The federal False Claim Acts make it a crime to file a false claim for payment from the federal government. One common example is Medicare fraud. This involves billing for treatments or medications that were never provided. The Acts cover claims that are made despite knowing that the claim is false. It also covers claims by someone who is recklessly disregarding information that would lead them to know that the claim is false. To encourage the reporting of false claims, the Acts also provide whistleblowers with compensation and protection from retaliation.
Penalty for Violating Federal False Claim Acts
The federal False Claim Acts provide for both civil and criminal penalties against violators. The criminal penalty for violating federal False Claim Acts can include fines of up to $50,000 and/or imprisonment. Civil penalties of up to three times the amount falsely claimed plus an additional penalty of up to $11,000 per false claim are also possible.
Whistleblower Compensation for Reporting False Claims
If the government learned of the fraudulent activity from a whistleblower, the whistleblower may be entitled to compensation under qui tam laws. The amount of compensation depends on whether the government recovers the funds, or the whistleblower’s own lawsuit recovers the funds. They range from 15 to 30 percent of the total amount recovered by the government.
To begin a qui tam action, the whistleblower must file a sealed complaint in the appropriate court and serve the complaint on the U.S. Attorney for that district. The government then has 60 days to determine whether it will prosecute the case. If the government declines to prosecute the case, the whistleblower may prosecute it privately.
Whistleblower Protections Under Federal False Claim Acts
Whistleblowers are protected from retaliation for any actions taken under the federal False Claim Acts. This includes both making reports to the government and filing a private lawsuit under the Acts. Employers cannot terminate, harass, or reassign whistleblowers to less desirable positions or schedules. Furthermore, they cannot take any adverse action against an employer because they took action as permitted under the Acts. If you can prove retaliation occurred, the court can force the employer to reinstate the employee. Further, the employer will have to provide them with double their back pay plus interest. Finally, the employer must reimburse their legal costs and any other expenses incurred as a result of the retaliation.
Successfully prosecuting a qui tam action or whistleblower claim requires extensive knowledge of legal procedures and the specific laws governing the false claim. Procedural errors or insufficient evidence can lead to dismissal of the action. This can happen even though they may have been able to succeed on their merits. To speak with an experienced qui tam and whistleblower attorney about how to proceed, call Bothwell Law Group today.