Contact our Georgia national whistleblower lawyers today. Call us at 770-643-1606

The Truth About Protection of Whistleblowers in Hospice Kickback Cases

The protection of whistleblowers is very important in False Claims Act legal actions.

protection of whistleblowersWhen fraud against the federal government occurs, the protection of whistleblowers becomes critical. This is because about 80% of False Claims Act fraud cases originate from a whistleblower. Why so many? Much of the fraud is well hidden and therefore unknown to the federal government. However, someone on the “inside” usually knows about it. In situations where the federal government is aware of fraud, it may not have the evidence to prove it. Again, those on the “inside” can usually find the evidence.

Whistleblowers are important to a federal government’s False Claims Act action against the violator. Therefore, it’s easy to see how the whistleblower could be the victim of retaliation, especially in cases involving kickbacks and hospice care providers. Luckily, there are special protections. Yet, they don’t always work as well as a whistleblower might hope.

Whistleblower Protections: Qui Tam Actions Begin in Secret

The False Claims Act contains various provisions that provide protections for a whistleblower. The first line of defense is the secrecy of a qui tam action when it begins.

A qui tam action is a lawsuit brought by the whistleblower (also called a relator) where the whistleblower sues the violator (often the whistleblower’s employer) on behalf of the federal government. Any of the stolen money the whistleblower can recover goes to the federal government, less a certain percentage as a reward to the whistleblower. This percentage ranges between 10 and 30 percent.

When a qui tam action begins, the whistleblower must file the complaint “under seal.” This means the whistleblower files the complaint in secret. Only the federal government and the court know about the lawsuit. One reason for this secrecy is to protect the identity of the whistleblower while the government investigates the basis of the qui tam action and assesses whether it will take over the case.

Secrecy Has Limits

This secrecy doesn’t last forever. It only lasts for 60 days, although an extension is possible if the government wants additional time to investigate the fraud. Even then, once the case proceeds to trial, things change. It’s very likely the defendant in the qui tam action will be able to figure out who the whistleblower is because the whistleblower will likely be a key federal government witness in the case.

But in many cases, the defendant discovers the whistleblower’s identity before the qui tam action ever gets to trial. Once the federal government begins investigating the alleged fraud, the defendant will know something is up. They’ll realize the investigation probably began with the help of an inside person. Perhaps the whistleblower previously warned the defendant about the fraud. Or maybe they’re the only person with access to information that the federal government now knows. The defendant can often put two and two together. When this occurs, the whistleblower can assume he or she will endure some form of retaliation. Luckily, the False Claims Act has anti-retaliation provisions that make this retaliation illegal.

Whistleblower Protections: Anti-Retaliation Provisions

The False Claims Acts makes it unlawful for an employer to retaliate against a whistleblower. This retaliation can take the form of discrimination, harassment, threats, demotion, firing and pay cuts.

If a whistleblower can prove retaliation, they can get their job back plus double back pay, special damages, interest and attorney’s fees. On paper this is great. But the reality doesn’t work as well, and there are several reasons for this.

First, it’s not always easy to prove retaliation.

An employer might fire the whistleblower. If the whistleblower has a history of poor performance, the employer can make the plausible argument that the firing has nothing to do with retaliation. This may not be true. But it creates enough doubt as to the reason of the whistleblower’s firing to prevent a court from concluding the employer is guilty of unlawful retaliation.

Second, let’s say the whistleblower can prove illegal retaliation.

The potential relief often isn’t worth the consequences. For example, is a whistleblower who suffers retaliation really going to want to still work at the same employer that just tried to fire him or her? What if the whistleblower wants to continue working for the employer. Can the whistleblower expect fair treatment, as if nothing happened? The answer to both these questions is usually “no.”

But working somewhere else is not always possible because now the whistleblower has a reputation for being “untrustworthy.” Even though the whistleblower did the right thing, they may face challenges. Few companies want to hire someone they know has a reputation for going behind the employer’s back and reporting something to the federal government.

The harsh reality is that the False Claims Act’s anti-retaliation provision helps. It can reduce the pain or harm a whistleblower endures. But it rarely provides for the perfect protection of whistleblowers, especially in the hospice care industry.

Thinking about Becoming a Whistleblower?

Contact the Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today. Let our firm’s skilled attorneys explain the protection of whistleblowers so you can make a wise choice.

