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The ABCs of the Federal False Claims Act

Federal False Claims Act

Federal False Claims ActIf you’re interested in learning more about the federal False Claims Act, here’s a brief summary of the history, rationale, process and rewards potential it affords individuals. While by no means comprehensive, this primer should provide you with insight into why the legislation was enacted, and why it continues to be an extremely effective tool for combating fraud.

The Origin of the False Claims Act

During the Civil War, Union Army suppliers were defrauding the government by providing substandard provisions, reselling the same goods and items back to the Army, and a host of other fraudulent activities impacting both troop morale and the government’s bottom line. In response, Congress enacted the federal False Claims Act in 1863.

The FCA provided grounds for fining and punishing any business or individual who knowingly submitted a false claim to the government. Since the original inception, the Act has been amended and strengthened several times in past 150+ years.

The False Claims Act Today

Under the False Claims Act, an individual has a right to file a qui tam lawsuit on the government’s behalf. Any individual with knowledge of fraud against the government can file.

The Department of Justice has recouped tens of billions of dollars in the past three years alone. Every single dollar recovered was the direct result of settlements and judgments issued in civil cases involving fraud and false claims. The two greatest areas of recovery are defense contractor fraud and healthcare fraud.

Filing a Qui Tam Claim

If you have evidence of a business or individual defrauding the government, you should consider filing a qui tam claim. Here’s a highly abbreviated version of each step in the process:

  1. Gather as much evidence as you can.
  2. Bring the evidence to an experienced qui tam law firm for evaluation.
  3. Determine how you’d like to proceed (gather more information, or begin the next step).
  4. Craft your complaint to the government.
  5. File the complaint in secret (called “under seal”).
  6. Assist the government with review of the complaint and provide any additional information to them as needed.
  7. Receive a decision from the government on whether or not they will intervene in the case.
    1. If they intervene: sit back and let them run the case through to completion.
    2. If they don’t intervene: determine whether you and your legal team want to take the case to court.
  8. Go to trial.
  9. Receive the Court’s
  10. Receive your reward from the recovered monies, issued at the sole discretion of the court.

Each of these steps is significantly more in-depth than what is captured here, but at a high level, you’ll need to go through each of these steps to reach completion.

Determining Your Reward in a Qui Tam Claim

If you happen to win your case, you are entitled to up to 30% of the monies recovered by the government as a result of the lawsuit. This amount can vary depending on a variety of factors including:

  • If the government intervened
  • If you designed the fraudulent scheme yourself
  • If you played a knowing part in any of the fraud
  • The amount of evidence you contributed or were able to gather
  • And more

You are also entitled to having your legal and court fees entirely covered by the defendant. In a successful case, you won’t end up paying a single dime out of your own pocket to cover any form of legal or court costs.

Have Additional Questions about the Federal False Claims Act?

Find out what you need to know about the federal False Claims Act by calling 770.643.1606 to reach our team at Bothwell Law Group 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.

Does a Regular Court Make Judgements on Qui Tam Claims?

qui tam claims

qui tam claimsTo win qui tam claims filed under the False Claims Act, two conditions must be met. First, you have to file a lawsuit in federal court. Second, you have to win that lawsuit through trial, or a negotiated settlement. Easy, right?

Not so fast. While it does sound quite simple, there are several things to consider. We’ve broken down the court process for you below.

Qui Tam Claims: It’s All about Evidence

When bringing a qui tam case, the devil is in the details, or rather, the evidence. You need to provide your attorney with solid proof the business or individual in question was overcharging, submitting falsified claims, or otherwise getting more money from the government than it should. This is what determines whether someone has violated the False Claims Act, or not.

Paper trails, emails, receipts, vouchers, digital records and so forth are the best kind of evidence for supporting your claim. And in this instance, more is always better. Providing the who, what where, when and how will be key to securing a favorable outcome. You need enough to eliminate even a shadow of a doubt; and this is where an experienced attorney comes in.

Hiring a Qui Tam Attorney and Determining Whether You Have a Case

Once you’ve gathered the evidence, it’s best to take it to a qualified lawyer, familiar with the FCA and qui tam lawsuits. They’ll review all the information you’ve provided and help you determine if it’s enough to bring a civil lawsuit in the U.S. District Court where the fraud occurred.

Unfortunately, hearsay isn’t enough to file a complaint. Your attorney must have enough information to understand where and how your company receives government funds, as well as how the fraud was perpetrated, and how long it went on. They must also understand how you came to have this information, whether any of it has already been made public, and if you’ve already approached your employer about your findings.

Once they have the facts straight, they’ll determine whether to move on to filing stage.

Filing a Civil Lawsuit Under the False Claims Act

The facts you’ve assembled will form the basis of your written complaint; something known as a “Relator’s Statement”. These will then be forwarded to the Attorney General and the State’s Attorney when filed under seal (meaning no one but you, your lawyer and the government know you’ve filed suit) at the U.S. District Court.

These documents should contain everything needed to persuade the U.S. government to join, or intervene, in your case. The goal is to get the government to join you, and bring the weight of their investigative and legal services to bear in your case.

Note: It is imperative you keep the terms of the lawsuit under wraps. If it is made public, the judge will have grounds to dismiss your case, and you will have lost before a trial can even start.

The Government Investigates

When deciding to intervene in your case, the government will conduct a lengthy investigation into the allegations. This can take up to three years in the most extreme circumstances, although most if the time it’s much quicker. If the government joins, they will take over your case completely, and the Justice Department becomes responsible for trying (or settling) the case.

If they don’t join, you’re still allowed to bring suit on their behalf. This is when the seal period ends, and the defendant is finally served with the complaint. The lawsuit then continues along in almost the exact same manner as any other federal civil litigation.

Hiring the Right Qui Tam Attorney Is Essential to Success

You want someone with the experience and know-how to get the government on your side, and advise you about your best options. Call 770.643.1606 to find out more about qui tam claims by contacting Bothwell Law Group online.