Whistleblower Lawyer Washington DC
The term “whistleblower” applies to any individual exposing wrongdoing, but the most successful whistleblowers, the ones you may have heard about most often, are those that filed qui tam cases under the False Claims Act. The law is designed to protect whistleblowers and make it worthwhile to report fraudulent activities. Learning how the law works is crucial for anyone hoping to do the right thing.
Qui Tam Law – The False Claims Act
Legislation creating the False Claims Act passed Congress and was signed into law in 1863 under the Lincoln Administration. The law came about to fight rampant fraud being committed against the Union Army during the Civil War. While the law has undergone many amendments throughout history, the idea is the same today. The law is designed to encourage whistleblowers and through that encouragement help the government recover money from those who commit fraud.
The so-called qui tam provisions of the Federal False Claims Act give an individual a private right of action in court. A person can file a case on behalf of themselves and the government against the defendants. This special right enhances an individual’s ability to blow the whistle. Under this law whistleblowers can fight the defendant, they are not limited to sounding an alarm.
A whistleblower who files a successful case under the Federal False Claims Act can receive as much as 30% of the amount recovered by the government in civil damages and civil penalties. Since government contracting is invariably big business these awards can be large as well.
Fear is the enemy of every whistleblower. That fear is, unfortunately, not unfounded. Those who would defraud the government may also try to retaliate against honest individuals. While all threats against whistleblowers cannot be eliminated the law does provide protections. First of all a whistleblower can also sue for retaliation and obtain two times back, pay interest, re-instatement damages and special damages.
Second of all, the False Claims’ Act’s unique procedure can help as well. The case is filed “under seal” or in secret to allow the government to investigate the claims and decide whether or not to join the case. At least initially, the defendant will not know the identity of the person, who filed the suit. Eventually that information will likely come to light, but the time period of the case being under seal may provide an opportunity for someone to build a new life away from a company that wants to defraud the government.
Reporting fraud is a serious endeavor and serious whistleblower can be rewarded under law for their work and information. If you are considering filing a whistleblower action, you should first contact a Washington DC whistleblower lawyer.
What is a Whistleblower?
The term “whistleblower” can apply to any individual who exposes wrongdoing.
As a result of the heroic efforts of many whistleblowers, the value of the information whistleblowers provide and the important role they play in improving society is finally starting to gain recognition. The most financially successful whistleblowers, the ones you may have heard about most often, are those that filed qui tam cases under the federal False Claims Act. (31 U.S.C. §§3729-3733.)
This law is designed to make it worthwhile for individuals to report fraud committed against the United States. Learning how this law works and enlisting the help of an experienced DC qui tam attorney is crucial for anyone who wants to expose fraud against the government. If the whistleblower files a case under this law and the government is able to obtain a recovery that whistleblower can earn between 15-30% of the recovery. As a result, many cases have been won or settled for millions of dollars and many fraudulent and dangerous schemes have been exposed.
These financial incentives exist precisely because of what we all know to be true. To fight wrongdoing government officials desperately need the information only a whistleblower can provide. Indeed, study after study confirms that government regulators and investigators need help from of people with inside information to bring about reforms or prosecute major cases.
The point of the Federal False Claims Act as well as the many State False Claims Acts, is to provide an incentive structure to support the brave individuals who want to report fraud. There are many other whistleblower laws, including several that also encourage the whistleblower to come forward and earn a potential reward. There is an IRS qui tam law to report major tax fraud as well as two new laws which encourage reports of financial fraud through the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.
Whistleblowers and Whistleblowing do have a measure of legal protection and incentives which is good to know. There are environmental whistleblowers, financial whistleblowers, medical and defense contracting whistleblowers. If there is an industry or profession in which fraud or wrongdoing is practiced, chances are there is a whistleblower who is trying to help reform it.
Many whistleblowers, even many who have earned rewards, did not know these incentives existed until they found an attorney. Sometimes whistleblowers come forward to stop the wrongdoing first, and only then learn about their rights. Hopefully one result of increasing publicity for whistleblowers, will be that people who want to report wrongdoing will know to contact counsel and get help they need before they take the difficult step of reporting wrongdoing.
In addition to financial rewards, the False Claims Act provides protections for whistleblowers. It may be possible to sue for two times back bay, re-instatement damages and special damages if a whistleblower suffers retaliation as a result of fighting fraud against the government.
However, being a whistleblower, especially if someone is reporting a major fraudulent scheme is complicated. Obviously the forces who want to continue to commit these schemes are powerful. The laws are complex and the procedures usually require the help of an attorney to navigate. Hopefully if you are contemplating such a step you can find counsel who will help you and work with you on your case. If you believe you have a whistleblower case, please contact an experienced Washington DC whistleblower lawyer today.
Qui Tam Laws Specific to the States
The Federal False Claims Act is a very powerful tool to fight fraud. It is limited only in the sense that a case must involve U.S. Government money. What happens if the fraudulent scheme a whistleblower wants to report involves a State government? To bring actions involving state claims the whistleblower must use a State False Claims Act. Fortunately, 29 States and the District of Columbia have their own false claims laws. These laws give whistleblowers an opportunity to use additional ways to sue for fraud and collect for additional claims. Most State Laws follow the Federal Law as a model. Like the Federal False Claims Act most state laws allow the state to recover up to triple the amount of damages caused by the defendant. Because State Laws vary, it is important to contact a Washington DC qui tam attorney if you are living or working in the District of Columbia.
Simply put, this means that if a company fraudulently obtained $1 million from the government, they may be held liable for up to $3 million plus civil penalties.
The amount a whistleblower can collect under a State law varies from state to state, but again like the Federal False Claims Act, it is usually a substantial percentage of any recovery.
The Washington DC qui tam attorneys at Price Benowitz LLP handle these False Claims Act – qui tam cases, and they are also highly experienced litigators in criminal and civil law. Whistleblower cases become complicated quickly. They can involve state and federal law, government regulations and special procedures. The cases usually also require complicated negotiations with both government officials and private defendants. It is more than likely any serious whistleblower case will draw on the comprehensive legal experience a substantial firm can provide, so the aid of an experienced Washington DC whistleblower lawyer may be necessary.
The most famous whistleblower cases involve awards to whistleblowers that range in the millions of dollars. Still, most whistleblowers, even the most famous, wait until they are in a bind to call a lawyer. Most whistleblowers don’t even realize they may be entitled to a reward until they have already complained at work. They usually don’t consider what they should to protect their rights prior to reporting fraud internally. They usually seek out help only after they have been fired for reporting the fraud to their boss. It is best to contact a DC qui tam attorney as soon as you can, but if you have already been fired you certainly still have the right to take action as a False Claims Act whistleblower. Of course, fraud against the government is illegal, and thus taking legal action against it may make you entitled you to an award. The smart thing to do is to contact a Washington DC whistleblower attorney and learn what rights you may have.