What Are Whistleblower Laws and How Can They Affect Ordinary Citizens?

Have you ever wondered, what are whistleblower laws?

What Are Whistleblower LawsMany individuals ask the question: What are whistleblower laws? Many might think it’s a law that deals with whistleblowers and they would be correct. There’s one thing about the law that many people do not know. It has to do with the reward system, which can make a huge difference for many ordinary people.

Background of the Whistleblower Law

The False Claims Act, also referred to as the whistleblower law or qui tam law, is a federal law to fight attempts to defraud the federal government. It was created during Civil War times. The False Claims Act originally went after dishonest businesses that tried to cheat the government when it sold wartime goods and supplies to the Union Army.

Today, the False Claims Act still targets businesses that sell goods to the United States military. But it also goes after fraudsters in many other industries, such as healthcare and construction.

With respect to ordinary citizens, the False Claims Act is special because of its qui tam, or whistleblower provision.

What Is the Qui Tam Provision?

The qui tam portion of the False Claims Act provides a reward to individuals who serve as whistleblowers for the federal government. This reward ranges from as little as 10% to as high as 30% of the money the government can recover from the violator.

But why is the federal government willing to give up almost a third of the money that it rightfully deserves? Because it’s very hard for the government to detect fraud and get enough evidence to prosecute it.

Estimates say that more than three-quarters of all lawsuits under the False Claims Act are the result of a whistleblower. This goes to show how important whistleblowers are. They help the federal government detect, stop and prosecute fraud. Therefore, the reasoning for giving the reward is that it’s better to get 70 cents on the dollar than zero cents on the dollar. The federal government understands that the best way to go after a fraudster is to find someone to help who has special access to the fraudulent activity.

The qui tam provision also means that sometimes those involved in the fraud end up being the whistleblower. It might seem unfair that one of the guilty people should get a reward for their crimes. But unfortunately, those involved in the fraud often serve as the best whistleblowers. That’s because they are extremely familiar with the fraud and can provide the best evidence. Also, the amount of the reward can be lower for those who committed fraud themselves or otherwise participated in it. This is often the reason why a qui tam reward will “only” be 10%, instead of the more usual 20% or 25%.

How the Qui Tam Provision Affects Regular People

The whistleblower provision under the False Claims Act most notably affects the ordinary citizen in two ways. One is positive and one is negative.

First, there is the reward. In large False Claims Act cases, there can be tens of millions of dollars at stake. So when everything is over, the whistleblower (also called a relator) can receive a seven figure reward. But this large reward requires a lot of work and time. It involves helping the federal government investigate the fraud and actually recover the stolen money. With a few million dollars, it’s easy to understand how the whistleblower’s life can change. Doing the right thing and bringing criminals to justice is a strong motivator. But it’s understandable that simply doing the “right thing” is not enough to persuade someone to risk his or her job and professional future to report fraudulent activity.

Second, there are serious negative consequences for blowing the whistle. There’s no way around the fact that in most situations, the whistleblower is at risk of professional harm. As a result of reporting the fraud and assisting the federal government by providing evidence of the fraud and information on how to recover the stolen money, a whistleblower can expect retaliation.

This retaliation is illegal under the False Claims Act, but it doesn’t mean it never happens. It can also be hard to successfully make a retaliation claim against an employer that takes subtle revenge against an employee. For example, it’s difficult to prove that a former employer blackballed the whistleblowing employee, resulting in the whistleblower having to change careers.

However, despite the difficulty in prosecuting retaliation, the penalties may prevent an employer from retaliating against the whistleblower. It may also minimize the retaliatory conduct the whistleblower must face.

Need More Information?

If you’re wondering about what is the whistleblower law, contact the skilled attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.

Common Responses to Defense Contract Fraud Whistleblower Cases

whistleblower cases

whistleblower casesIn recent years, there has been an increase in whistleblower cases filed by the Department of Defense. This is in part a result of a heavier reliance on private security companies and contractors. The result has been an increase of defense contract fraud. When a contractor or company employed by the department of defense is engaging in illegal, fraudulent, or dangerous activities, their actions qualify as defense contract fraud.

