Benjamin Franklin once said there’s only two certain things death and taxes, well we can add a third to the list which is fraud against the government. In 2017, the Federal Government recaptured over $3.7 billion dollars via the False Claims Act (FCA), also known as qui tam actions. Relators, also known as whistle blowers generally stand to receive up to 30% of the recovery, but generally more like 20%, so doing the math courageous people who blew the whistle obtained roughly $750 million dollars for doing the right thing. This figure is down from 2016 by almost a billion dollars as defendants have dug in to fight some of the fraud using legal technicalities and sometimes find receptive courts to dismiss these actions. However, one shouldn’t read too much into this as whistleblower awards in 2014 were an all-time high at 6.15 billion which equates to nearly a billion for the whistleblowers themselves and the trend since 2010 was over $3 Billion in recoveries per year.
A whistleblower may ask many questions such as: How Do I blow the whistle? What can I blow the whistle on? Am I protected as a whistleblower? How do I file a whistleblower lawsuit?
In order to blow the whistle and file a qui tam or False Claims Act, the Courts have held you need to do so through a lawyer and one should generally seek a qui tam law firm who focuses on whistleblower actions. You can blow the whistle generally when you have inside information that someone is defrauding the government. Some of the most common areas are Medicare fraud, Medicaid fraud, and defense Contractor Fraud. An entirely separate area of practice and very actionable in addition to the billions recovered via the False Claims Act is the SEC Whistleblower program which also results in large recoveries for the people and the whistleblower when successful.
The Courts and the government look to people with inside information to come forward so generally a consumer without insider information will not succeed under the False Claims Act, but that is not always the case, so if one suspects fraud as a consumer there may be a myriad of ways to tackle the issue.
With the maze of Medicare regulations, some companies take short cuts to get even, but many others do so to just plain get ahead, hurting the taxpayers and the system as a whole. Most Qui Tam Lawyers will consult with clients confidentially and if a person doesn’t want to proceed with their false claims act lawsuit, will keep the matter confidential indefinitely.
Attorney Jason T. Brown, a former FBI Special Agent who now manages a law firm that reportedly has dozens of qui tam cases filed under seal said, “The government is by the people and for the people, and relies on the integrity of the courageous people to come forth and do what’s right to end fraud and abuse. Plus people who come forward could potentially receive big whistleblower awards for doing the right thing, but that should be incidental to knowing that you’re alerting the government to illegal practices such as overbilling Medicare or defrauding Medicaid.” Although his practice focuses on whistleblower cases, he cautions people not to take matters into their own hands. “Consult an experience qui tam law firm first. Too many times we receive cases where the individual retains qui tam counsel too late and jeopardizes the false claims act investigation and case. We protect whistleblowers the best we can, but to do so it’s critical that if you know information about overbilling the government you bring the right team in sooner rather than later.”
With the Donald Trump administration prioritizing opioid litigation, there are plenty of cases with opioid over-prescription, medically unnecessary prescriptions and a multitude of other issues that may dovetail into an opioid whistleblower action. The new administration also has an eye on reducing fraud in and against the government, so 2018 should continue to be another big year for qui tam actions.