When we explain what we do at Bracker & Marcus LLC, the first question many people have is, “What is the False Claims Act?” The False Claims Act is America’s first (and strongest) whistleblower law. Also known as the FCA or Lincoln’s Law, it allows private parties to file suit (qui tam suits) on behalf of the federal government against those who have defrauded it.

For example, by filing an FCA lawsuit, an employee can report a pharmaceutical company to the Justice Department for engaging in unlawful schemes that cause fraudulent billing to Medicare and Medicaid. If the company is found liable, it will have to pay damages and penalties to the Government. The whistleblower then gets a percentage of the government’s recovery for being the first to report the fraud.

Who can be held liable under the FCA?

A person or organization can be held liable under the FCA if they:

  • Knowingly submit a false or fraudulent claim to the government for payment or approval.
  • Cause another person to submit a false claim to the government.
  • Knowingly make a false record or statement to get a false claim paid by the government.
  • Knowingly make or use a false record or statement to pay money or property to the government, or knowingly conceal or avoid paying money or property to the government.
The law consists of many moving parts. If you’re wondering “What is the False Claims Act?”, you may find it helpful to learn the background. The False Claims Act is generally considered to be the most effective law in combating fraud against the federal government, as well as preventing waste and abuse in government spending. Because the federal government does not have the staff to detect all fraudulent activity, the success of the False Claims Act is largely due to whistleblowers, or “relators”.

Bracker & Marcus LLC understands the enormous role that whistleblowers play in upholding the justice system. Whistleblowers are crucial to our country’s solidity and fortitude, and we at Bracker & Marcus LLC are here to represent them from the initial report through litigation. 

Contact our Atlanta False Claims Act attorneys for more information and to learn your rights as a whistleblower.

History of the FCA

President Abraham Lincoln signed the False Claims Act into law during the height of the Civil War. At that time, distances between Washington and the battlefields made communication difficult. The federal government would order supplies for the troops, but soldiers in the field would sometimes receive substandard goods. The distance made catching these war profiteers impossible, and so President Lincoln passed the FCA in an effort to prevent fraud against the government and in government contracting. It enabled people who knew about fraudulent goods being supplied to turn in the fraudsters and receive a share of the recovery as a reward for their time and trouble.

The original penalties of the False Claims Act included paying double the amount of the government’s damages plus $2,000 for each false claim.

The FCA has been amended several times since its inception in 1863, but it was used sparingly until significant changes were made in 1986. Due to abuses in the defense contracting industry, Congress amended the FCA in 1986, increasing financial incentives for whistleblowers and reducing barriers to bringing legal action against those accused of making fraudulent claims.

Since 1986, the Justice Department has recovered upwards of $60 billion from cases filed under the False Claims Act. In 2009, Congress further broadened the FCA by passing the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA) amendments. Since then, the average annual recovery has exceeded $3.5 billion.

Qui Tam and the False Claims Act

Before diving into the process of filing a suit under the FCA, it is important to understand how the law makes this possible. Under the FCA’s qui tam provision, whistleblowers receive monetary compensation for providing the government with their knowledge of fraudulent actions. The qui tam provision plays a monumental role in the efficacy of the False Claims Act.

Qui tam comes from the Latin phrase qui tam pro domino quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequit, meaning “He who pursues this action on our Lord the King’s behalf as well as his own.” Normally, the law does not allow someone to file suit on behalf of someone else. Qui tam provisions change this by allowing private citizen whistleblowers to sue fraudsters over harm to a third party, their government. In other words, qui tam laws empower whistleblowers to report their knowledge of fraud and to work directly with government investigators in exchange for payment. The payment is a percentage of what the government recovers, so in large cases, it may be in the millions of dollars.

The False Claims Act sets a mandatory minimum payment for whistleblowers. Congress determined that when potential whistleblowers had some certainty as to a minimum recovery, it was more likely they would take the risk of coming forward and sharing their knowledge with the government. Congress believes that whistleblowers should be rewarded for undertaking the risks of losing their job and other possible consequences.

If the suit is successful, a relator (whistleblower) in a False Claims Act qui tam action may recover up to 30% of the government’s award. With the help of our whistleblower clients, the Atlanta False Claims Act lawyers at Bracker & Marcus LLC have recovered hundreds of millions of dollars for the government. We represent and protect our clients in every step of the legal process, and we are passionate about helping our clients identify and prevent fraud. 