Examples of Defense Contract Fraud

One example of such behavior could include billing the Department of Defense for services never performed. Furthermore, mismanaging government funds, or abusing their power as a government contractor also qualify. All of these actions, along with any illegal or unsafe activities, deserve punishment. However, the inspector general of the Department of Defense cannot have eyes everywhere. Because of this, they rely heavily on military members, government employees, and defense intelligence employees to report any evidence of misconduct by defense contractors.

Corrupt contractors may succeed in making a profit off of their illegal activities. However, the government prosecutes defense contract fraud harshly. Whistleblower cases can have various results, in some cases they end in a settlement while in others, a judge passes judgement.

Common Results of Defense Contract Fraud Whistleblower Cases

Below are some results of whistleblower cases associated with defense contract fraud:

  • The defendant responsible for illegal use of government funds will plead guilty before the case goes to court. In a guilty plea, there is agreement on a settlement. These settlements are usually large. They represent of the amount of money the government lost as a result of their illegal activity. Whistleblowers involved in these cases are eligible for fifteen to 25 percent of recovered funds.
  • The defendant will maintain their innocence and a lawsuit against them goes to court. If there is a guilty verdict, the defendant could pay damages well above the amount of money they stole. Any whistleblowers involved in the case are eligible for fifteen to 25 percent of the recovered funds.
  • The defendant will maintain their innocence and a lawsuit against them goes to court. If there is an innocent verdict, they will not have to pay any damages to the United States government. If a whistleblower was involved in the case, they will not be offered any type of reward for their actions.

Any whistleblower case resulting in repayment of illegally obtained government funds is a success. However, in order to succeed, whistleblowers need adequate evidence of fraud and a talented defense contract fraud lawyer. When you hire the right lawyer, they can help you gather evidence. This will increase your chances of winning your lawsuit.

Find out what you need to know about whistleblower cases by calling 770.643.1606 to connect with our team at Bothwell Law Group.

How Can I Report Misconduct under Whistleblower Legislation?

whistleblower legislation

whistleblower legislationMoving forward with whistleblower legislation is big step, especially if you have never reported fraudulent activity before. Do you have knowledge of illegal, fraudulent, or neglectful activity by an individual or organization receiving government funds? You can report misconduct under whistle blower legislation.

Who Can Report Misconduct under Whistleblower Legislation?

The False Claim Act makes is possible for individuals who are aware of illegal, abusive, or unsafe practices to file a lawsuit. By reporting the fraud, whistleblowers can play a crucial role in recovering funds obtained through fraudulent activity. Therefore, the law allows anyone to report misconduct, including:

  • Private citizens who have evidence of misconduct
  • Government employees who have evidence of misconduct
  • Military members who have evidence of defense contractor fraud
  • Employees of contractors who receive government funds, and
  • Finally, employees of physicians or healthcare organizations who receive government funds.

How Can I Report Misconduct under Whistleblower Legislation?

There are two specific ways someone with knowledge of misconduct can become a whistleblower. First, you can report fraud by offering an anonymous tip to the organization responsible for whistleblowing in your state. When you call, you will need to offer detailed information concerning the service that was being provided. You will also need to provide evidence of the fraud and name the person responsible for the fraud.

Second, you can file a complaint under whistleblower legislation. The whistleblower law makes it possible for individuals with knowledge of fraud to file a lawsuit on behalf of the United States government. With the help of an experienced whistleblower attorney, you can share the evidence you have obtained and aid in the recovery of illegally obtained government funds.

Will I Be Rewarded for Reporting Misconduct under Whistleblower Legislation?

Becoming a whistleblower is a sacrifice. You are protected from retaliation under the law. However, your reputation and relationships in your workplace may suffer after you report fraud by your employer. Therefore, as a reward for doing the right thing, you may receive as much as 30 percent of the recovered government funds.

How to Hire a Whistleblower Law Attorney

When you hire a lawyer who has experience filing lawsuits under the False Claims Act, they will guide you through every step of the lawsuit. Experienced lawyers can help you gather your evidence against the fraudster. Also, they understand the steps to take to protect you against retaliation. Furthermore, a skilled attorney will increase the likelihood of receiving the reward you deserve for assisting the recovery of government funds.

If you feel you have grounds for reporting suspected fraud, you can report misconduct with the help a skilled attorney. Contact the experienced whistleblower legislation attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.

