Whistleblowers have protections under federal and state law when they report their employers for committing fraud against the government. It is important for you to understand qui tam cases so that you can determine whether you have a potential claim to file and whether you want to proceed with it. Here are some key things that the attorneys at Swartz Swidler believe that you should know about qui tam claims.
1. What qui tam cases are
The first thing that you should understand is what a qui tam case is. It is a kind of legal case in which whistleblowers file lawsuits against those who are defrauding the government on the government’s behalf. By disclosing the unlawful conduct to the government, qui tam claimants may be eligible to receive monetary rewards that are based on the amounts that the government is eventually able to recover.
2. Qui tam whistleblowers act in the public good.
Whistleblowers are acting in the public’s interest by doing the right thing. In order to be a whistleblower, it takes courage and independence to be the only person who questions whether what their company is doing is lawful. The actions of whistleblowers help to save taxpayers millions of dollars every year. Since 1987, the Department of Justice reports that the government has recovered more than $39 billion from qui tam cases that were filed under the False Claims Act. These recoveries have occurred in cases that the government was unlikely to have discovered on its own without the help of the whistleblowers.
3. It is important to move quickly.
If you have uncovered evidence that your company has or is committing fraud against the government, it is important for you to act very quickly. A majority of whistleblower laws contain first-to-file rules. These rules mean that only the first person who files a case that discloses a fraudulent scheme may recover a monetary award.
4. Your choice of a lawyer is important.
There are very few lawyers across the U.S. who have extensive experience handling qui tam cases. Choosing an attorney who is experienced in handling qui tam claims is vital to your ultimate success. Qui tam lawsuits require extensive investigation, manpower and resources. You should choose attorneys who have experience, the proper credentials and the resources that are needed to handle the claims correctly through to the end.
5. If you’ve read about the fraud at your company, you don’t have a claim.
If your company’s fraud has already been reported in the media, you don’t have a qui tam case. A key factor in qui tam actions is that the information could not have been discovered by the government through other sources. If it has already been disseminated in the public forum, you will not have grounds to file a claim.
6. Patience is a virtue.
While it is important to move quickly after you have uncovered evidence of fraud, you should be prepared to wait after your claim is filed. These cases move very slowly. The government will need time to investigate your allegations, and the investigation may take many months or years. After the investigation, you will then have to wait while the case moves through the judicial system. You should be prepared for your claim to not be resolved for multiple years after it is filed.
7. Gathering the right evidence is the key.
The public generally assumes that most businesses follow the law. Unfortunately, the attorneys at Swartz Swidler understand that some businesses break the law on a regular basis. When you consult with us, you will be asked about the corroborating evidence that you have. We ask this because we understand that strong evidence is necessary to convince skeptical prosecutors and judges that your claim of a company conspiracy is true. The type of evidence that you might need includes documents such as reports, emails, notes, contracts, medical records, memoranda and others. If you do not have corroborating evidence, your case is unlikely to be successful.
8. Choose the court wisely.
Qui tam lawsuits may be filed in many different jurisdictions. It is important for you to choose the right court in which to file your claim. Your attorney will help you to consider different factors that can help to inform the decision of where to file your case.
9. Don’t talk about your case.
When you file your qui tam lawsuit, it will be filed under seal. This means that the information contained in it is not available to the public. It is very important that you refrain from talking about your case with any party other than your lawyer. If you make public statements, you risk harming your case and your ability to recover an award.
10. It takes a strong resolve and the ability to withstand risks to be a qui tam whistleblower.
You need to make sure that you have the right type of personal makeup in order to serve as a qui tam whistleblower. The process is often very stressful and may come with professional and personal risk. You need to complete a cost and benefits analysis to make certain that you have what it takes to see your case through. Remember that if you do, you will be helping to make your company more ethical while also returning taxpayer dollars back to benefit the public.
11. Relators are protected against retaliation.
The False Claims Act and other whistleblower statutes have protections against retaliation for relators. Relators are what qui tam plaintiffs are called. This means that your company will be forbidden from taken negative job actions against you because you filed a qui tam action to disclose its wrongdoing. These anti-retaliation provisions may help to mitigate some of the professional risks that you might face while also providing added grounds for recovery.
12. The fraud must be substantial.
Because of the extensive investigation and resources that are required for qui tam actions, the fraud that you have uncovered must be substantial. Most qui tam lawyers set minimum amounts in order to agree to take these claims. This is to make certain that pursuing the claim will be worthwhile to you.
If you have uncovered evidence of a massive fraud that has been perpetrated against the government by your company, it is important for you to talk to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler. Contact us today to schedule your consultation.