Generally speaking, any person who has non-public knowledge that a company or individual has violated the False Claims Act, committing fraud on the federal government or a government program, may blow the whistle on the offending party by filing a qui tam lawsuit. However, the False Claims Act does have a number of important limitations to consider when thinking about whether or not to file a qui tam case.
First, the False Claims Act has what is known as a public disclosure bar. This means that a qui tam case cannot be based on information that has been publicly disclosed previously, unless the person bringing the claim is the original source of that information. For example, if you hear about a fraudulent practice in the newspaper or on TV, you cannot use that information to bring a qui tam case unless you yourself were the one who provided that information to the media. Generally, to be a successful False Claims Act whistleblower, you need to be coming to the government with information that is not already known to them, with independent knowledge of the facts upon which the qui tam case is based.
Second, if you are someone who actually planned a fraudulent scheme on the government, you are barred from bringing a qui tam case. In other words, you cannot commit fraud, turn yourself in, and then ask for a reward. However, if you merely participated in a fraudulent scheme at the direction of your boss or employer, you would not be barred from bringing a qui tam case. In fact, people with that kind of direct knowledge of the fraudulent practice often make the best qui tam whistleblowers.
Qui tam claims have been brought by employees, former employees, customers, competitors, and others who have obtained independent, non-public information about fraud against the government. It is also possible for a group of people to jointly act as qui tam whistleblowers to bring a case under the False Claims Act. In some instances, this type of “group whistleblower” case can be very powerful because different members of the group may have different information, or knowledge about different aspects of the same fraudulent scheme.
This is a very technical area of the False Claims Act, so if you are considering blowing the whistle on a fraudulent scheme against the government, talk to a lawyer who is experienced in the workings of qui tam law. These lawyers will be able to give you advice about whether or not you comply with the technicalities. Here at Tycko & Zavareei LLP, we provide no cost, no commitment initial consultations with False Claims Act whistleblowers who are considering bringing a qui tam case, and can provide sound advice about how to comply with these procedures.
If you would like to consult with a False Claims Act attorney here at the law office of Tycko & Zavareei LLP, please fill out our Confidential Case Evaluation form, or call (202) 973-0900 to speak with one of our lawyers.