Qui Tam Actions: What You Need To Know
When a company that does business with the government is cheating the government in some way, there are often employees or other people who are aware of the fraud. They might want to expose the fraud, but they know that becoming a whistleblower can be risky. Qui Tam actions are meant to provide financial incentives for individual whistleblowers to step forward with the information that they have about the wrongdoing against the government. These actions allow individuals, who are called “relators,” to sue on behalf of the government and, if they win, to get a share of any savings or recovery that the government collects as a result of the lawsuit.
The whistleblower’s share of the proceeds can be a substantial amount of money. Relators are entitled to receive from 15 percent to as much as 30 percent of the money that the government collects.
Relators are also legally protected against any attempts by employers to retaliate against them, such as by harassing, firing, or demoting them. Employees, independent contractors, and agents are all protected.
Qui Tam actions are authorized under the False Claims Act, a law that originated during the Civil War. At that time, the Union Army was ordering supplies but not getting what it had paid for. So the False Claims Act was passed to create a reward system to encourage people with knowledge of the fraud to report it.
What Does “Qui Tam” Mean?
Qui Tam is part of a longer phrase that means “he who sues on behalf of the king sues for himself as well.” This phrase traces back to the Middle Ages. The “king” in today’s world is usually the federal government but can also be a state or local government.
Example of Fraud Against the Government
Say an office supply company had a contract with the federal government to provide 100,000 pens per month. After a few months, the company started shipping only 95,000 pens, while still getting paid for 100,000. No one seemed to notice, so the company then reduced the number to 90,000. They got away with it for several years until an employee of the company who knew about the fraud decided to expose the scheme. By bringing a Qui Tam action, the whistleblower will receive a percentage of the money that the government will recover, if the action is successful, for the products the government paid for but didn’t receive.
This is a simple example but fraud schemes are often complex, involving multiple entities used to try to hide the wrongdoer’s tracks. An experienced Qui Tam lawyer knows how to unravel complex webs of fraudulent conduct and present a strong, compelling case.
Rules for Qui Tam Actions
Qui Tam actions are subject to special rules that make them different from other kinds of lawsuits.
- Qui Tam actions must be filed under seal. When the action is under seal, the company does not know that it was filed. Actions typically remain under seal for years.
- Qui Tam actions should be filed as quickly as possible. Only the first person who has new information may be allowed to file a Qui Tam action.
- Qui Tam actions must be based on information that is not public. An experienced Qui Tam lawyer can help you sort out what information is public and what to do if your information includes both public and non-public information.
- You must serve a Disclosure Statement. The most critical step in a Qui Tam action is preparing the required disclosure statement, which is served on the government. The disclosure statement must present all the evidence that the whistleblower has and should be presented in the most effective way.
All of these requirements are different from the requirements that you would face in an ordinary lawsuit. For this reason, you should always consult a lawyer with Qui Tam experience if you want to file an action under the False Claims Act.
What Happens After You File a Qui Tam Claim?
After you file a Qui Tam lawsuit, your materials get sent to the federal Department of Justice, which will investigate your claim. The government will then decide if it wants to intervene and join in the claim. Whether it does or not, you can still pursue the action. However, your chances of success will be greater if the government intervenes, which it does in about 20 percent of Qui Tam actions. With government intervention, 95 percent of Qui Tam claims are successful, either through settlement negotiations or via a court judgment.
Do You Have a Good Case for a Qui Tam Action?
To bring a valid case under the False Claims Act, you should have first-hand knowledge of the fraudulent activity, and you should have, or be able to obtain, documents that will provide evidence of that activity. You should also make sure that you haven’t missed the deadlines to file.
What Are the Most Common Industries Involved in Qui Tam Actions?
A little more than half of all Qui Tam actions involve fraud in healthcare, especially fraud involving Medicare and Medicaid. Almost 20 percent involve the Department of Defense, including fraud in defense contracting. Procurement fraud is also common.
Contact an Experienced Qui Tam Attorney
Qui Tam actions have unique and complicated requirements. If you know about fraud against the government, you should consult an experienced Qui Tam attorney. The law firm of Raynes Lawn Hehmeyer has recovered tens of millions of dollars for its Qui Tam clients for actions on behalf of federal, county, and city governments.
Don’t delay. If someone else knows about the same fraud scheme that you do, and if that person files a Qui Tam action before you do, then you will probably be barred from filing an action yourself.
Find out more about how we can help you by filling out our contact form or calling us at (800) 535-1797. We would be glad to discuss the advantages and disadvantages of pursuing a Qui Tam action in your situation.
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