Articles Posted in Government Contracts Fraud

amaury-salas-IhXrWDckZOQ-unsplash-copy-300x194When handled correctly, whistleblower cases can prevent fraud from occurring against the government, help make things right, and even compensate the whistleblower. However, too often these cases fall apart simply because mistakes are made during the process. This is largely because state and federal whistleblower laws are complicated. If you do not understand the laws, it is easy to not follow them correctly and this can lead to mistakes in your whistleblower claim. Below are the most common mistakes made in these cases, so you can avoid making the same ones in yours. 

Not Understanding if You Have Protection

The federal False Claims Act and California’s False Claims Act both provide protections for whistleblowers. However, to enjoy that protection, the action that you are reporting on must fall into certain categories. For example, upcoding, kickbacks, billing for services not rendered, and billing for unnecessary medical procedures are all considered actions that may lead to a whistleblower claim. If the actions are not stipulated within the law, you may not have a valid claim.

glenn-carstens-peters-RLw-UC03Gwc-unsplash-copy-300x200Individuals who believe they have observed someone else defrauding the government often wonder if they have a valid claim. The answer to that is a difficult one, and no one can really determine if a claim is valid without fully analyzing the facts of the case. However, if you believe that you have witnessed someone at your work or elsewhere defrauding the government, below are a few guidelines you can follow to determine if you have a case. Of course, a San Francisco qui tam lawyer can always provide the best advice on whether you have a valid claim. 

Is it Just a Hunch?

Qui tam cases are typically more successful when the whistleblower has actually witnessed specific instances of wrongdoing. This is because whistleblowers need specific knowledge that a violation has occurred. That makes it easier to collect evidence, identify the wrongful act, and then pursue the claim. Simply having a hunch or a feeling that someone is doing something wrong usually is not enough to go on to pursue a case. 

anthony-ginsbrook-sTw2KYpoujk-unsplash-copy-300x200Qui tam lawsuits are brought by individuals, known as whistleblowers, against a company that defrauded the United States government. Whistleblowers do receive compensation for alerting the government of the fraud, but this is not the motivation behind most qui tam lawsuits. Whistleblowers feel a moral obligation to report the company and set things right. There are a number of ways they do this, and many different types of qui tam lawsuits. The most common are found below. 

Kickback Qui Tam Cases

Kickbacks are incentives, usually bribes or discounts, paid to an individual or entity to induce certain government healthcare programs, such as Medicare. For example, an entity, such as a cancer treatment center, may bribe a doctor to refer patients to them. Kickbacks of this or any other kind are illegal under the Anti-Kickback Statute. Many whistleblowers have seen companies and other entities receive kickbacks, making this a common type of qui tam case. 

aidan-bartos-313782-copy-300x200The Whistleblower Protection Act and the California False Claims Act both protect whistleblowers from retaliating employers after they report wrongdoing. Unfortunately, not all employers abide by this law. When they learn an employee has blown the whistle on them, they sometimes terminate that employee. The employee loses his or her income and soon falls upon financial hardship. When this happens, it is important that employees understand they can file a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit against their employee to recover damages. So, what damages are available in a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit? A San Francisco whistleblower lawyer can fully evaluate your claim, but there are three types of damages most common in retaliation lawsuits. 

Back Pay Damages

Back pay provides compensation for any financial losses the employee sustained as a result of the retaliatory action. These damages often include wages, promotions, stock options, vacation pay, and other benefits. The False Claims Act states that employees who are retaliated against are entitled to twice the amount of back pay they have lost. 

rene-bohmer-430927-unsplash-copy-200x300Whether whistleblowers take action under the federal False Claims Act or California False Claims Act, they play a vital role in society. They uncover wrongdoings and hold individuals and companies accountable when they defraud the government. Still, over the years many myths surrounding whistleblowers have developed. Some of these are harmful, and our San Francisco qui tam lawyers want to explain the truth behind them. 

