Your career, reputation, and livelihood – a lot is at stake when you decide to call out fraud or other wrongdoing to blow the whistle. Our team of dedicated whistleblower attorneys understands the challenges you face as a whistleblower. We have decades of experience helping courageous men and women navigate the complicated and daunting process of bringing whistleblower claims to a just and rewarding conclusion.
The False Claims Act (FCA)
The False Claims Act (FCA) – also called the Qui Tam statute – is a federal law that was first established by Congress in 1863, authorizing everyday citizens to file lawsuits on behalf of the United States and individual or company is defrauding the government.
The False Claims Act holds liable those who knowingly submit, or cause another entity or person to submit, false claims for payment of government funds. Those found responsible for fraud are liable for three times the government’s damages plus civil penalties of $11,665 to $23,332 per false claim.
Under the “qui tam” provision of the FCA, those who choose to come forward and report the wrongdoing through an FCA lawsuit are entitled to between 15 and 30 percent of the amount recovered by the government in a settlement with or judgment against the defendant/s.
Although originally coined the “Lincoln Law” due to its beginnings in the Civil War Era, the FCA works to not only protect those who “blow the whistle” on misconduct it also ensures that they are compensated for their time and effort.
The False Claims Act allows the U.S. to investigate claims filed on its behalf. If the U.S. government chooses to “intervene” in an FCA case, effectively taking over in the litigation, the whistleblower will be rewarded between 15-25 percent of any judgment or settlement the case brings.
If the U.S. declines to intervene, the whistleblower can still proceed with the lawsuit. False Claims Act cases unsupported by the government that result in a judgment or settlement have higher awards for whistleblowers – up to 30 percent.
Congress strengthened the False Claims Act in 1986 with an amendment that increased incentives for potential informants to blow the whistle on false claims on the government’s behalf.
False Claims Act settlements and judgments returned over $2.2 billion to federal agencies and programs in the fiscal year 2020, with more than $1.8 billion in recoveries coming from cases involving health care fraud, according to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ).
Of the $2.2 billion in recoveries in 2020, nearly 75 percent of them – more than $1.6 billion – were qui tam cases initiated by whistleblowers who witnessed fraud or other wrongdoing and chose to file suit on behalf of the U.S. government.
Total awards paid to whistleblowers whose FCA cases resulted in a recovery amounted to $309 million collectively in 2020.
Another part of the False Claims Act is known as the whistleblower protection provision. This provision ensures that if you are fired, demoted, suspended, threatened, or discriminated against in any other way by an employer as a result of your filing a report of fraud, that you may be reinstated to your former position. This includes receiving any seniority that may have been lost, as well as back pay, interest, and other compensation lost as a result of your whistleblower actions.
Additionally, the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 is a federal law that protects federal whistleblowers who work for the government and report misconduct within their ranks. Under the law, federal employers are forbidden from retaliating against employees who file complaints. Federal employees may file a complaint about matters involving the violation of a law, rule, or regulation; gross mismanagement; gross waste of funds; abuse of authority; or substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
Before Blowing the Whistle
Before you report suspected fraud or other wrongdoing – before you “blow the whistle” – it is important to make sure you have a valid claim and that you are prepared for what lies ahead. Here are some things to consider:
- Be hands-on – A whistleblower must have first-hand knowledge of the fraud or other wrongdoing to file a claim. It is important to have physical evidence such as documents, emails, invoices, billing statements, or other materials that support your allegations. These materials must be things the whistleblower collected from the employer, organization, or entity. They cannot be public records or information from another source.
- Be specific – Identify the “who, what, when, and where” of the fraud. Organize your information and, if possible, create a timeline for the fraudulent conduct. You will be required to explain why the conduct is fraudulent. As an employee familiar with your company’s procedures and industry standards for those procedures, you are uniquely qualified to spot fraud where others may miss it or assume it is a standard business practice.
- Verify criteria – To file a federal False Claims Act, the fraud must be committed against the U.S. Government; in other words, U.S taxpayers. You may also file a state False Claims Act provided your state has one if state funds are affected by the fraud.
