Qui Tam Actions: What You Need To Know

Qui Tam Actions What You Need To Know

Qui tam lawsuits are civil actions that are brought under the False Claims Act, which provides some of the strongest protections for whistleblowers. Under the act, whistleblowers are able to recover rewards from the federal government if their lawsuits result in the government’s recovery of funds. Because these types of cases are often highly complex, it may be advisable for you to retain an attorney for help if you believe that you have a valid qui tam case.

What the False Claims Act is

The False Claims Act is a federal law that is codified at 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729 to 3733. Under the act, individuals and entities that have information and evidence about fraudulent acts being committed against federal programs or federal contracts are allowed to sue the party that has committed the fraud on the government’s behalf. The government is allowed to intervene in a qui tam action and join you. If the government chooses not to intervene and join, you are allowed to proceed with the case on your own. New Jersey similarly has its own false claims act, which is codified at New Jersey Statutes §§ 2A:32C-1 to C-17 and governs fraud against the state and state contracts.

Violating actions

Any of the following may form the basis for a qui tam lawsuit:

● Fraudulent payment claims presented to the government
● Using false statements or records in order to secure payment on a claim
● Conspiring with other people in order to get false claims paid by the government
● Using or causing others to use a false statement or record in order to avoid payment obligations owed to the federal government

Who is able to file qui tam actions?

Entities and individuals who have evidence that fraud has been committed against federal programs or federal contracts are allowed to file qui tam lawsuits. You will not be allowed to file a lawsuit if another private party or the government has already filed a lawsuit that is based on the same evidence that you have.

Where to file a qui tam lawsuit

You must file your qui tam lawsuit confidentially and under seal in a U.S. District Court, following the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In New Jersey, you would file your action in the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey. In Pennsylvania, you would file your case in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern, Western or Middle District of Pennsylvania. You will need to file a copy of your complaint together with a written disclosure statement that details all of the evidence and information that you have in your possession. You must then serve copies confidentially on the U.S. Attorney General and on the U.S. Attorney in the district in which you bring your complaint.

All claims under the False Claims Act must be filed under seal and in camera. You must keep both your complaint and what it contains confidential until the seal is lifted. You do not serve the complaint on the defendant. If you violate these provisions, your complaint could be dismissed by the court.

The civil penalties under the act

Defendants who are found to have violated the False Claims Act are liable to pay three times the amount that the government was defrauded. In addition, the government assesses civil penalties ranging from $5,000 to $10,000 per false claim. The recovery amount for a qui tam plaintiff may range from 15 to 30 percent of the total amount recovered through either a judgment or a settlement. You have to file a qui tam lawsuit in order to recover under the act. Simply telling the government about the fraud is not enough. You will also only receive money if the government is able to recover money because of your lawsuit.

Statute of limitations for qui tam lawsuits

Like other civil actions, qui tam lawsuits are also subject to statutes of limitations. You must file your lawsuit either within six years of the date of the violation or within three years from when the government either should have discovered or discovered the violation. No claim may be filed if 10 or more years have elapsed since the violation.

The whistleblower protections contained in the False Claims Act

Employees who are harassed, discriminated against, demoted or discharged because of engaging in lawful acts in order to further an action under the False Claims Act are entitled to relief, which may include any of the following:

● Double back pay
● Reinstatement
● Reasonable attorneys’ fees and litigation costs

The courts are currently divided on the scope of protection that the False Claims Act provides, however. You may also have state employment laws that can provide remedies for wrongful discharge and other forms of retaliation. Retaliation claims under the False Claims Act must be filed under the statute of limitations under your state’s similar retaliation statute.

State False Claims Acts

New Jersey has its own false claims act, which allows whistleblowers to recover between 15 and 25 percent of amounts that are recovered by the state from violators. Pennsylvania legislators have proposed an act, but it has not yet passed.

Tax fraud

Congress amended the law in 2006 to allow whistleblowers to receive rewards for reporting tax fraud.

Why awards are offered

The government offers awards in order to incentivize whistleblowing. This is so that the government can obtain information about fraud that it would not otherwise be able to detect.

Getting help

If you believe that you have evidence of fraud against the state or federal government, you may want to schedule a consultation with the attorneys at Swartz Swidler. We can analyze the information that you have and offer an honest assessment about whether or not it appears that you have a valid claim.