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What are Qui Tam Lawsuits?

What are Qui Tam Lawsuits

What are Qui Tam LawsuitsWe get asked frequently “What are Qui Tam Lawsuits?” When someone has knowledge of fraudulent activity, that person is a relator and files a law suit on behalf of the government. This is quite different from the average lawsuit. In a qui tam lawsuit, the person bringing the suit is not the one harmed. After conducting their own investigation, the government may or may not join the case.

Thanks to the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act, the government encourages citizens to come forward with any information about entities defrauding federal programs. This allows the government a chance to recover part or all of the stolen funds. Without these private citizens, or “whistleblowers”, coming forward, the government often would not have been aware of the fraudulent activity. Therefore, the relator, or whistleblower, becomes entitled to receive a financial reward for their service to the country. Rewards will come if the litigation is successful.

What is the False Claims Act?

The False Claims Act is a federal law imposing liability on companies and individuals who defraud the U.S. government. Within the False Claims Act, there is a qui tam provision. This allows the individuals who know of the fraud against the government to “blow the whistle” on the illegal activities.

The False Claims Act requires either the Attorney General or an attorney with the Department of Justice to investigate any allegations of fraud against the government.

How long does the investigation take?

The government has 60 days to investigate any and all allegations posed in your complaint. However, they can request additional time if needed. After the investigation ends, a decision will be made as to whether or not the government will intervene in your case.

What happens if the government intervenes in my qui tam lawsuit?

The government may decide to intervene in your qui tam lawsuit. If so, the case will either be resolved through a settlement or a jury verdict.

What happens if the government does not join my qui tam lawsuit?

The government may decide not to intervene in your qui tam, or whistleblower lawsuit. Then your qui tam lawyer will help you decide if you should continue with the case or drop the case. If the government declines to participate in your qui tam lawsuit, that does not necessarily mean you do not have a valid case.

What should I do if I have a qui tam lawsuit?

Do you think you may have grounds for a qui tam lawsuit? You need to make sure to protect yourself and your rights. An experienced qui tam lawyer will walk you through the entire process of a qui tam lawsuit. They will let you know your rights and how to protect yourself as well as how to proceed with your case.

How to Report Suspected Fraud and Be a Medicaid Fraud Whistleblower

Medicaid fraud whistleblower

Medicaid fraud whistleblowerIf you have knowledge of fraud being committed by an organization that receives Medicaid funds, you may have grounds to become a Medicaid fraud whistleblower. Medicaid provides healthcare benefits to qualifying households from government funds. In order to become a Medicaid recipient, you must fall within certain income guidelines, having no health insurance or inadequate insurance for your medical needs.

What are the ins and outs of becoming a Medicaid fraud whistleblower?

Hospitals, physicians, pharmaceutical companies, or medical suppliers may commit Medicaid fraud. When a healthcare organization falsely conveys information to Medicaid, resulting in receiving additional compensation, this is considered to be Medicaid fraud.

Have reason to suspect your employer or your provider of Medicaid fraud?

You can become a Medicaid fraud whistleblower. One way to report suspected fraud is to make a complaint by calling the Attorney General’s Medicaid Investigations Division in your state. When you make the call, you will need to provide the following information:

  • First, the client’s name and Medicaid identification information.
  • Also, the name of the healthcare provider you are reporting.
  • Details concerning the service performed.
  • Finally, any evidence you have that fraud was committed.

Is this the easiest and safest way to report Medicaid fraud?

Calling a hotline concerning suspected fraud may seem like the easiest and safest way to report Medicaid fraud. However, there are downsides to making this choice. The False Claims Act entitles whistleblowers to up to 25 percent of the government funds recovered. The requirements for obtaining these funds have created a very involved process, one most whistleblowers are unable to navigate themselves. Don’t have an experienced Medicaid fraud attorney? You could miss out on the reward available to you for filing complaint against a healthcare organization committing Medicaid fraud.

When you hire an attorney who is knowledgeable of the process of filing a False Claims Act lawsuit, they will walk hand-in-hand with you through the process of becoming a Medicaid fraud whistleblower. Together with your attorney, you can take the steps that will increase your chances of a successful case and obtaining a portion of the recovered funds.

