Fighting Government Fraud
Pigott Law Firm represents “whistleblowers” throughout the country who disclose fraud against the Government under the federal False Claims Act and similar state laws.
The False Claims Act is a federal law that allows those with “inside” knowledge of fraud against the Government to disclose that knowledge through lawsuits filed under seal and to be rewarded with a large fraction of any money recovered by the Government. Pigott Law Firm has handled dozens of such suits on behalf of the United States and private whistleblowers in cases against hospitals, nursing homes, medical laboratories, ambulance companies, therapy providers, medical equipment suppliers, physician groups, medical billing companies, FEMA contractors, NASA contractors, Department of Defense contractors, student loan companies, for-profit colleges, construction companies, and a variety of other entities that have defrauded the United States.
Having prosecuted False Claims Act cases on behalf of both the Department of Justice and individuals, Pigott Law Firm knows how the system works. This experience allows us to provide especially effective representation for our clients as we guide them through the complex world of whistleblower litigation
The False Claims Act
- What is the False Claims Act?
- What does qui tam mean?
- What types of conduct or activities are covered under the Act?
- How can a private citizen receive an award under the False Claims Act?
- How much money can a private citizen receive for bringing a qui tam action?
- What can a company be liable for if it violates the False Claims Act?
- Who can be held liable?
- Is there a deadline for filing a qui tam action?
- How much does it cost to bring a qui tam action?
- How long does a qui tam action take?
- Do I have to report what I know about a fraud to the Government or my employer before filing a qui tam action?
- Have I lost my right to bring a qui tam action if I have already informed the Government about the fraud?
- Can I keep my identity secret if I file a qui tam action?
- Do I have any protection against my employer firing me for blowing the whistle under the False Claims Act?
- Does the False Claims Act cover tax fraud?
What is the False Claims Act?
The False Claims Act is a unique federal law that allows citizens with evidence of fraud against the Federal Government to sue, on behalf of the Government, to recover triple the amount that has been defrauded from the government. As compensation for their efforts, the citizen, known as the “Relator,” can receive an award, typically between 15 and 30 percent of the total amounts recovered.
- What does qui tam mean?
The term “qui tam” stands for a longer Latin phrase [qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequiter] that is translated as “he who brings an action for the king as well as for himself.” Qui tam is the technical legal term for the legal procedure which allows individuals who have evidence of fraud to sue the wrongdoer on behalf of the Government.
What types of conduct or activities are covered under the Act?
Virtually any situation in which the Federal Government is dispensing money, or collecting money, can give rise to a False Claims Act violation. Activities which constitute a violation of that Act are:
(a) knowingly presenting, or causing to be presented, to the Federal Government a false or fraudulent claim for payment;
(b) knowingly using, or causing to be used, a false record or statement to get a claim paid by the Federal Government;
(c) conspiring with others to get a false or fraudulent claim paid by the Federal Government;
(d) knowingly using, or causing to be used, a false record or statement to conceal, avoid or decrease an obligation to pay money or transmit money to the Federal Government.
How can a private citizen receive an award under the False Claims Act?
In short, it is only the filing of a qui tam lawsuit and subsequent settlement or favorable judgment which can enable a private party to receive a recovery under the False Claims Act.
How much money can a private citizen receive for bringing a qui tam action?
The person who files the suit, known as the “Relator” can receive between 15 and 30 percent of the total recovery from the Defendant, whether that recovery comes from a favorable judgment or a settlement. Relators have received awards as high as one hundred fifty million dollars ($150,000,000.00) in a single case. If a person brings a qui tam action, and the Government chooses to intervene by taking over the lawsuit, the relator generally is eligible to receive between 15 and 25 percent of the recovery. If a person brings a qui tam action and the Government chooses not to intervene, the relator and their attorney still can proceed without the Government to prepare and try the case, and the relator can receive between 25 and 30 percent of the recovery.
What can a company be liable for if it violates the False Claims Act?
