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When to Report Fraud When You Are Aware of Fraud

when to report fraud

when to report fraudWhen to report fraud is a question you may be facing if you are aware of it happening but aren’t directly involved. If you don’t report it, will you be in trouble? There are a lot of unknowns in the world of whistleblowing and fraud. It’s time to dig into it for some insight and to give you direction and peace of mind.

What Do You Mean Report Fraud?

Fraud in this context refers to businesses that fraudulently take money from the US government in a variety of different ways, including Medicare fraud, criminal defense contract fraud, and nursing home fraud, to name just a few of the most common scenarios. There are many different ways people charge government programs for goods and services that are either not delivered or not justified.

Because fraud exists on such a broad level, laws have been created to encourage private citizens to report fraud when they witness it. These rules are known as False Claim Act laws, and they date back to the days of Abe Lincoln and the Civil War. Because people aren’t prone to report things that could cause them a backlash, the False Claims Act includes provisions for the whistleblower to receive a portion of any money recovered in a lawsuit. There are also laws to protect the whistleblower from losing their job.

Some of these laws and protections directly address just when and how we need to report fraud once we know about it. Surprisingly, there is not one simple, easy to understand rule. The law varies according to different industries, and it even changes from state to state.

The important thing to remember is if you are aware of fraud, you are likely obligated to report it, or else you may be found guilty of defrauding the government as well.

When Do I Need to Step Forward and Report Fraud?

Most people who report fraud are employees of the company committing the fraud. For example, one of the most common areas of fraud is within the program of Medicare. If you work in a doctor’s office as a nurse and never touch the bookwork, you probably have no idea the fraud is taking place. If you transfer to the accounting department, however, you may begin to see a problem.

Even if a person is involved in the actual fraudulent activities, they can still be the reporting whistleblower. The law does stipulate that fraudulent charges in Medicare cases need to be brought within 30 days of discovery of the practice. If a person is aware of the fraud and fails to report, they are in danger of prosecution under the law. However, even though the law allows for the prosecution, it rarely actually happens.

Even if a business or individual self-reports their participation in the fraud, they are not exempt from possible prosecution. Often, however, a judge will levy a lower penalty upon a voluntary disclosure of the activity.

How Do Your Report Fraud to the Government?

Fraud is reported with a complaint made in District Court. The best practice for any whistleblower is to hire an attorney familiar with the False Claims Act. Choosing an attorney who works exclusively in this type of law is always the wisest decision.

Because there are so many ins and outs regarding the statutes of limitations, as well as different kinds of both penalties and protections for whistleblowers, it is critical to hire an attorney who understands all of the particulars of this area of law. The attorney will verify the facts in the case and prepare the complaint on behalf of the whistleblower.

Once the paperwork is brought to a district court, it is put under seal, prohibiting anyone, including the whistleblower, from breaking that seal by disclosing anything. The seal protects the identity of the whistleblower at this stage of the process. In fact, the defendant doesn’t even know an investigation exists. The original seal on the case is for six months. This timeframe is almost always extended, giving the government many months or even years to perform their investigations.

Once the inquiry is complete, the government makes a decision whether or not they will intervene, or take over, in the case. If the federal government does decide to step in, they take over the prosecution of the case. The court serves the defendant notice, and quite often a settlement is reached without actually going to court

If You Are Aware of Fraud, Report It to a Whistleblower Attorney

If you are aware of fraudulent billing practices taking place at your place of work, or any organization for that matter, contact an attorney who works in False Claims Act law right away. Even if you are knowingly participating in the illegal activity, you should retain an attorney and file the complaint.

If you are not actively involved and the court determines proof of fraud, you are entitled to between 15% and 25% of the monies recovered. The amount of that reward can reach millions of dollars in some cases. Have questions about when to report fraud? Contact the Bothwell Law Group online now.

Is the False Claims Act of 1986 Still Relevant Today?

false claims act of 1986

false claims act of 1986Are you trying to get your facts straight about the False Claims Act of 1986? Keep reading to get the information you need to know.

The False Claims Act of 1986 is an amendment to the original False Claims Act, which dates back to Civil War days when suppliers to the Union Army were defrauding the US government. The law was created to entice people to bring the criminals to the attention of the government so the prosecution could take place.

In the original writing, the act allowed the person reporting the fraud to receive 50% of the amount recovered. It also permitted anyone to bring a case forward, under what is known as the qui tam provision. Qui tam comes from a Latin term and roughly means to bring a suit on behalf of the king, as well as himself. Any private citizen aware of a fraud could bring a suit. If the fraud was proven, the defendant was required to pay double the amount of the fraud, plus a fine of $2,000 per claim.

Many old laws become obsolete, even though they remain on the books. In Gainesville, Georgia, for example, it is illegal to eat fried chicken in any way other than with your hands. Yes, you read that right! While the original False Claims Act wasn’t so silly, it did become just as ignored and irrelevant. As years went by, the Act remained in effect, but it was mostly ignored.