Can an attorney help you protect yourself from retaliation?

The False Claims Act clearly outlines the legal aspects of protection for whistleblowers. However, this statute can be difficult to navigate without proper representation. Having the right assistance and guidance will provide you with peace of mind as you move forward.

If you feel you have grounds for reporting suspected fraud and becoming a Medicaid fraud whistleblower, you need a qualified attorney on your side. You can learn more about Medicaid fraud and becoming a Medicaid fraud whistleblower. Most of all, call 770.643.1606 to contact one of our team members at Bothwell Law Group.

Top 5 Tips for Filing a Qui Tam Complaint

Qui Tam Complaint

Qui Tam ComplaintWhen you consider filing a qui tam complaint, there are many things to take into consideration in order to increase your chances of a successful lawsuit. Your reward for filing the complaint depends on the outcome of the case. So, it is important you understand the process to avoid missing out on the reward you deserve as a whistle blower.

Here are the top 5 tips for filing a qui tam complaint:

#1. Move Quickly to File a Qui Tam Complaint after Becoming Aware of Fraud

Whistle Blowers are only rewarded if they are the first person to come forward with the details of a specific fraud. Because of this, it is important you quickly report the fraud as soon as you have evidence that the crime was committed.

In addition to being the first to file a qui tam complaint, there is a statute of limitations in place for qui tam lawsuits. Typically, you must file a suit within six years of the fraud’s commission. Special circumstances do exist where the statute of limitations may increase to ten years. However, we still believe you should move as quickly as possible.

#2. Keep the Details of Your Claim Private

Until the government has completed their investigation, the details of a qui tam lawsuit remain sealed. This means, you are expected to keep the details to yourself. Choose to disclose information concerning your suit with the public or post about it online? You could harm your lawsuit and risk your chance at a reward.

#3. Work with Your Lawyer to Understand the Court System

You can file a qui tam lawsuit in any number of jurisdictions. Because of this, you can work with your lawyer to carefully select the appropriate court for filing your lawsuit.

#4. Collect as Much Evidence as Possible

The reward you collect is dependent on your lawyer’s ability to prove the occurrence of fraud. In a court system where innocent until proven guilty is the guiding rule, evidence is key to winning a lawsuit. When you become aware of fraud, collect physical evidence of the fraud for your qui tam complaint to increase your chance of a successful suit.

#5. Choose Your Attorney Carefully

Filing a qui tam lawsuit is no simple task. The False Claims Act is a complicated law, and understanding the ins and outs of filling a lawsuit requires experience and extensive knowledge of the law. Carefully research each attorney before making a choice. Be sure you choose someone who has experience with fraud and a reputation for winning qui tam lawsuits.

Our team at Bothwell Law Group is experienced in whistle blower and qui tam lawsuits in Georgia and the surrounding area. Call 770-643-1606 to find out more about filing a qui tam complaint by contacting Bothwell Law Group online.

10 Ways to Know You Have Hired the Best Civil Litigation Attorney

Civil Litigation Attorney

Civil Litigation AttorneyHiring a civil litigation attorney is relative to the situation at hand. In doing so, you want to hire the attorney that will best meet your needs. However, there are some considerations in the hiring of a civil litigation attorney that can make the experience of civil litigation not only bearable, but can turn the matter into a success.

Here is how to know you have the best civil litigation attorney:

1. You want an attorney that you get along with.

Civil litigation is so difficult regardless of which side you are on. You want to make sure that your attorney explains the process to you and protects you from the worst of the process.

2. Your attorney is upfront concerning his or her opinion on the outcome of the matter.

Your civil ligation attorney has an opinion based on his or her expertise. It is important to understand what that opinion is and the likelihood of prevailing. This will drive the entire litigation and the likelihood of settlement.

3. Your attorney has a clearly written and understandable fee agreement.

This agreement is the basis of your relationship with your attorney. Most problems between and attorney and client arise out of the lack of a clear understanding of the fees payable to your attorney. Make sure that you fully understand the fee agreement and what it entails.

4. Your attorney communicates with you regularly and clearly.

Communication is so important. Things can change quickly as civil litigation unfolds. It is important that your civil litigation attorney can communicate with you concerning the changes in trajectory as they arise.

