Frequently Asked Questions
About starting a Whistleblower or False Claims Act case.
How Can I Pay for an Expert Lawyer to Help Me?
Most American citizens can't afford to pay hourly fees for a case like a False Claims Act case that can take hundreds or thousands of hours of legal work. Experienced qui tam lawyers take cases on contingency fee. A clear, understandable fee agreement describes the percentage of the recovery that your lawyer will receive, only if the claim/lawsuit is successful. The agreement should also clearly describe responsibility for costs (e.g. court fees, deposition costs, travel, expert witnesses, investigators), which can involve thousands of dollars. If a claim/lawsuit is not successful, our fee agreement provides that you are not responsible for repaying these costs, while other law firms may require you to repay these costs.
What Kind of Fraud is Covered by the False Claims Act?
Tax fraud is not covered. Virtually any other type of fraud on the government where the government has paid money, or a claim is made upon the government for money, and the government is deceived is likely covered. Sometimes it involves spending government money contrary to the intent or specifics of the grant or contract. Sometimes it is failing to fulfill the commitments that caused the government to give the money. The biggest areas of successful False Claims Act cases have been military contracting and health care (Medicare and Medicaid) fraud, but fraud has also been successfully prosecuted where federal funds went to education, farm, environmental and energy programs, and a huge variety of other federal contracts.
Is Waste or Mismanagement in Government an Area for False Claims Cases?
Generally not. However, if the government is deceived about conduct of a grant or contract recipient, and it isn't getting what it paid for, a case may exist.
Can There Be More Than One Individual in a False Claims Act Lawsuit?
Yes. Sometimes it may be important to have more than one individual as a relator (the official name of the whistleblower), to help prevent dismissal of your case for failure to be an "original source" of the key fraud evidence.
Are There Deadlines for Bringing a False Claims Act (qui tam) Case?
Yes. An action must be filed by the later of: (1) six years from the date of the fraud; or (2) 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 law. However, it is very important to act quickly on a False Claims Act case. Good preparation, and gathering key facts, documents, witnesses and other evidence is extremely important before your lawsuit is filed (initially in secret) and presented (initially in secret) to the appropriate government officials. There are several reasons for acting fast. One of the most important is that other relators may start the case before you, and you can lose all or substantially all of your reward for being an American citizen whistleblower. If the government discovers the fraud on its own and starts a lawsuit or investigation before you file your lawsuit, you also likely will be denied any benefit.
How Long Does a False Claims Case Take?
There can be a great variation in the length of a case. Many cases take years to finish. A few can be completed within a year, especially when the government decides to intervene (join).
Will those committing fraud know immediately about the lawsuit or the report to the government?
They shouldn't know for months, and sometimes even several years. If a lawsuit is filed, it is done 'in camera' (in secret), by law. The federal courts are carefully set up to conceal the filing of such cases, and the federal attorneys and agents are very careful about not revealing the lawsuit, while it is being investigated. These investigations take several months, and up to several years, before the case is 'opened' and served on the defendant(s). This gives the federal authorities time to look closely at the case, do further investigation, and decide whether to join. Having an experienced lawyer communicate with the federal authorities during this time period can be extremely important in preparation of the case, and convincing the federal authorities to join the case.
Is it necessary to report the fraud to the government or to my employer before filing a False Claims Act case?
No. Certainly not to your employer, in fact, doing so could be detrimental to your case or situation. If the employer or someone in the organization is committing the fraud, they could take your report as a signal to cover up or hide the evidence. Someone else in the organization, or who was aware of the fraud, may be alerted to your whistleblowing and start a qui tam lawsuit before you do.
Will the People Who Committed the Fraud Go to Jail as a Result?
A False Claims Act lawsuit is a civil case, and it is simply a collection of monies, penalties and fees against the fraud perpetrators. There are some occasions where the fraud is so blatant that other federal lawyers may bring separate criminal charges against one or more of the perpetrators, or even the whole corporation, who committed the fraud. However, criminal charges, leading to jail time or fines, are brought by federal prosecutors, and not individual citizens.
When and How Do I tell the Government About the Fraud?
As soon as possible, but only after the case has been investigated, collected and prepared, with experienced counsel, as good as reasonably possible under the circumstances. The better the case is presented to the federal authorities, before they start their work, the better the chance that they will join the case with you, and the better your chances of a successful outcome. Parts of the false claims law make it important to present the government with your case before you start the lawsuit.