False Claims Act Litigation
Fuerst Ittleman David & Joseph has extensive experience representing whistleblowers seeking to avail themselves of the benefits afforded by the federal False Claims Act by pursuing “qui tam” lawsuits against companies which have submitted false claims to, and have thereby damaged, the United States government. Today, the False Claims Act helps the United States recover billions of dollars per year, and in many cases, the whistleblowers who assist the United States in pursuing False Claims Act lawsuits (otherwise known as “qui tam” lawsuits) themselves earn sizable recoveries.
Understanding the False Claims Act, and the role that whistleblowers play in helping the United States, requires a brief history lesson.
The American Civil War brought to the forefront the ugly side of this country, from slavery to graft to treachery. Among the many calamities faced by President Lincoln was the growing trend of defense contractors defrauding the government, which caused our soldiers to be unnecessarily placed in even more danger as they placed their lives at risk to fight for this country.
In 1863, President Lincoln responded to this fraud by signing into law the False Claims Act, which provided substantial penalties to those caught defrauding the government. Because of the inherent difficulty of uncovering fraud, the False Claims Act, by its very terms, induced individuals to report acts of fraud against the government. In return for their information, these individuals (known as “whistleblowers” or “relators”) stood to participate in the government’s economic recovery through an award of a bounty ranging from 15-30 percent of the recovered damages. The False Claims Act proved to be an effective tool to ensure lawful conduct.
The False Claims Act, although amended since the Civil War, remains alive today and continues to be a strong deterrent against greed. The intent of the False Claims Act is to secure relief against all possible schemes designed to steal from our government and hence its people. Liability under the FCA can arise against anyone who makes, or causes to make, or conspires to make, a false statement or claim to the U.S. government, and against anyone who possesses or controls money or property wrongfully procured from the U.S. government.
Private citizen whistleblowers, or relators, have standing to commence an action against government defrauders. Actions brought by such private citizens are known as qui tam actions. Once the qui tam case is initiated, the government may intervene and take over the case. In some instances, the government elects not to intervene and the relator pursues the case to completion. If successful, just like during the Civil War, the relator will receive a participation in the recovery.
The concept of the False Claims Act has spread to many other fields, and Congress has promulgated “copycat” acts for tax fraud, insurance fraud, securities fraud, and other areas. Likewise, most states have enacted False Claims Act legislation of their own, which enables the states to prosecute those who defraud state governments, and reward those who serve the role of a relator.
Litigation under the False Claims Act and its progeny is complex and specialized. There are strict procedures to follow, and the litigation is frequently expensive and extensive. Attorneys pursuing False Claims Act cases on behalf of their whistleblower clients must also have a sound understanding of the business practices of the target companies submitting “false claims” to the government, as the line separating true and false is often very blurry. The qui tam attorneys at Fuerst Ittleman David & Joseph are experienced in handling False Claims Act lawsuits, and prosecute each action with the singular goal of maximizing the rights of our whistleblower clients.
If you are a whistleblower and are seeking representation to disclose your claim to the United States government, or if your company is facing the threat of False Claims Act litigation, contact us at 305-350-5690 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a free consultation.