How long does a whistleblower case take?
The short answer is, unfortunately, that whistleblower cases will take a long time.
It can take a long time for any number of reasons some of which you probably already know. For example, you are presenting the government with a multi-faceted fraud involving a very complicated industry and it is worth millions (billions?) of dollars. To make it even more complicated your particular set of facts involves allegations in twelve states and work conducted using U.S. Government funds in three foreign countries. So that could take some time to unravel.
Why Might Whistleblower Cases Take So Much Time?
The realities of time are sometimes more mundane. The government may want to investigate your case immediately, but it has to spend time investigating the more than one thousand cases under seal and while it does have people to investigate they are busy and there are never enough people to go around.
You know all that. It also takes time to put your case together with your lawyer. It takes time for the government to even open the file. It can take time, because you may even forget part of your case and only remember part of it later after you start to talk about it with your lawyer. You may remember something after you file the case. So then you and your lawyer have to figure out if you can present supplemental disclosures or if you have to amend your Complaint.
There are neat steps you will see on websites that describe the process.
Basic Steps of a Qui Tam Case
- First you prepare a relator’s statement.
- Then you file that with the government.
- Then you prepare the Complaint.
- Then you file the Complaint.
- Then you serve the Complaint and a Disclosure Statement with all the evidence on the government.
- Then you wait.
- Then the government determines whether it will intervene in the case.
- If yes, they try to settle or win at trial.
- If no, you have to decide if you want to pursue the case in Court.
All that can take a few years. It can go faster. In some ways you do not want it to go faster since you want the government to do a very thorough job investigating your claims, corroborating your allegations and then bringing the strongest and largest possible action against the defendants.
There are all sorts of potential intermediary steps, which can also take time. Sometimes the government will ask permission to partially unseal the case. They probably will agree to redact your name from the Complaint at this point and begin settlement discussions with the defendant. Then the defendant will actually present evidence, whatever evidence they have, to refute your allegations. Then you and your lawyer have to go to work to help the government refute whatever the defendant says.
That process can take a while and technically at this point the government will not even have made a formal decision on what it thinks of your case. So be prepared for the fact that handling your case through the process will take a while.
Nobody is thrilled about this. Government lawyers and investigators wish there were more government lawyers and investigators. Judges have been known to get frustrated and to tell the government to work faster. Still it will take time.
More information on whistleblowers and whistleblower law is available here.