Articles Tagged with attorney for government fraud whistleblowers

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. 

benjamin-child-90768-300x200If you believe you have witnessed someone defrauding the government, there is a chance you have a valid whistleblower claim. Coming forward about the wrongdoing is important. Not only will you serve the country by making things right, but you could also receive compensation if your claim is successful. However, these claims are some of the most challenging lawsuits to pursue. To give your claim the best chance of a positive outcome, it is important to speak to a San Francisco whistleblower lawyer. Choosing that lawyer is also essential, as you want to ensure that you work with someone who has the necessary experience and skills. Below are a few ways you can ensure you are working with the right attorney for your claim. 

The Lawyer’s Area of Expertise

Sometimes attorneys will post one page on their website stating that they have expertise with whistleblower claims. However, the rest of their site may be dedicated to other areas of law. When this is the case, there is a good chance the attorney does not have the necessary expertise with whistleblower lawsuits. Look for attorney websites that do not just have a whistleblower practice page, but also plenty of blog posts and other information related to whistleblower claims. This will ensure you are working with a whistleblower attorney in San Francisco who has the necessary experience with the False Claims Act, the Whistleblower Protection Act, and other important pieces of legislation.

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. 

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.