Whistleblowers’ Rights and Protections in the False Claims Act
Professional advocacy for employees who expose government fraud
The False Claims Act (FCA) is a federal whistleblower law enacted during the U.S. Civil War. It is the main remedy the government uses to collect money from individuals and companies that defraud the government. It allows whistleblowers the right to bring a civil action, known as a qui tam action, to recover ill-gotten gains and to punish the wrongdoers. The whistleblower, known as a relator, who brings a successful action is entitled to a reward typically between fifteen and thirty percent of the amount the wrongdoer is forced to pay. Many new whistleblower laws are modeled on the FCA.
At Gilbert Russell McWherter Scott Bobbitt PLC, our Tennessee False Claim Act attorneys have strong experience in this very complicated area of the law. We understand how trying it can be to file a False Claims Act complaint. Whistleblowers against the government worry that they may not be the first filer and lose their award. They fear retaliation by the people or companies they expose. Our lawyers have the experience to guide False Claims Act whistleblowers through each phase of their claim. We ensure the whistleblower gets justice for exposing injustice.
The elements of a False Claims Act claim
A False Claims Act is essentially a private-public partnership. The US Congress recognized that the Department of Justice and other law enforcement agencies did not have the time and resources to expose government fraud, so they created incentives for private citizens to expose fraud. Some of the issues in FCA claims are:
- Who files FCA actions? Any individual or entity can file a False Claims Act claim if they have evidence of fraud in government contracts. If there is another private claim or an existing government claim, then the new claim will not be allowed. The claimant must employ an attorney to file the claim.
- How the claim is filed. The claim is filed under seal to make sure the government has time to review the claim before notifying a suspect. The complaint is filed in federal district court. A copy with a disclosure statement of all relevant evidence is served on the appropriate Attorney general and US attorneys.
- Time limits. There are time limits for filing a claim, which can be explained by one of our Tennessee False Claims Act lawyers.
- What damages can be paid? The party that commits the fraud can be forced to pay the dollar value of the fraud plus civil penalties. Triple damages may also apply.
- What happens if the government decides not to take the case? If the government decides not to intervene, the claimant and legal counsel can bring a direct claim against the wrongdoer. The rewards are usually higher, but the government does not add its powerful resources.
- Whistleblower Protection Provisions. The framers of the False Claims Act understood that many employers would be furious if they received notice of a whistleblower claim. Employers may retaliate against the person who exposed their fraud. The False Claims Act protects whistleblowers who are harassed, fired, or suffer any form of discrimination because they file a whistleblower complaint. Remedies include reinstatement, double back pay, and legal fees.
Tennessee also has laws that protect whistleblowers. One of our Tennessee False Claims Act attorneys can explain when state law is used to protect whistleblowers and when federal law is used.
What type of fraud is covered in the False Claims Act?
The False Claims Act was originally enacted to help disclose fraud in contracts between companies and the U.S. Defense Department. The act has been expanded to include:
- Medicare fraud
- Medical device and drug fraud
- Defense fraud
- Information technology fraud
- Other types of government contract fraud include the transportation and agriculture sectors
- Fraud involving disaster relief agencies such as FEMA can also give rise to a qui tam claim.
Some of the common types of fraud that are common to all government sectors include:
- Billing for services or products that were never given or delivered
- Double billing
- Billing for non-contracted items
- Submitting false records
- Performing unnecessary procedures
- Billing for A-rated equipment when lesser equipment was used
- Providing false certifications
- Billing for tests that were not authorized – known as bundling
- Billing for brand-name prescriptions when generic prescriptions could be used
- Charging for employees who did not work or falsifying time sheets
- Failing to report overpayments
- Undervaluing goods to avoid import or export fees
- Using defective products
Legal protection for False Claim Act whistleblowers in Tennessee
The Gilbert Firm protects those whose rights are covered under the False Claims Act in Nashville, Chattanooga, Memphis, Jackson, and across Tennessee. We aggressively fight to hold the employer accountable, protect your employment status, and to get you all the work benefits and government awards you deserve. To review your case with an experienced Tennessee False Claims Act lawyer, please call 888.354.FIRM (3476) or complete our contact form.