The first amendment to the law came in 1945, which set up huge barriers for people who wanted to bring a suit, because it eliminated nearly any reward they would receive. This change removed all incentive and ability for a private citizen to bring a whistleblowing suit. The amendment also disallowed anyone from filing qui tam suits if the government had a tip at all about the reported situation, even if it was not under investigation.

The False Claims Act was virtually dead in the water after this change.

How Was the False Claims Act Changed in 1986?

In 1986, it came to light that many defense contractors were bilking the federal government out of millions of dollars through fraudulent billing. It became public knowledge that the government was paying tens of thousands of dollars for mundane items such as light bulbs, hammers, and toilet seats.

Congress responded by revamping the old False Claims Act, once known as the Lincoln Laws, in 1986, bringing the law into current relevancy and increasing protection against retaliation for the people who reported the fraud. Because of these amendments, a resurgence of the law’s use took place.

When Congress amended the False Claims Act in 1986, the main changes involved increasing the penalties against those who commit fraud against the government, as well as raising the amount of the rewards the person reporting the acts could receive. This new award reinstated the incentive for people to report known fraud.

The 1986 amendment also increased the amount of the penalties assessed to those guilty of fraudulent charges. The punishment was increased to three times the amount of the money illegally taken. Also, damages increased to a minimum of $5,000 and a maximum of $10.000 per each separate claim. The reward for the whistleblowers now provides them from 15% to 30% of the recovered money. The defendant also pays the fees for the whistleblower’s attorney, at their regular rate.

The other significant change in the 1986 amendment was that the offenders could be held liable for acting in “reckless disregard” of the truth or in “deliberate ignorance.” This change brought the power of the False Claims Act back into play.

Is the False Claims Act Amendment of 1986 Relevant Today?

Absolutely. In fact, the False Claims Act, with the amendments of 1986, is the single most useful tool the federal government has in the fight against fraud. While further modifications to the act came in 2009 and 2010, these amendments expanded the definitions of liability and also increased the ability of the government to investigate claims.

The government has recovered over $48 billion since the 1986 amendments to the False Claims Act. More than half of that amount has come through whistleblowers’ actions. There has been more than $5.3 billion paid out in rewards to people who have brought qui tam suits to the US District Court.

You need to have a lawyer who understands the complexities of the False Claims Act and its subsequent amendments and protections to present a substantial and qualified case to court. If you are aware of fraud in your workplace or elsewhere, the time to step forward is now.

To learn more about the False Claims Act of 1986, get in touch with our experienced legal team at Bothwell Law Group online.

What Steps Should Be Taken to File a False Claims Act Complaint?

false claims act complaint

false claims act complaintIn order for your False Claims Act complaint to have the best chance of intervention from the government, it’s critical to take the correct measures as you move through the reporting process. First, let’s cover what makes up a False Claims Act complaint and then address the necessary steps you should take to file your complaint.

What Is a False Claims Act Complaint?

The False Claims Act allows private citizens to bring a lawsuit against individuals or businesses that have defrauded the federal government. The government files the case in US District Court under seal and then determines whether or not the evidence is sufficient for them to intervene in the case. If they decide there is just cause for the complaint, the government will take over the prosecution. If the fraud is proven, then the person who brought the case forward can receive up to 15-30% of the damages recovered by the government.

What’s the First Step in Filing a False Claims Act Complaint?

Because the process to winning a False Claims Act complaint is complicated, the first step you should take is to find an experienced attorney. You need to choose an attorney who has tried False Claims Act charges and won in court. One of the most important parts of a valid False Claims Act complaint is presenting the right kind of evidence to convince the government to intervene in the case.

It is critical to know there is a statute of limitations for filing a False Claims Act complaint. The law says you have six years from the time of the fraud to file. The time limit runs from the date the government paid the fraudulent claim. Certain types of fraud have different limitations, so make certain you file the complaint promptly. Your attorney will need to make sure you are within the statute for your particular situation.

Additionally, one of the first things your attorney needs to determine is whether anyone else has made the same claim you have about the company in question. Only the first person who files a False Claims Act case with an allegation of fraud is allowed to continue as the recognized “whistleblower.” The whistleblower is the only one who can receive a portion of the recovery as a reward.

When your attorney files your False Claims Act complaint in the US District Court, the government seals the file and then conducts an investigation. The seal means the case and the investigation are kept confidential and secret. The original seal is for 60 days but is usually extended for months while the inquiry is carried out. The accused has no idea there is a complaint against them while the investigators search the facts.

The conditions of the seal also mean you must keep the details of the case, as well as the fact that the charges exist, confidential. At the end of the investigation, the government decides whether they will intervene in the case or not. If the government decides to intervene, this means they take over the prosecution of the case.