Call Bracker & Marcus LLC at (770) 988-5035 today to schedule a free case evaluation.

Legal help for the question

Filing a Qui Tam Case Under the False Claims Act

If you have firsthand knowledge of a company committing fraud against the federal government, you may be able to file an FCA whistleblower lawsuit. If so, you must hire a private attorney. Whistleblower lawsuits are usually very complicated, and because you are filing on behalf of the United States government, courts will not allow you to proceed pro se, meaning without legal counsel. An experienced False Claims Act lawyer in Atlanta will help you gather evidence, file the claim, and take the fraudulent party to court.

Keep in mind that while no two qui tam cases are the same, most will follow this pattern:

1. Gather evidence.

Any claim made under the FCA must satisfy Federal Rule 9(b), which requires the relator and their attorney to plead sufficient knowledge of the who, what, when, where, and how of the fraud. In some courts, this is focused on the actual claims that are filed:

  • Who: the parties involved, who filed the false claim? 
  • What: the type of fraud that occurred, what makes the claim false?
  • When: the scope and duration of the fraudulent activity, when were false statements made?
  • Where: how widespread is the scheme, where did the fraudulent activity occur?.
  • How: how the scheme was perpetrated, how was the false claim filed?

2. File a complaint and present evidence.

After gathering evidence, the whistleblower and their False Claims Act attorney will present their findings to the government. The attorney will compile all of the evidence into a document called the “disclosure statement,” as well as preparing a “complaint.”

The disclosure statement is a summary of the evidence that supports what the whistleblower claims. The disclosure statement is sent to the United States Attorney’s Office for the district in which the case is being filed as well as to the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C. This document is not filed with the court and typically does not become part of the public record.

Qui tam complaints are the formal legal documents that start the lawsuit. They are filed under seal in federal court. This means the complaint is not available to the public, and so the existence of the case is known only to the judge, the government, and the relator and their attorneys until the judge issues an order unsealing it.

3. Government investigation.

After receiving the sealed complaint and disclosure statement, government attorneys will conduct an investigation into the allegations. Reviewing the materials and evidence and then verifying it, as well as interviewing witnesses and getting more documents from the alleged fraudsters can take months or, in some cases, years. Upon completing the investigation, the government will decide whether or not to “intervene” in the case.

If the government decides to intervene, they will prosecute the case as lead counsel. Your False Claims Act attorney will continue to represent you and will assist the government attorneys. If the government does not intervene, the whistleblower and their attorney will be in charge of the case, and will decide together whether or not to continue to litigate and take the case to trial. At all times, the government remains a party, because the government is who has been harmed by the fraud.

Atlanta False Claims Act Attorneys

Unfortunately, corporations, healthcare providers, and even non-profit organizations defraud the government out of billions of dollars every year, stealing money and blocking federal funding from being properly spent.

The FCA allows whistleblowers with firsthand knowledge of fraud to speak up and hold the fraudulent parties accountable. This law owes its success to whistleblowers’ bravery. It isn’t easy to speak up against one’s employer, but doing so is necessary for maintaining an honest, equitable society.

At Bracker & Marcus LLC, our Atlanta False Claims Act lawyers help clients bring their employers to justice. We exclusively represent whistleblowers in qui tam litigation; this expertise allows us to spend all our time prosecuting fraud and protecting our whistleblower clients under the False Claims Act. Our attorneys are committed to providing the best possible counsel during every step of the legal process. No matter the size of the case, we relentlessly defend clients against employer retaliation.

To speak with an experienced, nationally-recognized False Claims Act attorney, call (770) 988-5035 today.

FAQ

The False Claims Act is a unique and specialized area of the law. The FAQs below address common questions and the usual answers, but in reality, these cases vary enormously from one to the next.

Qui tam is short for a Latin phrase, “Qui tam pro domino rege quam pro se ipso in hac parte sequitur,” which translates as “He who sues on behalf of the King, as well as for himself.” Qui tam started in England, where in certain instances, the people were empowered to sue on behalf of the crown and receive a bounty for the recovery.

