The False Claims Act protects private people who want to blow a whistle against fraudsters, such as government contractors.
It takes great courage to become a whistleblower. That’s why the False Claims Act, or FCA Law, was created. This law allows private individuals to file a lawsuit against individuals, businesses, organizations, and other entities that directly or indirectly defrauded the federal government.
How can this law protect private individuals from revealing fraudulent claims and other fraudulent activities that waste people’s money through government projects?
Learn about the False Claims Act and how to properly file a whistleblower claim by reading below.
What is the False Claims Act?
In the United States, the False Claims Act (FCA), which is the first and one of the strongest whistleblower laws, imposes civil liability to defendants (companies or organizations) defrauding the federal government. This law protects employees, agents, and contractors from being suspended, demoted, discharged, harassed, threatened, or in any form of discrimination against the employment terms and conditions.
Guttman Freidin & Celler explains that the two main actions a whistleblower might want to pursue under this law include the a qui tam action and a whistleblower retaliation action (injuries suffered personally). The statute of limitations, which pertains to the extent of time you’re allowed to file a case (vary in each state), applies to these two actions.
The qui tam is a lawsuit wherein a private individual or ‘relator’ takes action on behalf of the government. Fraud evidence against the government allows an individual to take action or blow the whistle via a qui tam action. Once the government makes a recovery, the whistleblower receives 15% to 30% of the amount.
The FCA law also protects employees who divulge the wrongdoing of their employer against retaliation. The acts of retaliation can be subtle or not obvious. Some acts of retaliation include unfair treatment and adverse employment action.
Here are some examples of whistleblower retaliation:
- Illegal termination or getting fired without reason
- Suspension or prolonged suspension without reasonable cause
- Workplace harassment, either verbal or non-verbal harassment
- Demotion without prior notice or without violating any company policy
- Hostile, unsafe, or unhealthy working environment
- Denial of incentives, bonuses, promotions, and other employee benefits
- Employment penalties or sanctions
How To File a Claim Properly
Filing a whistleblower claim can be complicated. That’s why hiring a whistleblower lawyer is very important to help you file a claim properly. If you witness some discrepancies, then be a whistleblower and discuss with your lawyer how to successfully file a claim.
Here’s how to file a whistleblower claim:
1. Confirm the Actual False Claim
In a whistleblowing case, it’s crucial to confirm if there’s actual fraud. When collecting evidence, you have to avoid breaking the law, such as stealing documents or wiretapping conversations.
That’s why hiring a reputable whistleblower lawyer is essential to fully comply with the preservation and collection of evidence by filing a motion for discovery, which is a formal request to turn over all evidence or filing under seal (case is concealed from the public during the investigation).
2. Consult A Whistleblower Lawyer
An experienced whistleblower attorney can tell you whether you have the right information that’s qualified under the FCA law. A good lawyer can also give you an idea of the amount of money you can recover for reporting fraud.
A whistleblower lawyer prepares and files a persuasive lawsuit by determining the legal requirements, needed evidence, and laws governing the case. To provide assistance and advice during the investigation, the lawyer maintains close contact with the federal government’s lawyers who are working on the case.
3. Gather Evidence
Supporting evidence is required before filing a whistleblower lawsuit. Some examples of proof are documents showing non-payment, overcharging, and other forms of false claims. Hiring an experienced whistleblower lawyer can help you collect evidence to make the government interested and give you a whistleblower award.
Keeping all the details of the case confidential is paramount for a successful case. During the investigation, you and your lawyer cannot talk about the case with anyone other than the federal government. This will avoid harming the government’s investigation, which could result in the case’s dismissal.
4. File an Under Seal Whistleblower Lawsuit
Whistleblower complaints must be filed in the court. This includes a written statement and all material evidence that supports the individual’s allegations to the local attorney general. Take note that an under seal varies from one country to another.
For example, the complaint will remain under seal for 60 days in the United States, which means that the public and the defendants are unaware of the complaint filed. In this way, the federal government will conduct a thorough investigation. This seal can be extended for several months or years.
Federal Government Takes Action
If legal action is needed because of solid evidence or investigation results, the federal government will notify the court and also the whistleblower. The federal government leads the litigation against the defendant once it intervenes. On the other hand, the whistleblower may continue to litigate the case if the government declines on behalf of the federal government.
Under the FCA, the first whistleblower who filed a lawsuit that raised the defendant’s fraud can continue the litigation on behalf of the government. If a whistleblower failed to submit and serve the complaint as specified by the False Claims Act, it could result in the lawsuit’s dismissal. For this reason, whistleblowers must seek the help of experienced legal counsel. Doing so will ensure the claim is litigated and filed properly.
The False Claims Act protects private people who want to blow a whistle against fraudsters, such as government contractors. When filing a whistleblower claim, you have to understand the governing statutes of limitations, which is the time frame you’re allowed to file a claim.
Once the federal government intervenes because of strong evidence upon investigation, litigation proceeds. Otherwise, the whistleblower can continue with the case on behalf of the government. By knowing all aspects of the case and the false claims process, you’ll get rewarded for your courage and hard work, while helping the government recover the money lost because of fraud.