What Evidence Does My False Claims Act Complaint Need?

There are several things your false claims attorney needs to bring a complaint to the US District Court:

  • Your attorney must be able to show your employer’s role in the fraud.
  • You must have evidence showing when the fraud took place.
  • Because the statute of limitations begins from the time the government pays the claim, you need proof of this payment.
  • You need to have exact dates when the fraudulent acts took place.
  • You need to be able to identify who made the false claims and where the fraud happened.
  • You need to show how you found out about the fraud. Your information is critical to the case, so it must be proven to be correct and reliable. Other questions will include whether this information is public knowledge and whether your employer is aware you know and are making a claim.

Your evidence can be in the form of emails, sales receipts, vouchers, invoices, sales records, and more. They may be in hard copy form, but the best evidence is if you can prove it is in the database of the company. If you can make copies onto a removable CD or flash drive, it is always best to store the evidence off company property. That way, you can protect it from being changed or erased.

You and your attorney must carefully prepare each step of the False Claims Act complaint and back up all of it with substantial evidence. If the case is solid, it influences the government to intervene, and they will take up the cost and the burden of prosecuting the case. Most False Claims Act complaints are decided in motions and negotiations. Having the US Attorney’s office on your side can only benefit you. Having an attorney who is well versed in this type of litigation can increase the percentage of reward you receive.

Taking your case all the way from filing a complaint to reaping a reward can feel like a journey of a lifetime, but if you are ready to take the first step with your whistleblower case, contact the skilled False Claims Act complaint attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.

What’s the History of the US False Claims Act and Why Does it Matter?

US False Claims Act

US False Claims ActThe US False Claims Act is responsible for returning billions of dollars stolen from the US government. When people commit fraud against the government, with the knowledge they are doing so, they violate the US False Claims Act. The law has been on the books since Abe Lincoln was in the White House. It has many different aspects to it and can bring millions of dollars in reward.

What Brought about the False Claims Act in US History?

The US False Claims Act was enacted March 2, 1863, at the request of President Lincoln. The amount of money the government was spending for military needs was skyrocketing from fraud. There were stories of sawdust sold as ammunition. There was fresh paint thrown on old warships that were no longer seaworthy and then sold as new to the Navy. The fraud was hampering the Union war effort and considered as traitorous behavior.

With the US False Claims Act, Lincoln hoped to help root out fraud against the government. He wanted to encourage private citizens who knew about fraud against the government to come forward. This coming forward is called the qui tam or whistleblower part of the act.  Qui tam is a Latin phrase that roughly means to “bring action on behalf of the king”…in other words, bringing the fraud to the court system on behalf of the government. This person, known as the relator, is also in line for a reward.

Back in 1863, the person who knowingly submitted a false claim against the government could be hit with charges equal to double the amount of the damages plus $2,000 for each false claim, as an extra penalty. The person who brought the charges to the government could receive half the amount awarded.

Has the US False Claims Act Stayed the Same?

The law remained unchanged for 80 years. In 1943, Congress took action again. They changed the qui tam, or whistleblower, part of the act. Congress slashed the amount of the relator’s reward. Besides removing the compensation, lawmakers put stipulations on relating the crime to the government if there was any prior knowledge of the fraud. Prior knowledge meant that if any government document alluded to the scam, the relator was cut out of the deal altogether. It’s no surprise that with no real reward for coming forward, the law fell into disuse. Fraud against the government did not.

What Is the Status of the US False Claims Act Today?

The law remained in the weeds until the mid-1980s. Stories of the Navy paying $435 for a hammer and $640 for a toilet seat hit the news. In 1985, we found out nine of the top ten Department of Defense contractors were under investigation for fraud. Congress took action when the government couldn’t stop the abuse. They changed the False Claims Act so relators would again see a significant reward for coming forward. Congress also added provisions to protect the whistleblower from retaliation from his employer for coming forward.

Today, the US False Claims Act allows anyone with knowledge of a fraud against the government to bring the information forward in a qui tam case. The government investigates the claim under a seal, so no one knows the investigation is happening. If the government believes there is a case, they take over from that point. The relator can receive a reward of 15-30% of the amount of the damages.

The penalties for committing fraud against the government have increased a lot. Today, the penalty is three times the amount of the fraud, plus an extra penalty of $5,000 to $10, 000 per instance. The defendant also covers the relator’s legal fees when the case results in a payout.

Also, if the government decides not to intervene in a case and take it on, the whistleblower and their attorney can choose to move forward on their own.

Congress amended the law again in 2006, further defining the terms of liability. There are many different areas the US False Claims Act covers including Medicare, Medicaid, nursing home fraud, government contractor fraud, and misrepresenting the value of imported goods. Other areas covered include billing for brand-name drugs and supplying generic drugs, using wrong coding for billing medical procedures, rebate scams on prescription drugs and more. The key to guilt is committing the fraud knowing it is illegal or acted with reckless disregard for the truth or falsity of a claim.

