The FCA provides that any person who knowingly submits, or causes to submit, false claims to the government is liable for three times the government’s damages plus a penalty. It is the centerpiece of the U.S whistleblower program. In addition to allowing the United States to pursue perpetrators of fraud on its own, the FCA allows private citizens to file suits on behalf of the government (called “qui tam” suits) against those who have defrauded the government. Citizens who bring successful actions may receive a portion of what the government recovers. The portion citizens receive is determined by several factors. A person who files a qui tam lawsuit is a "relator" and may also be referred to as a whistleblower or qui tam whistleblower.
Statute of Limitations
In most cases, FCA claims must be filed within six years of the false claim or within three years after the government knows or should have known about the false claim.
First to File
In cases where multiple FCA claims are filed based on the same facts, only the first whistleblower to file a case is entitled to proceed. This is known as the first-to-file rule. So those with knowledge of possible fraud should consult an attorney as soon as they become aware of the potential fraud to be able to participate in any awards.
The False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq., was enacted in 1863 to fight widespread fraud by companies selling defective weapons and other items to the Union Army during the Civil War. It has been called the, "Lincoln Law."
The law was primarily used in the beginning agains military contractors and this focus continued into the 1980's when fraud accompanied the massive defense spending of that era. By the late 1990s, health care fraud began to receive more interest and accounted for approximately 40% of recoveries by 2008.
Filed Under Seal
Complaints must be filed in federal court under seal. The seal is in place for at least 60 days. There are often many extensions granted by the Court while the claim is being investigated.
Attorney Fees To Make Claim
Many attorneys who represent whistleblowers do so on a contingency basis. There is no cost to the whistleblower unless the case is successful and the whistleblower receives an award. Then the attorneys receive a percent of the award. The attorneys may also recover fees from the defendant in the case. The payment terms are agreed upon in detail when a case is filed.
Are all whistleblower cases related to the False Claims Act
Not all whistleblower cases involve the False Claims Act. You may have a federal or state FCA claim in cases that involve Medicare or other healthcare related fraud or government contracts or programs. Cases that involve defrauding investors may be related to SEC violations. Cases involving possible taxpayer fraud may involve IRS violations.