If you’re considering becoming a whistleblower, there are five important facts that you should know about qui tam cases before pursuing litigation.
1. The first one to file is the relator.
For example, your department is aware of the company’s actions in defrauding the government. Over and over again, you’ve heard your colleagues complaining about your company’s actions and how someone should do something. You decide to become a whistleblower but take the weekend to research attorneys and get the right information. When you’re ready to present your case, someone has already beaten you to the punch. Can there be two cases?
No. According to the False Claims Act, the first to file a qui tam case is considered the relator. The reason for this is to encourage prompt reporting of instances of fraud.
2. False Claims Act cases can’t be based on publicly disclosed information.
Qui tam laws are in place to encourage people to come forward with cases of fraud against the government. However, this information must be insider knowledge. If allegations are made using public information, then the case will be thrown out. Unless that public information has come from the relator. For instance, the relator decides to give the media the fraud information first before seeking an attorney.
3. The chance for success increases when the government joins the case.
After a qui tam complaint is filed, all materials will be sent to the U.S. Department of Justice. The agency will then investigate the complaint. It could be years before a decision is made but if the government feels you have enough information, it will join the case. This means your case will have a much greater success rate. However, if the government does not join your case, you can still pursue the action alone, as you would a regular lawsuit.
4. Qui tam cases stay under seal for years.
False Claims Act cases are filed in federal court and remain under seal while the government is given an opportunity to investigate the allegations. This means if you are alleging your company is doing something illegally, the company will have no knowledge of an investigation for a period of time. The statutory period of time is 60 days but the government almost always asks for more time.
5. Whistleblowers get a reward for their actions.
The False Claims Act provides a reward of 15 to 25 percent if the government joins in the case or 25 to 30 percent if the government declines to join. However, if you were involved in the fraud, you may see a substantially reduced reward or even receive nothing.
Do you think you have a qui tam case? Contact the whistleblower lawyers at Sanford Heisler Sharp now for an evaluation of your case.