Everyone is familiar with the basic concept of right and wrong and, fortunately for this world, many people who witness a wrong endeavor to make it right. Unless they have received fraud and abuse prevention training, however, they have probably never heard of the False Claims Act or other qui tam statutes.
This means that when one of those good people see fraud, waste, or abuse, their first instinct is generally not “I need to file a lawsuit on behalf of the United States!” Their instinct is simply to try to fix the problem, often by going to the person in charge, and if they can’t fix it internally, then to report the fraud to the proper government agency.
Sometimes reporting directly to the government involves merely filing a complaint or calling a hotline. But sometimes there are auditors, investigators, and government agents who follow up, ask a lot of questions, maybe even investigate the fraudster. And sometimes, the government itself files a False Claims Act case.
We hear from a number of people who reach this point – they complained to the government, and the government either resolved the claims or filed an FCA case of their own, and now the whistleblower is thinking “I did the right thing by reporting this, so don’t I get a reward?”
Just reporting to the government is not enough to get an award, even if it results in a government-filed FCA case. The False Claims Act is a very particular statute that requires you to follow its procedures to the letter. If by the time you come to us the issue has already been settled, then it is likely too late. That is what happened in the case of U.S ex rel. Babalola in Texas: two whistleblowers sent a letter to the government that resulted in $43 million in restitution by the defendant. The whistleblowers then filed a False Claims Act case and requested a share of the money. The Fifth Circuit held that by filing an FCA case after settlement, even though they were the source of the information that led to the settlement, the whistleblowers were not entitled to a share.
If, however, the government’s investigation is on-going, you may still have time to file your own lawsuit and receive a relator’s share. In fact, on some occasions government investigators and attorneys have even recommended that whistleblowers contact our firm just for that purpose. If you filed a complaint that kicked off a government investigation, you deserve to be rewarded for having done so. Let us help you to secure your reward.