Do I need to have documents which show the false claims?
Documents are critical to our evaluation of a potential case and ultimately to the government’s investigation and prosecution of the fraud. However, we know there are times when whistleblowers will not have access to documents. Potential relators should not attempt to obtain evidence illegally. Doing so may compromise a potential qui tam case, or subject whistleblower to civil or criminal liability. Generally, it is safe for qui tam relators to copy documents they have access to in the ordinary course of employment. But a potential qui tam relator should discuss this issue carefully with an attorney before taking any action.
Does a whistleblower have to first report internally to his or her employer before filing a qui tam action?
The False Claims Act does not require you to report the fraud to your employers before filing a qui tam action. However, in many circumstances an employee will report the fraud internally only to be ignored. You may wish to speak with an attorney about this issue.
Have I lost my right to bring a qui tam action if I have already informed the government about the fraud?
No. You do not give up your right to bring a qui tam action by going to the government before filing your qui tam lawsuit. However, you are barred from bringing a qui tam suit if you deliver your information to the government, and the government in turn files a False Claims Act action before you file. This can be avoided if you file promptly after informing the government of any fraud.
What if someone else has already filed a qui tam suit alleging the same false claims?
If the government or a private party has already filed a False Claims Act lawsuit based on the same allegations as the action you want to file, the statute bars you from bringing a second lawsuit. However, if your allegations are different from those of the earlier suit, the first to file rule may not apply. Because cases are under seal, it is often difficult to determine if a suit has already been filed addressing the fraud alleged in your complaint.
Can there be more than one relator in a particular qui tam lawsuit?
Yes. More than one person or entity can join together and file a qui tam lawsuit.
How is a qui tam action filed?
A qui tam complaint must be filed in federal district court in accordance with the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure. In addition, a copy of the complaint, along with a written disclosure statement of substantially all material evidence and information in the relator’s possession, must be served on the Attorney General of the United States and should be served on the U.S. Attorney for the district in which the action is brought. Further, and of utmost importance, the complaint must be filed in camera and under seal (and should be marked as such). Until the seal is lifted by the court, the complaint and its contents must be kept strictly confidential. The complaint must not be served on the defendant until the court so orders. If you violate the seal provision of the False Claims Act, your qui tam suit could be dismissed.
Is there a deadline for filing a qui tam action?
Yes. Under the False Claims Act, an action must be filed within the later of the following two time periods: (1) six years from the date of the violation of the Act; or (2) three years after the government knows or should have known about the violation, but in no event longer than ten years after the violation of the Act. Be aware, however, If someone else files a False Claims Act lawsuit before you do or helps to publicize allegations similar to yours, you may lose your right to bring a qui tam action. Note: The United States Supreme Court has ruled that retaliation claims are governed by state-law statutes of limitation, and these can be as short as several months. DO NOT SIT ON A RETALIATION CLAIM. CONSULT A LAWYER IMMEDIATELY.