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Fraud against the government costs taxpayers millions of dollars every year. A lot of greedy and unscrupulous companies, institutions and individuals use fraud or false billing to get a cut of the cash that flows out of Washington. In an effort to cut down on the amount of taxpayer dollars lost to fraud, the government has enlisted regular citizens to uncover deceptive, money-grabbing schemes. To encourage informants to come forward and reveal what they know about fraud against the government, the laws not only provide protection for whistleblowers, but they also can get a cut of the sometimes substantial penalties that the perpetrators of fraud must pay.
The False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729 also known as the Whistleblower Act, Qui Tam Statute or Lincoln Law – gives ordinary citizens like you the power to sue companies or individuals over financial fraud committed against the government. Successful False Claims Act cases may include fraudulent payment schemes involving federal health care programs (including Medicare), government procurement contracts, grants for small businesses, federally insured mortgages and other federal programs.
If you suspect your employer is defrauding the federal government, contact the Louthian Law Firm today at Toll free: 888-662-0434 or Locally: 803-454-1200 or online for a free evaluation of your case. We can confidentially review the facts in your case, advise you about whether your claim has merit and inform you about how the False Claims Act protects whistleblowers from retribution in the workplace – all for no charge.
The False Claims Act was first enacted during the Civil War in response to war profiteers who sold shoddy goods to the government or overbilled. The act allows whistleblowers who are unaffiliated with the government to bring an action on the government’s behalf against federal contractors who defrauded the government. This is what is known as a “qui tam” action, whose title has its origins in a Latin phrase that translates as “he who sues for the king as well as for himself.”
Whistleblowers, known as “relators” under the False Claims Act, often face considerable personal risk when reporting financial wrongdoing. To encourage whistleblowers to step forward with allegations of fraud, the government offers sizable rewards to those individuals. Whistleblowers under the False Claims Act may collect 15-30 percent of any money recovered in a successful lawsuit.
A lawsuit under the False Claims Act can result in the fraudster paying triple damages to the government, plus a penalty of $5,500 to $11,000 per claim. In some instances, a “claim” is interpreted as each individual bill or request for government payment, multiplying the size of the penalty according to the number of fraudulent bills submitted. An estimated $6 billion has been recovered for the government, resulting in nearly $1 billion in rewards for whistleblowers since the False Claims Act was revised in 1986 to make it easier for citizens to file qui tam actions.
Many factors play into how much a whistleblower can recover in a qui tam suit. The False Claims Act leaves a lot of room for discretion in deciding what percentage of the recovery the whistleblower will receive. Relators who promptly report fraud and provide significant assistance to the government will generally receive a larger cut. An experienced attorney such as the ones at Louthian Law Firm can help you present your best case to the government in order to maximize your reward.
In addition to a significant reward, the False Claims Act also permits whistleblowers to recover their legal fees and costs from the party that perpetrated the fraud. The law also prevents employers from harassing or taking other adverse actions against a whistleblower.
Most qui tam actions are brought by current or former employees of companies or institutions that defrauded the government. They can also be brought by subcontractors, competitors, federal employees, customers, patients or virtually anyone who has information that a party has knowingly submitted fraudulent claims for payment to the government. You do not need to have suffered some sort of personal harm in order to bring a qui tam case.
In most cases, only the first relator to disclose the fraudulent activity to the government can recover under the False Claims Act. This means it is crucial that you seek legal counsel and get moving on your case as soon as possible to avoid being shut out.
You generally will not be able to recover in a qui tam action if you were responsible for the fraud. The False Claims Act also frowns on so-called “parasitic” claims, where a relator reports information about a fraud that was already generally known in the public realm.
Under the False Claims Act, a qui tam action can be based on the actions of any party who:
False claims for health care services under Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security have been common subjects of qui tam actions in recent years. Federal military contractors have also been targets of whistleblower lawsuits, as have universities that received federal research grants and companies that deal with federal agencies such as the Department of Labor, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Energy, NASA and the Department of Agriculture.
It is important to remember that the False Claims Act does NOT apply to claims, records or statements made under the Internal Revenue Code, meaning it does not apply to tax fraud. There are other exceptions, including actions against the states, members of Congress, judges and senior members of the executive branch.
Another key point: qui tam actions cannot be based on government waste or ineptitude. The subject must be fraud perpetrated against the government.
An experienced qui tam attorney like the ones at the Louthian Law Firm can assess your case and help you file the necessary disclosure statement with the government if you have a valid case. In some instances, the government will “intervene” or take part in your lawsuit. A qualified attorney can help you structure your claims in such a way that the government will be persuaded to intervene in your case, possibly increasing the likelihood that you will recover reward money. However, even if the government doesn’t decide to intervene, it might still be advisable to pursue your case without government involvement.
For a free, confidential evaluation of your case, call the Louthian Law Firm today at 888-662-0434 or fill out the online consultation form.