Our attorneys have significant experience representing whistleblowers in cases of fraud committed against governmental entities.
Whistleblower lawsuits are on the rise as citizens help disclose cases of fraud against the government – reaping large rewards for their efforts. These cases, also known as qui tam lawsuits, range from health care fraud involving Medicare and Medicaid to defense procurements and construction cases. One of the most common types of whistleblower lawsuits involves health care fraud by pharmaceutical companies, hospital corporations and clinical laboratories which improperly bill the government, often through the Medicare and Medicaid programs, for drugs or services.
Whistleblower lawsuits have flourished in recent years as they allow private citizens to sue on behalf of the government even though the individual has suffered no personal harm. Whistleblower lawsuits can be complex and it is helpful to obtain representation from attorneys experienced in dealing with government agencies and major corporations. We are leaders in the field of representing whistleblowers and bringing their claims under federal and state false claims acts – against corporations that use federal programs as a vehicle to defraud the government.
Our attorneys prepare each case as if it is going to trial. That willingness to try lawsuits adds value to our clients’ cases and has contributed to the resounding success our firm has achieved in complex cases both in settlements and verdicts.
What is the False Claims Act and How does a Qui Tam Lawsuit Work?
Qui tam lawsuits are a type of civil lawsuit which individuals, known as “whistleblowers,” bring under the False Claims Act. The False Claims Act rewards whistleblowers if their qui tam cases recover funds for the government. Qui tam cases are a powerful way for whistleblowers to help the government stop many kinds of fraud – Medicare and Medicaid fraud, defense contractor fraud and numerous other types of fraud that impact the government financially.
The False Claims Act rewards whistleblowers whose qui tam lawsuits recover government funds and provides job protection to whistleblowers because of the professional and personal risks they take to expose and stop fraud against the government.
Under the False Claims Act, a private citizen may sue an individual or business that is defrauding the government and recover funds on the government’s behalf. The qui tam lawsuit is filed “under seal,” meaning that it is kept secret from everyone but the government to give the Justice Department time to investigate the allegations. Even the person or entity being accused of fraud is not told about the qui tam case. The qui tam lawsuit and supporting documents should provide the government with detailed information about the fraud.
The government investigates the allegations, often with the assistance of the whistleblower’s attorney, and decides whether it will join or “intervene” in the case. Although whistleblowers have the option under the False Claims Act to pursue qui tam cases on their own when the government declines to join the case, the chances of success are much greater if the government elects to intervene.
The False Claims Act states that a qui tam case will be sealed for sixty days, but courts generally extend the seal multiple times to give the government enough time to investigate the allegations to decide whether to join the case. It is not uncommon for the government to request the court to partially lift the seal on the qui tam lawsuit to discuss the allegations and a possible settlement with the individual or entity accused of the fraud. Typically, qui tam cases are resolved through settlement negotiations rather than a full-blown trial.
Under the False Claims Act, the wrongdoer may be required to pay as much as three times the amount lost by the government due to the fraud of the wrongdoer, as well as penalties for each false claim submitted to the government.
The amount of the reward to the whistleblower, also known as the “relator,” will depend upon a number of factors. The quality of the case presented to the Justice Department and the work of the whistleblower’s attorney in achieving a successful result, are important factors. If the government intervenes in a qui tam case and recovers money from the wrongdoers, the relator is entitled to a reward of fifteen to twenty-five percent of the amount recovered. If the government declines to intervene and a qui tam case is successfully pursued by the whistleblower, the reward to the relator ranges between twenty-five and thirty percent of the amount recovered.
Lewis & Roberts handles whistleblower lawsuits on a contingency fee basis. No contingency fee will be owed by any client unless there is a recovery.