It can be perilous for a single individual to expose a company’s illegal acts. Whistleblowers, as these courageous people as called, risk losing their jobs, damaging their reputations, being ostracized by coworkers and neighbors, and other detriments by daring to speak up.
Federal and state legislatures recognize the dangers and have enacted whistleblower laws, which protect those who come forward from retaliation by the persons or businesses they identify as engaging in illegal conduct. False Claim statutes also provide whistleblowers with legal recourse. These laws allow for qui tam lawsuits, which allow a person to sue an individual or business believed to have defrauded the government of public funds to recover the illegally obtained money. The person bringing suit is referred to as a “qui tam plaintiff,” and can possibly receive a large percentage of the funds collected from the wrongdoers.
By allowing whistleblowers to bring a civil action, governments acknowledge the public service whistleblowers fulfill and the hardships they endure as a consequence of their exposing fraud.
The federal government and the State of California have enacted False Claims Act with qui tam provisions. Both laws are largely similar in that they permit a person to bring a lawsuit in the name of the government citing a violation of the act.
California Qui Tam
Under the California False Claims Act the a person can bring a civil action to recover damages and civil penalties against anyone who knowingly makes a false statement or uses a false document to get money or property from the state or avoid paying money owed to the state. Using this law, the state has collected hundreds of millions of dollars of misappropriated public funds. False claim cases are supported by evidence gathered from several sources, including from individuals whistleblowers who report unlawful activities.
Companies have been investigated for selling defective products to the state, filing false reports to conceal the theft of natural resources, and financial institutions that have filed false reports with state agencies.
Case is Secret for 60 Days
A private citizen may sue an individual or a business that is defrauding the government and recover funds on the government’s behalf. The state attorney general may join the action to assist with the investigation and lend the plaintiff some gravitas up against the might and deep pockets of the opposing side. In California, the government intervenes in only a small percentage of qui tam lawsuits.
The qui tam lawsuit is kept secret from everyone, even the person or entity accused of fraud is not told about case. The purpose of keeping the case secret in the early stages is to allow the government time to investigate the allegations. Within 60 days of the case being filed with the courts, the government decide whether there is sufficient evidence to allow the action to proceed and whether it will join the action. If the case proceeds, it will be conducted by the prosecuting authority. If the government declines to intervene in the case, the qui tam plaintiff
will have the right to conduct the action. At that point the seal of secrecy is lifted and the defendant will be served with the complaint.
When you stepped forward and exposed the fraudulent or other illegal activities of your employer, neighbor, local business, or company vendor, your shouldered a grave responsibility and have personally suffered as a consequence. You deserve recognition and recompense for your public service. The lawyers at the Brod Law Firm can help you. Call 800-427-7020 today for a free consultation. We work with whistleblowers to ensure they are protected and recover for job loss and other damage they experience. Let us do the same for you. We have offices in San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Rosa (Sonoma).