Under the Federal False Claim Act, individuals have the right to file “qui tam” actions against companies that have engaged in defrauding the federal government. A portion of the content of the False Claim Act, or “qui tam statute,” reads as follows:
(b) Actions by Private Persons.
- A person may bring a civil action for a violation of section 3729 for the person and for the United States Government. The action shall be brought in the name of the Government. The action may be dismissed only if the court and the Attorney General give written consent to the dismissal and their reasons for consenting.
- A copy of the complaint and written disclosure of substantially all material evidence and information the person possesses shall be served on the Government pursuant to Rule 4(d)(4)  of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. The complaint shall be filed in camera, shall remain under seal for at least 60 days, and shall not be served on the defendant until the court so orders. The Government may elect to intervene and proceed with the action within 60 days after it receives both the complaint and the material evidence and information.
- The Government may, for good cause shown, move the court for extensions of the time during which the complaint remains under seal under paragraph (2). Any such motions may be supported by affidavits or other submissions in camera. The defendant shall not be required to respond to any complaint filed under this section until 20 days after the complaint is unsealed and served upon the defendant pursuant to Rule 4 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
(B) The Government may settle the action with the defendant notwithstanding the objections of the person initiating the action if the court determines, after a hearing, that the proposed settlement is fair, adequate, and reasonable under all the circumstances. Upon a showing of good cause, such hearing may be held in camera.
A guide to qui tam whistleblower cases
A private person, legally termed a “relator,” has the right to file a lawsuit and receive a reward when the case is successful. This legal action is appreciated by the federal government, as it opens an avenue for recovering money from companies that have defrauded the U.S. government and the taxpayers. To date, these lawsuits have recovered billions of dollars. A qui tam case can be filed for a range of violations of federal law, including:
- Medicare and Medicaid fraud
- Defense contractor fraud
- Procurement fraud
- Tax fraud
- Securities law violations
- Commodities law violations
- Best price cases
- Off-label marketing by pharmaceutical companies
- TAA cases (Trade Agreements Act)
- Financial fraud under Dodd-Frank and FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act)
You are required to have your qui tam lawsuit filed by an attorney. These lawsuits are filed “under seal,” which means they are confidential. Only the government is apprised of the case, and the confidentiality allows the allegations to be investigated, so the agency can determine whether it will join the case. The entity, corporate or individual, is not informed that the qui tam case is in process without permission from the court. The case will become public when the government joins it.
Choosing the right lawyer for whistleblower representation
The False Claims Act has several unique rules and a set of procedures that not all attorneys are familiar with. Any errors in filings or procedures will lead to difficulties that are both costly and avoidable when represented by a skilled lawyer.
Once the lawsuit is filed, the case is sealed for 60 days for the investigation by the government to be completed, but the time frame is often extended. Should the government intervene in the case, they take control, but they do not intervene in every case. You have the right to pursue the lawsuit on your own, and the government has the right to join later if they choose to.
Why choose Hickey & Chung LLP for whistleblower representation?
If you are considering filing a whistleblower claim, the experience, knowledge, and legal skill of your attorney matter. Most successful qui tam cases are resolved through a negotiated settlement rather than at trial and involve very large payments to the government, along with penalties. Whether your lawsuit goes to trial or involves a negotiated settlement, the quality of your attorney is arguably the most important factor in both the success of the lawsuit and the value of your portion of the settlement.
We offer a team of skilled, passionate, and effective attorneys who consistently get great results. Hiring a good lawyer who knows the territory involved in qui tam cases could not be more critical with regard to the outcome. Attorney Brendan Hickey is a graduate of Harvard and formerly served as a federal defender. Naomi Chung is a seasoned trial lawyer, recently listed as a SuperLawyers Rising Star.