- Determine motive – The fraud must have been committed willingly and deliberately. Mismanagement is not a cause for a whistleblower claim.
- Check yourself – If you are a government employee who witnesses fraud against the government, you may need first to make an effort to report the fraud through channels within your agency before filing a whistleblower lawsuit. Talk to an attorney to determine if you should take this course.
- Talk to a whistleblower attorney – An experienced whistleblower attorney is an important ally in bringing wrongdoers to justice. It is advisable to talk to an experienced whistleblower attorney before filing any claim or reporting the wrongdoing. They will be able to help you navigate a potential claim and guide you through what is often a long process. Although your information will initially be kept confidential, you will eventually be identified as the whistleblower. Your attorney can help you obtain whistleblower protections available under the False Claims Act. Taxpayers Against Fraud (TAF) has created this helpful video to illustrate what may involve filing a whistleblower lawsuit.
Types of Whistleblowers
Many people are familiar with some of the whistleblowers whose high-profile cases have garnered international attention — Jeffrey Wigand, Mark Felt, Harry Markopolos, Karen Silkwood, and Edward Snowden, to name a few. But most whistleblowers fight a less public battle, and many even remain anonymous.
Yet, that doesn’t mean their actions are any less valuable. Whistleblowers serve as the eyes and ears for detecting wrongdoing, given the government’s limited resources and inability to effectively oversee the internal operations of every private enterprise and public entity.
Whistleblowers can sound the alarm in just about any industry. Still, their role is especially critical and prevalent in sectors where fraud, waste, abuse, and other wrongdoing result in high financial gains or pose serious risks to public health and safety.
Health Care Fraud
Hospitals, clinics, pharmaceutical corporations, individual physicians, and other health care providers often target government health care programs with fraudulent billing schemes, illegal kickback and self-referral arrangements, off-label drug marketing, and other fraud costs taxpayers billions of dollars every year.
Whistleblowers who provide specific and credible information to the IRS about a non-compliant taxpayer may be entitled to an award if their tips result in the collection of taxes, penalties, or interest.
In 2010, Congress established the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower in response to the rampant financial and securities fraud that contributed to the 2008-2009 financial crisis.
Auto Manufacturing Whistleblower
The Moving Ahead protects whistleblowers in the auto industry for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21). OSHA enacted the law in 2012 to address the growing need to protect auto industry workers who call out misconduct and violations that jeopardize auto safety and the lives of motorists.
Aerospace industry workers who witness fraud for financial gain or violations threaten the safe operation of civil, military, and business aircraft, helicopters, unmanned aircraft systems, space systems, aircraft engines, missiles, material and equipment, and other related technology may have a valid whistleblower case.
Defense Contractor Whistleblower
Whistleblowers who call out individuals or companies defrauding the U.S. government/U.S. Department of Defense are indispensable not just for the taxpayer but for the safety and wellbeing of U.S. servicemembers.
Nuclear Power Whistleblower
Security and safety in the nuclear power industry cannot be overestimated. Whistleblowers who detect any misconduct at any level within the nuclear industry deserve the strongest protections possible under the law.
State False Claims Acts
The federal False Claims Act is one of the U.S. government’s best fraud-busting weapons. Many states have similar laws to shield taxpayer-funded state-operated agencies and programs from harmful misconduct.
Not all states have a False Claims Act, and not all State FCAs encompass all types of fraud. For example, some state FCAs are used only to identify and prosecute Medicaid fraud. If you are employed in a state without a state FCA or if your state’s FCA doesn’t encompass other types of fraud, we urge you to talk with one of our experienced whistleblower attorneys about your options for filing as a relator under the qui tam provisions of the federal False Claims Act.
Frequently Asked Questions for Whistleblower Attorneys
Contact a Whistleblower Attorney
Experienced whistleblower attorneys are important allies in bringing wrongdoers to justice. It is advisable to talk to an experienced attorney before filing any claim or reporting the wrongdoing. Beasley Allen has a talented team of lawyers dedicated to pursuing whistleblower cases. We want to meet with you CONFIDENTIALLY to review your potential whistleblower claim.