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First Steps: What To Do If You Are Considering Blowing The Whistle Under The False Claims Act

Qui tam whistleblowers often find themselves in a confusing situation. They discover that an institution or company they trusted is engaged in a scheme to commit fraud on the government. They aren’t lawyers, and often have never been involved in the legal system before. So, what should they do?

First, preserve evidence. When you accuse a company or institution of fraud, the government is not just going to take your word for it. Most cases are built with documents and other types of evidence that corroborate the whistleblower’s own testimony. If you have questions about how to handle sensitive documents, consult an attorney.

Second, act quickly. The False Claims Act has a statute of limitations – basically, a deadline – for filing cases. Subject to some exceptions, a qui tam case under the False Claims Act must be brought within six (6) years of when the fraud occurred. If you wait too long, you may lose your right to obtain an award. In addition to the statue of limitations, the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act also has what is known as a “first to file” rule. Only the first qui tam whistleblower (also known as a “relator”) that brings a lawsuit arising out of a particular fraud scheme will be entitled to a share of the monetary reward. This means that if more than one whistleblower discloses the same fraud, or brings another qui tam action, before you do, only the first whistleblower to file is eligible for an award. So for this reason, moving quickly can be important. However, it is sometimes possible for a group of whistleblowers to work together and jointly bring a False Claims Act qui tam case on behalf of the government. In some cases, this may be beneficial if more than one person has independent knowledge of the fraud being committed.

Finally, talk to a qui tam attorney. A good lawyer with experience in False Claims Act whistleblower cases can help you through the process of deciding whether or not to go forward with your case. Your discussions with the attorney will be confidential. Many attorneys, including the qui tam attorneys at Tycko & Zavareei LLP, will provide you with an initial consultation and advice without requiring you to pay any fees or make any commitments. You should not discuss the matter with anyone other than an attorney. Your discussions with others may not be confidential. Furthermore, you run the risk that someone else will learn of the fraud and will bring a qui tam lawsuit before you do, thereby undermining your right to a relator’s award. If you are a current employee of the company or organization that is engaged in fraud on the government, you should not communicate with your attorney (or anyone else) about the fraud through your office computer or telephone. Communications made through an office computer or telephone may not be secure, and may provide a basis for your employer to take actions against you. Instead, use a home computer or personal telephone.

If you have knowledge of a potential fraud case, you may be able to file your own qui tam whistleblower lawsuit under the False Claims Act. If you would like to consult with one of our qui tam attorneys, please fill out our Confidential Case Evaluation form, or call (202) 973-0900.