The FCA was originally designed to reduce fraud by contractors during the Civil War. Since then, the FCA has undergone several revisions expanding its litigation beyond the defense industry. Health care fraud has become the largest target of FCA enforcement in recent years.
In 1986, the FCA was amended to increase awards for successful whistleblowers, which typically range from ten to 25 percent of the government entity's recovery from a lawsuit. Among other provisions, the amendments also added protection for whistleblowers from retaliation by their employers. FCA prohibitions for which a qui tam action can be initiated include knowingly:
- Presenting a fraudulent claim for payment
- Conspiring with another to get a fraudulent claim paid
- Using a false statement or record to get a claim paid
- Using a false statement or record to avoid or decrease a government obligation
The FCA also applies in most cases in which the fraudulent activity is against a state program that receives federal government funding. And not only do many state programs receive federal funding, but at least a dozen states as of this writing have enacted whistleblower statutes that are closely modeled after the federal FCA.
In order to bring a qui tam suit, a private person must provide non-public information of the fraud or be the original source of the information. The private person must also be the first to file the suit. But in addition to being liable for three times the damages incurred by the Government, civil penalties of $5,500 to $11,000 for each false claim and costs for violating the FCA, the defendant must pay the relator's reasonable costs, expenses and attorneys' fees.
Whistleblowers who bring a qui tam lawsuit may have to exercise some patience, however. Some government investigations can take a year or longer to complete, and interim information can be difficult to obtain. But in addition to potential financial awards, a qui tam relator can draw satisfaction from knowing that he or she is helping stem the enormous tide of government fraud that ends up harming all of us.
Qui tam actions are a specialized form of litigation, so if you uncover fraudulent activity against a government entity, you should consider consulting with an attorney with experience in qui tam lawsuits. And because of the “first-to-file” provisions and statutory time limitations in which a qui tam lawsuit must be filed, you should consider doing so sooner, rather than later.
If you or a loved one feel you have had your labor rights violated, please contact us. We will help you find a labor attorney near you who can help you recover the financial compensation to which you are entitled.