Legal Aspects of the Protection for Whistleblowers

protection for whistleblowers

protection for whistleblowersIf you are aware of fraudulent activity in your workplace, your first question may be whether there are laws outlining protection for whistleblowers. You want to do the right thing by reporting the immoral actions happening in your workplace. However, you also have a family to provide for and protect. There is good news. There are laws in place protecting whistleblowers from retaliation if they choose to report their workplace. Keep reading to learn what you need to know about the legal aspects regarding the protection for whistleblowers.

Understanding the Whistleblower Provision

A whistleblower provision exists within the False Claims Act. It indicates that employees are protected by the law if their employers attempt to retaliate against them because of their whistleblowing action. This means if an employer terminates, demotes, suspends, threatens, harasses, or discriminates against the employee because they reported their unlawful actions, they will be required to make full amends for the suffering they imposed on the whistleblower. In most cases, this includes reinstating their job at the same pay and seniority level as before. It also means compensating the employee for wages lost and emotional damages.

Are There Exclusions in the Whistleblower Provision?

The law was written by Congress as an effort of protection for whistleblowers when they make the choice to report fraudulent activity. However, there are certain circumstances where the law does not apply. Your employment status, previous work record, and the exact details of the claim may influence your ability to gain protection under the False Claims Act. Also, a strict statute of limitation applies. In some states, the statute of limitations may be as short as 30 days. Failing to comply could result in denial of your claim.

Protection for whistleblowers in the False Claims Act is detailed. There are exclusions to consider when filing a claim. Because of these factors, and the short statute of limitations, these are complicated cases. We strongly advise anyone considering taking action against their employer find an attorney experienced with whistleblower and false claims act lawsuits.

A knowledgeable attorney can work closely with you to line out the facts concerning the retaliation taken against you. Also, they should establish a foundation of facts about your previous standing at your job. These facts include performance records, responsibilities, and more. The attorney you choose should have extensive experience in whistleblower cases. This way, you get the guidance you need and peace of mind as you move forward with your case.

Find out everything you need to know about the legal aspects of the protection for whistleblowers. Just call 770.643.1606 to contact one of our experienced whistleblower law attorneys at Bothwell Law Group.

What Are Protections Ensured by the Federal Whistleblowers Act?

federal whistleblowers act

federal whistleblowers actUnder the Federal Whistleblowers Act, individuals who report illegal, fraudulent, or dangerous actions by a defense contractor are protected from retaliation. Furthermore, fraudulent activity by a contractor employed by the United States military is handled differently than other forms of fraud committed against the United States government. Also, the Federal Whistleblowers Act covers protection against retaliation differently.

About Defense Contract Fraud

The defense contracting industry is a multi-billion dollar industry. The potential for wealth as a defense contractor can seem limitless. Therefore, some contractors find themselves tempted to deceive the department of defense. Ultimately, defense contract fraud can take many forms, including:

  • A contractor employed by the department of defense violates any law or rule put in place to govern or guide their actions.
  • A contractor employed by the department of defense severely mismanaged the money allocated to their task. Or, they waste the funds provided to them by the government.
  • Perhaps a contractor abuses the authority given to them by the department of defense.
  • A contractor employed by the department of defense endangers or public health or safety.

The Federal Whistleblowers Act covers all of these situations. The Inspector General of the Department of Defense handles these cases.

What Protections Are in Place for Defense Contract Whistleblowers?

Any individual can report fraudulent activity to the Inspector General. However, he or she must be a private citizen filing a claim under the qui tam provision. Or, they he or she may be an employee of the contractor who is being reported. Hence, the Federal Whistleblower Act provides protection applies to any employee of the United States government who engages in whistleblowing on a defense contractor.

This federal law mandates that employees of the federal government cannot engage in retaliation towards whistleblowers. This law protects civilian employees, military members, and members of the defense intelligence community. In addition, the specifics of the law are as follows:

  • It is illegal to administer any kind of consequence to a government employee who is a whistleblower.
  • Protection of the whistleblower is given top priority. Ultimately, this priority comes before prosecuting those committing the abusive, fraudulent, or wasteful activity.

Are you a government employee with knowledge of improper behavior by a defense contractor? You can report this information to the inspector general. However, to receive the protection you deserve under the Federal Whistleblowers Act, seek out experienced representation from an attorney. If you have been the victim of retaliation because you have reported fraudulent or abusive activity, a whistleblower lawyer can help you seek justice for yourself.

