Individuals who decide to blow the whistle on fraud taking place against the US government are eligible for awards offered under the False Claims Act. The vast majority of claims brought under the False Claims Act are the result of an individual bringing the fraud to the attention of the government. One of the reasons so many individuals are willing to expose improper and illegal activity is for the chance of getting a significant financial reward.
Reward Provisions of the False Claims Act
The False Claims Act contains a qui tam provision, which allows individuals, called relators, to bring a civil lawsuit against an organization or another person who is allegedly defrauding the US government. A relator is eligible to receive between 15% and 30% of the total amount of money recovered by the government.
If the relator can convince the government to join its lawsuit against the alleged wrongdoer, the relator can get between 15% and 25% of the total amount recovered. When the government decides to join the lawsuit, it means there’s a better chance the relator will receive the qui tam reward. This is because the US government has vast resources to pursue the whistleblowing claims. Additionally, the government won’t join cases unless it thinks it can win.
When the US government decides not to join the relator’s lawsuit, it usually means a lot more work for the relator. To compensate the relator for the increased difficulty in recovering money from the wrongdoer, they are eligible for between 25% and 30% of the money ultimately recovered.
In some limited instances, the relator may only get 10% of the recovery. There is no exact percentage for recovery because each case is different and the amount of involvement a relator will have will differ for each qui tam lawsuit. The courts are therefore allowed to have some leeway in deciding exactly how much a relator should receive.
The Reason for the Reward Provision of the False Claims Act
So why does the False Claims Act have a qui tam provision that allows relators to personally profit from bringing a qui tam action against an organization which is allegedly defrauding the US government? There are awards offered under the False Claims Act so individuals will be more likely to come forward with information concerning fraudulent activity.
The question is then, why does the government want individuals to come forward and help root out fraud? Why can’t the government just do it themselves? That’s because the government doesn’t know about a lot of the fraud that is occurring. After all, if it did, the government would probably put a stop to it themselves by prosecuting the wrongdoer and recovering the illegally obtained money. Because the US government isn’t aware of the fraud that takes place, it must rely on other individuals to identify the fraud for them. The saying, “you don’t know what you don’t know” is particularly applicable here.
It takes a lot of time, effort and sacrifice to serve as a relator, which is another reason why the False Claims Act provides a reward. When an individual decides to be a whistleblower and relator, they are exposing themselves to revenge and retaliation. While the False Claims Act has an anti-retaliation provision, it doesn’t completely protect whistleblowers from more subtle and hard-to-prove retaliation. Most importantly, it can’t protect a whistleblower from having a reputation as a “snitch.”
This can be especially damaging, effectively blackballing an individual from an entire area of work and making them almost unemployable in their industry. Lastly, while the relator can keep his or her identity a secret to some extent, the relator’s identity will eventually come to light if they hope to recover their qui tam reward. One way or another, the defendant in a qui tam action will find out who blew the whistle on them.
But that’s not all. To recover the reward, the relator has to provide a lot of information to the US government. A simple phone call saying “Acme Corporation ripped off the Department of Defense by selling those widgets at an inflated price” isn’t going to cut it. The relator must provide detailed information, such as invoices, first and last names, receipts, e-mails and other documents that will effectively serve as a smoking gun in the lawsuit. Then the relator will need to cooperate throughout the trial, potentially serving as a witness and helping the government continue their investigation into the fraud.
Interested in Getting Awards Offered under the False Claims Act?
If you think you might have information about possible fraud against the government but aren’t sure if it’s worth reporting, the awards offered under the False Claims Act might make it worth your while. However, it’s best to speak with a skilled False Claims Act attorney at the Bothwell Law Group by calling 770-643-1606 to determine what your best course of action might be.