5. Your attorney doesn’t promise you a specific outcome.

We all want to win. But there are so many variables in civil litigation. We cannot know the outcome before engaging in the process.

6. Your attorney follows through.

This is the idea of credibility. If your civil litigation attorney tells you, or the judge, or opposing counsel that he or she will do something, your attorney flows through and does what they have said they would. Credibility leads to trustworthiness. You must be able to trust your attorney.

7. Your attorney is civil with others.

Civil litigation is similar to combat, but it needn’t be combative. It is important for your attorney to be persuasive, not confrontational.

8. Your attorney is persuasive.

The power of persuasive writing and speaking is so important in civil litigation. Attorneys work to perfect this skill. You want your civil litigation attorney to persuade others that yours is the correct position.

9. Your attorney is organized.

Organization is a skill related to being able to conduct oneself professionally. It leads to a more cohesive presentation of the case and that can be persuasive to the trier of fact.

10. Your attorney is a skilled negotiator.

Most cases are settled out of court during negotiations. Being a skilled negotiator involves not only being skilled in the law, it also requires a great deal of people skill. A good civil litigation attorney is an expert at handling people.

The above list is just 10 Ways to Know You Have Hired the Best Civil Litigation Attorney. This is not an exhaustive list, but most of the items listed above are crucial in litigation. Interview your attorney before you hire them.

How to Tell If You’ve Hired the Best Whistleblower Attorneys Available

best Whistleblower Attorneys

best Whistleblower AttorneysIs it worth it to hire the best whistleblower attorneys? Qui tam cases can result in rewards in the hundreds of thousands of dollars or more. When that kind of money is on the line, you don’t want to take chances. If you are building your dream home, you want the best housebuilders around. If you are bringing a qui tam case, you want the best whistleblower attorneys to help you.

Here are a few factors to consider as you determine whether or not you’ve found the best whistleblower attorneys for your qui tam case:

The Best Whistleblower Attorneys Know Their Stuff

It’s pretty simple to become the lead dog at anything; you need to know what you’re doing. The greatest teacher is experience. When you look for a whistleblower attorney, look for someone who has a track record proving their knowledge and their ability to win.

Most attorneys have an area in which they excel and focus and receive ongoing training in that area, and also know the most up-to-date information. When it comes to whistleblowing, the entire process is very detailed and can be complicated. Your attorney needs to know the best move to make at each stage of the game.

Don’t settle for an attorney with just a winning track record in court. You want to choose an attorney with a winning record for qui tam cases. The qui tam case is different than many other types of lawsuits because you are bringing a case to the government for investigation. There are layers of red tape and plenty of I’s to dot and T’s to cross, so everything is laid out according to the rules.

Many attorneys have experience in employment discrimination suits or class action suits, which have certain commonalities with False Claims Act suits, but this is not the same as a lawyer who knows how to handle the critical differences of a whistleblower suit properly. Make sure you choose an attorney with a proven track record of qui tam cases they have won in court.

A good qui tam case requires a lot of resources, both financial and human. There are a lot of expenses involved in building a whistleblower case. Money is needed for investigating, filing papers, and hiring consultants to research and analyze documentation. Every allegation needs to be substantiated, and that takes time and money.

Experienced whistleblower attorneys have a team of lawyers and other professionals to take on the work. Experts, each working in their particular area, will put together the most airtight case possible. These experts will need to meet with you to consult and gather your information. The right whistleblower attorney may even take care of the travel expenses for you.

Look for Whistleblower Attorneys You Like

A strong whistleblower case doesn’t happen quickly. It can take as long as three years, so you want to make sure you like your attorney. While their knowledge and track record are both critical, you need to have an attorney who you like so you don’t cringe every time you have contact. Your attorney is the one who not only puts your case together but also negotiates your reward, so a solid working relationship is important.

Make sure the attorney you choose is willing to listen to you and provide you with updates on the case. While you can’t expect him to call you with every little detail, you should receive regular updates when progress takes place.

Your qui tam attorney must convince the Department of Justice to intervene and take on your case. While the strength of your case will be the determining factor, a good relationship can only work in your favor.