Finally, you can find out what you need to know about the federal whistleblowers act by calling 770.643.1606.

What Is the Whistleblower Law and Who Does it Benefit?

what is the whistleblower law

what is the whistleblower lawWhat is the whistleblower law? At Whistle Blower Law, this is just one of the many questions we answer regularly for our clients and potential clients.

Once a government employee believes they have proof of illegal or dangerous activity in their workplace, they often begin to do research on their own. They wish to educate themselves on the laws in place for prosecuting the illegal activity in their workplace. However, it becomes clear very quickly that the laws in place are complex. Ultimately, there are many different aspects to understand. Therefore, when potential whistleblowers show up at our offices, they are full of questions concerning the law and how it can protect them.

Are you considering filing a claim against your employer? It is important you understand the ins and outs of the laws. In this article we will explain the Whistleblower Law, when it applies, and who benefits.

What Is the Whistleblower Law?

When a whistleblower steps forward, filing a claim against a government agency where they are employed, they will have to publicly share the evidence they have of illegal activity in their workplace. As you can imagine, their employer may become angry and may try to retaliate against the employee.

The Whistleblower law is a federal law put in place to protect whistleblowers who are working for government agencies from retaliation at the hands of their employer.

Who Does the Whistleblower Law Benefit?

The Whistleblower law protects government employees who have exposed their employer’s illegal or dangerous activities. Therefore, this law allows employees to file a lawsuit if they have proof their employer is misusing government funds, ignoring and purposefully ignoring policies, or endangering the general public, without fear of suffering retaliation at the hands of their employer. This law makes it illegal, and punishable, to terminate, demote, or act in any discriminative fashion towards an employee who has reported illegal activity in a government agency.

Examples of retaliation can include:

  • Terminating an employee after an employer discovers their whistleblower activity.
  • Employee is demoted or experiences a dock in pay after their employer discovers their whistleblower activity.
  • Employer disciplines or transfers employee shortly after discovering their whistleblower activity.
  • Employer begins to treat an employee poorly.
  • Finally, spreading malicious information about them after discovering their whistleblower activity.

Do you have proof of illegal activity in your workplace? You can file a claim against your employer under the Whistleblower Law. The law will protect you from retaliation. Also, there may be a financial reward for disclosing your knowledge of illegal activity.

Contact a skilled whistleblower law attorney at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.

Pros and Cons of Whistleblowing in the Workplace

Whistleblowing in the Workplace

Whistleblowing in the WorkplaceBefore you choose to disclose your knowledge of fraud in your workplace, we want you to have a clear understanding of the implications of whistleblowing in the workplace. It is important for you to do the right thing. However, you should also be clear of the pros and cons of whistleblowing in the workplace before moving forward with a lawsuit.

In whistleblowing lawsuits, it is important to move quickly if you want to be the first to file. However, we don’t want you to move so quickly that you make a choice you regret. That’s why we suggest every potential whistleblower carefully consider the pros and cons of whistleblowing in the workplace:

Pro: Exposing Fraudulent Activity Is the Right Thing to Do

Perhaps the biggest advantage of becoming a whistleblower is being able to know you have made the right choice. After becoming aware of fraudulent activity occurring in your place of work, you can make the choice to expose the fraudulent activity so the government can recover the money lost.

Con: Your Career Could Suffer

Employers are prohibited from seeking revenge after an employee has exposed them for fraudulent activity. However, your career may still suffer because of your choice. Once your case becomes public, you may receive attention in the business world. Being labeled as a whistleblower could decrease your chances of being hired at a new company in the future.

Pro: Protection from Retaliation Is Available

Under the False Claims Act, all whistleblowers are protected from their employer’s retaliation. If you decide on whistleblowing in the workplace, you can be sure they will be angry. But you can also know you have legal protection if they decide to retaliate because of your choice.

Con: Your Relationships May Suffer

Even though you have chosen the right thing, your coworkers may not agree with your actions. Whistleblowers often stand alone. Friends they thought they could trust in their workplace will turn their back on them in order to protect their own reputation.

Pro: You May Get a Financial Reward

If a lawsuit stems from evidence of fraud you have provided, the government will seek to recover the funds they have lost as a result of fraudulent activity. If the lawsuit is successful, you could be rewarded up to 30 percent of the recovered funds.

