Qui Tam Lawsuits
The government is not always in the best position to uncover fraud in the private sector. To help encourage employees and other ordinary citizens to expose and report suspected fraud, the False Claims Act contains a “qui tam” provision. This provision allows a private citizen to initiate a False Claims Act case on behalf of the government based on their personal knowledge of potential fraud.
If the prosecution is ultimately successful, the federal government compensates the whistleblower with a monetary reward. This incentivizes those with knowledge of fraud to step forward and “blow the whistle” on wrongdoing.
Healthcare providers and businesses that manufacture or sell medical equipment often submit claims for reimbursement to Medicare or Medicaid. If a healthcare professional or medical equipment manufacturer submits a false or fraudulent claim for reimbursement, it violates the False Claims Act.
Many businesses rely on government contracts as a primary source of income. However, if a business fraudulently obtains a government contract, it violates the False Claims Act. A business could fraudulently obtain a contract through bribery, promising goods of a certain quality but failing to deliver, or falsely claiming the business meets certain regulatory requirements. Procurement fraud can occur in any industry but is especially common among those businesses that contract with the military.
The Qui Tam Process
When someone discovers an organization is defrauding the government, they can file a qui tam lawsuit. The whistleblower also called the “relator,” brings the claim on behalf of the government. However, the qui tam process is quite complex, and those with knowledge of fraud often work with a knowledgeable qui tam lawyer to ensure the case is properly prepared and filed.
The first step in bringing a qui tam lawsuit is to file a complaint under seal. Next, the relator must serve a copy of the complaint to the Attorney General and the United States Attorney. Typically, the case remains sealed for 60 days while the government conducts its own investigation into the relator’s allegations. Often 60 days is not enough time for the government to complete its investigation, and it may request additional time. The case is sealed to allow the government to investigate the claims without the defendant’s knowledge. The relator must keep any information about the case confidential; violating this requirement may cause the dismissal of their claim.
The government’s purpose in reviewing a relator’s allegations is to decide whether it wants to intervene. If it does so, federal prosecutors will take over the case and continue the prosecution, often with help from the relator and their attorney. The government intervenes in only a small number of qui tam lawsuits. However, even if the government decides not to intervene, the relator can proceed with their case against the defendant. If the government later changes its mind and wants to join the case, it can petition the court to do so.
Case involving misrepresentation, silent fraud, and corporate espionage
Discovering that a business is defrauding the government puts an individual in a challenging position. Potential whistleblowers are often uncertain about how to proceed. The qui tam process is complex, and a mistake could make a whistleblower ineligible for the reward.
Thus, those with knowledge of fraud being conducted against the government should follow these five steps.
If you suspect your employer or another party of defrauding the government, the first step is to contact an attorney to discuss your findings. An attorney knowledgeable about the quit tam process can help you understand and navigate your way through this complex procedure. Of course, any information you provide to an attorney during a consultation remains confidential and does not risk jeopardizing you being the first to report the fraud.
Contact an Experienced Qui Tam and False Claims Act Lawyer for Immediate Assistance
If you recently discovered that your employer or any other business is defrauding the government, protect your rights by reaching out to the qui tam lawyers at Sommers Schwartz.
At Sommers Schwartz, we recognize that you are likely in a difficult position, and we want to provide you with the information you need to make the best decision for yourself and your family. We have decades of collective experience handling even the most complex and contested qui tam lawsuits, and our attorneys command high-level knowledge of all related laws and regulations surrounding a successful qui tam claim.
To learn more and schedule a consultation with a False Claims Act lawyer at Sommers Schwartz, call 800-783-0989. You can also reach us by completing our online form, and one of our attorneys will promptly contact you.