Monday, March 02, 2009

Whistleblowers protect Federal Taxpayers

To protect itself against fraud, the federal government allows people who are aware of fraud to sue companies who bilk the government. The False Claims Act (a.k.a. the qui tam statute) allows private citizens to people or companies who fraudulently bill the federal government. Actions under this law typically involve government spending programs such as health care, education, social security or the U.S. military. Several states have also created similar False Claims statutes that enable whistleblowers to recover money at the state level.

People who file actions under the False Claims Act are often called whistleblowers. The Department of Justice may assume a qui tam suit or it may allow the whistleblower to litigate the case.

If the Department of Justice takes over the case, the qui tam plaintiff is entitled to between 15 percent and 25 percent of the recovery. If the Department of Justice does not intervene and the qui tam plaintiff pursues the lawsuit on behalf of the government, the qui tam plaintiff is entitled to between 25 percent and 30 percent of the recovery. Any person can be a qui tam plaintiff regardless of whether he or she has first-hand knowledge of the fraud as long as the fraud has not previously been publicly disclosed. If it has already been publicly disclosed, a person can bring a qui tam action only if he or she has first-hand knowledge of the fraud.

The False Claims Act also protects qui tam plaintiffs who are retaliated against by their employer due to their participation in a qui tam action. The protection is available to any employee who is suspended, demoted, threatened, harassed or otherwise discriminated against by his or her employer because the employee investigates, files or participates in a qui tam action. The protection includes reinstatement, double back pay, interest on the back pay, litigation costs and reasonable attorneys' fees.

ABL handles qui tam cases and welcomes inquiries.


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