False Claims Act Frequently Asked Questions
I think I have evidence of fraud. Can I take documents from my workplace?
When, where, and what documents or files to take as proof could open you up to problems, so it is vitally important that you contact us as early as possible. Complications include issues with HIPAA-protected information, other privacy laws, confidentiality agreements, protection of trade secrets, and employer property rights. Call us for advice on how to walk the fine line between supporting your claims in a False Claims Act qui tam lawsuit and opening yourself up to retaliation.
What if the Government is already investigating the claims?
If you are aware of a Government investigation already occurring, it may be beneficial to you to contact us, especially if the investigation is occurring because of your actions as a whistleblower. Just because the Government is investigating does not mean you are protected from retaliation (and likely, you are not). Moreover, it may deprive you of the right to a Relator’s Share. There are many other issues that you may not be aware of, such as:
- The scope of the investigation may not be as broad as your claims.
- The Government may be investigating claims believing them to be mistakes when you know they were purposeful and fraudulent.
- An investigation by one agency may not be shared with all the affected agencies. Similarly, a state investigation may not be shared with the federal Government and vice versa.
- The investigation may be part of a scheduled audit, giving the fraudster a chance to hide information and change documents, keeping the fraud from being discovered.
- The agency conducting the investigation may not have the same powers or interest that the Department of Justice has with a False Claims Act lawsuit, which threatens much greater sanctions and allows the Government greater access to documents.
It’s also worth noting that a prior investigation is no guarantee of an intervention. We can advise you if there are first to file, public disclosure, or other issues that would make filing a lawsuit inadvisable. However, if you want to put a stop to the fraud, the best way to do that is to contact us to advise you as to whether a False Claims Act suit is in your best interest.
What if I have a friend who can help?
Whether you should bring an action if someone else might be bringing one depends on the situation. We encourage you to call us so that we can advise you as to the best course of action. In some cases, you and another (or others) might bring suit together. Sometimes other people might make a better witness. Sometimes, a friend or other interested person is racing to the courthouse to file a False Claims Act lawsuit before you can, which could create a first to file issue. So, it is important that we discuss the possibility of other interested people as early as possible.
What if they are about to fire me?
The issue of anti-retaliation protection depends on what you have already done and the reasons you believe you might be fired or demoted or some other retaliatory action might be taken against you. It is important that you speak with us immediately so that we can best advise you as to how to set the groundwork for a retaliation case, and how to collect what information you need for your qui tam action, before you are fired and it is too late. The False Claims Act anti-retaliatory provisions and damages are some of the most generous in the employment arena.
I can’t handle working here anymore. Can I quit?
It is possible (though rare) that even if you quit, you may still have a retaliation lawsuit. It may hamper your case because you would no longer be around to gather information to support your qui tam action. It is best that you talk to us before making a decision so that we can discuss your options, set the groundwork for a potential retaliation claim, and obtain what information we need for a qui tam case before you make any decisions.
They are offering me a severance package/asking me to sign a release of claims against the company. What do I do?
You should never sign a waiver of your rights before consulting with an attorney, but here it is particularly important. You may not want to agree to a minor severance package when you may be entitled to much more. Moreover, a general release may not only waive your right to a retaliation claim, but you may also waive your right to any recovery under a qui tam action. The law on this varies from state to state and it is essential to review this before potentially signing away your rights. If we think it is in your best interest and that you may not have a successful case, we may advise you to accept the severance package, but you need to be apprised of your options before you sign anything.