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How to File a Qui Tam Lawsuit

If you have information about fraud or corruption involving government funds, you may be able to file a qui tam lawsuit and collect a whistleblower reward. Filing a lawsuit through a qui tam attorney allows citizens and non-citizens of the US the chance to recover taxpayer money, hold government contractors accountable, and earn themselves anywhere from 15 to 30% of the total settlement.

What Is the False Claims Act?

Under the federal False Claims Act, a citizen may sue on behalf of the government, who is the injured party by fraud. The federal False Claims Act prohibits anyone from submitting false or fraudulent claims in order to claim or keep government money to which they are not entitled. This powerful whistleblower law allows relators, or those who disclose fraud, the opportunity to keep up to 30% of a successful settlement.

The False Claims Act is often used to catch and prosecute Medicare and Medicaid scams, defense contractor fraud, banking and securities fraud, education fraud, misuse of federal grants, and more. The law holds violators accountable for up to treble damages per false claim, and financial penalties are linked to the rate of inflation. Because of this, settlements under the False Claims Act often balloon into the hundreds of thousands or even million dollar range.

What Is a Qui Tam Lawsuit?

A qui tam lawsuit is a method by which average people can hold corporations accountable for submitting false claims under the False Claims Act. In qui tam law, a whistleblower is known as a relator, and they sue on behalf of the government. Qui tam refers to the Latin phrase, “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur,” which means “who sues on behalf of the King as well as for himself.” Qui tam law allows whistleblowers to keep percentages of a successful settlement, since the fraud would not have been prosecuted without their aid.

Who Can File a Qui Tam Lawsuit?

Anyone can become a qui tam relator, although most whistleblowers are employees of companies committing fraud. Under a qui tam claim, the information brought must be unique, previously undisclosed or unreported, and help lead to a successful recovery of funds. Because of this, employees with insider information about misfiled healthcare claims, misspent grant funds, insider trading, breaches of contract, improper cybersecurity protocols amongst contractors, and more, are most likely to be able to report on fraud. However, other qui tam relators may be competitors in the field who know about standard practices and pricing or who become suspicious about cut costs.

Even non-citizens can file a qui tam lawsuit in the United States. Some of the most effective banking fraud insiders are often foreign citizens.

Common Types of Qui Tam Lawsuits?

Qui tam claims can originate whenever there are false claims submitted to the US government in exchange for funds. However, the following are some of the most common fields of recovery:

  • Healthcare Fraud: Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, and VA funds are popular targets for scam artists who may unbundle insurance claims, upcode billing, or even abuse or fail to properly treat patients.
  • Government Contracts Fraud: Government contractors perform vital services with taxpayer funds. When corners are cut on performing contracted work, environmental regulations are flaunted, or businesses bid for work based on unrealistic cost assessments, they may be reported for fraud. Businesses that fail to maintain proper cybersecurity protocols with sensitive information may also be reported under the new Cybersecurity Fraud Initiative.
  • Customs & Tariffs Fraud: Failing to pay appropriate tariffs on imported or exported goods is a method of submitting false claims to the government that can be prosecuted under the False Claims Act.
  • Tax Fraud: Underpayment or non-payment in amounts over $2 million may be reported to the IRS for a whistleblower payout.
  • Securities, Commodities, & Banking Fraud: Insider trading, bank fraud, mortgage scams, commodities fraud, cryptocurrency schemes, and more all may be reportable anonymously under the SEC and CFTC Whistleblower Programs for a reward.

How To File a Qui Tam Complaint: 6 Steps

Filing a qui tam complaint is a time sensitive matter. Once information has been previously reported, it becomes ineligible for a reward. Additionally, failing to report fraud may not only implicate you in the scam, but also leave you vulnerable to employer retaliation without the protection of whistleblower laws. To get started speaking up as a whistleblower, you will need to:

1. Reach Out for Legal Assistance

A qui tam lawyer can help guide you through all of the following steps, including ensuring your claim meets the statute of limitations, falls under the appropriate jurisdiction(s), and is filed correctly in order to qualify you for a reward. Your consultation is confidential, and your identity can be kept as anonymous as possible while filing your claim.

2. Gather the Necessary Information

A whistleblower complaint can be dismissed for failing to plead with particularity under Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. Rule 9(b) states that cases must be filed with a level of specificity that involves showing the time, place, and events of the alleged fraud. The particularity standard for a qui tam complaint is much higher than pleadings for tort cases or other civil allegations of harm. Because of this kind of special pleading, it is important to gather as much information and specificity as you can before filing your whistleblower claim.

3. Submit Allegations to the Government

Your plea will name the US government as the plaintiff and may include the name of the relator as well, unless your claim is done through a law firm or kept anonymous. Certain whistleblower programs, such as the SEC and IRS, involve a heightened standard of anonymity for those reporting, and complaints are not even subject to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.

4. File the Qui Tam Complaint

Filing your qui tam complaint must fall under the appropriate jurisdiction. Hiring a qui tam lawyer, or working with the local US Attorney’s office can help. Your complaint must be filed under seal, and not served to the defendant. You must also provide the government with the proper disclosure statement 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(2). All of these steps are best undertaken with the help of a qui tam law firm.

5. Act Quickly and Keep the Matter Private

The relator must be the first to file in order to claim a whistleblower reward. For this reason, cases must be kept private, and information previously undisclosed. Do not discuss the case with others, or share on social media.

Additionally, claims must fall within the appropriate statute of limitations in order to qualify. The False Claims Act violations must be reported either six years from when the fraud was first committed, or three years after the United States knows or should have known the material facts of the fraud, but not more than 10 years after the initial violation. Whichever of these standards is longer will be considered the limit on your claim.

