The term “qui tam” is short for the Latin phrase “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur.” The rough translation is he who brings an action for the king as well as himself.” That may not make much sense until you understand that America’s “qui tam” law allows private citizens to bring lawsuits in the name of the government and collect a handsome reward if the case is successful.
Qui tam lawsuits trace their origins to our early British heritage before the U.S. was even a nation. Centuries ago in the 1300’s, English statutes allowed “informers” to keep a portion of monies wrongfully denied the Crown.
The United States qui tam law is called the False Claims Act. It was passed during the U.S. Civil War. Qui tam lawsuits under the Act allow those who file them (called whistleblowers or “relators”) to receive between 15% and 30% of whatever the government receives from the lawsuit.
Qui tam lawsuits are a powerful tool in the fight against fraud. Wherever there is a loss to the government or government funds are involved, the False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to file claims on behalf of the government. Each year the government collects billions of dollars because of brave whistleblowers who step forward to fight fraud.
The government can’t be everywhere and audit every bill or contract. Whistleblowers, therefore, play a vital role in helping authorities rout out fraud and corruption.
Typical Qui Tam Lawsuits
There have thousands of qui tam lawsuits in recent years. Common examples involve:
- Medicare and Medicaid fraud
- Pharmaceutical fraud (most drugs are reimbursable by Medicare and Medicaid)
- Mortgage fraud (most residential mortgages are backed by the government)
- Defense contractor fraud
- Bridge and road building
- SBA fraud
Qui Tam Cash Rewards
The False Claims Act allows whistleblowers to receive between 15% and 30% of whatever the government collects from the wrongdoer. Because the law provides for triple damages and penalties of up to $20,000 for each violation, the rewards can be huge.
In cases involving hospital chains, mortgage lenders, defense contractors and pharmaceutical companies, qui tam rewards in the tens of millions of dollars are common.
The amount of the award depends on many factors including the quality of the information and whether or not the whistleblower and his or her attorney prosecuted the case or whether the Justice Department did the lion’s share of the work. The minimum reward is 15%. If the whistleblower’s lawyer prosecutes the case, the minimum reward is 25% of any recovery. (A good whistleblower lawyer will help maximize the percentage award.)
Collecting a False Claim Act Whistleblower Reward
Collecting a qui tam whistleblower reward means finding an experienced lawyer with excellent investigative and legal skills. The lawyer prepares and filed and filing a sealed complaint in federal court. By sealed we mean secret. The defendant or wrongdoer is not made aware of the lawsuit while the government investigates.
Shortly after the case is filed, the Justice Department and law enforcement officials typically schedule a meeting with the whistleblower and the whistleblower’s lawyer. In a Medicare fraud case, that may mean the FBI or Health and Human Services special agents. A claim of poor quality pharmaceutical products might involve the FDA.
The law gives the government just 60 days to investigate but most judges give the government much longer. Typically, every six months the Justice Department must check in with the court and explain what is happening with the case. While the government is investigating the case remains under seal (secret).
It isn’t unusual for cases to remain under seal for at least one year. (This is helpful if the whistleblower is still employed by the wrongdoer and wants to find a new job before the case is unsealed.)
Ultimately qui tam actions are unsealed. That usually happens when the Justice Department decides whether or not they wish to intervene. The government can intervene and pursue the case, intervene and settle, find that no wrongdoing has taken place or allow the whistleblower’s own lawyer to proceed. Because the Justice Department only intervenes in a small percentage of the cases, finding the right whistleblower is critical.
Some lawyers take these cases hoping for an easy score. Unfortunately, if the Justice Department doesn’t take the case, many lawyers don’t have the “horsepower” to pursue a billion dollar corporate giant.
Do I Qualify for a Qui Tam Whistleblower Reward?
We are frequently asked this question, “Do I have a Good Qui Tam Case?”
The law requires the whistleblower to be an original source of the information. That means the whistleblower must have inside information. What you read in the newspaper doesn’t qualify.
There are two other qualifications that are worthy of discussion. First, there are no rewards if the government already has the information you possess.
The other rule says that generally only the first to file collects a whistleblower reward.
When read together, it is easy to see why we recommend you don’t delay if you want to have a successful qui tam claim. The longer you delay, the more likely the government is to discover the fraud on its own or some other late comer will file first.
Qui Tam Protections (Anti Retaliation Law)
Congress understood that filing a whistleblower suit won’t make you popular at work! That is why the False Claims Act has important anti-retaliation provisions, laws which make retaliation illegal.
The Act provides that victims of illegal retaliation can collect double damages and attorneys’ fees.
Other Whistleblower Reward Laws
The False Claims Act isn’t the only whistleblower reward law in the United States. There are several other important reward programs for bank whistleblowers (FIRREA), tax cheat whistleblowers and programs for those with information about foreign bribery and securities violations.
Twenty-nine states also have their own state qui tam laws Many are limited to Medicaid fraud while others cover many more areas of fraud. A few states even have qui tam like laws that cover fraud involving private insurance.
Mahany Law – Your First Choice for Qui Tam Lawyers
The qui tam whistleblower lawyers at Mahany Law are recognized experts on the qui tam lawsuits. In fact, Brian Mahany wrote the book on whistleblowers and why they are heroes – Saints Sinners & Heroes Covert Ops in the War Against the C-Suite Mafia. He has also been widely sought by major media outlets like the Wall Street Journal and television news.
No one will work harder and more tirelessly on your behalf. Our qui tam whistleblower lawyers have helped the government and taxpayers get back billions of dollars while our whistleblower clients have received tens of millions in whistleblower rewards.
Large or small, we will work with you to stop the fraud and obtain the maximum whistleblower reward possible.
To learn more, contact us online, by email or by phone 202-800-9791. All inquiries are protected by the attorney – client privilege and kept confidential. Let us help you become a hero and stop corruption in its tracks.
The False Claims Act can be accessed here.