Whistleblowers Report Problems in the Workplace Externally

Whistleblowers who get the most attention have typically reported on something seen in their workplace externally, such as taking the matter to the press. However, not all whistleblowing takes place outside of a workplace or company. Sometimes employees report a problem internally, to their supervisor or manager. These individuals may not consider themselves whistleblowers, but they are, and their role is just as vital. Under California’s whistleblower protection laws, workers are protected from retaliation after blowing the whistle either internally or externally.

austin-distel-1555609-unsplash-copy-300x225If you are considering blowing the whistle on your employer’s wrongful actions that are defrauding the government, employment retaliation is a real fear. In fact, it is one of the biggest reasons employees do not come forward and blow the whistle. However, this should never keep you from trying to make things right. You should know you have legal rights that protect you from employer retaliation.

When an employer retaliates against you for whistleblowing, your best option is to file a whistleblower retaliation lawsuit with the California Superior Court. Prior to doing so, however, you may have to file a complaint with a government agency.  

Protection Under Labor Code 1102.5 LC

sean-pollock-203658-unsplash-copy-300x200The United States government uses a number of contractors in many different areas. For example, manufacturers make training gear for the U.S. military, and the prison system has many contracts for staffing the prisons and helping maintain its facilities. Many medical clinics and hospitals receive funding from Medicaid and Medicare contracts.

Just like anyone else, the government assumes that the contractors they are working with will work with them fairly and honestly. When those contractors fail to do so, they may be found in violation of the False Claims Act. Whistleblowers who see this fraudulent activity can then inform the government of the impropriety. This not only helps stop that fraudulent activity, but also allows the whistleblower to claim compensation for prohibiting dishonest acts against the government.

Types of Government Contractor and Procurement Fraud Claims

tim-mossholder-588403-unsplash-copy-300x200The partial shutdown of the federal government has been going on for almost five weeks as of the date of this article. Many government programs have been negatively impacted. This is especially pertinent regarding whistleblower (also known as qui tam) actions since the federal government is potentially involved in so many of the steps of prosecuting a successful lawsuit.  Furthermore, the lack of government funding that has resulted from the shutdown may also increase the potential for more fraudulent acts that are the impetus for qui tam actions in the first place.

Federal Courts

The status of the federal court system is important when considering federal qui tam actions. This is because the lawsuits are based on a federal law, the False Claims Act, wherein a whistleblower (known under the law as a relator) brings a lawsuit on behalf of the federal government in cases in which businesses have brought false claims to the government for payment. As such, these lawsuits are almost universally brought in the appropriate federal District Court. In the San Francisco area, the United States District Court for the Northern District of California is the most frequent venue for filing qui tam actions. Luckily, for relators, at least, on January 11, Chief Judge Hamilton issued an order providing for the continuation of operations under the Anti-Deficiency Act (see the Order here). Simply put, this means the Court will continue to accept filings, hear, and decide cases without interruption and handle new and existing cases as necessary. This means that, for the Court, at least, the business of justice will continue unimpeded.

max-bender-262783-unsplash-copy-300x199On December 21, 2018, the Department of Justice released its statistics for Fiscal Year 2018 for actions taken under the Federal False Claims Act. The news release listed several notable cases and provided daunting statistics regarding the scope of fraud committed against the government in our country.

Federal False Claims Act

The Federal False Claims Act is a law that allows the government to go after both companies and individuals who file false invoices or claims in order to get paid by the government for services or products. The law also allows “relators” to recover from those who defraud the government as an incentive to citizens to help the government curb fraud and abuse in government programs.  Relators can receive up to 30% of the recovered proceeds through “qui tam” lawsuits.

david-everett-strickler-196946-copy-300x195The government only chooses to intervene in whistleblower cases that it finds to be strong and in which it has an interest. By presenting your qui tam case in a strategic way, you can catch the eye of the government and encourage them to intervene. Below are several practical tips for strengthening your qui tam case and increasing your chances of getting the government involved in your case.

Gather Compelling Evidence

The most important thing the government is going to look for in your qui tam case is whether you have compelling evidence. A mere allegation alone means nothing if it is not also accompanied by hard evidence of the fraud you are alleging was committed.