What Is an “Original Source?”
For many years, the False Claims Act had a bar against filing cases based on material that was publicly disclosed. However, some recent amendments have made the public disclosure bar a little bit less difficult to clear. One of the ways that you can clear it is by showing that you’re the original source to the government of important information. It is specifically spelled out in the statute as to what an original source is, so there are certain prohibitions. You can’t rely on information you read in the media, and it can’t be information that you got as a result of an already ongoing government investigation.
“Original source” usually means the government isn’t aware of the information before you bring it to them, but there are exceptions to that. If you’re the person who is the source of the public information, if you’re the one who went to the press in the first place and you can show that, you still might be able to call yourself an original source. You want to be able to show how you got the information, that you had some kind of direct and independent means of getting it.
The overall idea is that the government really wants information that it otherwise wouldn’t have obtained—that it wouldn’t have gotten without you going to them first. If you go to them and you can file a case, usually you can make the claim that what you’re filing is based on your original information, and therefore you would be entitled to collect.