Expectations of Relator Awards in Whistleblower Cases

Expectations of relator awards in whistleblower cases include that a relator will receive anything between 15-35 percent of the award, depending on whether their case is intervened on or not. A relator under the federal law is entitled to 15 to 25 percent of any successful case brought which is not intervened on, that is to say, supported by the government.

A relator in an action which is not intervened on, when plaintiff-relator brings the case in spite of the fact the government declined the case would earn a higher share. In those cases, the relator is entitled to 25 to 30 percent of the total proceeds of the action. If you are trying to pursue a whistleblower case, get in touch with a qualified qui tam attorney who can work tirelessly to assure that you are fairly compensated for your contributions.

State False Claims Acts

The False Claims Act is instrumental in setting expectations of relator awards in whistleblower cases. There are State False Claims Acts, which offer greater relator shares. For example, California’s False Claims Act awards up to 33 percent relator share for an intervened case, and up to 50 percent in a non-intervened case. So the Federal Law is relatively low especially by historical standards. Despite this fact, nobody on the plaintiff’s side is looking to amend the statute at this point. Attorneys are happy to have a working False Claims Act and it is possible that legislation would do more harm than good to the law at this point.

However, the sliding scale of relator shares, as put in the Federal Law, does not really do the Department of Justice or relators much good. It may appear that such a structure provides the government with a way to provide more of an incentive for relators to act to help a case. The reality is that the incentive for any realtor is to win a case because absent doing so they receive nothing.

Whistleblower Awards As Incentive

Most whistleblowers who come forward these days are not rogues. Most whistleblowers who come forward, do so because they are offended by the fraudulent activity taking place and attempt to stop it. Many do not even realize they are entitled to a reward when they act to try to prevent further fraud committed against the government.

Still, the reward payments facilitate whistleblowers’ ability to come forward and make litigating these cases possible. It is almost impossible to imagine a situation in which a whistleblower would be willing to go through three to five years pursuing a case, even if it is just helping the Department of Justice here and there, if they do not have some idea that at the end of the process, they have at least had a potential for obtaining a payout.

Importance of Good Compensation

In today’s context, the relator’s share does not operate the way it was contemplated when implemented in the 1863 law. In 1863, serious consideration went into making the bounty very high in order to get co-conspirators to come to the government. Nobody was all that concerned about the virtues of the Relator as a person only that the person blew the whistle. Nobody really talks about the law in terms of incentivizing co-conspirators to come forward anymore. The idea often attributed to Abraham Lincoln that it takes a rogue to catch a rogue has gone out of favor. Fortunately, most whistleblowers do act out of the best of motives and tend to be the best people in the workplace.

Those who argue for clients to get good compensation for doing the right thing are constantly confronted with the accusation that relators are greedy and acting unfairly. Relators and plaintiffs under the False Claims Act are not, by any means, the only people in the country who work on a contingent fee basis. Relators in False Claims Act cases only get money if they are successful and if they can prove their allegations at least to the point that the defendant is willing to settle with the government on those allegations. This is a much higher bar than people who go out and for example collect debts which are already established.

Negotiating Shares

The relators and the Department of Justice should always be on the same side in terms of fighting the defendants in a fraud action. Time and resources wasted arguing about relator’s share between the government and a relator is time and resources that should be put towards litigating additional cases and winning more proceeds for relators and for the government.

The government gets to propose to the relator what an appropriate relator share is. And then the relator has the option of litigating this issue. But, in fact, litigating the issue of relator share is not one that makes sense most the time. In practice, it is unusual to obtain the higher end of the relator share as in the statute. The published factors that the government relies upon in order to make its determination with respect to what a relator’s share should be, are a little hard to understand. They are even somewhat contradictory.

What relator’s counsel will argue is that they helped as much as any whistleblower could do. They will argue the virtues of the particular relators. It may matter how far in the process the case has progressed. There are all kinds of factors that the government may take into consideration when deciding on what share the plaintiff will receive.

Role of an Attorney

Attorneys who represent whistleblowers must stand up and defend the rights of those whistleblowers to get a fair share of an award. Lawyers want to be able to set realistic expectations of relator awards in whistleblower cases. The cases do not always succeed, but the cases that do succeed make it possible for lawyers to go forward and practice and learn this area well enough to be able to help the government and succeed in obtaining money for the government. So the relator’s share is crucial to the survival of the law and it is crucial to the survival of whistleblowing in general. A capable qui tam attorney can work to ensure that you receive a fair share for your willingness to cooperate, and that the government also receives their share. Contact a qualified lawyer who can advocate for you, and work towards the best possible outcome.