Many people want to know how long a whistleblower case takes. The short answer to the question of how long a whistleblower case will take is often, unfortunately, “a long time.” It can take a long time for any number of reasons some of which you probably already know. For example, you could be presenting the government with a multi-faceted fraudulent scheme involving a very complicated industry worth millions (billions?) of dollars. To make it even more complicated, your particular set of facts might involve allegations in twelve states or more and work conducted using U.S. Government funds in three foreign countries. So that could take some time to unravel.
It also takes some time to put your case together with your DC lawyer. 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.
Basic Steps of a Whistleblower Case
- Prepare a relator’s statement and file it with the government.
- Prepare and file the Complaint.
- Serve the Complaint and a Disclosure Statement with all the evidence on the government.
- Wait for the government to determine whether it will intervene in the case.
- If the government chooses to intervene, try to settle or win at trial.
- If the government chooses not to intervene, decide if you want to pursue the case in court alone.
All that can take a few years. It can go faster, but 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.
What Happens After You File a Whistleblower Case?
Well, the first thing that happens is, essentially, not much. You wait. The government has 60 days—the case is under seal during this time—but this can be extended for a good cause and, in reality, of course they can’t possibly investigate a serious matter in 60 days.
So it takes them some time to get to the point where they can contact you and handle your case. When they do, they will be contacting you likely to interview or discuss the matter and try to come up with the way to continue to investigate the case.
As I said, after you file it takes some time. But usually, you end up meeting with government officials and they have a duty to investigate your allegations. That investigation, unfortunately, can take quite a bit of time.
They have to decide on behalf of the government whether the government wants to intervene in the case. If so, the government effectively takes control of responsibility for all aspect of litigation. They can also decide to decline to intervene, which brings up a whole different set of decisions for the DC whistleblower attorney and the client.
They can take quite a bit of time to do that. They can also do anything really with respect to the requesting documents, or they may even ask the whistleblower for further information or to discuss information that they otherwise have in the case. Ultimately, it can be a pretty involved process of going back and forth between the whistleblower and the Department of Justice to attempt to find out how the whistleblower can be of help to the government in pursuing the case.
After I File a Whistleblower Case, Am I Done with the Case?
Filing the case with the government is usually not the end of it. It can be if you’ve got everything and the initial filing and everything works, and the government takes over the case and accepts the case. In that scenario, you could go directly to some kind of resolution.
However, that usually isn’t what happens, because usually what happens is the government has a whole set of questions they want you to answer to help them understand what is going on. In the same vein, quite often whistleblowers will think of additional things that they just didn’t think of initially or maybe they find some evidence that they didn’t realize was evidence before. It is possible to file additional disclosures and you can file an amended complaint with additional allegations.
Consult an Attorney to Discuss How Long a Whistleblower Case Takes
Sometimes—in fact, quite often— a company might buy another company while all this is going on, becoming—maybe without realizing it—a party to an action that they may not have known about. It is possible to amend the complaint to bring them in.
In short, by no means is filing a whistleblower case “the end of it.” It’s usually only the beginning of what a DC whistleblower attorney and their client have to do.