Whistleblower lawsuits, also known as “qui tam” lawsuits, are getting a great deal of attention in the news media recently and for good reason. Many people are aware of wrongdoing on the part of their employer, whether it is cheating on income taxes, over-billing or anything else. Qui tam lawsuits are usually filed by these types of insiders within an organization that is cheating the federal government, though similar lawsuits can be filed on behalf of state or local municipalities.
The suits are filed under the False Claims Act, which was initially established under President Abraham Lincoln as a remedy against contractors who were providing inferior equipment to the Army; Lincoln provided for a sizable reward to be given to anybody who filed a qui tam lawsuit based on their inside information on behalf of the government. The law has been in place, though modified over the years, ever since, and the rewards for successfully filing a suit on behalf of the government can be enormous.
Qui Tam Lawsuits Protect and Reward
The goal of the False Claims Act is to maximize the government's ability to pursue those who are cheating it. Because Congress recognized long ago that detecting all fraudulent acts being perpetrated against the government would be impossible, they created a method of enlisting the American public to be their eyes and ears. When a citizen becomes aware of an organization cheating the government, they have the opportunity to file a qui tam lawsuit in which they are acting as the voice of the government.
Once the suit has been filed the government will review the case and determine whether they want to join with the whistleblower or allow them to pursue the case on their own. Though cases that are joined by the government generally stand a much better chance of being successful, one way or another when the case is won the whistleblower receives a sizable reward; up to 30 percent of the total amount that was stolen from the government.
The reward is high because the government wants to encourage this type of reporting, though it is also a recognition of the risks that are involved with becoming a whistleblower; although the initial case is filed anonymously, the records are eventually unsealed and the whistleblower's identity is revealed, and although protections are offered to whistleblowers, the situation can become uncomfortable.
Qui Tam Lawsuit Industries
Though fraud against the government can be perpetrated by almost every kind of business, there are certain industries that have been found to be rife with corruption; fortunately, there have were a plenitude of employees willing to turn in their employers and reap the rewards that come with a winning qui tam case. Far and away the industry that has seen more whistleblower cases filed and won than any other has been health care, with an enormous percentage of those cases originating from the pharmaceutical industry.
Defense contractors came in at a distant second behind healthcare, which accounted for over 80 percent of funds recovered on behalf of the government in 2011. For each case that has been successfully filed against a company trying to swindle the government there has been a single whistleblower that has not only done his duty to his country by reporting the fraud, but has also been awarded a large percentage of the amount recovered.
If you are aware of this type of fraud, it is important that you enlist the help of an experienced qui tam attorney; you also need to file your claim quickly. Only the first person to file a qui tam case is eligible to be named the filer, even if others who follow later have more information on the case. Attorneys who do not specialize or have experience in qui tam cases may not know this type of information, putting you at risk of losing the opportunity to file the suit. This is why it is important to hire an experienced whistleblower attorney like those at Danziger & De Llano.
Trends in Qui Tam Cases
The regulations regarding claims filed under the False Claims Act were updated in the mid-1980s, and since that time there has been an explosion in the number of cases filed, particularly in the last few years. In 2011 there were over 600 cases filed. With over 8,000 cases filed in the last fifteen years, the awards have ranged from a few hundred thousand dollars to settlements reaching hundreds of millions of dollars, but the majority of the money that has been recovered has been from those cases that the Department of Justice has chosen to join.
When a whistleblower files a qui tam case, the government determines whether the case is strong enough to be supported reviews the filing. For this reason, if you have knowledge of fraud being perpetrated against the government and are considering filing a qui tam lawsuit, it is essential that you utilize an experienced qui tam lawyer who can prepare a filing that the government will decide to get involved with.
The attorneys at Danziger & De Llano have been preparing qui tam filings for years, and are ready and willing to help you with your case.