Violators of the False Claims Act are liable for three (3) times the dollar amount that the Government has been defrauded of, plus civil penalties of $5,500 to $11,000 for each false claim submitted.
Who can be held liable?
Virtually anyone who receives money from the Government, or pays money to the Government, or helps someone else get money from the Government, can engage in conduct which could make them liable for a violation of the False Claims Act. Common examples of defendants in qui tam actions, include the following: Government Contractors and Subcontractors: Anyone who contracts to provide services or goods to the Government can be a liable for a vast array of False Claims Act violations. Medical Providers: Doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, medical supply companies, HMOs, clinics, and other health care providers often are defendants in qui tam actions for Medicare/Medicaid fraud arising from a wide range of fraudulent billing practices ranging from charging for services not performed, to performing services which were unnecessary, or paying kickbacks to other providers in order to get more business. Businesses and Individuals: Virtually any business or individual doing business with the Government, selling something to the Government, or providing services to the Government, or any agency or branch thereof, can be a defendant in a qui tam action. Claims can range from charging the Government for defective products to failing to advise a Government agency that a seller has been selling goods to the Government agency at an illegal price, while offering a discount price to others. Private Universities: Private universities and colleges have been charged as defendants in qui tam actions that involve their handling of federal grants and research and development money. Local Government Agencies and Officials: Because they are recipients of large amounts of federal money, local entities can be defendants in qui tam actions.
Is there a deadline for filing a qui tam action?
Under the False Claims Act, an action must be filed within the later of two time periods:
(a) Within six years from the date of the violation of the Act, or
(b) Within three years after the government learned, or should have learned, about the violation but in no event later than ten years after the violation of the Act.
Please Note – if, before you file, someone else has filed a False Claims Act lawsuit, or helps publicize allegations similar to yours, you may lose your right to bring a qui tam suit.
How much does it cost to bring a qui tam action?
If you choose to retain the services of P&J and we agree to take your case, we will represent you on a contingency fee basis. This means that you pay no out-of-pocket legal fees for the time we devote to your case. We get paid attorneys’ fees if, and only if, your claim results in a monetary award to you.
How long does a qui tam action take?
The time from the filing of a qui tam action until its resolution varies greatly from case to case, and can range from months to years. Cases which are resolved more quickly are generally those within which the Relator has secured all of his or her proof in advance of filing the lawsuit. This increases the likelihood that the Government will intervene and take over the case, and that, in turn, increases the likelihood that the case with settle sooner rather than later.
Do I have to report what I know about the fraud to the Government, or my employer, before filing a qui tam action?
In general, the False Claims Act does not require you to report the fraud to your employer before filing a qui tam action.
Have I lost my right to bring a qui tam action if I have already informed the Government about the fraud?
No. You do not give up your right to bring a qui tam action by going to the Government before filing your qui tam lawsuit. You should be aware, however, that you are barred from bringing a qui tam suit based upon allegations or transactions which are the subject of a False Claims Act suit already filed by the Government.
Can I keep my identity secret if I file a qui tam action?
When you initially file a qui tam lawsuit, it is filed “under seal”, and the Defendant company remains unaware of your involvement for some months. During that period, the Department of Justice reviews the claims contained within your lawsuit, and decides if it wants to take over your case. Once that decision is made and the seal is lifted, however, it is likely your name will disclosed to the defendant at some point.
Do I have any protection against my employer firing me for blowing the whistle under the False Claims Act?
Yes. Under the False Claims Act, any employee who is discharged, demoted, harassed or otherwise discriminated against because of acts of the employee in furtherance of an action under the False Claims Act is entitled to receive all relief necessary to make the employee whole. Such relief may include reinstatement, double back-pay, or compensation for any special damages including litigation costs and attorneys fees.
Does the False Claims Act cover tax fraud?
No, but another new federal law does allow whistleblowers to be rewarded for reporting tax frauds. P&J is happy to talk to you about pursuing an action under this new law.