Statute – The False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729 et seq. was passed during the US Civil War in 1863. Claims brought under the False Claims Act are known as “qui tam” act. “Qui Tam” is Latin for “he who brings a case on behalf of our lord the King, as
well as for himself”).
The person who starts the claim is called the “relator.” The relator (also known as the whistleblower) does need to have been the one harmed by the defendant (the wrongdoer). The “Qui Tam relator” must be represented by a lawyer.
The Stages of a Qui Tam Claim.
- The complaint. The complaint must be filed under seal – all records are kept in a secret docket for, at least, 60 days. After 60 days, the US Department of Justice can ask that the secrecy time be extended. The complaint is given to the US Department of Justice and the US Attorney General.
- The disclosure statement. The relator, though his lawyer, prepares a “disclosure statement” which contains all the evidence the relator has about the allegations in the complaint. The disclosure statement is not given to the defendant nor is it filed with any court.
- The investigation process. The Attorney General or a US DOJ attorney then investigates the allegations in the complaint usually with the help of the federal or state government agency that has been wronged. The investigation includes:
- Interviews of witnesses,
- Review of documents and electronic records (subpoenas are used to compel these items)
- Oral testimony from relevant people
- Review with experts
- If there is a companion criminal case, search warrants and other criminal discovery techniques may be used.
- The DOJ intervention decision options. When the investigation is complete, the DOJ chooses one of the three following options
- The DOJ agrees to intervene (participate as a plaintiff) in the complaint. The DOJ intervenes in about 25% of complaints. Sometimes the DOJ will work out a settlement with the defendant prior to the intervention decision.
- The DOJ declines to intervene. The relator and his counsel are allowed to pursue the claim on behalf of the United States.
- The DOJ can move to dismiss the relator’s claim because it doesn’t have merit.
- Timing. Most cases remain under seal for, at least, 2 years. The DOJ lawyer or Attorney General do, periodically, keep the Judge informed.
- If intervention is approved. The DOJ
- Files a motion to unseal the complaint. Only the complaint is unsealed.
- Files a formal notice of intervention, setting forth the allegations the US is pursuing.
- The DOJ normally prepares it’s own complaint. The complaint often includes charges that arise under other statutes that only the US (and not qui tam plaintiffs) can bring. The complaint is normally filed around 60 days after the intervention decision.
- Relator’s actions
- If intervention is approved. After the complaint is unsealed, the relator serves the complaint on the defendant – within 120 days
- If the intervention is not approved (but not quashed) – The relator and counsel decide whether they want to proceed on their own.
Why you need a Whistleblower/Qui Tam Lawyer?
- To investigate whether you have an appropriate claim
- To prepare the formal complaint
- To work with the US Department of Justice so that the DOJ agrees to intervene
- To pursue your claim if the DOJ decides not to intervene
- To make sure the DOJ doesn’t quash your claim.
How Our Firm Can Help
If you think you have a whistleblower claim, contact the lawyers at Begelman & Orlow, P. C.. Our lawyers have over 115 years experience protecting your rights. Call us at 866-627-7052 now. We have offices in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, and in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, and handle claims by claimants in all 50 states.