Articles Posted in Whistleblowers and Qui Tam Lawsuits

rawpixel-760036-unsplash-300x289Under the False Claims Act, an individual or agency can be held liable if they knowingly submit a false claim to the government, or cause the submission of a false claim. When individuals see these wrongdoings and false claims being made, they can pursue a whistleblower lawsuit to correct the wrong. Like any lawsuit though, they will need to provide certain proof before a lawsuit can proceed. The two elements of proof in these lawsuits are that the claim must have been made knowingly, and it must have been false or fraudulent. 

Knowingly Making a False Claim

Defendants cannot only be held liable for submitting a false claim, they can also be held liable if they intended to submit one, even if they never did. However, the false claim must be made by a person with full intention of defrauding the government. Simple negligence or innocent errors are not enough to hold a person liable for the fraudulent act. 

david-everett-strickler-196946-copy-300x195It was earlier this month when House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff issued a public statement saying that a subpoena was issued to Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Joseph Maguire. The reason for the subpoena was that Maguire allegedly refused to release a whistleblower complaint. 

The complaint was filed under the Intelligence Community Whistleblower Protection Act (ICWPA). That Act requires that complaints must be submitted to Congress. In his announcement, Schiff stated that he had concerns that the complaint was not forwarded to Congress in an attempt to protect the President and other officials with the administration. 

Since Schiff’s statement, a whirlwind has erupted across the country. The public wants to know not only if Maguire did something wrong, but what the ICWPA is. Below are a few of the questions that have been asked most recently, and the answers to them. 

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. 

rene-bohmer-430927-unsplash-copy-200x300There are many programs and legal statutes that allow whistleblowers to receive compensation for reporting wrongdoing, typically in their place of work. The False Claims Act is just one of these. However, whistleblowers do not typically blow the whistle to receive this compensation. In fact, many are not even aware that they are eligible for it at the time they report the wrongdoing. So, why do whistleblowers blow the whistle?

Moral Obligation

Of course, the main reason whistleblowers report wrongdoing is because they know they have a moral obligation to do so. It is incredibly difficult to go into a workplace every day, see unethical practices happening, and do nothing about it. Many whistleblowers simply cannot live with the guilt of knowing the government is being defrauded and continue to let it happen. After blowing the whistle, whistleblowers typically feel a sense of peace knowing they have done the right thing. 

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.

amaury-salas-IhXrWDckZOQ-unsplash-copy-300x194Many times, an employee has identified fraud against the government occurring within their place of employment. They want to report this fraud, or blow the whistle, but are afraid to because they participated in the fraud. This is often an extremely difficult situation. Potential whistleblowers know the fraud is wrong, but they also do not want to face repercussions for it. However, their involvement was likely entirely forced by their employer. The employee may want to blow the whistle to stop their own involvement, or they may just want to do the right thing. 

When someone is involved with defrauding the government, they are considered to have unclean hands. If an employer forced the employee to participate in the fraud, they may be immune from being found with unclean hands.

The Department of Justice and Unclean Hands

lindsay-henwood-7_kRuX1hSXM-unsplash-copy-300x200Sometimes employees notice fraud against the government within their workplace. When they do, they want to do the right thing and put a stop to it, but they’re also afraid to take action. Sometimes this fear stems from the threat of retaliation, and losing their job and income. Other times, it is simply a fear of the unknown. If you have witnessed fraud against the government at your workplace, either under the federal False Claims Act or the California False Claim Act, it is helpful to know the proper steps to take. Understanding what will come next makes it easier to understand how to proceed. 

Collect Evidence

The evidence collected in a qui tam lawsuit is the most important step in a whistleblower claim. Possible evidence could include emails, internal studies, test results, billing records, and anything else that points to the fraud. Wrongdoings that are witnessed first hand are ideal, but not necessary. Solid evidence can back up claims that are not eyewitness accounts, and give your case a better chance of success. 

samson-duborg-rankin-91091-unsplash-copy-300x200When filing any type of lawsuit, you will need solid evidence to back up your claim. In a qui tam, or whistleblower, lawsuit, that evidence must be solid and clearly establish that your employer, or another individual or entity, defrauded the government. Investigations into a qui tam lawsuit are extensive and take a great deal of time and resources. The courts will likely not move ahead with one unless there is substantial evidence of wrongdoing.

When gathering this evidence, whistleblowers will run into three types — evidence you have, evidence you do not have but can obtain, and evidence that you cannot obtain. Each of these categories of evidence presents its own issues.

Evidence You Have

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