Qui tam suits often make the news, though you may not be sure of what they are and why they matter. Qui tam suits have to do with fraud against the federal or a state government. In recent years, the U.S. and individual states have made a concerted effort to recapture the money that individuals and businesses have wrongfully obtained or kept from them. By learning more about qui tam suits, you may be better able to recognize fraud when you see it and understand what you can do with this concerning information.
Common Questions Regarding Qui Tam Suits
- What is a qui tam suit? A qui tam lawsuit is a civil lawsuit brought by a private citizen on behalf of the federal or a state government. It is also known as a whistleblower lawsuit since the private citizen is blowing the whistle on illegal actions against the government.
- What is the FCA? Qui tam suits are filed based on the federal False Claims Act, which makes fraudulent invoices or other types of claims against the federal government illegal. Many states, including California, also have their own versions of the FCA, which citizens can file qui tam cases under.
- Is this a state or federal level claim? There can be both state and federal qui tam claims. Whether an action is brought under the federal FCA or a state law depends on whether the allegedly unlawful behavior cost the government or one or more states money. In many situations, a federal FCA claim will include state governments and all of these parties will share in the financial recovery.
- What makes qui tam cases unique? There are many factors that make qui tam cases unique compared to other civil suits. One of them is that qui tam suits must be filed under seal. They are secret lawsuits and the only people who know are the whistleblower, also called a relator, and the Justice Department. The defendant, who the whistleblower is accusing of fraudulent activity, is not informed of the charges against it until later.
- What happens after the suit is filed? Once a qui tam suit is filed under seal, the government is informed of the charges and given the opportunity to investigate. This can take months or more than a year. Once the government has had time to investigate, it decides to either join the lawsuit as a party or to not join. Whether or not it joins, it can discuss a settlement with the defendant.
- How is a whistleblower protected? The federal FCA and many state laws offer a variety of whistleblower protections. One of the most important protections is that the relator has a legal cause of action if his or her employer retaliates and fires, demotes, or harasses him or her because of the qui tam suit. The whistleblower can fight for reinstatement and compensation.
- How long does a qui tam case take? Qui tam cases can take years to resolve.
- What does the whistleblower get for coming forward? If the government recovers money from the defendant based on the whistleblower’s suit, then the whistleblower is entitled to a percentage of the settlement or award.
What Should I Do if I think I Have Information About Fraud?
If you believe you have information that your employer is committing fraud against the federal government or California, call an experienced qui tam attorney from Brod Law Firm at (800) 427-7020.
(image courtesy of Benjamin Child)