Understanding Qui Tam Law and Whistleblower Protections

Understanding Qui Tam Law and Whistleblower Protections
Fraud costs the states and the federal government billions of dollars. This is why qui tam law exists. Whistleblowers serve a critical role in holding those who defraud the government accountable for their unlawful actions. With the services of a qui tam lawyer, losses can be recovered – and whistleblowers can get rewarded and protected. The rewards can be very significant.

What is Qui Tam Law?

Qui tam comes from a Latin phrase, “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur.” The rough translation of this phrase is “he who brings an action for the king as well as for himself.” Basically, a whistleblower who is aware of fraud can expose the fraud to help the government recoup those illegally-taken funds and, if successful, can be rewarded.

A whistleblower qui tam lawsuit is brought under the False Claims Act. This legislation covers a wide array of fraud and abuse, including:

  • Medicaid Fraud
  • Medicare Fraud
  • Trade Agreement Act (TAA) cases — violations in government contracts
  • Best Price cases — price manipulation; claims for overcharging government entities
  • Defense Contractor Fraud
  • Off-label Marketing cases —unlawful marketing of pharmaceuticals
  • Charging the government for work that was completed with substandard parts or not completed properly

A qui tam attorney is the legal advocate for the whistleblower in a qui tam case. They work with you throughout the litigation process to successfully prove your case.

The False Claims Act and Qui Tam Law

Fraud and abuse have been going on in the United States for a very long time. It goes all the way back to the Civil War, with rampant issues on both sides. During the Lincoln administration in 1863, Congress passed the False Claims Act to help stop and combat fraud and abuse.

The federal False Claims Act, modernized in 1986, has proven to be the most effective antifraud law in the United States. It is an “American federal law that imposes liability on persons and companies (typically federal contractors) who defraud governmental programs.”

Under the act, private citizens have the right to sue an individual or a company that is defrauding the state or federal government. This would be called a qui tam lawsuit. This must be filed for a whistleblower to recover money from the False Claims Act. Simply informing the government about fraud does not qualify a whistleblower for compensation.

When a false claims case is filed, it is brought in the name of the state or the U.S. government. The whistleblower is called the “relator.”

Protections for Whistleblowers

Under the anti-retaliation provisions of the False Claims Act, whistleblowers have job protection. This includes people who are considering filing a claim or individuals who do decide to file a claim. But it is not uncommon for retaliation to occur, so it is recommended to contact a qui tam lawyer before an individual “blows the whistle.”

The types of retaliation a whistleblower may face include:

  • Getting terminated from your job
  • Getting a reduction in pay
  • Losing regularly scheduled hours
  • Getting changes in regular work assignments
  • Getting demoted
  • Getting sidelined or blackballed, such as being intentionally excluded from training, meetings, or work-related events that other employees attend

If the whistleblower has faced retaliation, they can work with a qui tam lawyer to file a claim against the company or individual.

What Are the Rewards for a Qui Tam Whistleblower?

As mentioned above, a qui tam whistleblower can gain significant rewards. The government highly values the efforts of whistleblowers in helping to stop fraud and abuse. If you file a qui tam claim, you can be eligible to receive a percentage of the total amount of money recouped from the fraudulent practices.

Under qui tam law, if a whistleblower brings legal action and the case is proven, the range of compensation you receive as a reward is 15-25 percent of the recovered funds. The actual percentage you would receive will depend on multiple factors in the case. Qui tam lawyers have the knowledge and skill to maximize the reward and are critical to getting the best outcome possible in this type of lawsuit.

Defendants face harsh consequences when found liable under the False Claims Act. This includes having to pay potentially up to three times the total losses the state or federal government incurred because of the fraud and abuse. Additionally, the company or individual would have to pay penalties for each false claim.

Billions of dollars have been recovered through the False Claim Act.

Between 1987 and 2013, $27.2 billion was recovered due to qui tam cases brought by whistleblowers, also known as “relators.”

Privacy Protections for Whistleblowers

Qui tam law contains measures for the privacy of whistleblowers. Once you have a qui tam lawyer secured and the legal claim is filed, your case is sealed for 60 days.

Your case is kept secret from the defendant accused in the fraud case throughout the time it is sealed. The only individuals and entities who know about the case are you, your lawyer, and the government.

While the case is sealed, an investigation is conducted in the case. Qui tam cases, such as Medicare fraud and Medicaid fraud, as well as other types of cases, can be very complex. So, it is quite common for the courts to grant an extension beyond that 60 days. This gives the government the time it needs to not only investigate but also to determineif it wants to join (intervene) in the case. Interventions in qui tam cases are infrequent.

Important note: State or federal governments will often ask the courts to partially lift the seal on a qui tam case to open it up for discussions and potential negotiations for a settlement. Having a qui tam lawyer who is highly skilled at negotiations is key to the outcome of your case. Settlements occur most often for the resolution of a qui tam case, but they will proceed to trial if needed.

Call Today to Consult with A Qui Tam Lawyer

At Wenzel Fenton Cabassa, P.A., we are with you every step of the way on your case. We understand the sensitivity and complexity of qui tam claims and make sure your rights are protected.

We are aggressive negotiators and work diligently to obtain the best settlement possible in your case, but do not hesitate to go to trial if needed.

Contact us today for a free, confidential consultation.

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