Articles Tagged with attorney for government fraud whistleblowers

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

rawpixel-760036-unsplash-300x289Whistleblowers were given that name because they are essentially “blowing the whistle,” or alerting government officials of fraud committed against the government. Both the federal False Claims Act and the California False Claims Act provide great protection to whistleblowers and often, even compensation for bringing the fraud to light.

Many whistleblowers think that because they are trying to help the government, the law is on their side and they do not need an attorney to help them file the lawsuit. This however, is not true. There are many reasons why whistleblowers need the help of a lawyer who can ensure their claim is filed correctly and that they are treated fairly.

Whistleblowers Sometimes Lose Their Jobs

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.

jonathan-perez-409943-copy-300x200Recently, the Supreme Court requested that the Department of Justice (DOJ) file a brief regarding a qui tam or whistleblower lawsuit brought under the False Claims Act (FCA) as regards a clarification of what, in fact, constitutes a “material” misrepresentation under the law. The response from the DOJ is controversial, to say the least.

False Claims Act

The False Claims Act allows private citizens to bring lawsuits against companies for defrauding the federal government. In such a suit, known as a qui tam, or whistleblower action, the person who brings the suit is known as a relator and the government is given the opportunity to prosecute the suit on behalf of the relator, decline to prosecute the action and allow the relator to continue on his or her own, or dismiss the action entirely. One of the requirements of the law and one which is frequently at issue in lawsuits is that of materiality. The Court has said that, in order to be considered as illegal under the FCA, ”a misrepresentation about compliance with a statutory, regulatory or contractual requirement must be material to the Government’s payment decision in order to be actionable.” The law itself defines “material” as “having a natural tendency to influence, or be capable of influencing, the payment or receipt of money or property.”

joakim-honkasalo-587350-unsplash-copy-300x223Federal law allows for whistleblowers to file lawsuits against individuals or companies that are defrauding the government. A lawsuit of this nature is called a whistleblower or a qui tam lawsuit. These lawsuits are often complex legal matters and specific steps must be taken to help ensure their success.

What is a Qui Tam Lawsuit?

The Federal False Claims Act (31 U.S. Code §3729) is a federal law that allows individuals to file a lawsuit in federal court to expose cases of fraud against the government. The person who files the lawsuit is known under the law as a relator. The law provides that a relator can file a suit and, if successful, the relator can receive up to 30% of the amount that the government recovers.  While it sounds simple on its face, it is a complex process.

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.

dylan-nolte-576808-unsplash-copy-300x200Whistleblowers are one of the most misunderstood groups of people out there. From an outsider’s perspective, it can be difficult to understand why someone would want to be a whistleblower – and that is the first problem. Whistleblowers hardly ever choose to become whistleblowers. They happen to encounter situations that, in their mind, call for a solution that will promote justice and better society. If any of the myths below resonate with you, read on to find out why it is a myth, and what the truth really is.

Myth #1: Whistleblowers are disloyal.

Oftentimes, whistleblowers are referred to as “snitches” and disloyal employees, but quite the opposite is true. Whistleblowers are oftentimes the most loyal employees at a company.

hannah-olinger-549280-unsplash-copy-200x300If you are considering filing a whistleblower case in California, you are probably wondering what the process looks like and how long it will take. Unfortunately there is not a clear-cut answer to how long a whistleblower case can take, as there are so many factors that can influence the length of the case. While the steps below are a general outline of the life of a whistleblower case, the only way to get a clear picture of what your case will look like and how long it will take is to consult with an experienced whistleblower attorney in your area.

Step 1: File the whistleblower complaint.

The first step is to file your whistleblower complaint. In order to file a successful whistleblower complaint, you want to have gathered as much evidence as possible. Once you gather all the evidence you can gather, it typically will take your attorney several months to pull together all the information and formulate a convincing whistleblower complaint. However, the length of time it takes for your attorney to draft your complaint depends on the following factors:

kristina-flour-185592-unsplash-copy-300x192One of the most crucial parts of filing a whistleblower or qui tam lawsuit is evidence gathering. The more evidence you have of the fraud you are alleging, the stronger your case is and the more likely the government is to intervene. However, gathering evidence is not always as easy as it sounds. Sometimes there are crucial pieces of evidence needed in your case that you do not already have but that you have the potential to obtain. In this situation, you will want to make sure you go about collecting evidence in a lawful and ethical fashion. After all, the last thing you want is to break the law while you are reporting someone else for breaking the law.

Stay Quiet

The most important piece of advice is to stay quiet. Do not talk about the fraud you are alleging with your co-workers, friends, or family. Even though it is illegal for employers in California to retaliate against whistleblowers, plenty of employers do it anyway. Not only is losing your job during this time damaging to your personal life, but it is damaging to your case, as well. Without the access you previously had to the company, it will be nearly impossible for you to continue gathering evidence to support your claim.

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.