The US False Claims Act allows individuals to “blow the whistle” on fraudulent activities being committed against the government. Lawsuits filed by whistleblowers, also known as “relators,” are known as “qui tam” actions. When a qui tam action is filed, the relator stands to receive a portion of the proceeds collected by the government if the lawsuit is successful. Often, qui tam actions are filed by employees who learn their own employers are attempting to defraud the government. In these cases, the whistleblowers may receive up to 30 percent of the amount the government recovers.
In the decade between 2003 and 2013, the number of qui tam actions filed doubled in the US. Eyes are wide open these days and whistleblowers often choose to shine a light on wrongdoing even though some fear retaliation. The False Claims Act offers certain protections for whistleblowers.
Private citizens are not permitted to file a qui tam action without an attorney. The issue at hand is: what’s the benefit of hiring a lawyer with a history of successful qui tam actions.
There are major benefits, says Ross Begelman of Begelman & Orlow. “When the Department of Justice gets involved in a qui tam action, the settlement amount is generally much higher than when the government investigates the allegations and decides not to intervene,” Mr. Begelman said. “A qualified, seasoned qui tam lawyer is in the best position to present your case to the DOJ to convince it to intervene.”
In 2014, the government pursued qui tam litigation worth $2.9 billion (relators received $421 million). Of the cases pursued without DOJ involvement in the same time period, $51.9 million was recovered and relators received $13.9 million.
In the early days of a qui tam action, the whistleblower wants to convince the government to join the lawsuit, while the defendant attempts to get the government to walk away. “A whistleblower will be far more likely to convince the DOJ to take a serious look at his or her claims when he or she is represented by a skilled and knowledgeable qui tam lawyer who can present the evidence in the most credible fashion,” Mr. Begelman added.
Further, statistics show that a defendant is more likely to convince a judge to dismiss a complaint if the government is not involved. The American Bar Association reports that 94 percent of qui tam actions filed without government intervention are dismissed.
If you or someone you know has information you believe can assist the government in recovering money stolen through fraudulent activity, talk to a seasoned qui tam lawyer who will review your case and help you convince the government to intervene in the action. Contact Begelman & Orlow right away for a free consultation.