There are numerous whistleblower laws at both the state and federal levels. These laws are designed to encourage people with inside knowledge about their employers’ illegal acts perpetrated against the government to come forward and report them. Whistleblowers are allowed to file lawsuits on behalf of the government. If the government is able to recover money because of the information reported by a whistleblower, the whistleblower will receive a reward of 10% to 30% of the total the government collects. Whistleblower laws also contain provisions that protect whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers. The attorneys at Swartz Swidler represent whistleblowers who have inside knowledge about their employers’ significant fraud schemes against the government. Here is some information about how this process works.
1. Consultation With a Whistleblower Lawyer
If your case involves the False Claims Act, you will have to retain an attorney. Individuals cannot file False Claims Act claims pro se. False Claims Act cases involve allegations that an employer has committed fraud against the government. As the injured party, the government requires people to be represented by attorneys when they file lawsuits under this law.
This means that one of the first things that you will need to do as a potential whistleblower is to consult with an experienced whistleblower attorney. You should bring documents with you that demonstrate the fraud scheme. The attorney will ask you questions to determine the facts and whether your claim has legal merits. Because of the lengthy investigatory process and complexities involved with whistleblower cases, most lawyers will not agree to take on a case unless there is evidence of substantial fraud against the government.
2. Filing the Complaint
If the attorney agrees to accept representation of your case, the lawsuit will be initiated by filing a civil complaint. False Claims Act lawsuits are filed in federal court. If your case also includes causes of action under your state’s false claims law, that cause of action will likely be consolidated into a single lawsuit that will be filed in federal court.
The complaint will include a thorough statement of the facts and a request for relief. Your lawyer will draft a disclosure statement that lists the facts you have discovered, the witnesses to the different events, and the documents that support your claims. The disclosure statement will be given to the government’s attorneys and investigators to use for their investigation and will not be filed in court.
The civil complaint will be filed under seal, which means that only you, the government officials, and the judge will know about your case. While your case remains under seal, you will not be allowed to talk about your case with anyone other than the government and your attorney. Your employer will also not know that the case has been filed while it is under seal. During this time, the government will investigate your claim.
3. Meeting With Government Officials
While your case is under seal, you will be asked to attend a meeting with the government together with your whistleblower attorney. You will be asked questions about what you know, your disclosure statement, and your complaint. You will also be asked about the witnesses you have listed and the supporting documents you attached.
The government might also ask your attorney questions about the law and about your case. Your attorney might be asked to provide various services, including an analysis of the law, a review of documents, and other types of services to aid the government during its investigation. The government might subpoena documents held by your employer, which might require the officials and your attorney to review thousands of documents.
After the government has finished its investigation, it will decide whether to intervene. If the government intervenes in your case, it will take over the litigation. In many cases, however, the government will choose not to intervene, which means that you and your attorney will have the responsibility of litigating it without help from the government.
Once the government decides whether or not to intervene, the court will be notified. At this point, the seal on your case will be lifted. The case will then be public, and the complaint will be served on your employer.
5. Defendant’s Response
Once your complaint is served on your employer, it will have to respond to it. Many defendants respond to false claims civil complaints by filing motions to dismiss. In some cases, the defendants instead file an answer to the complaint.
Once the answer has been filed, the case will then move to the discovery phase. The discovery phase involves the exchange of documents, deposing witnesses, naming experts, and presenting motions to the judge. Summary judgment motions might be filed asking the court to resolve portions or all of the cases involving facts that are not in dispute.
If the court determines that there are material facts in dispute that should be resolved at trial, the court will schedule a trial. At trial, your attorney will call witnesses, submit documents into evidence, and cross-examine any witnesses called by the defendant. Once the case concludes, the jury will receive the case and render a decision.
Once you rest your case but before the defendant puts on its own case, it will likely ask the court for a directed verdict. This request means that the defendant is asking the court to dismiss the case based on you presenting insufficient evidence to support your claim. However, if your case is well-supported, the court will be unlikely to grant this type of request.
It is possible that your case will settle before it goes to trial. While many cases settle outside of the trial process, you should not count on a settlement being reached in your case. It is always important to be prepared in case your case must be tried.
Talk to an Attorney
If you have uncovered non-public information that your employer has engaged in a massive fraud scheme against the government, you should speak to the attorneys at Swartz Swidler. Call us today for a confidential consultation at (856) 685-7420.