Relator’s Interview Part IV: What happens?

Think of the Relator’s Interview as a big job interview, the kind with a whole panel of people who will ask questions.

Most of the time, there will be one designated Asker-of-Questions. That person is usually the AUSA, but sometimes is an investigator, depending on who has the most experience with your type of case, who has the most time to prepare, and so on. That person will start by introducing everyone and who they represent. S/he will then spend some time explaining to you the “rules of the road” for a relator – don’t investigate on your own, the existence of the seal, and so on. (A good, experienced qui tam attorney will have long ago made you aware of these issues.)

At that point, you will be asked questions about your work history and credentials. Remember, during the whole interview, one goal is to determine whether you will make a good witness. Don’t sell yourself short, but don’t ever overreach, either!

Next, you will be taken through the Complaint, often page by page, to make sure that the Government understands exactly what is meant by what is written, as well as the basis for the things you have said and any corroborating evidence. If we have produced documents on your behalf, you may be asked to explain them to the team. Sometimes you will be asked questions about the witnesses we have suggested – how they might react to being approached, whether they are friendly, and so on.

Throughout the interview, you may be asked to follow up on questions or issues. No worries, we will keep a list and ensure that everything is completed.

With all of this, you can see why it is hard to predict how long a Relator’s Interview will last. The more prior experience you have, the longer your complaint, the more complicated the fraud, and the more documents you have produced will all affect the length of time you are there. Normally, we are done before a late lunch, but I usually tell my relators to take a whole day off of work, because even if you get out quite early, you are going to be pretty tired after being in the hot seat all day!

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series, Part V: Frequently Asked Questions

Relator’s Interview Part III: Who attends?

As we mentioned in Part I of this series, the Government will staff your case after it is served. There will be an assigned Department of Justice (“DOJ”) attorney from Washington D.C. (“Main Justice”) assigned to your case, although he or she may have limited involvement. There will be an Assistant United States Attorney (“AUSA”) from the United States Attorney’s Office (“USAO”), and the local USAO may have its own staff investigators who may attend the interview.

There may also be an attorney and/or an investigator from whichever agency (or agencies) that have been ripped off. For instance, if you allege a doctor’s office has falsely billed Medicare and Medicaid, there may be an investigator from the Department of Health and Human Services (“DHHS”) and perhaps an attorney or investigator from the Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services (“CMS”). If, on the other hand, your case involves manufacturing of helicopters for the armed forces, then depending on how widely the equipment is distributed, we may have alphabet soup, with representatives from the Department of Defense Office of Inspector General (“DoD OIG”), Army Office of Inspector General (“Army OIG”), Navy Inspector General (“Navy IG”) and the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (“AF-OSI”).

Depending on the district, your interview may be attended by FBI agents or investigators from the criminal branches of the above agencies. This may mean that the government is considering a criminal action in your case – but for some districts, a criminal division AUSA and/or FBI agent attend most or all Relator’s interviews, just to be sure that there is no overlap with other open investigations and to say whether criminal has any interest in pursuing the matter.

Finally, if you have a Medicaid case, there will usually be a representative from the National Association of Medicaid Fraud Control Units (“NAMFCU”). NAMFCU coordinates the efforts for all of the states involved in the case, and may have their own investigators present.

With all of that, some Relator’s interviews are small – the AUSA, the relator, and the relator’s counsel. On the other end of the spectrum, some feel like conferences; I have attended a few that had more than a dozen investigators and attorney representatives. Most are somewhere in the middle, with an AUSA, an investigator or two, a DOJ representative (often on the telephone), a NAMFCU representative, and Relator’s team.

With literally hundreds of Relator’s interviews under our belt, Bracker & Marcus are in a good position to have you well prepared for talking to all of these folks!

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series, Part IV: What happens at the Relator’s Interview?

Relator's Interview Part II: What's the Purpose?

There are three things that the Government will want to do during the Relator’s Interview, and all of them are important.

First, as we already mentioned in Part I of this series, the Government investigators want to get more information about the fraud itself. They may ask questions about the complaint; they may ask questions about the extra content provided in the disclosure statement; they may walk through documents that you have provided to be sure they understand the implications. They will likely ask about witnesses and other sources of more information. They may ask about layout of buildings, or where things are stored in the offices. All of these questions will be targeted at understanding more about what you are alleging and how they can most efficiently investigate and prove the case.

Second, they will want to evaluate your credibility. They will ask questions about your history and you will be forthright, honest, and candid. After all, they probably know it already. What can get you in trouble is not the actual, truthful answers to questions – it’s being evasive or incomplete or (heaven forbid) lying that will get you in trouble. Put another way, the Government investigators don’t likely care about your divorce, but if they ask you if you have been in a lawsuit, you want to be up front and include that information. No worries, we will help you prep for this part of the interview just like the rest.

But what if you are worried or embarrassed about things they may ask? There are a number of things we can do to help with that – but all of them start with you being honest with us about what is going on, so that we can develop a plan of action that balances your need for privacy with the need for candor. There’s a reason that attorney-client privilege exists, and this is one of them! Tell us everything –yes, everything! –and we take it from there.

Finally, the Government wants to assess what kind of witness you would make at trial. Credibility is part of that assessment, of course, but not all. They want to see how well you communicate your thoughts, how well you respond to questions and stay on topic, and of course assess all the other intangible qualities that make a good witness.

A good, experienced qui tam attorney will help you prepare for all of these purposes. Give us a call to arrange for a free consultation.

Stay tuned for the next installment of this series, Part III: Who attends the Relator’s Interview?