Do you want to move forward with blowing the whistle on your employer? One of our skilled false claims act attorneys at Bothwell Law Group can help you take advantage of the rewards of whistleblowing. We can also help protect your from the disadvantages. Find out what you need to know about whistleblowing in the workplace by clicking this link or calling 770.643.1606.

Is There Really Any Protection For Federal Whistleblowers?

protection for federal whistleblowers

protection for federal whistleblowersWhistleblower laws were put into place to protect workers who report health and safety hazards, illegal activity, tax evasion, and certain other actions that go against the public interest. Both the government and general public have a strong interest in encouraging the reporting of these types of activities so that they can be remedied. Therefore, Congress has passed laws providing protection for federal whistleblowers from retaliation.

What Laws Provide Protection for Federal Whistleblowers?

The Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act of 2012 are the main foundation for protection for federal whistleblowers. If an employee reports activities covered under the act to a supervisor or appropriate government agency, they have protection. Termination is not an acceptable response. Neither is a reduction in pay or reassignment to a less desirable position. Your employer cannot reduce your hours or move you to a less desirable shift. Finally, they cannot suffer indirect retaliation such as hostility from management.

Whistleblower protections are also embedded into many federal laws. For example, OSHA provides protection for federal whistleblowers making safety complaints. Presidential Policy Directive 19 protects retaliation related to an employee’s security clearance. Further, securities laws provide protections for workers in the financial industry.

What to Do if an Employer Retaliates

Have you suffered adverse consequences after blowing the whistle? You will have to prove that your employer’s actions stemmed directly or indirectly from your actions as a whistleblower. Protection for Federal whistleblowers does not cover an employee if the adverse action stemmed from unrelated job performance issues or an employer’s operational needs. This gives employers a strong incentive to misrepresent the reasons for any action they took against a whistleblower.

After making a complaint, you should save any written communications with your employer. Also, document the date, time, and nature of any verbal communications. If the employer takes retaliatory action and you made a complaint to a government agency, they will usually have a process for opening an investigation into the retaliation.

You may wish to receive financial compensation for lost wages or other economic losses as a result of the retaliation. Hence, you may need to file a private lawsuit against the employer. You will need to prove that you engaged in protected whistleblower activity. Also, you will need to prove your employer’s discriminatory motive. However, your employer can also introduce their own evidence. It’s important to understand that even if you believe you are clearly entitled to compensation, this is a long and difficult process. Therefore it can be difficult to navigate what lies ahead without the assistance of an experienced attorney.

Have you been the victim of illegal retaliation? Do you want to learn more about the protections that may be available to you? Contact Bothwell Law Group to schedule a consultation.

What Can I Expect from an IRS Whistleblower Attorney?

IRS Whistleblower Attorney

IRS Whistleblower AttorneySounding the alarm on a company that has been defrauding the Internal Revenue Services (IRS) department for years is a major step that requires an IRS whistleblower attorney. Not only will you clear your conscience by taking action, but you will also put thousands of dollars back into the economy once the intruder is caught and brought to justice.

It’s important to note—you cannot begin to accuse a business of this serious crime without evidence to support your claim. An experienced attorney can help build and execute your case.

Finding the Right IRS Whistleblower Attorney

It’s not enough to just look the part of an attorney and have the appropriate credentials. For the best outcome possible, your lawyer should have the following skills and experience:

  • Good Communication Skills: Any lawyer, regardless of his or her area of specialty, should have strong communication skills. It is difficult to convey facts about the case if the attorney does not know how to hold a basic conversation with you.
  • A Track Record of Success: Hiring a lawyer fresh out of graduate school is not the best option when reporting something as critical as fraud. You need a professional who has several years of field experience with a portfolio of winning cases.
  • Experience in Whistleblower Law: Your attorney needs to have experience in this particular field, because it is unique and comes with challenges not typical of most legal cases. It is even better if the attorney you select has worked with the type of fraud central to your case. Choosing an experienced IRS whistleblower attorney will give you peace of mind and the confidence you need to move forward in your case.

The IRS Whistleblower Attorney at Work

Before conducting research, your attorney will likely ask you (the client) a series of questions. Inquiries such as, “Where did you hear such information?” and “How do you know this to be true?” are common questions, as the lawyer wants to ensure the evidence is factual and not hearsay.