Of course, “qui tam” may be a short form, but for only six letters it gets pronounced all sorts of ways. For you trivia buffs, the “correct” pronunciation is the Latin one – kwee tam – rather than the “kee-tam” we tend to use if we are accustomed to Spanish or French. As for that “a”, its the same sound as in “father,” — so now you know!

At its most basic, a False Claims Act case is one in which someone (or some company) is:

  • lying to get government money
  • lying to get more government money than they otherwise would
  • lying to keep government money they are not entitled to
  • helping someone else to do one of those things (such as creating false paperwork)
  • retaliating against someone who is trying to stop one of these things

Of course, once you involve lawyers, things get much more complicated. “What exactly is lying?” and “What exactly is government money?” are just two of the questions to be faced in each individual case. But each case will have something to do with the nuggets in this list.

The FCA is a complex statute – not one that can easily be picked up just from a casual (or even detailed) review of the statute itself. Don’t fall into the trap of launching your case without an expert on your side. Bracker & Marcus LLC is ready to assist you, starting with evaluating whether your situation needs to be brought to the attention of the Government, and if so, how. If you are aware of issues surrounding the use of government money, contact us.

That all depends, of course!

For the federal False Claims Act, the statute of limitations depends, among other things, on when the fraud was committed, whether the fraud is ongoing in nature, and when the government learns about the fraud. Very generally speaking, a claim must be brought within six years of the fraud.

If you have been retaliated against, you may have up to three years to seek court assistance under the federal False Claims Act.

The various state False Claims Acts have different statutes of limitations, ranging from months to years. State False Claims Acts also have their own retaliation provisions that vary in length of time.

Please call Bracker & Marcus LLC for a free assessment tailored to the facts of your situation. We represent whistleblowers all across the country and will be able to help you figure out if your claim is time-barred.

A case under the federal False Claims Act can be brought by anyone who has knowledge of the fraud that is occurring. However, because you would be suing on behalf of the Government, most courts require you to have legal counsel. If you attempt to file a case without an attorney, it will most likely be dismissed.

That is just one of the many unusual rules specific to the False Claims Act. You must also keep in mind the FCA’s “first-to-file” rule, the “public disclosure” bar (and its “original source” exception), the seal, the requirements of Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, all of which can impact your case. Even the finest lawyers, if they lack FCA experience, may fall victim to its peculiarities–which is why they consult with us. Whether you are a potential whistleblower or a lawyer in need of expert consultation, Bracker & Marcus LLC is ready to assist you with understanding these complex requirements and make sure you have the best possible representation before the Government and the Court.

While the answer to that question varies from firm to firm and case to case, the general answer is NO. Qui tam firms – including Bracker & Marcus LLC – generally operate on a “contingency” basis, meaning they only get paid if you win. Successful prosecution of a False Claims Act case should result in payment of fees from the defendant and from your judgment. As a result, lawyers with knowledge and experience in the False Claims Act are unlikely to charge you an hourly rate or for an initial consultation. Rather than pay a consultation fee or an hourly rate, please contact Bracker & Marcus today for a free, confidential evaluation.

When we file your case, the Government will begin its investigation of your claims. At the end of its investigation, the Government will decide whether it wants to “intervene” in your case, meaning that it will pursue some or all of your claims. Nationally, fewer than one-fifth of all False Claims Act cases are intervened. Remember, your case is about someone cheating the Government, so it is up to The Government whether it wants to go get its money back. If the Government does intervene, and then wins or settles the case, then you are entitled to between 15% and 25% of what the Government is able to recover.

If the Government does not intervene, we have the option to litigate your case on the Government’s behalf. If we win or settle the case without the Government having intervened, you are entitled to between 25% and 30% of what we are able to recover.

Lastly, if you have a retaliation claim, you may receive a judgment or settlement under that claim as well. Because that is your personal claim, and not Government money, the Government does not receive any portion of it.

Glad you asked! Although the False Claims Act is our specialty, Bracker & Marcus LLC offers representation in all manners of whistleblower / qui tam cases, including:

  • IRS Whistleblowers (tax cheats)
  • SEC Whistleblowers (financial reporting fraud, like Bernie Madoff)
  • CFTC Whistleblowers (violations of the Commodity Exchange Act)

The rules, and awards, are different for each of these Acts, so contact us if you think you have a case.

That’s where we come in! We offer a free evaluation.