Filing a Whistleblower or Qui Tam Action
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If you believe, or know, that your employer has committed fraud with respect to a government contract or against government funds, and you are interested in filing a false claims suit, your first step is to contact an experienced attorney to discuss what your options. Even if you were somehow involved in the wrongdoing, you may still pursue a qui tam (another term for a false claims suit) action. Your involvement, however, may affect your percentage of the recovery.
Any individual may file a qui tam suit, but not all claims are actionable under the statute. The person filing the lawsuit (the plaintiff, or “relator”) must comply with the complicated statutory requirements of the False Claims Act in order to prevail. If the suit is successful, the relator may recover between 15-30% of the government’s total recovery, including triple the amount of damages suffered and civil penalties of between $5,500 to $11,000 per claim. Plaintiffs who win are reimbursed their attorney fees and other expenses they incur as a result of the action.
Qui Tam cases are filed “under seal.” That means that the complaint is kept confidential and not released to the public for at least 60 days. During that time, the complaint is served on the U.S. Attorney for the district in which the defendant is located (but NOT served on the defendant). Prosecutors are then given a chance to review the complaint and decide whether or not to intervene, or join in the case. Often the government will ask for one or more extensions of time to review all of the documents. If the government decides to intervene in the case, the prosecutors will take the case over and have primary responsibility for it. If the government decides not to intervene, the plaintiff, or relator, may continue with the case on their own, although the government may intervene at a later date. The government may also choose to settle the case or dismiss it all together.
Qui Tam attorneys typically charge for their services via a contingency arrangement. This means that you will not have to pay for their services (and possibly expenses as well, depending on your fee agreement) until or unless the case settles or ends in your favor.
For a brief overview of the False Claims Act, see What Should I Do If I Suspect My Employer Is Cheating the Government?
For more information about where these cases come from, see Types of Conduct Giving Rise to a Qui Tam Lawsuit .
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