After establishing the details, the whistleblower attorney determines under which law the fraud has been committed. This is why it is crucial to choose a lawyer who has experience in IRS embezzlement to represent your case. Lawyers who do not practice in this particular niche may not be well-versed on tax laws. They also may use incorrect codes and statutes when executing their defense.

A qualified IRS whistleblower attorney understands that a case may drag on for several years because the government often conducts a thorough investigation of its own in instances where fraud may exist. The right lawyer should be in constant communication with the client to give updates along the way. The attorney will also ensure the whistleblower receives compensation for their time and energy if the claim is proven legitimate.

Bothwell Law Group is ready to guide you through the process of your case. Contact us today at (770) 643-1606.

Can I File a Qui Tam Lawsuit Anonymously?

Can I File a Qui Tam Lawsuit Anonymously

Can I File a Qui Tam Lawsuit AnonymouslyA whistleblower may ask himself “can I file a qui tam lawsuit anonymously”. In fact, the whistleblower must do so, at least at the beginning of the case. The real issue is how strong the anonymity is, and how long it will stay in place. There is no absolute answer to these two questions.  However, there are some general concepts you can keep in mind when deciding whether to begin a qui tam lawsuit.

What Are the Anonymous Protections Provided by the False Claims Act?

To begin a qui tam action under the False Claims Act, the relator must file the complaint “under seal”. This means the relator files the complaint with the court in secret. The only people who know are the court itself, the relator and the US government.

Unlike the typical civil case where the plaintiff will serve a copy of the complaint on the defendant, the relator (who is effectively the plaintiff) only serves a copy of the complaint on the US government. This is to make them aware of the qui tam action and allow them to investigate the allegations.

Both the government and relator must honor the seal and not divulge the existence of the qui tam action to anyone (except the relator’s attorney, of course). Therefore, at this stage of the qui tam process, the relator’s anonymity should be secure. However, employers and organizations may connect the dots in situations where they become the target of a government investigation into areas or things that only a few people know. As a result, it can sometimes be easy to piece things together and figure out who might be the whistleblower.

Length of Time a Qui Tam Case Is Under Seal

Another thing to know about the qui tam case under seal: the False Claims Act only guarantees the case will be under seal for 60 days. Once this 60 day period passes, there is an option to lift the seal. Depending on the investigation progress, the government can choose to extend the seal, but there’s no guarantee it will. It is the government, not the relator, who decides whether to lift the seal and when.

Assuming the relator’s anonymity still exists during this initial phase, after the US government completes its investigation, the qui tam lawsuit will no longer be under seal. While this may not explicitly reveal the relator’s identity, most defendants can figure it out when the qui tam action goes public.

At the very least, the defendant will probably learn of the relator’s identity at trial. This is because the relator may prosecute the qui tam action themselves or provide a great deal of assistance to the government’s prosecution of the qui tam action (should the government choose to intervene and join the case).

Can Anonymity Exist If the Relator Decides to Drop the Qui Tam Lawsuit?

After the US government investigates the alleged fraud, it will decide whether to intervene or join the qui tam action. If the US government decides not to join the case, it can drastically reduce the chances of the relator winning the qui tam action. The relator no longer has the full backing of the US government. This effectively admits the case is weak; otherwise, the US government would only join a case that held promise. So when the government concludes it will not join the relator, the whistleblower will sometimes choose to end the qui tam action. However, even though the case may be over, it will no longer be under seal. This means the defendant is likely going to find out who the relator is.

A relator may ask the court to dismiss the qui tam action, but keep it under seal. The court is rarely known to agree to this request since court documents are public record. Any request to keep court documents confidential has a high burden to overcome. However, if the relator can show there have been specific threats (such as the defendant’s CEO telling the entire company that once they find out who the whistleblower is, they will fire them, blacklist them and ruin their family members), then the court may decide to maintain the seal.

Are There Any Protections for Relators?

Essentially, the anonymity protections provided by the False Claims Act are not perfect. Sooner or later, the defendant will learn who the relator is. To deal with these situations, the False Claims Act has an anti-retaliation provision. This prohibits an employer from firing, demoting, threatening, harassing or otherwise discriminating against the relator. If retaliation takes place, the relator may receive reinstatement of their job, back pay, special damages, interest and attorneys’ fees.

