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Qui Tam Whistleblower FAQWhat is qui tam?
Qui tam is a latin phrase meaning, "He who pursues this action on our Lord the King's behalf as well as his own." Qui tam is part of the False Claims Act (FCA), which enables a private citizen to file a lawsuit in on behalf of the Federal Government for fraud by individuals or businesses that use federal funds. Today these actions are sometimes referred to as whistleblower lawsuits and the False Claims Act is sometimes referred to as the whistleblower law.
Who is a whistleblower?
A whistleblower is an employee who observes actions or behaviors that constitute fraud or criminal activity by the employer, and decides to speak out publicly about it. A qui tam lawsuit is an action brought under the False Claims Act by a private plaintiffthe whistleblower-- on behalf of the Federal Government. The whistleblower who brings an action in a whistleblower lawsuit brought on behalf of the US government is known as a "relator." A relator is a qui tam plaintiff.
What is the False Claims Act?
The False Claims Act is 31 U.S.C. Sections 3729 through 3733. Qui tam, which is part of the False Claims Act (FCA), allows persons and entities with evidence of fraud against federal programs or contracts to sue the wrongdoer on behalf of the US Government. In Qui tam actions, the government has the right to intervene and join the action. If the government declines, the whistleblower(s) may proceed on their own.
What is a false claim?
The FCA defines "claim" as "any request or demand, whether under a contract or otherwise, for money or property which is made to a contractor, grantee, or other recipient" if any portion of it will be provided or reimbursed by the US. Under the FCA, if a false claim is made to a party other than the government and results in a federal loss, it may also be actionable.
What are some common qui tam lawsuits?
Qui tam covers cases of fraud against Medicare, Medicaid, FDA, GSA, HUD, USDA, U.S. Postal Service, NIH and the military, with the exception of fraud against the IRS. Some common qui tam lawsuits involve the following:
- Healthcare Fraud
- Medicare Fraud and Medicaid Fraud
- Pharmaceutical Company Fraud
- Procurement Fraud
- Defense Contractor Fraud
- Government Fraud
- Companies or individuals that retain illegally obtained funds.
- Substandard patient care on the part of nursing homes and other health care institutions
Some Actions considered violations of the FCA include:
- knowingly presenting (or caused to be presented) to the federal government a false or fraudulent claim for payment;
- knowingly using (or causing to be used) a false record or statement to get a claim paid by the federal government;
- conspiring with others to get a false or fraudulent claim paid by the federal government; and
- knowingly using (or causing to be used) a false record or statement to conceal, avoid, or decrease an obligation to pay money or transmit property to the federal government.
Anyone can file a quit tam lawsuit and more than one person or entity can join together and file, as long as there is evidence of fraud against federal programs or contracts. You may not bring a lawsuit, however, if the government or a private entity has already filed a qui tam lawsuit based on the same evidence as you.
What can I expect to receive under the False Claims Act?
Violators of the FCA are liable for three times the dollar amount that the government is defrauded. A qui tam whistleblower (relator) can expect 15 to 30 percent of the total recovery from the defendant, either from a favorable judgment or settlement. You will receive an award if, and after, the government recovers money from the defendant as a result of your lawsuit.
Does the False Claims Act provide protection for whistleblowers?
The FCA provides protection to employees who participate in a qui tam lawsuit and are then retaliated against by an employer because of the employee's qui tam action. Any employee who is fired, demoted, threatened, harassed or otherwise discriminated against by his or her employer because the employee investigates, files or participates in a qui tam action is protected under the whistleblower protection provision of the FCA.
Whistleblower protection includes reinstatement with the same seniority status that the employee would have had. In a case of discrimination, two times the amount of back pay, interest on the back pay, and compensation for any special damages sustained as a result of the discrimination, including litigation costs and reasonable attorney's fees.
Whistleblower actions must be the basis for the employer's retaliatory actions. If so, a lawsuit may be brought against the employer.
Can I keep my identity a secret if I file a qui tam action?
The government and the Court will know your identity once you file a qui tam action, but under the FCA, your identity is kept a secret while the case is "under seal". The Defendant will not be aware that you have filed the lawsuit. Typically, your name will be made public when the Government investigation is completed, which may take several years, or the Judge will no longer give the Government extensions of time regarding the seal. It is possible to file a qui tam action and then voluntarily dismiss it during the seal period without having your identity revealed.
Is there a deadline for filing a qui tam lawsuit?
Yes, there is a deadline and a statute of limitations. A qui tam deadline depends on the type of case you are filing, but you must file within six years of the date when the fraudulent act occurred.
Qui tam statute of limitations also indicates that the filing must be done within three years of the time the government should have or did know about the fraudulent act. This cannot be longer than 10 years after the fraudulent act occurred. In other words, under the FCA, an action must be filed within the later of the following two time periods:
- Six years from the date of the violation;
- Three years after the Government knows or should have known about the violation, but in no event longer than 10 years after the violation of the act.
Yes and no. Claims for tax fraud are not covered under the FCA. The Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, however, includes a whistleblower provision. A section of the Act allows whistleblower rewards for individuals who provide information about tax law violations that involve tax, penalties, and interest of over $2 million dollars by a person whose annual gross income exceeds $200,000.00. The reward is between 15 and 30 percent of the collected proceeds if the IRS pursues an administrative or judicial action.
Are qui tam suits like any other lawsuit?
A qui tam lawsuit is filed under seal, unlike a common civil or criminal lawsuit. Also, after being filed, the Complaint is served on the US Department of Justice, Civil Division, but not the defendant(s), who are not served until ordered by the court. In a qui tam suit a "disclosure statement" or "relator statement" must accompany the Complaint. The relator statement is similar to a prosecution memorandum in which counsel details the specific allegations, evidence in support thereof, and identification of witnesses. Unlike other lawsuits, so long as the qui tam case remains under seal, the whistleblower/relator is prohibited from discussing the case with anyone (other than his or her attorney) including co-workers, friends and family.
How do I file a qui tam lawsuit?
Informing the government about a violation is not enough; you must first file a qui tam lawsuit with a qualified qui tam attorney to be eligible to recover money under the FCA.
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Last updated on Apr-4-11