The False Claims Act (FCA) is a longstanding federal statute that was originally enacted to combat defense contractors who committed fraud against the federal government during the Civil War. Since the 1860s, the FCA has been revised and has become an authoritative tool to prevent fraud committed against the federal government. Understanding the federal government cannot know every individual or company who knowingly submit fraudulent claims, the FCA’s whistleblower provision allows individuals and employees to bring a qui tam action on behalf of the government.
Since 1986, after Congress strengthened the FCA, the government has recovered more than $62 billion in civil false claims. According to the Department of Justice, the government collected more than $3 billion in settlements and judgments from civil cases involving fraud and false claims against the government in the fiscal year 2019. Moreover, during the 2019 fiscal year, the government paid out more than $265 million to individuals, like you, who exposed fraud and filed qui tam actions. With these significant payouts, there is no reason to remain silent if you know your employer is defrauding the federal government.
While this article primarily focuses on the submission of false claims to collect money from the government, an action can also be brought against an individual or company who knowingly makes false statements to improperly avoid or decrease an obligation to pay the government. In other words, an FCA violation could occur if your employer is making a false statement to avoid paying what it owes to the government.
Under the qui tam provision, a private individual, such as an employee, may bring a qui tam action on behalf of the government, which is initiated by the private individual filing a sealed complaint of fraud based on private knowledge about the fraud. The private individual initiating the action is known as the relator.
After the complaint has been filed under seal, the relator is then required to notify and provide all information known about the fraud to the United States Attorney General and the United States Attorney for the judicial district where the qui tam was filed. Under the FCA, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has 60 days to investigate the matter while the complaint is under seal to determine if it will intervene in the qui tam action. If the DOJ needs additional time to investigate the action, it can have its 60-day period extended in order to complete its investigation.
If the DOJ decides to intervene in the action, the government primarily handles pursing the action. Your attorney will assist the DOJ in the prosecution of your case. If there is a financial recovery, you are entitled to receive 15%-25% of the funds through the qui tam action as the whistleblower in the case.
If the government decides not to intervene, you as the relator can still pursue the complaint through litigation to prove the government was defrauded. If you can successfully prove the government was defrauded, your share increases to 25%-30%.
As with most whistleblower statutes, the anti-retaliation provision of the FCA protects employees from being discharged, demoted, suspended, threatened, harassed, or in any other manner discriminated against in the terms and conditions of employment by his or her employer because the employee, reported or sought to stop a company from engaging in practices which defraud the government.
If you know that your employer is committing fraud against the government, you should contact a Dallas Employment Lawyer today for consultation to learn more about your rights under the False Claims Act.