6. Wait for the Government Investigation

Having experienced legal representation is key to ensuring that whistleblower claims will be taken as seriously as possible. Cases that involve government investigation tend to lead to much higher settlements, and thus much higher whistleblower payouts than those that are prosecuted without the full might of federal discovery. Additionally, assisting the government willingly can increase your total percentage from your whistleblower payout. Having an experienced qui tam law firm behind you can ensure that you do not miss an opportunity to increase your percentage, and play your part.

Whistleblower Rewards Under the False Claims Act

Whistleblowers are currently eligible for all of the following rewards under federal law:

  • Rewards or Compensation: A qui tam settlement can result in a whistleblower receiving 15 to 25% of the total recovery if the claim proceeds with government intervention, and up to a full 30% if the case is successful without government aid. Changes by Congress in 2006 also ensure that IRS whistleblowers receive a mandatory minimum 15% of the total settlement in the event that their information results in a successful recovery of unpaid taxes. Mandatory awards do not prevent whistleblowers from receiving higher percentages of settlements as well if their information is particularly useful or as thanks for ready cooperation with an investigation.
  • Double Back Pay: If an employer retaliates against a protected whistleblower, they may be eligible to receive up to double back pay from a separate lawsuit.
  • Reinstatement: If an employer fires, transfers, or demotes a protected whistleblower, the whistleblower has the option to sue for reinstatement. In cases where reinstatement is not possible, the employer may be ordered to pay front pay until whistleblower finds a similar level of employment.

Successful Qui Tam Lawsuit Examples

According to the Department of Justice, of the $2.2 billion in settlements and judgements recovered by the federal government in fiscal year 2022, over $1.9 billion came from whistleblowers and claims filed under the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act. The following are examples of successful whistleblower action resulting in the recovery of stolen taxpayer funds:

United States ex rel. Harvey v. Advanced Biohealing, Inc.

This successful case against Advanced Biohealing, Inc (8:16-cv-303-T-30TBM, Middle District of Florida), then purchased by pharmaceutical giant Shire, involved the use of kickbacks to sell medical products to hospitals operated by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. The offering and receipt of kickbacks to promote medical services or devices is prohibited by the Anti Kickbacks Statute, and the case resulted in both civil as well as criminal proceedings. The settlement for $350 million remains one of the largest kickbacks cases prosecuted under US law.

U.S.A. et al. v. Inc. et al.

This case (1:19-cv-06717, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York) against an online pharmacy alleged that insulin pen refills were being dispensed prematurely to patients, causing Medicare and Medicaid to pay more than they should for unusable and unprescribed insulin. The whistleblowers in this case, two pharmacists, received a 21% relator share of the $5.7 million settlement.

United States ex rel. Icolari v. Eos Energy Storage, LLC

Civil Case No. 19-22129 (MCA) (LDW) involved an intentional underpayment of customs duties on “dry batteries” manufactured in China and imported to the United States. The importer, Eos Energy Storage, LLC (Eos Energy) was ordered to pay $1,107,761 in a settlement for the unpaid import duties, and the whistleblower received 20% as a relator share.

Protections Against Qui Tam Retaliation

You may be eligible for legal assistance if your rights as a whistleblower have been violated. Under federal law, it is illegal for your employer to fire, harass, demote, fail to promote, transfer, or lower your rate of pay due to your protected disclosure. If you suspect you are being retaliated against in any way because of your actions as a whistleblower, contact a qui tam law firm for help filing a lawsuit. Your employer can also be ordered to cover the cost of your attorney and legal fees when filing your retaliation claim, in addition to being sued for up to double back pay, reinstatement, and more. If you are a federal employee or a healthcare worker, additional statutes may apply.

Federal False Claims Act and Qui Tam Litigation: FAQs

The following are some frequently asked questions about filing a qui tam lawsuit.

How Are Qui Tam Lawsuits Different Than Most Other Civil Cases?

A qui tam action is different from filing many other civil cases for many reasons. Complaints must be pled with particularity and are served under seal, instead of to the defendant. The relator does not have to prove personal harm, instead harm done to the government, who is the qui tam plaintiff by law. Information must be previously undisclosed and unreported, unlike in other civil cases. Claims may involve both federal and state law, depending on the nature of the fraud, and may fall under the jurisdiction of multiple federal departments, such as the Department of Justice, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, Environmental Protection Agency, and more. Finally, whistleblowers do not recover damages, but instead a relator’s share from a successful settlement, that is calculated based on the value of their information and their willingness to come forward.

What is the Statute of Limitations for the False Claims Act Qui Tam?

Qui tam statutes allow for the filing of a whistleblower lawsuit anytime a) after six years from the date of the initial fraud, or b) three years from the time that the United States knew or should have known the material facts of the fraud, but not more than c) 10 years after the first violation.

How Much Does It Cost To File a Qui Tam Lawsuit?

Qui tam cases can be filed on a contingency fee basis, allowing whistleblowers the benefit of a law firm’s expertise without paying an up front fee. Because most whistleblower law firms know that the help of a professional leads to a higher payout down the road, your initial consultation will be free. Qui tam litigation does involve additional legal and filing fees. However, the costs can be taken care of when you receive your final qui tam settlement.

More Info on Qui Tam Lawsuits

For more information on qui tam provisions, qui tam investigations, or becoming a qui tam whistleblower, contact an experienced qui tam law firm. Filing a qui tam lawsuit is one of the most powerful areas of federal law available to fight fraud and corruption, recover taxpayer funds, and hold scam artists accountable.

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