Building a False Claims Act case is often interesting, because even though the False Claims Act is similar across most cases, the facts are always a little different. They can be very different even when they appear to involve cases from the same industries. Take healthcare, for example—the majority of False Claims Act cases are in that area, but healthcare is a pretty broad field and you end up learning a great deal about different aspects of it.
All this can also be frustrating because of the sheer amount of facts that you have to learn and work with a whistleblower to collect, and of course, that is combined with the reality that nothing in any type of legal proceeding goes as fast as anyone would like. Mostly, though, it’s very interesting work and very exciting work, and as a DC attorney who represents whistleblowers under the False Claims Act, it’s easier to sleep at night knowing that whistleblowers are the ones who are trying to do the right thing.
What to Expect When Building a False Claims Act Case
Whistleblowers should expect to have to go through their memory and think very, very hard about everything that they know about the case. They should expect that they’re going to spend a fair amount of time re-living whatever they submit to the government and that they’re going to discuss whatever they submit with the government officials. Finally, they should expect to have to be quiet about it—not talk about it to anyone else—for some period of time, and also that it will take some time to resolve their case, hopefully favorably.
Nonetheless, many whistleblowers are pretty willing to go through it, because they’re committed to reporting what they see is wrongful activity. Most whistleblowers take it very seriously and understand that it is a serious process.
Factors for Making a Viable Fraud Claim
There are a lot of technical requirements under the False Claims Act, but both the whistleblower and their lawyer should always keep their minds on whether or not there is visceral fraud and how the government has been defrauded. If you can explain that, then you probably have a strong case. Usually, if there’s a visceral fraud, it’s also going to violate lots of little regulations along the way, and that’s really what you want to know. You want to be able to show that the government flat-out lost something, something that mattered.
In addition, any time there’s some inference of a safety issue or if something is defective, whether it’s in the healthcare field or any other field, people’s lives could be endangered. If there’s any type of implication that the false claim(s) or the product defect(s) involved threatens public safety in any way, that’s also a factor that’s worth considering.
In short, the False Claims Act doesn’t exist to protect the government against somebody doing their job poorly or negligence or weak contract cases. The False Claims Act is about the government being the victim of contractors who knowingly are trying to make money at the expense of what they’re supposed to be doing, and it’s pretty obvious. A good False Claims Act case is built around an obvious fraud, but when that fraud also leads to a safety issue, the government obviously notices.
The Attorney-Client Relationship in False Claims Act Cases
One of the fun things about being a lawyer in Washington, D.C. this field is the relationship one develops with a client over time. In many kinds of law, you do your job and you go home, and you don’t necessarily develop much of a relationship with your clients.
Whistleblower cases are tricky, though—they take a long time, and they involve very, very serious matters both as far as your client is concerned and to the public. Hopefully, you end up developing some level of trust and relationship with your client. Most whistleblowers are very interesting people, and working with them can be especially rewarding.
Investigations When Building a False Claims Act Case
At the initial stage of building an FCA case, a lawyer in DC investigates and reviews everything the whistleblower has to say about the case. Then the government does its investigation—and they may do a very extensive investigation—and if the case goes forward into litigation from there, obviously that would create a whole new round of investigation. So it can take quite a lot of time to fulfill this part of the case.