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The Federal False Claims Act provides individual citizens with the opportunity to play a vital role in deterring and preventing fraud against government programs. In 1863, Congress passed the False Claims Act to battle the massive frauds committed by government contractors during the Civil War. Since then, the False Claims Act has become the most effective whistleblower law used to combat fraud. It creates liability to the United States for “any person who knowingly presents, or causes to be presented, a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval [or] knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used, a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim.” 31 U.S.C. § 3729(a)(1). Many states also have their own False Claims Act.
A False Claims Act lawsuit is often referred to as a “qui tam” lawsuit. “Qui tam” is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur, meaning “[he] who sues in this matter for the king as [well as] for himself.” In other words, someone who brings a qui tam action is bringing the lawsuit on behalf of the government as well as him/herself.
A person/whistleblower (called a “relator”) brings a qui tam action on behalf of the government. Anyone with knowledge of fraud against the government can be a relator. You do not need to be an employee of the person or entity who is engaged in the fraud.
Fraud against the government can occur in many different industries, including but not limited to the following:
A defendant found guilty of fraud against the United States government is liable for triple damages (3 times the amount of damages the government sustained because of the fraudulent act), civil penalties and attorneys’ fees and costs. The relator can recover between 15-30% of the amount recouped by the government.
The Federal False Claims Act contains a strict anti-retaliation provision prohibiting a defendant from discharging, demoting, suspending, threatening, harassing, or in any other manner discriminating against in the terms and conditions of employment any individual because he or she is involved in, provided testimony for, or assisted with a False Claims Act investigation or action.
Nichols Kaster PLLP represents individuals who blow the whistle on entities that have defrauded the government. If you believe you have knowledge of government fraud, or simply need more information about this practice area, please contact our firm to speak with one of our experienced attorneys.