If you have knowledge of a False Claims Act violation, you need to talk to an attorney who has experience with this type of case. There is there a potential reward of a large sum of money. Also, not coming forward can make you complicit in the fraud if you are aware of it and do not act. Have questions about US False Claims Act violations? Contact the Bothwell Law Group online today.

How Are False Claims Act Violations Handled by the Court System?

False Claims Act Violations

False Claims Act ViolationsThe idea of filing a case against False Claims Act violations can be pretty intimidating. Worrying about retaliation on the job is frightening. Even though the law protects against retaliation such as job loss or losing a promotion, the fear is real. Retaliation can take place, and you need the law to assert your rights and reverse the discrimination.

One concern can be that you don’t yet know what happens in court in a False Claims Act violation. The court can always be scary if you aren’t used to it. Having a trained, experienced attorney at your side will help. Understanding the process beforehand will also help. It’s just like when you bake a cake. You need the proper ingredients, the order of the process, and knowledge of the waiting time while it bakes. False Claims Act violations are much the same in the process.

Will My False Claims Act Violation Go to Court?

The first step in a False Claims Act is to visit with an attorney with experience in this type of lawsuit. An attorney can tell you exactly what kind of evidence to bring to court. She will tell you how you can document your proof and keep it safe. She can discuss how you can determine if anyone else in the company is friendly to the case. There are many details, but a qualified attorney who has been down this road before knows what is necessary for the government to step in the case.

Once you have the proofs you need, you and your attorney will bring the matter to the Department of Justice. You must be the first person, or original source, to have brought the case to the government. The suit is called a qui tam suit. Qui tam means, “on behalf of the king.” The lawsuit may be brought on a federal level or a state level. It will depend on the state laws where the fraud takes place. When the proofs are brought in, the DOJ will examine the case and then investigate.

What If the Government Intervenes on Your False Claims Act Violations Case?

The government has an initial time frame of 60 days to investigate the company accused of fraud. The case is under seal, which means no one knows except you and the government. The company will not know there is an investigation. You can stay anonymous. If they decide to take the case, they take over and handle it from there. You are known as the relator. If the government wins, your reward is 15-25% of the amount recovered. This award can add up to millions of dollars.

The government can decide on a settlement that you may not agree with, but once they have intervened, you no longer have any say in the matter. The only time you have an option is if the government decides to opt out of the case and does not intervene.

What If the Government Opts out of the False Claims Act Violations Case?

If the DOJ doesn’t intervene, you can decide to continue the case on your own. It is critical to have an attorney who is well versed in False Claims Act cases at this point in the case. If you won, you would be entitled to up to 30% of the government’s award.

How Do I Know What Attorney I Should Use for False Claims Act Violations?

Like every lawsuit, you should find an attorney who is knowledgeable about qui tam cases. Choose a lawyer who has experience fighting for and winning False Claims Act violations. Make sure your attorney is someone you feel comfortable with and trust.

There can be anxiety and even fear involved in whistleblowing cases. Although your employer cannot legally retaliate against you, it doesn’t mean they won’t try. You want a False Claims Act attorney you can count on to make sure your rights are not violated at work. Harassment can be a large part of your experience, so you need to know you have someone you can rely on to get you through it.

Not everyone experiences trouble at work by bringing a suit forward, especially if the government intervenes and handles things. It’s important to be prepared, however, in case things shift against you. Just because your employer has no legal standing to fire you doesn’t mean they won’t try to get away with it.

When you’re looking for experienced attorneys who can walk you through False Claims Act violation case, look to Bothwell Law Group. We’ll walk you through the entire process and do our best to win your reward. To learn more about False Claims Act violations, contact Bothwell Law Group online today.

How Do I Prepare for a Meeting With False Claims Act Attorneys?

False Claims Act Attorneys

False Claims Act AttorneysPreparing for a meeting with False Claims Act attorneys is a big item on your to-do list if you think you may have a whistleblowing case. It’s important that you carefully prepare before you walk into the office. Read on to learn what you can expect from the meeting and how you should plan for it.

What Do False Claims Act Attorneys Do?

Everyone knows there are many different types of lawyers. There are real estate attorneys and trial lawyers, tax attorneys, and criminal attorneys. Then there are False Claims Act lawyers. Knowing what this segment of the law is about will help you understand how to prepare for your meeting.

The truth is we live in a world where people are willing to cheat to make money. The government doesn’t like it when people try to trick them. In fact, the government will give you a reward if you bring them information about a fraud being committed against them by your company. They will pay a percentage of the recovery in a False Claims Act suit; also known as whistleblowing.

There are several different types of false claims suits:

There are also different ways of committing the fraud, from charging for things never provided to a patient in a clinic but billing Medicare or Medicaid, to using inferior materials on a government contract. There are many different ways people in various industries commit the crimes.

