Whistleblowers and whistleblower attorneys may bring lawsuits on behalf of the federal government through the qui tam provision of the federal False Claims Act. Qui tam lawsuits are filed in United States District Court. Unlike almost all other civil complaints filed in federal court, a qui tam complaint is filed under seal. This means that existence of the qui tam case is not publically available and the complaint is not served on the defendant.
The federal False Claims Act provides that the complaint shall remain under seal for at least 60 days. However, the seal may be extended to allow the government to investigate the whistleblower’s allegations and decide whether government intervention is appropriate. In practice, the United States typically requests several extensions of the seal. Qui tam cases typically remain under seal for at least one year while the government fraud is being investigated. These requests are normally granted by the District Court.
The seal protects confidentiality while the government investigates the fraud alleged by the whistleblower. This allows the federal government to investigate allegations such as fraud and abuse in the health care system without the defendant knowing it is being investigated. Unlike other types of civil lawsuits, whistleblower laws typically require confidentiality to assist the government’s investigation.
After the qui tam complaint is filed, the government will want to interview the whistleblower. The whistleblower is accompanied by his or her attorney at this meeting. After the meeting is complete, the government will begin its investigation into the whistleblower’s allegations. During the investigation stage, the whistleblower’s attorney will be in contact with the federal government and assist them in their investigation.
After the federal government has completed its investigation, it will decide whether or not government intervention is appropriate. If the federal government decides to intervene, it assumes the lead role prosecuting the qui tam action. If the government determines government intervention is not appropriate, the whistleblower and the whistleblower’s attorney must decide whether to prosecute the case without the federal government or to dismiss the case completely.
The decision of whether federal government intervention is very important in a whistleblower lawsuit under the civil False Claims Act. As past government fraud cases demonstrate, recovering is much more likely when government intervention occurs. This is so because when the government assumes the lead role in a whistleblower lawsuit, companies are much more willing to resolve the case before litigation. Indeed, whistleblowers receive awards at a significantly higher rate in qui tam cases where there was government intervention than in those cases where the government declines to intervene.
No Fees Without Recovery
Ross M. Wolfe and the Weiser Law Firm litigates whistleblower lawsuits on a contingent fee basis, so whistleblowers do not pay attorneys’ fees or court costs unless there is a recovery.
Please contact the Ross M. Wolfe if you would like to speak with a whistleblower attorney for more information about the whistleblower process or to schedule a free consultation to confidentially discuss your potential case.