What are the benefits to bringing a qui tam suit?
The False Claims Act is one of the government’s most effective weapons against fraud. By taking the bold step to become a whistleblower, you can expose fraud and assist the government in recovering stolen funds on behalf of all taxpayers. Additionally, successful whistleblowers are rewarded for their hard work and efforts in bringing the lawsuit. Relators have earned more than a billion dollars under the False Claims Act.
How much money can a private plaintiff receive for bringing a qui tam action?
Whistleblowers may receive between 15% and 30% of the money recovered by the government as a result of their lawsuit. If the government intervenes and joins an action brought by a relator, the relator generally is eligible to receive at least 15%, but not more than 25%, of the recovery, depending upon the relator’s contribution to the prosecution of the action. If the government declines intervention, and a relator proceeds with the action, the relator can receive between 25% and 30% of the recovery.
How much will my qui tam case cost me?
Because qui tam actions generally proceed under a contingency arrangement, there are few, if any, upfront costs to you. Depending on the arrangement, you might be responsible for out-of-pocket expenses during the course of the investigation and litigation (e.g., filing fees, travel, and experts). Of course, if you try to bring a case based on false information, you may be required to pay the defendant’s fees. So don’t do it.
What are the risks of filing a qui tam suit?
The biggest risk is that even though you are right, you might lose your case. After years of hard work, it can be devastating to have your case dismissed. You also jeopardize your employment prospects. Unfortunately, whistleblowing can end careers. It doesn’t happen always, but it happens. Generally, every client we have represented has experienced frustration at some point during the process. It might be that you feel the investigation is taking too long (the government’s investigation may take years or more to complete), or you wish that the government shared more information. If the case is litigated, you might be required to produce documents or be deposed by the defendant’s lawyers. Litigation is anxiety inducing and deliberately contentious. Finally, whistleblowers are sometimes disappointed in the amount of the relator’s award. Lots of schemes look huge and turn out not to be. And of course, if you try to bring a case based on false information, you may be required to pay the defendant’s fees. So don’t do it.
Will anyone find out if I file a qui tam suit?
If you file a qui tam action, the government will know your identity, and your name will likely be disclosed to the defendant at some point. During the initial seal period, the defendant is not supposed to learn that you have filed the lawsuit. In practice, defendants often figure out that a case has been filed, as well as the identity of the relator. After the seal period ends, when the government announces its intervention decision and the complaint is served on the defendant, your identity will be revealed. There are circumstances in which you may be able to file a qui tam action and then voluntarily dismiss it during the seal period without having your identity ever revealed to the defendant, but there is no guarantee of anonymity. It may also be possible to form a business entity and file the qui tam action under the business’ name. That way your name will not be on the case caption. Behn & Wyetzner is committed to protecting your identity to the fullest extent possible, but in most cases, it is impossible to remain anonymous throughout the investigation and subsequent litigation of a False Claims Act case.
Will the wrongdoer(s) go to jail because of my qui tam action?
A qui tam suit is a civil action, not a criminal action. For that reason, imprisonment is not a sanction in a qui tam case. However, filing a qui tam action may, but does not necessarily, trigger a criminal investigation that could lead to criminal fines or jail time for the wrongdoer(s). Any criminal action would be separate from the qui tam action, and you would have no control over it, although you may be asked to assist in the government’s criminal action.