False Claims Act and Qui Tam Lawsuits
Whistleblowers who witness fraud or uncover crimes going on in their companies have a choice to make, as IRS whistleblower lawyers in California know: to tell or to keep quiet. When you tell, you could risk professional repercussions—being snubbed, losing your job or being blackballed within your company and other related lines of work.
But when you keep quiet, especially about fraud that affects a large number of taxpayers or beneficiaries, the criminal activity could continue indefinitely, draining federal funds and jeopardizing legitimate services that Americans need.
To offset the risks, the government has put laws in place to protect whistleblowers who come forward about fraud that involves government agencies or programs, such as Medicare and Medicaid, from negative results, and, in some cases, rewards their risks. One of these laws is the False Claims Act, which allows a whistleblower to file a qui tam lawsuit to report government fraud.
What is a Qui Tam Lawsuit?
A qui tam lawsuit is a civil lawsuit, and, according to the False Claims Act, any whistleblower whose qui tam suit results in the recovery of government money will receive financial awards and job protection, in recognition of the personal and professional risks that have been taken. Many qui tam lawsuits are aimed at high-level fraud schemes within the federal government and the media attention and potential for blowback from an employer or government official can put a person who uncovers or witnesses fraud in fear of losing his or her job or suffering other negative consequences.
Filing a Qui Tam Lawsuit
Once a person has gathered evidence of fraudulent activity being committed against a government agency, the first step is to obtain legal representation from an IRS whistleblower lawyer. A lawyer will be able to navigate legal responsibilities and the protections afforded in the False Claims Act, which will help a whistleblower retain his or her job (if wanted), and avoid illegal consequences from being incurred.
A qui tam lawsuit will be filed “under seal,” so that the information is kept secure from all parties except the government. During this time, the Justice Department will conduct an investigation into the allegations, without informing the accused parties about the case. If the government then decides to intervene in the lawsuit, the case will be sealed for 60 days, although this can be extended if the government investigation takes longer than 60 days.
If a defendant is found guilty of fraud under the False Claims Act, he or she may be forced to pay three times the amount lost by the government, in addition to penalties assessed for each instance of fraud. The whistleblower will then receive a portion of this award, depending on the information provided.
You Will be Protected
Even though whistleblowers are protected by law, speaking out against a company or institution committing government fraud can be risky, California IRS whistleblower lawyers say. For this reason, it is important to understand your rights as a whistleblower and the protections you are granted. To discuss a potential case, and start the process of filing a qui tam lawsuit, contact an attorney at the Evans Law Firm, Inc. today. We can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at (888) 503-8267 or (415) 441-8669.