How to Report False Claims
The False Claims Act (“FCA”) has proven a most effective legal device for the deterrence and disclosure of fraudulent government claims. The statute is codified at 31 USC 3729-3733, and has undergone extensive evolution since its initial 1863 enactment. Since its last major amendments of 1986, FCA qui tam suits have skyrocketed. Basic terminology and procedure In common vernacular, those who inform about fraudulent business activity against the Federal Government are called “whistleblowers”. The legal term for such individuals is “relater.” The 1986 amendments have greatly expanded relater roles in FCA suits. You may fully observe the Department of Justice conduct of your suit during its entire course. At any time before the case concludes, you may ask the judge to intercede if you do not believe matters are being sufficiently overseen. Likewise, you may seek court intercession if you feel that the government is not adequately representing your interests. No reprisals allowed The FCA features what is perhaps the strongest anti-retaliation clause in the entire Federal Code. If you can prove employer retaliation or harassment related to your case, FCA Section 3730(h) permits recovery of double back pay with interest, reinstatement with seniority, and special damages. What you should know about FCA suits FCA suits typically consume long periods of time. After initiation, these cases go through a long series of legal stages. Your participation will be very active in some stages and relatively passive in others. Patience must remain paramount. Remember: the wheels of Justice grind slow but fine. Preliminary investigation This stage commences upon the joint decision of you and your legal counsel to seriously review the case. Competent lawyers conduct their own investigations before approaching the government. Your heaviest involvement in the entire lawsuit will probably occur during this stage. The written complaint Your attorney will prepare a formal legal document outlining your knowledge about the fraudulent activity in detail. By law, this disclosure is mandatory. Insure that it is accurate and complete before signing. Investigation period FCA suits are filed under seal. The case is not made public; nor is the accused business notified of the litigation. The government has sixty days to conduct a formal investigation and decide whether to intervene in the lawsuit. If the government does intervene, it becomes a party to the case. Be aware that this does not guarantee a successful conclusion; nor does it mean that you and your attorney may just sit back and relax. Your vigilance and involvement is still required. The government is frequently willing to settle for far less than a case merits merely to assure victory. External political pressure also frequently affects the government’s case management. Trial Should the matter proceed to trial, you will be a major witness. You will be subject to intense questioning under oath by the accused company’s lawyers. There may be several postponements before the trial commences. When it finally does, you may incur travel and lodging expenses to attend. Even if you prevail, the company will probably appeal the verdict. During the appeal, your involvement will be minor. Your attorney may employ outside counsel to assist in the appellate process. He or she may even turn the case over to another lawyer entirely during the appeal. In summary, do not expect an FCA suit to be fast or easy. These cases typically consume years from initial complaint to final resolution. If you are in financial difficulty, seek other sources to sustain you during the lawsuit. Do not rely upon a future judgment or settlement in your personal financial planning. With proactive planning and a realistic approach to your FCA case, you can maximize your chances of ultimate victory. FCA informants are now seen in a more beneficial light than in the past. Take pride in your positive role of serving the public interest through ferreting out and recovering valuable public resources.