What are so-called Whistleblower laws?
In 1863, Congress enacted the False Claims Act (FCA) to hold individuals and companies responsible when they defraud governmental programs. The FCA includes what is called “qui tam,” shorthand for a Latin term, a provision that allows a person not affiliated with the government to file claims on behalf of the government. This has come to be known as “whistleblowing,” because the person is drawing attention to fraud, or “blowing the whistle” on foul play.
The “qui tam” provision of the FCA allows citizens to sue on behalf of the government and be paid a percentage of the recovery. The qui tam representative, or whistleblower, in these cases also is called the “relator.”
Separate from the False Claims Act, new laws also have been established to provide whistleblower protections for people who want to report fraud involving the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), called the IRS Whistleblower Law; and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), officially called the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, but commonly referred to as the SEC Whistleblower Law. These cases have made a positive impact on our society by unveiling rampant corruption especially in the Government and Healthcare industry. We continue to explore this area of the law in cases all over this country.
What is an example of a Whistleblower case?
There are a number of types of fraud and corruption that may be investigated for violations of the FCA and whistleblower laws. These include any instances where individuals or businesses attempt to solicit a fraudulent claim for payment. This may include payments for goods or services. Some examples of possible whistleblower investigations include:
- A contractor who falsifies test results or other information regarding the quality or cost of products it sells to the Government;
- A health care provider who bills Medicare for services that were not performed or were unnecessary;
- A grant recipient who charges the Government for costs not related to the grant;
- Possible violations of the federal securities law that results in penalties or recoveries by the SEC or agencies;
- Tax fraud of more than $2 million, or any fraud committed by an individual who makes more than $200,000 per year;
- Lying to the government about the true wholesale price of prescription drugs;
- Double billing.
These are just a few examples. An attorney who handles this type litigation can help you determine if there is a case of FCA violation. You may also visit the Taxpayers Against Fraud (TAF) False Claims Act Legal Center for more information, at www.taf.org.
How do Whistleblower laws protect me?
When you initially file a fraud claim, your identity can be kept secret from the public and the Defendant, although it will be known to the court and the government. This “seal” is not permanent, however. Eventually, when the investigation is complete or on a judge’s ruling, the information will be open for disclosure to the Defendant and to the public. Your lawyer can talk to you about any possible exceptions to this procedure.
There also is a part of the False Claims Act that is known as the “whistleblower protection” provision. This provision ensures that if you are fired, demoted, suspended, threatened or discriminated against in any other way by an employer as a result of your filing a report of fraud, that you will be reinstated to your former position. This includes receiving any seniority that may have been affected, as well as back pay, interest and other compensation that may be due as a result of damages or losses you suffered as a result of filing a claim.
What can I do?
If you feel you have a claim, our attorneys would like to talk to you. You may be entitled to compensation. Contact us today for a free, no-obligation legal consultation.