There are several issues that make False Claims Act cases different from other types of civil cases, which could be explained in-depth by a knowledgeable lawyer in Washington, D.C.
For example, the procedure is unusual. Initially, the case is filed under seal, meaning in secret. Instead of proceeding to discovery and normal litigation, the government investigates and the plaintiff generally gets interviewed by the Department of Justice.
The interview is a little unusual as well, as it is not a court appearance or even a proceeding conducted formally. It is a serious matter, however, and the government may learn at the meeting what it needs to learn to proceed with the case.
The Risks of Going Straight to the Press
A whistleblower can go to the press later, but going to the press immediately makes it more difficult to assert one’s rights under the False Claims Act. There is a public disclosure bar and to overcome the public disclosure bar generally one has to be an original source of the information.
The public disclosure bar has been narrowed a bit under amendments to the False Claims Act, but it is still a concern.
In addition, once the case is filed going to the press can undermine the plaintiffs ability to collect a reward as the case is filed under seal and such a report can violate that seal.
It may make sense go to the press later and that may be a valuable thing to do at some point along the line, after the case comes out of seal, but at least until you determine what your rights are under the False Claims Act or other whistleblower laws it is advisable to wait.
What Is Unique About False Claims Act Cases?
In most civil suits, the standing to sue is based on an individual’s relationship to the harm. If you are the person with an injured knee, you may have the right to sue. If you are directly related to somebody who was hurt and you depended on that person for your livelihood, or there is some related great emotional distress, then you can sue.
However, the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act allow an individual to sue on behalf of the government for something that the individual knows about. That person is not directly related to the government, other than it being their government, but the person does not have to suffer any personal harm or be directly related to the personal harm to sue. The person is suing on behalf of and to obtain money for, the government’s damage as a qui tam relator. I think that really is an unusual if not unique right under the law.
Information and Industries Required
A relator filing under the False Claims Act doesn’t have to target a specific industry, but they do have to have specific information. One is generally only going to have the type of information necessary to file a False Claims Act case when working in the industry they are making their career. It is very difficult to have that type of valuable inside information unless it comes to somebody by virtue of working within that industry.
It isn’t a matter of a relator targeting a particular industry. It is a matter of a plaintiff’s career being involved in a particular industry and finding information related to that industry that turns out implicates somebody or some company in defrauding the government.
Call an Attorney to Discuss False Claims Act Cases Versus Different Civil Claims
Generally, within the federal and the state False Claims Acts, you can sue for retaliation at the same time as you sue for the underlying fraud claim against the government. The Securities And Exchange Commission Whistleblower law allows you to sue for securities fraud and also pursue an anti-retaliation action as well. This is why it is important to understand False Claims Act cases versus other kinds of civil claims.