Contact Us if You Have Any Questions about Becoming a Relator

Still asking yourself “can I file a Qui Tam lawsuit anonymously”? Find out more about filing a qui tam lawsuit anonymously by contacting our team at Bothwell Law Group.

What Are the Whistleblower Protection Provisions in the False Claims Act?

whistleblower protection provisions in the false claims act

whistleblower protection provisions in the false claims actThe whistleblower protection provisions in the False Claims Act make it easier and safer for individuals to come forward to provide evidence of fraud against the federal government. When a whistleblower comes forward, it is almost certain that those responsible for defrauding the government will try to retaliate against them. Several provisions are in place to help reduce the chances of this occurring.

Whistleblower Protection: Anonymity

The most effective protection for a whistleblower is to maintain anonymity. It’s logical that if the identity of an employee who has decided to be a whistleblower is unknown, the employer cannot retaliate against them. However, this anonymity is difficult to maintain. If an individual decides to blow the whistle, it will be practically impossible to keep this anonymity if the lawsuit goes to trial or settlement.

The False Claims Act does not have the strongest provisions for protecting a whistleblower’s identity. Other whistleblower statutes, such as those designed to help the US Securities and Exchange Commission, are more effective at protecting the whistleblower’s identity. However, the False Claims Act requires certain procedures in a whistleblower lawsuit which can help maintain the anonymity of the whistleblower for as long as possible.

First, the False Claims Act requires that the lawsuit begin by filing the complaint under seal. This means filing the complaint with the court in secret to keep it hidden from the public for a certain period of time. This will be at least 60 days while the federal government investigates the alleged fraud and decides whether it will join in the lawsuit. Most of the time, the government will want more than 60 days to do this investigation and can get extensions that can make the process lasts for many months or years. During this investigatory period, the whistleblower should be able to maintain anonymity.

After this investigator period ends, the identity of the whistleblower may no longer remain secret if the federal government or whistleblower decides to continue the lawsuit against the defendant (the alleged False Claims Act violator). But if the government and the whistleblower decide not to continue with the lawsuit once the investigation has ended, it’s possible for the complaint to remain under seal. Even if the court lifts the seal after discontinuing the lawsuit, anonymity is still possible since the defendant will not receive service of the complaint. The complaint will still be of public record, however, so it’s possible for the defendant to learn about the whistleblower, but the odds of discovery are relatively low.

Lastly, even if the government negotiates a settlement with the defendant, the whistleblower can remain anonymous a little while longer if the government can get the court to keep the complaint under partial seal. This means the complaint will become public, but information that reveals the whistleblower’s identity will not. If the parties reach a settlement, the whistleblower’s identity will almost certainly become public.

Anti-Retaliation Provisions

Since the chances are high that a whistleblower’s identity will eventually become public knowledge, even if there are no leaks or lapses in secrecy, the False Claims Act has anti-retaliation provisions that will punish an employer who retaliates against a whistleblowing employee. These protections also apply if the whistleblower is not an employee and is just a contractor or agent.

Specifically, an employer cannot discriminate, demote, harass, suspend, fire or threaten the whistleblower because the whistleblower has lawfully acted to stop the fraudulent activity against the federal government. If the employer retaliates against the employee, it will face potential financial penalties.

Sometimes the retaliation is obvious, such as an employer sending the whistleblower an e-mail informing them of job termination because they reported the fraudulent activity to the government. In other situations, the retaliation can be more subtle, like when an employer decides not to promote the whistleblower, reassigns the whistleblower to a less desirable position or assignment or makes offhand remarks about “snitches” and how they “always get what they deserve.”

If a whistleblower successfully proves they are the victim of retaliation for reporting unlawful conduct under the False Claims Act, the whistleblower could receive reinstatement to the original work ranking or status, double the amount of back pay, interest and special damages. Typical special damages include reimbursement of attorneys’ fees and court costs of the lawsuit.

To use the False Claims Act’s anti-retaliation protections, the whistleblower must file the retaliation lawsuit in the appropriate federal court. Also, the retaliation lawsuit must begin within three years of the retaliatory action. This three-year requirement is sometimes called a statute of limitations.

Concerned about What Happens If You Are a Whistleblower?

Deciding to become a whistleblower is a significant decision that requires understanding the whistleblower protection provisions in the False Claims Act. To find out more about these provisions, contact the Bothwell Law Group.