If you are considering blowing the whistle on unethical or fraudulent activities, you are likely aware of qui tam suits. A qui tam lawsuit is brought by an individual who possesses knowledge of the fraudulent activity and brings a lawsuit on behalf of the government to recover stolen funds. Once the government has conducted its own investigation, it can choose to join the litigation.
What Is a Qui Tam lawsuit?
Qui tam suits (pronounced ‘kwee tom’ or ‘kee tam’) are suits brought up under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act. Unlike most lawsuits where the party bringing the suit has been injured in some fashion, qui tam suits are brought by an individual who has not been directly harmed by fraudulent behavior
The individual bringing the suit -referred to as a ‘relator’- is encouraged by the government to come forward with information about fraud levied against the government. This allows the government to conduct its own investigation, and potentially to recover stolen funds should it decide to join in on the relator’s lawsuit.
If this litigation is successful, the relator is often entitled to a small cut of the funds recovered by the government; this is due to the government not being aware of the fraud had the relator not come forward.
What Types of Cases Qualify as Qui Tam?
Under the False Claims Act, individuals and companies who defraud the government are liable for the amounts they are unlawfully paid. With very few exceptions, contractors are liable for fraud involving federal programs and contracts. This can include the following:
- Improper billing for Medicaid or Medicare. This can include overbilling and billing for services, procedures, or equipment that were not rendered.
- Overcharging for goods or services that were provided under a government contract.
- Requesting payment for goods and services not provided.
- ‘Off-label’ marketing of FDA-approved drugs. ‘Off-Label’ refers to prescribing medications to treat health issues they were not designed to address, nor tested to treat by the FDA.
- Grant recipients who charge the government for expenses not related to the grant rewarded.
- Accounting fraud.
- Bribing of foreign officials.
- Manipulation in trading of securities or commodities.
Qui Tam – What Does It Mean to be a Whistleblower?
A whistleblower, also known as a ‘relator’, is an individual who has witnessed fraudulent activity and chooses to report it to the government. Unlike the way it’s depicted in television and movies, anyone from any background can blow the whistle on companies who are defrauding the government. However, becoming a whistleblower and going public with accusations of fraudulent behavior can adversely affect a person’s professional and personal lives, so it should be approached cautiously with the advice of an attorney.
Call (770) 643-1606 to find out more about qui tam suits by contacting Bothwell Law Group online.