Whistleblowing can be very stressful, and you want an attorney who understands that and has some compassion for your position.

Has Your Whistleblower Attorney Made It Clear Why You Should Hire Them?

When interviewing attorneys for the job, make sure you ask them plenty of questions and make sure you get clear answers. Find out if they have the time and resources to represent your case efficiently. Ask about their track record with qui tam cases and request some real-life examples.

Question how much documentation they need from you and what their policy is to find more. Ask about retainer fees and contingency fees. Find out if the firm covers the expenses, to be recouped from the reward. If not, what are the expectations for payment? Ask if they will ask for damages including their fees or if the costs will come out of the reward.

You hire your attorneys, and, therefore, they work for you. Don’t be afraid to ask the questions you need to ask to feel confident in your decision. Once you hire your attorneys, trust in their ability to do what you need, unless the evidence shows they cannot. When you can trust your lawyer, much of your stress related to the case will fall away.

If you’re planning a whistleblower case, the attorney you hire is the most important decision you can make. Have questions about what makes for the best whistleblower attorneys? Contact the Bothwell Law Group online today.

How Are Medicare Whistleblower Rewards Paid?

How Are Medicare Whistleblower Rewards Paid

How Are Medicare Whistleblower Rewards PaidAre you looking for answers regarding how Medicare whistleblower rewards are paid? The truth is Medicare whistleblowers can wind up with a very lucrative payout. By seeking qualified representation for whistleblower law and Qui Tam Law cases, a whistleblower’s potential for a payout from the liable parties can be substantial.

What Is the Whistleblower Law?

The whistleblower law is part of the False Claims Act, which was created in 1863 to crack down on Civil War profiteering. The False Claims Act was revamped and amended by Congress in 1989, making it more accessible and rewarding for any citizen to report false claims against the government. In essence, the law provides both reward and protection from retribution for someone who reports a validated fraud against the government or against public interest.

Whistleblowers, those who speak up about illegal practices affecting government agencies and other industries, have often been silenced by various forms of retribution including job loss, promotion freezes, blacklisting, and many other damaging practices.

The whistleblower law encourages citizens to come forward and inform the government of such fraudulent acts by protecting them from these consequences. The addition of the Qui Tam Law extends these rights by allowing the whistleblower to be rewarded financially, based on the amount recovered by the government in the court action.

How Does Qui Tam Work?

The Qui Tam Law allows an individual, known as a relator, to bring a lawsuit based on claims against the False Claims Act. The citizen, with a lawyer who is knowledgeable about the False Claims Act, brings the evidence to the court and asks the court to investigate the claim.

A relator is someone who has first-hand knowledge about the fraud. They will have access to documents to prove the claim. A Qui Tam claim is kept under seal, confidential, for at least 60 days, initially, although it is not uncommon for the court to extend this time. During the investigation, the entire matter is kept secret. The individual(s) being investigated are not made aware of the allegations or the inquiry.

Evidence in these cases can include things like shipping reports, invoices, bidding information, profit information among many other types of documents. The evidence must be first-hand, direct knowledge, supported by documents. If the court decides there is ample evidence to proceed, they will intervene, and they will then prosecute the case.

You remain a party to the case and cannot be dismissed or removed from the case without a hearing. If the government does not intervene, you can continue the case without them, through your whistleblower representation lawyer. It is much harder to win without the government intervention, but if you do, the reward is higher.

How Are Medicare Whistleblowers Paid?

The relator- whistleblower- is paid via a system determined by the False Claims Act. It begins with the court determining the amount of the penalties owed by the provider or practice. As a part of the lawsuit, the number of violations is added up. The letter of the law states that every single line of billing that is fraudulent is a separate violation, even if there are 25 on a single form. However, many courts have determined that each form is a violation, even if there are 25 separate entries. Once the number of violations is clear, the formula comes into play.

For each count, there is a penalty of between $5,500 and $11,000. Also, the amount of money the government was defrauded is refunded times three. When you consider that a winning case in court probably has hundreds or thousands of claims, the penalties can add up to tens of millions or even hundreds of millions of dollars in some cases.