False Claims Act procedures include a lot of variables. It’s important you have an experienced attorney who focuses solely on this type of law.  The only way the government will intervene and take on the case you present is if the information crosses the threshold of truth and evidence. When the potential for gain is possibly millions of dollars, you need an attorney who has been in these particular trenches and knows how to take on the situation without looking back.

What Do I Bring with Me to Meet My False Claims Act Lawyer?

The reward in whistleblower cases ranges from 15% to 30% of the recovery, so the potential for millions is real. It won’t come easy. But with proper preparation, you help your attorney do everything within the law to present the case to the federal government.

Here are some things you can do to help make the case:

  • Keep some notes. Don’t keep them at work. Detail where documents are stored. Note where the computer files are saved. You can’t take the proof with you, but you can explain exactly where it is. The government will investigate anonymously, and your notes give them a road map.
  • Now is the time to name names. You need to list every person involved or have knowledge of the fraud. Are they friendly to the crime or justice? Do they still work there or have they been fired. The details are the breadcrumbs.
  • Talk about the big guys and what they do. Detail how the structure of the corporation under accusation works.
  • This detailed journal is where you list all the rules and laws you think were broken. Don’t be afraid to write it out. If you know things that might hurt the case or if you have a history of your own that is questionable, you need to tell that as well. If the case gets blindsided because you withheld something embarrassing, there are no second chances. Each instance of whistleblowing is limited to the first person who brings it to the government, known as the original source.

False Claims Act Attorneys Will Work to Protect You

There can be a real fear of retaliation when you consider bringing a False Claims Act to court. The law provides protection against these things. It is illegal for you to lose your job or put up with harassment. You can’t lose wages or recognition and promotions as a result of being a whistleblower.

Having an attorney who is familiar with the fear and retaliation common in these cases is valuable. Knowing your rights and having the legal backup to stand up for them is powerful. It is not uncommon, though, for it to be quite frightening at the same time. A False Claims Act attorney is an advocate who walks alongside you during this time.

If you think you may have knowledge of a False Claims Act fraud, you need to speak with an attorney. Contact the skilled False Claims Act attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.

A False Claims Act Summary: The Short Version of What You Need to Know

False Claims Act Summary

False Claims Act SummaryAlso called the ‘Lincoln Law,’ the False Claims Act, in summary, holds companies and individuals liable for fraud against the government. The qui tam clause under this act is what encourages whistleblowers to come forward and file legal actions on behalf of the government. The industries most targeted by FCA claims are the healthcare, military, and other spending programs, and these claims dominate the list of the largest pharmaceutical settlements.

A Brief History of the False Claims Act

A variant of the False Claim Act has existed throughout history. The earliest recorded version of the FCA is in 1318 when King Edward II offered a third of the penalty to a relator who sued false wine merchants. Henry VIII enacted the Maintenance and Embracery Act of 1540, which pertains to legal proceedings over the title to lands. While the Act no longer is in place in England as of 1967, it is still in force in the Republic of Ireland.

While the United States was introduced to an early version of the FCA during its colonial days, it was only during the Civil War that the United States’ version of the law was codified. There was rampant fraud on both the Union and Confederate sides during the war; stories circulated of decrepit horses and mules, faulty rifles and ammunition, and rancid provisions being provided to both governments by individuals under contracts. As a result, Congress passed the FCA on March 2, 1863. The Act was relaxed somewhat during World War II due to reliance on criminal law to bring charges against unscrupulous contractors, but was strengthened in 1986 and again in 2009.

How Does the False Claim Act Help Whistleblowers?

Under the qui tam provision of the FCA, a whistleblower (or ‘relator’) can bring a claim against a company or individual who is defrauding the government. To reward the relator for bringing the case, the government rewards them with up to 25 percent of the funds recovered in the suit. Qui tam cases can be filed in the following cases:

  • Knowingly presenting a false claim for payment,
  • Knowingly making or using a false claim or statement.
  • Conspiracy to violate the False Claims Act.
  • Falsely certifying property to be provided to the government.
  • Knowingly buying government property from an unauthorized agent.

Filing a Claim Under the False Claim Act

To file a qui tam complaint under the FCA, the relator must file the complaint under federal seal, serve the complaint on the government (but not necessarily the defendant), and the complaint must be buttressed by a comprehensive memorandum detailing the facts of the complaint. To prevent retaliation against a whistleblower, the FCA provides up to double the damages to a whistleblower who is retaliated against by their employer for reporting fraud to the government.

Call (770) 643-1606 to find out more about the False Claims Act summary by contacting Bothwell Law Group online.

What Is the Statute of Limitations for the False Claims Act?

