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Working for an unscrupulous employer or uncovering evidence of fraud against the government can be an extremely uncomfortable position. If you have become aware of any type of fraud or false claim for a government payment, you may be worried about exposing the scheme for fear of losing your job or suffering another form of retaliation.
However, if you are aware of fraud against the government, you not only have a moral duty to report it, but there are also significant incentives and protections for whistleblowers under the False Claims Act. The Qui Tam claims attorneys of Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter can help you file a qui tam claim, ensuring you receive the full protection of the law and maximizing your potential whistleblower reward.
If you live in Florida and have further questions about whistleblower (qui tam) actions, please contact Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter through our online form or by calling 407-712-7300 today for a free and confidential case evaluation.
What is a Whistleblower?
A whistleblower is a person who discloses evidence of fraud against the government or an employer. Florida whistleblower lawyers can help you submit a claim and protect you.
In order to submit a whistleblower claim, also called a qui tam claim, you must have knowledge that another party:
- Knowingly submitted a false claim for payment from the government
- Altered or falsified statements or records used to claim or receive government payment
- Instigated a conspiracy to get a false claim paid by the government
- Altered or falsified statements or records to avoid, conceal, or diminish an obligation to pay money to the government
If you are aware of this type of activity being committed by your employer or another entity, you can file a case on behalf of the government to recover the taxpayer funds that have been stolen through fraud. After an investigation, the government will decide whether or not to join your case. Even if the government decides not to join, you and your attorney can proceed with the case alone.
If you are unsure whether the conduct or practices you’ve seen constitute fraud or false claims, schedule a confidential consultation with the Orlando qui tam attorneys of Colling, Gilbert, Wright & Carter today. All communication with our whistleblower attorneys will be protected by attorney-client privilege and will not be divulged to anyone.
Why File a Qui Tam Claim?
The laws that govern qui tam lawsuits are designed to encourage private individuals with unique information to come forward and disclose that information. The government cannot uncover every instance of fraud by itself; private parties are usually more privy to fraudulent activity. The government depends on these parties to expose fraud, thereby discouraging other parties from committing it. Once a qui tam action is brought forward, the government will have the opportunity to participate.
The U.S. Department of Justice has recovered billions of dollars to date in qui tam lawsuits. Most of this recovery has come from claims relating to healthcare and defense contract fraud.
False Claims Act
Qui tam claims, or whistleblower lawsuits, are covered under a Civil War-era law called the False Claims Act, which has been updated in recent decades to increase the financial rewards for reporting fraud.
The False Claims Act allows people with knowledge of fraud against the government to file a qui tam lawsuit on the government’s behalf seeking recovery of lost funds due to the fraud being reported. This law holds vendors who make a false claim against the government for payment accountable for their fraudulent actions.
The False Claims Act spells out the procedure for filing a qui tam claim. When the whistleblower files the lawsuit, it will remain “under seal” for a minimum of 60 days. This means that the lawsuit will not be made public, allowing the government time to investigate the charges without alerting the defendant to the existence of a lawsuit. This seal is often extended beyond 60 days to give the government more time to investigate.
Once the investigation is complete, the government will decide whether to join or intervene, in the case. If the government intervenes, it will act as lead counsel and work in conjunction with the whistleblower’s attorney throughout the duration of the claim. At this time, the seal will be lifted and the lawsuit will be made public. If the government chooses not to intervene, the whistleblower may still move forward with the case alone.
It is important to act quickly if you possess knowledge of a False Claims Act violation. Only the first person to file a claim will be entitled to collect a whistleblower reward.
Due to the considerable risk shouldered by whistleblowers, the False Claims Act provides for several important whistleblower protections. While the claim is being investigated by the government, the whistleblower’s identity will be kept confidential. This confidentiality will remain even if the defendant becomes aware of the investigation into its actions.
This conditional anonymity may or may not be extended, but even if your identity is revealed, you are protected from certain forms of retaliation by subsection (h) of the False Claims Act. Once the investigation has been completed and the lawsuit becomes public, the whistleblower’s identity will be revealed.
The False Claims Act also protects whistleblowers from retaliation by the defendant. This protection is crucial since many whistleblowers are still working for the company being prosecuted at the time the claim is filed. The defendant cannot:
The False Claims Act makes it illegal for an employer to do any of the above to an employee who has come forward as a whistleblower. This protection also covers any individual who testifies, investigates, or assists in a qui tam lawsuit.
If you suffer a reprisal, the government can either order your employer to re-hire you or compensate you for lost income and benefits. Under the False Claims Act, the whistleblower is entitled to file a civil lawsuit against the defendant for any damages suffered from this retaliation.
Compensation for Whistleblowers
Under the False Claims Act, any person or entity that submits false claims for payment from the government is liable for damages amounting to triple the amount of the fraud, plus a sizeable monetary penalty for each false claim.
When you become a whistleblower in a qui tam case, you can receive 15-30% of the amount the government collects through any settlement or court judgment as a whistleblower reward. While there is no upper limit to the amount a whistleblower can collect, your percentage of the damages may be reduced if the government declines to participate in your qui tam claim or if you are found to be party to the fraud in question.
The Federal False Claims Act provides a considerable monetary incentive to private parties (“realtors”) who bring forward whistleblower lawsuits. If you initiate a successful qui tam action, the exact amount you will receive will depend on the case’s circumstances:
- 25-30% if the government did not join your case
- 15-25% if the government did join your case
- 10% or less if the government joined your action, but most of the relevant information you provided was publicly available
- A reduced amount of compensation if you planned or initiated the false claims that were the basis of the qui tam case
- If you are convicted of a crime related to the false claims, you will not receive anything
The qui tam claims process is quite complex and very difficult to navigate successfully without the help of a whistleblower attorney. At Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter, our qui tam lawyers will help you file all paperwork, documentation, and evidence correctly to ensure the greatest likelihood of a successful claim and a significant whistleblower reward.
Contact Our Experienced Lawyers Today
The qui tam lawyers at Colling Gilbert Wright & Carter have the skills and experience to help you through the complex process of pursuing a qui tam claim. We will fight to ensure your rights are protected so that you will have the greatest likelihood of maximizing your whistleblower reward. Please call 407-712-7300 or contact our firm online to arrange a free consultation at our office in Orlando, Florida.