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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.

Can a False Claims Act Law Firm Protect Their Client’s Identity?

False Claims Act Law Firm

False Claims Act Law FirmOne of the most important steps in blowing the whistle on fraud is finding a False Claims Act law firm that knows the tricks of the trade. Think of a new restaurant opening in New York City. If the owner knows the details about design and atmosphere, as well as providing great tasting food, it could make all the difference to their success. Planning a successful lawsuit means knowing all the twists and turns that can derail the project. It also includes careful planning to avoid those pitfalls.

False Claims Act Law Firms Have Experience in Protecting Clients

One of the most important aspects of a False Claims Act action is protecting the person who brings the case to the attention of the government. This person, known as a whistleblower, can face serious consequences in retaliation for their courage. Most of these penalties are in violation of the False Claims Act, but you need an attorney who knows how to apply the law.

Most whistleblowers want their identity to remain concealed. When an attorney brings a claim to the District Court, the government begins an investigation. During the time they are seeking out the facts, confidentiality is guaranteed by law. In fact, the company under investigation is not even aware of the process. As long as the whistleblower does not expose his involvement, his part in the action remains private.

A False Claims Act violation brought to court is a “qui tam” act. Qui tam roughly translates to “on behalf of the king.” It means the private individual is filing suit on behalf of the government. One of the provisions of the qui tam law is keeping the identity of the relator, or whistleblower, confidential. If the relator reveals his involvement, the court can dismiss the lawsuit. This confidentiality stipulation extends to the media. It is of the utmost importance to avoid speaking to anyone about the investigation.

What Other Protections Can a False Claims Act Law Firm Provide?

When the government indicts a corporation for fraud, people expect retaliation. After all, if there was not a fear of defrauding the United States government, why would harm to an employee be out of the realm of possibility? They say power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. When the people running a multi-billion dollar scam have skated on their criminal activity for years, they see themselves as having absolute power.

Qui tam laws are specific about protecting the identity of the whistleblower during the investigation. Once a case goes to court, however, these protections stop. The relator who brings forth the case has no more protection than the defendant in a public hearing. At this point, the lawyer’s work to protect his client takes off in earnest.

Can A False Claims Act Law Firm Prevent Job Loss for the Whistleblower?

Losing a job as a result of a fraud report is a valid concern. Often employees in a position giving them knowledge of the crime have worked for years for that level of pay. When the employee has a family to sustain, the fear is even more intense.

The good news is that the law provides ample protection for a whistleblower. The provisions are close to all-encompassing. Think of how a bumper-to-bumper warranty provides protection for every aspect of a new car. It covers mechanical and electrical parts, maintenance and even everyday wear and tear. With a guarantee like that, you wouldn’t feel afraid to buy the car.

A whistleblower with an experienced lawyer doesn’t need to fear moving forward either. The law provides complete protection for the whistleblower. The government is aware they would not know about most fraud without the public’s help. These laws make it safer and easier to come forward.

The law provides protection against loss of job or benefits. A disgruntled employer cannot withhold promotions or pay raises. The guilty party cannot destroy the employee’s reputation. An employer cannot force or deny a transfer to another location. In fact, the law prevents harassment in every form. A False Claims Act firm knows this and will take steps to keep the relator safe from harm.

Even though there are strict laws preventing job loss for the whistleblower, it is important to have a safety net while things proceed. Your attorney will be able to get your job reinstated. But there is no real guarantee you won’t go through some unemployment while this part of the legal action moves along.

Even with the potential problems in bringing a fraud case forward, an employee who has knowledge of the crime must report it. If they fail to do so, they increase their involvement. This secrecy also increases their personal liability.

To file a fraud case, you need an attorney. Choosing an attorney who focuses on False Claims Act cases is your wisest move. Contact the experienced False Claims Act law firm at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.