Statute of Limitations for the False Claims Act

Statute of Limitations for the False Claims ActIn order to understand how the statute of limitations comes into play with the False Claims Act (FCA), it is helpful to review what the FCA is designed to accomplish, and who it is designed to protect. According to the FCA, it is a crime for anyone to submit a false claim, document or statement to the government, or to cause someone else to submit a false claim, document or statement to the government, either to get money from the government or to avoid having to pay money to the government.

Every law has some sort of statute of limitations, and the FCA is no different. A statute of limitations is essentially the time period during which claims can be brought. After the statute of limitations has tolled (ended), no more claims can be brought for activity that took place beyond the time period provided by the law.

The statute of limitations found in section 3731(b) of the FCA provides that: A civil action under section 3730 may not be brought:

(1)  more than 6 years after the date on which the violation of section 3729 is committed, or

(2)  more than 3 years after the date on which facts material to the right of action are known or reasonably should have been known by the official of the United States charged with responsibility to act in the circumstances, but in no event more than 10 years after the date on which the violation is committed, whichever occurs last.

Let’s explore each of these in more detail:

The FCA Six-Year Statute of Limitations

Section 3731(b)(1) of the FCA provides that actions or claims must be brought within six years after the date of occurrence; it does not matter when the person bringing the qui tam action found out about the violation(s).

While this seems like it would be a pretty straightforward way to determine the statute of limitations period, courts differ on what date should be the trigger date. Most courts have held that the trigger date is the date of submission of the claim. However, others have held that the six-year time period doesn’t even begin to toll until the underlying claim has been paid. Still other courts factor in whether damages or penalties are sought.

As an example, using the majority opinion on what constitutes the trigger date, an employee who wants to bring a qui tam action in 2016 against her employer for overcharging the government on an ongoing basis could only bring action for the activity that occurred for the previous 6 years. Any activity prior to that would be barred by the statute of limitations under section 3731(b)(1).

The FCA Three-Year/Ten-Year Statute of Limitations

Under FCA section 3731(b)(2), claims can go back as far as ten years, but they must be brought within three years of the date the federal government knew (or should have known) of the violation(s).

The statute’s reference to a government official knowing about the violation is typically interpreted as referring to the responsible official at the Department of Justice. However, other courts take the position that other government officials fit the bill and can be “officials” under the FCA.

It is also important to note that courts are split, but most courts have limited this ten-year tolling period provision to actions in which the government has intervened and has become a party. Only a minority of courts currently allow qui tam whistleblowers to take advantage of this extended tolling period. The rationale of the majority’s position is that the plain language of the statute limits this to the government by specifically referencing officials who had, or who should have had, knowledge of the violation(s).

Obtain Representation for FCA Claims as Early as Possible

To avoid exceeding the statute of limitations on an FCA claim, the best course of action is to contact experienced legal counsel as early in the process as possible. It can feel confusing and stressful as you become aware of wrongdoing, and you probably have questions you need answers to before you make a decision about taking action. Qui tam attorneys can help evaluate the merits of your case, and can help file a claim within the statute of limitations, if it makes sense to do so.

Have questions about the statute of limitations for the False Claims Act? Even if you think it might be too late to speak up, it may not be. The best way to find out for sure is to schedule a consultation with an experienced FCA attorney to discuss your case. Click to contact the Bothwell Law Group online to get the answers you need.

What Is the Criminal False Claims Act and What Does It Mean?

Criminal False Claims Act

Criminal False Claims ActThe Criminal False Claims Act (FCA) provides that the U.S. government can take civil action to recover civil penalties and damages for false claims and payments. A basic definition of the FCA is that it is a crime for anyone to submit a false claim to the government, or to cause someone else to submit a false claim to the government, either to get money from the government or to avoid having to pay money to the government.

The “qui tam” provisions of the FCA allow anyone with evidence of fraud against government contracts or programs to bring legal action against the wrongdoer on the U.S. government’s behalf. When a qui tam action has been filed, the government has the right to join in the suit as a party (this is called “intervening”). Sometimes, the government decides not to intervene; in those situations, the person or entity who brought the claim forward initially can still decide to pursue it alone.

Note that although the qui tam provisions allow anyone with evidence to file suit, if someone else has already filed a qui tam action on the same evidence, you will be barred from bringing a lawsuit.

What Are the Elements of the FCA?

The elements of the FCA are fairly straightforward. In order for the government to prove a violation of the act, evidence must show that:

  • The defendant made, presented, or caused to be presented, a false claim to the government for payment or approval; or
  • The defendant made, presented, or caused to be presented, a false document, statement or another record to facilitate the payment of a false claim; or
  • The defendant conspired with others in getting the government to make payment on such a false claim or statement; and
  • The defendant knew that the claim or document was false or fraudulent; or
  • The defendant knowingly submitted the false or fraudulent claim or document knowing it was wrong or acted with reckless disregard of the claim’s truth or falsity.

It is important to note that FCA violations are often found to have occurred even if the government did not suffer any financial loss. If you are considering filing a False Claims Act suit, the best way to determine whether you’ve got a valid case to pursue is to talk with an experience attorney.

