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What Is A Qui Tam Case, And What Awards Can A Whistleblower Receive?

The False Claims Act contains what is known as a “qui tam” provision.  Qui tam provisions, which exist under both the federal False Claims Act and similar state laws, allow a private person or entity that has evidence of fraud on the government to bring a lawsuit against the offender on behalf of the government. Under the False Claims Act, the private person who brings the lawsuit is known as the “relator.” Informally, the term “whistleblower” is often used, although that is a broader term that has meanings outside of the False Claims Act as well.

In qui tam whistleblower cases, the government has the right to intervene and join the lawsuit. If the government declines, however, the whistleblower still has the option of proceeding on his or her own. The idea of the qui tam provision is to create an incentive for people with inside information about fraud on government programs to come forward with that information.  It’s what is known as an “integrity incentive.”

Under the False Claims Act, a successful qui tam whistleblower can receive between 15% and 30% of the total amount of money recovered for the government. (The rest goes back to the government.) While the percentage might seem low, the monetary amounts can be very substantial.  In part, this is because the False Claims Act provides for treble damages.

Here is an example that shows how qui tam whistleblower awards are calculated.  If a company commits a $5 million fraud on the government, the company is actually liable for three times that amount — $15 million — under the False Claims Act. In that case, the qui tam whistleblower who brought the lawsuit could then receive an award between 15% and 30% of that amount, which would be between $2.25 million and $4.5 million, in this example.  Where any particular whistleblower falls in that range can depend upon a number of factors, including how valuable the whistleblower’s information is to the government, and how much the whistleblower personally contributes to the investigation or prosecution of the fraud.

However, our qui tam clients are rarely motivated solely by the prospect of a potential monetary payout.  Often, they are loyal employees, who have first tried to fix the fraud from within the institution they work for.  They often turn to qui tam lawsuits as a last resort: as a way to be heard, and to protect their fellow taxpayers from the money being lost to them due to fraud. These qui tam whistleblowers tend to be very brave, principled people, that we are extremely honored to represent.

Do you have information concerning a potential qui tam whistleblower case? If so, do not hesitate to take action—you might be able to bring your own whistleblower suit under the False Claims Act. When filing a lawsuit, be sure to consult with a qui tam attorney, who will protect your rights and help you gain your share of any monetary recovery. If you would like to consult with a False Claims Act attorney, please fill out our Confidential Case Evaluation form, or call (202) 973-0900 to speak with one of our lawyers.