The False Claims Act broadly applies to almost any situation where federal dollars are involved. Given the Act’s structure, categories of qui tam cases can cover a variety of fraud. The following areas are but a few examples of cases where qui tam cases have been filed:
If you know of any fraud or misconduct relating to the above wrongdoings you can file a qui tam action or a whistleblower suit on behalf of the government in federal district court in accordance with the Federal rules of Civil Procedure. The complaint must provide a written disclosure statement of substantially all material evidence and information that the whistleblower or relator has in his/her possession. A copy of the complaint and the disclosure must be submitted to the Attorney General of the United States and should be served on the U.S. Attorney for the district in which the action is brought. The complaint must also be filed in camera and under seal. Until the seal is lifted by the court, the complaints and its contents must be kept strictly confidential. The complaint must not be served on the defendant until the court so orders. If you violate the seal provision your suit could be dismissed.
Once you file your qui tam complaint, your case remains under seal for at least 60 days. The seal period allows the government to investigate the allegations made in the case in order to make a decision on whether to take over the prosecution of the case or not to intervene. The government can ask for the seal period to be extended. The seal period could last up to a year or more.
If the government decides to take the case, the Department of Justice has primary responsibility for prosecuting the case. You, as the whistleblower, or your attorneys have the right to participate in the litigation subject to certain limitations. However, the DOJ may dismiss or settle the action if the court consents without consulting with you. If the government decides not to intervene or proceed with the case, you have the right to pursue the action on your own. The government may intervene at a later date upon showing of good cause.
It is not necessary to hire an attorney, but several courts have ruled that litigants cannot prosecute a qui tam action on their own since they would be acting as an attorney for the government. Most qui tam lawyers take on cases on a contingency basis, which means the attorneys get paid only if there is a recovery, with the fee being some percentage of what you are awarded. Depending on your retainer agreement, an attorney or law firm may bear all the expenses related to the case.
A qualified attorney should evaluate your case at no cost to you and should be able to advise you on whether to proceed with the suit or not. False Claims cases often take years to prosecute and investigate, a good whistleblower attorney or law firm should have the resources to invest time and money to your case, particularly if the government decides not to intervene in the case.