Examples of some of the more common FCA claims include:

  • Contract violations: These come up frequently in the areas of defense contract work and construction.  This type of fraud can happen when work is a company bills for work that never occurred.  Or, a company uses substandard materials – especially if they are substituted for specified materials. Or, a company receives a contract kickback.
  • Healthcare fraud: Fraud in Medicare, Medicaid, and other federal healthcare programs are generally proven relatively easily when an FCA violation is alleged. A few examples of cases that fall under this umbrella include a provider that charges for services that were never provided, charging for more expensive services than what were provided, providing substandard care, kickbacks, and off-label prescription drug marketing.

What Constitutes “Knowing” Under the FCA?

Anyone can be held liable in an FCA action for submitting, or causing to be submitted, a false or fraudulent claim, or a document or statement supporting a false or fraudulent claim as long as it is shown they had either actual knowledge that the claim, document or statement was false or fraudulent; or in deliberate ignorance of the claim’s, document’s or statement’s truth or falsity.

The FCA offers three different definitions of “knowing,” as follows:

  1. Actual knowledge
  2. Acting in deliberate ignorance (looking the other way)
  3. Acting in reckless disregard

The first definition is straightforward.  However, the second and third are open to some interpretation by the courts based on the evidence of the case. Again, it’s best to have an experienced FCA attorney review your case.  This will ensure you’re on the right track before you move forward.

What Damages and Penalties Do Violations of the FCA Carry?

The FCA carries steep penalties for violations, including an award of three times the amount of its loss, plus penalties of $5,500 – $11,000 per false claim/false document used. There’s a provision that says someone who self-reports under certain conditions may be liable for a lesser amount; however, in no case less than double the amount of the government’s loss.

To learn more about whistleblower defense and the criminal False Claims Act, call 770.643.1606 today.

Debunking the Myths Surrounding Whistleblower Law Firms

whistleblower law firms

whistleblower law firmsWhen it comes to whistleblower law firms or even litigation firms in general, there are a variety of baseless myths that have sprung up. We’ve rounded up a few of the most common ones, and offered you a fact-based rebuttal for each.

Myth 1: We encourage frivolous litigation.

This is perhaps the most obvious myth, arising from the impression the U.S. has become an overly litigious society in recent decades. While it may certainly be true for some forms of litigation, it makes zero sense for whistleblower law firms. And here’s why.

We, the law firm, are paid almost entirely out of the successful recovery amount. Put another way, we don’t always get paid if we don’t win. It would be against our own best interest to take weak qui tam lawsuits and push them through the system because it’s unlikely they would succeed. And no success means the bills don’t get paid.

While this particular myth may apply to other areas of the law, it does not apply to whistleblower law firms.

Myth 2: Qui Tam suits are glorified contract disputes.

No, no, no. A thousand times, no. Contract disputes often focus on the quality of goods supplied, or the failure to meet sufficient standards in materials or service delivery as outlined in a contract. In well-negotiated contracts, there are clear avenues of recourse and remediation for these instances, and the court need only enforce them.

A qui tam suit is an entirely different beast. These lawsuits are specifically focused on fraudulent activity bilking the government out of money. The result is a chain of evidence and requirement of proof extending far beyond the basics of simple quality assessment. Often it includes documents, statements, and forensic accounting, just to name a few. The standard of proof is much higher, as is the amount of evidence required.

Myth 3: Qui Tam lawsuits are simple.

The government has certainly made headlines the past few years, garnering billions of dollars in recovered monies, and highlighting cases where whistleblowers received an extensive reward as a result of their information and False Claims filing. The news cycle, while impressive, is a pure public relations play. The government needs people to come forward and report fraud. Touting it as a rewarding, easy and simple experience means more individuals are likely to come forward in an effort to get their own (hopefully large) piece of the pie.

The truth is these cases require an extensive burden of proof, have stringent limitations on the procedures and protocols associated with filing, and can take several years to reach a successful conclusion. Any one of those factors would push these cases beyond “simple”, but the combination of all three makes matters downright complicated.

All that being said, they can certainly be worth the time and effort to see them through to completion. However, we believe clients should enter into the process with open eyes, and realistic expectations regarding how it will unfold over time.

In Need of a Whistleblower Law Firm to Guide You?

If you’re looking for an experienced whistleblower law firm, contact our team at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.

Who Handles the Qui Tam Claims Process, and Where Do I Start If I Have One?

Qui Tam Claims Process

Qui Tam Claims ProcessThe qui tam claims process can be a complex exercise. Every case is unique and needs to be handled in a slightly different way. The process is also very specific; any variations or deviations from the appropriate procedure can end your suit before it even starts.

With this in mind, we’ve gone ahead and outlined some general guidance for processing qui tam cases, as well as advice to potential whistleblowers on where they should start. We hope you find it useful in your investigation!

