleblower award eligibility. Our False Claims Act Whistleblower Attorneys are happy to answer any questions at 800.669.7782.
False Claims Act Frequently Asked Questions
What Is the False Claims Act?
Under 31 USC §§3729-3733, the False Claims Act creates liability on those who knowingly submit (or cause another person to submit) a false or fraudulent claim for government payment. To help uncover false claims, the FCA offers everyday citizens a cash award (whistleblower award) for reporting knowledge of fraud that leads to successful government recovery.
What Does Qui Tam Mean?
"Qui tam" is short for "Qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur," a Latin phrase meaning "He who brings an action for the king as well as for himself." A qui tam suit is a type of false claims lawsuit where a private individual, rather than the government, files the suit against the perpetrator on behalf of the government. Qui tam lawsuits are also called whistleblower lawsuits.
Who Qualifies as an FCA Whistleblower?
Anyone with original, non-public knowledge of fraud against the government can file a whistleblower lawsuit on behalf of the government. Technically, the government is the plaintiff in a qui tam lawsuit. The whistleblower is referred to as the "relator.".
How Much Do Whistleblowers Get Paid?
A qui tam whistleblower whose original information leads to a successful recovery of defrauded government funds is eligible to collect between 15% and 30% of the judgment or settlement amount.
In FCA cases, damages are calculated at three times the amount of the actual fraud. In addition, a penalty of up to $27,018 for each false claim may be included. For example, if a clinic sends 100 false claims to Medicare, overbilling Medicare for $500,000, the damages could come to $1.5 million plus a $2.7 million penalty. Here, the whistleblower award may range between $630,000 and $1.26 million if full penalties are assessed.
The exact amount of the whistleblower award depends on the facts of each case. For example, higher amounts are awarded in cases where the government opts not to intervene or when the whistleblower and its counsel significantly aids the Government in its investigation. An experienced FCA whistleblower lawyer can provide a better estimate once they learn the facts of your case.
What types of fraud do FCA whistleblowers report?
The FCA covers any false claims submitted for payment to federally funded programs or contracts. Examples include:
- Billing for items or services not received
- Billing for substandard or defective products or services
- Billing for unnecessary or ineligible items or services
- Defense contractor fraud
- Government contract fraud
- Illegal kickbacks
- Customs fraud by misclassifying, misrepresenting country of origin, or undervaluing goods
- Misrepresentation in government contracts, bids, loan applications, grants
- Misuse of government funds
- Pharmaceutical, health care, Medicaid, Medicare fraud
- Procurement fraud
- Upcoding or overbilling
The perpetrator does not need actual knowledge that the claim is false to violate the FCA. Even if they submit false claims unknowingly— in deliberate ignorance or reckless disregard of the claim's truth or falsity—it violates the FCA.
Are FCA Whistleblowers Protected by Law?
Yes. Qui tam suits are filed under seal, meaning the whistleblower's identity is kept secret during the investigation. In addition, under 31 USC § 3730(h), the FCA grants whistleblowers the right to file a civil lawsuit for any form of retaliation against them for reporting fraud.
For example, the FCA prohibits employers from firing, demoting, denying promotion, harassing, or discriminating against an employee participating in a qui tam suit. When an FCA whistleblower can prove that the retaliator knew they were participating in a qui tam action, or even that they disclosed suspected conduct that violates the FCA without filing a qui tam lawsuit, the whistleblower may collect relevant damages, including double back pay for any lost income, job reinstatement, legal fees, attorneys' fees, and other special damages.
How Do I Start an FCA Whistleblower Case?
Only the first to file a whistleblower claim is generally eligible for the FCA whistleblower award. Therefore, it may not be advisable to report your knowledge to anyone without first contacting an experienced FCA whistleblower lawyer. Generally, reporting to various government hotlines does not entitle to you an award without also filing a qui tam lawsuit. Your lawyer will be able to protect your rights as whistleblower while helping you to confidentially prepare and file your qui tam action in federal district court under the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
When Should I File a Whistleblower Claim?
As soon as possible! For two reasons: Only the first to file a whistleblower claim is generally eligible for the reward, and FCA qui tam whistleblower cases must adhere to strict statutes of limitations.
In general, whistleblowers must file qui tam actions within 6 years of the false claim submission.. Exceptions to these time limits may exist in some instances. In addition, FCA retaliation cases have separate statutes of limitations. An experienced whistleblower lawyer can help determine how much time you have to file your whistleblower claim.
How Do I Select an FCA Whistleblower Lawyer?
Most importantly, an expert qui tam whistleblower lawyer will have (1) a lengthy track record of FCA whistleblower lawsuit successes, and (2) will be willing to take your case all the way through trial should the government chose not to intervene in the case. While many whistleblower cases do not end with a trial, these cases must be prepared from the very start as if they are headed to trial.
Do not speak with anyone about your information before you contact an experienced FCA whistleblower lawyer. Our Katers & Granitz False Claims Act Whistleblower Attorneys are available to answer any questions in a free and fully confidential consultation at 800.669.7782.
More Questions on Your FCA Whistleblower Case?
Feel free to call us at 800.669.7782 with any questions you may have. We will gladly share our years of experience and knowledge to help you get answers. We understand that confidentiality is essential. Even if you don't hire us, all inquiries are protected by the attorney-client privilege.
For answers to additional questions about your case, contact Katers & Granitz FCA Whistleblower Firm today for a private, no-fee attorney consultation: 800.669.7782.