With nearly $6 billion dollars recovered from more than 700 lawsuits in 2014, the False Claims Act (the “Act”) has become an important statute. But what is it? And, what is a Qui Tam anyway?
In short, the Act is a whistleblower statute that provides recovery for the United States government against anyone who knowingly submits, or causes the submission of, a fraudulent claim for payment against it. Qui Tam is another way to describe an action brought under this statute. The Act allows a civilian (known as a “relator”) to bring a lawsuit on behalf of the federal government. The government can recover three times the amount it suffered in damages, and civil penalties that reach as high as $11,000 per claim. Once the liabilities imposed by the Act are realized, it is understandable that some extraordinary damages can be recovered.
There are many ways for this type of fraud to be committed. Common examples are submitting false prices or information to the government, or charging for products or services that were unnecessary or never actually provided. There is no real limit on what the Act covers – as long as the government lost money because of fraud, the Act will likely apply.
So what is in it for the relator? A relator stands to be awarded anywhere between 15-30% of the total damages recovered by the federal government. This means that there is stake in it for everyone that helps stop fraud being committed against the government. The Act also has an anti-retaliation clause which helps to protect a relator who is still employed by the suspect organization and suffers from retaliation.
From the standpoint of procedure, the federal government is given the opportunity to investigate your matter, and may even take the case on for you. The Act is very complex with details, containing specific procedures that attorneys must be familiar with in order to comply with the government’s requirements. If the government does not take on your case, experienced attorneys may still choose to do so without its intervention.
Before pursuing a qui tam action, it is imperative that you consult with an attorney to understand the risks involved, and specific procedures that must be followed. Failing to do so can expose you to unnecessary costs and further consequences. If you believe that you have information about fraud being committed against the government, schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys at Wilson McCoy, P.A.. Our attorneys will analyze your circumstances to help you determine whether you have a viable case, and what further actions can be taken.