The relator- the whistleblower- is awarded from 15-30% of the money recovered by the government. The potential for a very large reward is clear. It is not unusual for whistleblowers to receive rewards in the millions of dollars on large, high profile claims.

Some of the highest payouts ever made to whistleblowers include Medicare fraud. In 1999, Whistleblower George Courto, who worked for Bayer, filed a Qui Tam action against his employer and GlaxoSmithKline for selling relabeled drugs to an HMO on the cheap and not reporting the information to avoid paying millions of dollars in rebates to Medicaid. The total payout came to $344 million dollars and $34 million went to the estate of the whistleblower. In another Medicare case, GlaxoSmithKline paid out $333 million in penalties. The whistleblower here received over $53 million.

If you work for any provider that bills to Medicare and you are concerned about fraud issues, you should talk to an attorney who can help. The best way to know if an actual crime is being committed, and to keep yourself protected in the event of a blame-game, is to speak with an attorney who deals exclusively with whistleblower Qui Tam cases.  Have questions about how Medicare whistleblowers are paid? Click to contact the Bothwell Law Group online.

Medicare False Claims Act Penalties: Who Actually Pays?

Medicare False Claims Act Penalties

Medicare False Claims Act PenaltiesWho pays when it comes to Medicare False Claims Act penalties? There are laws in place that require real penalties and pay rewards to citizens who report the fraud as well. The False Claims Act penalties exist to recover some of the billions of dollars fraudulently taken annually.

What Medicare False Claims Act Penalties Are There?

Unfortunately, Medicare is the pot of gold for several different types of fraudulent acts that carry strict penalties under the False Claims Act. There are blatant and continual scams being perpetrated. Under the Qui Tam Law, the person who brings these criminal acts to court can also be compensated if the government receives restitution from the case. Some of these include:

  • Billing Medicare for services that were not provided
  • Billing Medicare for services that were not medically necessary.
  • Billing Medicare for services at a standard of care/certification that was not provided to the patient
  • Kickbacks given for referrals of patients in Medicare
  • Self-referral for Medicare patients

Medicare False Claims Act Penalties: How Does This Happen?

One of the largest types of crimes with penalties under the False Claims Act is billing Medicare for services that are never actually provided. Many times this is as simple as it sounds—submitting charges for services no one performs. Often, the deception is done so overtly that the patient files have nothing to back up the charge—no orders, no notation of the patient having been seen, or no follow up. When these cases are prosecuted, they are relatively easy to prove, although direct testimony from patients is needed.

Other fraudulent billing practices include coding issues. Each medical procedure has a code that someone enters into a form for billing purposes. Often an incorrect code is entered, leading to billing for a higher cost service. Human error accounts for some mistakes, of course, but a pattern of errors points to fraud.

Many services are bundled together and given a code as a group. Another type of coding error involves unbundling these services and placing individual charges, which can be significantly higher.

Another fraud consists of bills submitted to Medicare for services that are not medically necessary, such as unnecessary tests, imaging, or equipment.

Some providers will bill Medicare for services at a higher level of care than a patient received. This violation can include charging a specialist fee without the patient consulting with a specialist or charging for an M.D. when a nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant provided the services.

Kickbacks are a widely known type of fraud in the healthcare industry. Kickbacks concerning Medicare include providers who accept payment or reward in return for soliciting Medicare recipients. Many cases involve a health care provider receiving a financial incentive for purchasing special equipment and then billing Medicare for that equipment without revealing the kickback.

Self-referrals are when a doctor refers a patient to a practice in which the doctor is an invested owner. A doctor cannot be financially benefitting from a referral. A referral is done to get a client the best health care, not to increase one’s coffers.

So, Who Actually Pays for Medicare False Claims Act Penalties?

When a fraudulent claim is brought to court and successfully prosecuted, there are penalties to be paid. The penalties are based on the number of counts of fraud, the amount of money recovered, as well as up to three times the programs’ losses.

Every single charge, every single kickback, every single misrepresentation is considered a claim. It’s easy to see how the number of claims can add up quickly. The penalty for each claim is assessed on the amount of damages to the government—in other words, the amount of money Medicare paid out for the fraudulent claims. The liable party must pay three times the amount of these costs. Also, there is a penalty assessed between $5,500 and $11,000, for each claim.

