The federal government enacted the False Claims Act (FCA) during the Civil War. The law encourages citizens to step forward and disclose fraud involving government contracts. Originally, the FCA just applied to contracts with the US Department of Defense. Now, whistleblowers can also disclose fraud involving Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE (the medical insurance agency for retired veterans and their families), and other federal agencies.
Whistleblowers must disclose the acts of fraud to the US Department of Justice. The whistleblower normally reviews his/her claim with an experienced lawyer who can explain the exact requirements. For example, claims cannot be filed if the US Department of Justice is already aware of the fraud. The claim must not be in the public domain or known to the public.
Whistleblowers are known as “relators.” The claim is called a “qui tam” action. If the US Department of Justice decides to accept the case and obtains a recovery, then the whistleblower is entitled to a percentage of the recovery (generally somewhere between 15% and 30%). The recovery is the amount of money that the wrongdoer must pay plus any statutory fines, which can be quite substantial. If the US Department of Justice decides not to pursue the claim, the whistleblower can file his/her own claim against the wrongdoer.
In addition to the False Claims Act, there are other laws that allow whistleblowers to expose fraud and receive a percentage of any recovery. These laws involve tax fraud, financial fraud, energy fraud, and environmental fraud. For example, The Securities and Exchange Commission pursues fraud involving the SEC. Whistleblowers can be awarded 10% to 30% of any recovery. Claims must have a value of one million dollars or more.
Many states have their own whistleblower laws, as well. Tennessee has its own False Claims Act which is designed to address Medicaid (TennCare) fraud.
Most of the whistleblower laws provide protections for whistleblowers against being fired or punished in any way for disclosing fraud and illegal activities. Additionally, Tennessee law protects private and public employees who disclose the illegal activities of their employer or refuse to participate in illegal activities. Employees who are wrongfully fired can seek:
- Job reinstatement
- Payment for any lost wages and benefits
- Statutory fines
- Legal fees
The rules for whistleblower claims differ depending on the statute and the agency involved. Experienced whistleblower lawyers review:
- How to submit a disclosure of fraud
- The percentage of any award
- How the agency that prosecutes the tip communicates with the whistleblower and his/her lawyer
- If the whistleblower can stay anonymous
- What happens if the investigative agency decides not to pursue the tip
We understand the difficulties of whistleblower claims. We have the resources to litigate or take these cases to court. To understand if you have a qui tam claim or a whistleblower retaliation claim, call the Law Office of Perry A. Craft, PLLC at 615-953-3808 or us our contact form to schedule an appointment.