Whistleblower Lawsuits For Exposing Fraud Against the Government
Whistleblower Actions, False Claims Act and Qui Tam Lawsuits – What is the Law?
Federal and state laws prohibit companies from defrauding the government, including healthcare fraud (e.g, Medicare, Medicaid, TRI-CARE, and more), defense contractor fraud, insurance fraud, securities regulation and financial fraud (e.g, fraud on shareholders), tax fraud, fraud on farm and education programs, and more.
Because nobody wants companies to be able to steal from taxpayer coffers, individuals who report fraud on the government are protected as whistleblowers under state and federal laws, such as the False Claims Act, Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, Sarbanes-Oxley, and more. These whistleblowers (sometimes called “relators”) are entitled to monetary rewards for exposing the fraud.
Violations of these laws and their state equivalents can result in serious monetary penalties. For example, in the case of the False Claims Act, judgments can be up to three times the amount of losses sustained by the government, plus civil fines. Additionally, people and companies can be subject to criminal prosecution for their perpetuation of the fraud.
Who can be a Whistleblower?
The False Claims Act allows any individual to act as a whistleblower and sue a company or other person who is defrauding the government on behalf of the federal and/or state governments. In such cases, the whistleblower is referred to as a “relator,” and these cases are known as qui tam lawsuits. Qui tam is a latin term for roughly, “in the shoes of the king.”
Any person who has evidence of a fraud occurring against state or federal government may act as a protected whistleblower pursuant the False Claims Act. Very often, individuals with the most knowledge are employees of companies that are systematically committing the fraud.
For example, a billing or accounting specialist might be aware that a company is billing a government program or entity for services or products not actually provided. Another example might be where an employee is instructed by company management to routinely “up-charge” the government by billing for more than the service or product purchased.
Dodd-Frank, Sarbanes-Oxley, and more protect and allow for individuals who have information about violations of federal securities laws to be protected as whistleblowers. Such individuals may even be also entitled to monetary rewards for exposing securities violations.
For example, a salesperson at a publicly-traded company might discover that company management is lying to investors in an effort to drive up the company’s stock value. If this salesperson follows the proper steps to gain whistleblower status, they may receive a significant monetary reward for doing so.
How does a whistleblower report fraud against the government?
The False Claims Act requires that individuals who wish to file a qui tam lawsuit hire an attorney. The attorney will work with the whistleblower to prepare the lawsuit and the information to be disclosed to the government. Qui tam lawsuits are initially filed “under seal,” meaning that nobody but the federal court, the U.S. government, and the whistleblower and their attorney know of the lawsuit.
During the “seal period,” the government investigates the allegations made in the lawsuit and works with the whistleblower and their attorney to gather more information. At some point, the government makes a decision as to whether or not to “intervene” in the lawsuit and prosecute the wrongdoers itself. If the government does not choose to do so, the seal is lifted and the whistleblower and their attorney may decide whether or not to prosecute the action alone.
For other types of fraud against the government actions, including for violations of federal securities laws, there are various different ways to gain whistleblower status (e.g., a tip to the SEC’s Office of the Whistleblower).
Individuals who are concerned that their employer or some other organization is committing fraud against the government should consider contacting an attorney who specializes in whistleblower law, so as to ensure that they are acting in accordance with all applicable state and federal laws and to ensure that their whistleblower status is protected.
What are the monetary rewards for reporting fraud on the government?
A successful whistleblower who exposes fraud on the government may be entitled to a monetary reward in the form of a percentage (ranging from 15 to 30 percent) of the total amount the government recovers as a result of the tip.
Can My Employer Retaliate Against Me For Reporting Fraud Against The Government?
Various state and federal laws prohibit employers from retaliating against individuals who are whistleblowers or who otherwise cooperate in an investigation of fraud on the government.
Employers who take adverse action against whistleblowers can face serious consequences for doing so, including being required to paying the employee significant monetary damages for lost wages and as a penalty for their conduct.
Can I Report Fraud Against The Government By My Employer While I Am Still Employed?
If possible, you should call our office while you are still employed by any company that you believe is committing fraud against the government. By doing so, you put yourself and the government in the best position to collect evidence of the fraud and secure a sizable recovery and reward.
Additionally, we can advise you on what documentary evidence and other information you are allowed to access for the purposes of reporting the fraud.
How Much is My Whistleblower Case Worth – Both To The Government And For Me?
Reporting fraud against the government is an important matter and you should know that regardless of your potential monetary reward that you are potentially saving taxpayers significant money.
The short answer is that the value of your case depends on a lot of things, like:
- the strength of your evidence of fraud;
- the amount of damages the government has suffered;
- whether the wrongdoer has the ability to pay a large amount; and
- your tolerance for risk.
For whistleblower cases, it is best that you call our office to discuss the potential value of your case.
Contact Our Whistleblower Attorneys.
You must act quickly when it comes to employment claims. If you wait, there may be strict statutes of limitation that will bar you from filing any claim at all against your employer. Call Madia Law today to discuss your case.
First, contact our office and tell us about your situation. You’ll talk with our staff for about 5-10 minutes. They’ll get some basic information about you and your case.
There’s some information that we’ll need when you call. We will want to know who you worked for, what kind of work you did, for how long you worked there, how much you earned, if/when you were terminated, the reason given by your employer for any discipline and termination, and why you think your employer did something unlawful or wrongful. If you have this information handy, it will allow us to proceed more quickly.
We will get back to you shortly – usually within a few hours. If your potential case is a little outside of our wheelhouse, we may refer you to attorneys, agencies, or organizations that we think might be better suited to handle your situation. Our goal is to ensure you get the best and most appropriate help possible for your particular situation. If that’s not us, we’ll try to tell you immediately and point you in the right direction.
If we think that we might be able help you, we’ll set an appointment for you to talk with one of our employment lawyers. We’ll discuss your case, and give you our honest assessment of its strengths, weaknesses, and value. If we then mutually agree that Madia will represent you, we will talk about the process of moving forward with your case.
When you talk with our employment lawyers, please be sure to have all relevant documents that you have in your possession. For example, that could include: pay-stubs, personnel files, employment handbooks/policies, letters from your employer (including your termination letter), any text messages or emails that you think are important, and any other documents that you think might be helpful.