The claim is paid by the person or business found liable for the fraud by the court. It should come as no surprise to anyone that there are insurance policies available to healthcare professionals to help defray these costs. Insurance can be obtained to cover both the defense and the penalties in False Claims Act claims.

If someone is notified of False Claims Act charges, they should immediately tender notice to their insurance provider. If the provider does not tender notice as soon as possible, they are potentially forfeiting their coverage and protection.

If you are looking for more information about False Claims Act penalties and how the Qui Tam Law benefits the person who brings this type of fraud to court, call (770) 643-1606 to learn more by contacting Bothwell Law Group online.

Top 3 Examples of False Claims Act Violations and Penalties

False Claims Act Violations

False Claims Act ViolationsIf you are seeking information about False Claims Act Violations, it will help to have some real life examples about these violations and penalties. Before we get into those, let’s get a basic understanding of what the False Claims Act is:

  • The Act, also known as the Lincoln Law, was created in 1863 under Abraham Lincoln’s administration, to expose fraud and profiteering during the Civil War.
  • It allowed people to expose others who made a false claim against the government.
  • The Act provided protection from retaliation actions such as job loss or other damages.
  • In 1989, the Qui Tam Law was added, allowing private citizens to sue on behalf of the US government, keeping a percentage (usually 15-30%) of the recovered money for themselves.

How Are False Claims Act Violations Investigated?

The Qui Tam Law allows for a private citizen to bring evidence of a violation to the government, to request they investigate the allegation and potentially join the lawsuit. The Qui Tam is a civil suit. The investigation is confidential. Not even the person or organization under investigation is informed of the probe.

This confidentiality allows the US Justice Department to investigate the allegations with no harm or repercussions to either party. Once the inquiry is complete, the government decides if they will intervene. If the federal government chooses not to go forward with the action, the private citizen (and their attorney) may continue on their own. The chance of success is much higher when the government is a party to the lawsuit.

Who Are the Top False Claims Act Violators?

Qui Tam Law is used to bring some of the violators to justice, including Medicare and Medicaid Fraud, prescription drug fraud, and defense contractor fraud. These three areas commit the most violations of the False Claims Act. In fact, of the highest paid settlements on record, nine of the top ten involve the health care or prescription drug industries.

For the fiscal year ending September 2015, the top violator by far was the healthcare industry, accounting for nearly half of the $3.5 billion recovered in False Claims Act violations. Charges included inadequate or unnecessary medical procedures and treatments, kickbacks to medical providers and overcharging for Medicare/Medicaid programs. The government recovered $1.9 billion in these health care violations.

Some of the largest violations occur in the area of prescription drugs. The FDA authorizes all prescription drugs for specific uses and conditions. A doctor may make a decision to use a drug for a different condition than its original use. This prescribing is known as an off-label use of the medication and does not violate any law.

However, the drug manufacturer may not promote the drug for an off-label use. Doing so is a violation of the False Claims Act. Any kickback or benefit offered to a doctor, by a drug manufacturer is considered evidence of the breach.

Drug manufacturers are also in violation if healthcare providers receive kickbacks for prescribing certain drugs. While providing samples or referring patients can be done, doing so to provide a payback for prescribing certain drugs is fraud and is provided for under the False Claims Act and Qui Tam Law.

Other top offenders include government contract workers. Cases of government contractors who fail to fulfill the requirements of the contract yet bill for the fulfillment of the deal are standard. These violations can include substituting lower quality materials than what is required or failing to perform quality assurance checks.

Government contract violations include the implicit agreement to provide what the contract states, without substitution. Even if the substitution is of equal quality, it is not allowed and is a violation.

Contract violations include actions such as inflating bids with false information, awarding bids based on falsified information, and failing to comply with contracts available only to minority-owned businesses, female-owned businesses, or small businesses.

How Large Can the Penalties Be for False Claims Act Violations?