Where to Start: Hiring a Whistleblower Law Firm

Remember when we said qui tam cases were complex and unique? They play by an entirely different set of rules than regular litigation, requiring a law firm with the skill, experience, and know-how to ensure you have the best possible chance of reaching a successful conclusion.

Once you’ve settled on a few prospective firms, look at each one carefully and assess them based on the following:

  • Experience in similar cases
  • Understanding of the particulars of your case
  • Honest and thorough assessment of your prospects
  • Clear outline and understanding of next steps and how to proceed
  • A good working rapport between the two of you

All of these will be critical to successfully surviving what’s to come.

Next Up: Building the Narrative and Filing Suit

This step is where your legal team will document all the information available, and begin crafting it into a graphic and compelling story. The goal is to send a persuasive argument and abundance of initial proof to the government, sparking further investigation. Depending on the strength of the material and content, the government will then decide whether to take over the case themselves, or let you proceed further on your own.

Further Investigation and Interviews in Your Whistleblower Case

Once the complaint is filed, your attorneys will continue to gather evidence, monitor the case progress, and work with the Department of Justice to keep your case moving along. This will likely include an interview between the whistleblower and the government, where the government will determine how effective and compelling the individual’s story is. The right legal team will help you prep for the occasion, and be with you every step of the way.

Patience and the Waiting Game for Whistleblowers

Whistleblower cases can take years to develop. During this time, you will be prohibited from talking to anyone about the case, outside of the government, your legal team, and anyone else sanctioned by the DOJ. In general, you can expect to wait up to two years for the government to make an ultimate determination regarding whether or not they will take over the case – also called intervening or joining.

If they decide not to join, you and your attorneys will need to make a decision regarding whether or not you wish to press forward with your case anyway. An experienced attorney should be able to tell you what the odds are, and make a recommendation that’s in both parties’ best interests.

Going to Court with Your Whistleblower Case

If you decide to go to trial, the court case will proceed normally from this point on. At the end of the process, the court will rule on whether your case is valid, and also the percentage of the recovery to which you will be entitled.

Good luck!

Want to Learn More about the Qui Tam Claims Process?

You can find out more about the qui tam claims process by contacting Bothwell Law Group online. We’ll be happy to answer your questions as you make your decision about moving forward with your claim.

5 Most Basic Facts You Need to Know about False Claims Act Settlements

False Claims Act Settlements

False Claims Act SettlementsFalse Claims Act Settlements, also known as qui tam settlements, are quite distinct from the standard litigation process. Here’s a basic primer about the particulars, and some of the most frequently asked questions we receive.

What Is the False Claims Act?

The False Claims Act allows individual civilians to file suit on behalf of Uncle Sam to recover funds paid out by the government under fraudulent circumstances. It also protects the individuals exposing the fraud (aka- whistleblowers) from any retaliation from their employer as a result of filing the lawsuit.

What Types of Claims Are Covered Under the FCA?

There are three basic types of claims:

  1. A classic false claim: when information and documentation submitted to the government is falsified or incorrect.
  2. Document falsification: using a fraudulent or falsified document to obtain payment from the government.
  3. Reverse false claims: failure to return funds to the government that were paid, but not owed.

What Components Make Up an Offense Under the False Claims Act?

The following three terms must be met for a suit to succeed:

  1. The company in question presented a payment request or claim to the government that was false.
  2. The claim and document itself were
  3. The company knew the claim was false or fraudulent and presented it anyway.

It’s important to note that payment from the government is NOT one of the required conditions for being considered an offense. The mere act of knowingly making a fraudulent request for payment is enough to create cause for a lawsuit.

What Are the Potential Damages and Penalties If a Defendant Is Found Guilty?

For starters, the government is entitled to three times the amount of its loss. On top of that, there are penalties of $5,000 to $10,000 per incident. The person who originally filed suit (the Relator) may be entitled to a portion of the proceeds as well: up to 30% of the recovered amount, depending on the court’s judgment.

How Does a Qui Tam Lawsuit Differ from a Regular Lawsuit?

There are some differences, but here are a few of the biggest ones:

  1. It’s filed under seal. This means it’s registered in secret. Only you, your attorney, and the U.S. government know a case has been filed.
  2. The government has a right to join (intervene) in your case. When the government joins in, it means they believe you have a strong case, and they will carry it through to the end on its own. However, if the government declines to join your case, you are still allowed to see it through to the end on your own; their participation is not a requirement to file suit or receive a judgment.
  3. You don’t pay your attorney up front. Usually, the attorney will take a percentage of any of the amount recovered. In the event the government declines to join your case, you and your attorney will then need to agree on how to proceed, and whether you will need to cover any of their fees until the final settlement.

Still Have Questions about False Claims Act Settlements?

For more information on False Claims Act settlements, contact the skilled attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.