Penalties for False Claim Act violations can be astronomical, with the largest on record against pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline who paid out $3 billion in civil and criminal penalties. Some of this money was then passed onto the whistleblowers in each case. There were several cases involved that included the company pleading guilty to falsifying and fabricating research, bribing doctors with luxury vacations and of providing marketing kits packed with unproven claims, specifically regarding nine different drugs.

False Claims Act violations come from employees working for and with the violators. They have first-hand knowledge. One of the most important reasons to report false claims is for your own protection. All investigations, under the Qui Tam Law, are kept sealed. If your place of employment is under scrutiny, your position in the company could make you complicit. By coming forward with the information, you are protecting yourself from being inadvertently charged as part of the fraud.

If you think you have information regarding a False Claims Act violation, the best first step is to call an attorney who is informed and experienced in Qui Tam Law cases. These laws are influx on a regular basis, so choose lawyers who committed and dedicated to this type of work and up-to-date on any changes. Call (770) 643-1606 to find out more about False Claims Act violations by contacting Bothwell Law Group online.

What Types of Protection Do the Whistleblower Protection Laws Provide?

Whistleblower protection laws

Whistleblower protection lawsWhistleblower Protection Laws, based on the False Claims Act, are intended to prevent retaliation against federal workers and private citizens who speak out regarding crimes, ethical violations, and other illegal behavior committed against the public interest. It’s true that these laws can bring compensation, but it’s important to know more than that fact alone. To gain an understanding about the types of protection the laws provide, let’s take a look at some of the better-known whistleblowers of our time.

What words come to mind when you hear these three names: Edward Snowden, Deep Throat, and Linda Tripp? These notorious whistleblowers’ names invoke varying emotions, based on your personal views.

Did Snowden betray his government or was he following a higher calling of “the people deserve the truth?” He’s been living in asylum in Russia, via Hong Kong, ever since he leaked classified documents regarding private citizen surveillance. Snowden calls it whistleblowing; the US government calls it espionage.

In 1974, a man known as Deep Throat, FBI Associate Director W. Mark Felt, played a critical role in what came to be known as Watergate and led to President Richard Nixon’s resignation in 1974. He revealed himself as the infamous source for reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washington Post, but not until 30 years after the events took place.

Then, of course, there’s Linda Tripp. She announced the scandal about Monica Lewinski and Bill Clinton and the whole sordid blue dress affair. She got fired – and won a $600,000 lawsuit as a result of that retaliation by the Clinton administration.

Who Are the Whistleblowers in Protection Laws?

The definition of a whistleblower is a person who tells police, reporters, etc., about something (such as a crime) that has been kept secret; one who reveals something covert or who informs against another. According to the Whistleblower Protection Laws, whistleblowers are protected from retaliation by law.

In a case like Ms. Tripp’s, protection comes in the form of financial compensation, but not until both her reputation and her career fell to ruins. The number two man at the FBI, Mark Felt, kept his identity as Nixon’s whistleblower secret for nearly the rest of his life. Snowden will likely never set foot on U.S. soil again.

It’s no secret you can pay a pretty steep price for being a whistleblower. There will always be stories, some true and some not, about retaliation including everything from being re-assigned to a windowless, basement office to losing jobs and being blacklisted throughout the industry.

What Are Whistleblower Protection Laws?

Whistleblower protection laws are based on the False Claims Act, which was amended by Congress in 1986 to provide protection to people who report abuses, misconduct, and crimes in government agencies.

Originally, whistleblowers had to be federal employees, but this amendment opened the door to private citizen protection as well to encourage transparency and enforcement of laws. There are a variety of different whistleblower protection laws throughout government agencies. They can be federal laws or state laws.

The IRS Whistleblower Program pulled from the Tax Relief and Health Act of 2006, provides rewards to the people who provide first-hand information on tax evasion practices from 15 – 30% of the amount recovered in cases valued at $2 million or more. The Program is intended to encourage citizens to come to the IRS with information about tax evasion.

Whistleblower protection provisions are written into many other laws, offering protection to workers in nearly any industry and government agency. They are continually being added, amended, and updated to provide greater protection against retaliation. For example:

  • OSHA has created whistleblower protection laws to protect those reporting safety violations.
  • The Dodd-Frank Act protects reporters of violation of securities laws.
  • The Presidential Policy Directive 19 protects against retaliation for those in the Intelligence agencies.

If an employer retaliates against an employee for reporting abuse, these laws provide protections, but only if the employee can prove retaliation came as a result of the reporting. The adverse action cannot connect to any other aspect of the employee’s job. This distinction can lead employers to create other reasons for the adverse action taken to dismiss the protection afforded by Whistleblower’s Protection laws.

Is There a Time Limit on Whistleblower Protection Laws?

Whistleblower protection laws do include statutes of limitations regarding time to file a complaint. These time constraints vary according to the industry and the particulars of the violations. Some whistleblower protection laws are state legislation as well as federal statutes, and the statute of limitations does apply. Ten years is the absolute outside limit, but generally, six years from when the offense was committed is considered the limit.

Whistleblower protection laws are complex and variable from situation to situation. It’s important to have an attorney with extensive experience in false claims acts and whistleblowing protection. An attorney who works solely with false claims acts will be an invaluable asset when pursuing a claim, so it’s always wise to consult such an attorney from the very beginning of your case.

Contact the skilled whistleblower protection laws attorneys at Bothwell Law Group by calling 770.643.1606 today.

The Top 5 Things You Need to Know About Qui Tam Suits Before You Proceed

Qui Tam Suits

Qui Tam SuitsIf 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.

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.

Breaking Down the Qui Tam Lawsuit Definition So Anyone Can Understand It

Qui Tam Lawsuit Definition

Qui Tam Lawsuit DefinitionAre you searching for information to learn more about a qui tam lawsuit? It’s a rather complicated legal topic, but we will do our best to break it down for you in layman’s terms. Keep reading for the details you need to know if you are considering or involved in a qui tam lawsuit.

Under the False Claims Act, the qui tam law allows a private party to bring a claim against another party for false billing to the federal government or for withholding information resulting in a higher cost to the federal government.

Qui Tam Lawsuit: When to Litigate

The federal government always retains the right to take on a false claims case and pursue it first. However, where the Department of Justice decides that a case is not a priority to pursue, then the reporting party can bring a lawsuit at his cost and charge the false claim defendant in federal civil court.

If the reporting party wins the case, he would then be eligible to between 15 and 25 percent of the total recoveries due to the federal government. While this may sound like a small amount, it’s frequently the case that the erroneous cost amount covers multiple years and hundreds of billings.

Qui Tam Is Not Necessarily Whistleblower Protection

The qui tam provision of the False Claims Act is frequently confused with being a whistleblower protection clause, but they are not the same. Whistleblower protections help ensure a reporting party is not unfairly retaliated against in their career or life from reporting. The qui tam provision, however, provides whistleblowers with the ability to carry out a lawsuit penalizing a wrongdoing defendant. The protection law is related, but separate.

The basis of the qui tam lawsuit option started as far back as 1899 under an obscure law known as the House Refuse Act. However, under British common law, the concept was in play up to four centuries earlier. The early U.S. law was one of the first allowing lawsuits by private parties to enforce the provisions of the related federal law.

Qui Tam Lawsuit Options and Benefits

The benefit of the Qui Tam option is twofold. First, it allows the Department of Justice civil branch to prioritize its cases without completely missing the opportunity to pursue a matter of concern. Often a report may seem to be serious, but the evidence is insufficient for the federal government to pursue.

Another possibility is that the Department of Justice branch is overwhelmed and focused on much bigger cases already, being unable to spare resources for the latest report. The Qui Tam option allows the reporting party to pursue the matter in court to the benefit of the federal government. This keeps the issue alive and ensures that a wrongdoing party still ends up being held responsible. It also works as an active deterrent to intentional financial wrongdoing.

From the defending company perspective, the Qui Tam option is a dual exposure for liability. Again, either the Department of Justice or the reporting party can sue the company. Both options can result in significant damages if wrongdoing is proven and confirmed in court. And similar to other false claims charges, how a company responds when incorrect actions or wrongdoing are identified makes a big difference in the outcomes legally.

The qui tam lawsuit is a serious step and should be handled with sensitivity. To better understand how to proceed in a quit tam lawsuit, contact our team at Bothwell Law Group.