If you have information that the government is being defrauded, that information is very valuable and is, therefore, something you should discuss with a whistleblower DC attorney in order to see if you can file a claim under the False Claims Act or another whistleblower law. If you and your attorney then decide that you can file a case, you will need to provide the information that you have to the government.
The next step is filing a complaint in court, which sets in motion the gears of the Department of Justice to investigate your allegations. In a nutshell, this is how a whistleblower case begins. A dedicated legal professional could help with each step of the process of a whistleblower case.
Speaking with an Attorney
One important thing to consider when filing a whistleblower case is communication with your attorney. It is necessary to discuss your case and all the details with your attorney while also keeping those details confidential. These cases are filed under seal of court, and it’s therefore difficult for many whistleblowers who may want to go to the press and make as much of a public issue of the allegations that they have discovered as possible.
While the case is initially filed and being investigated by the Department of Justice, it’s not a good thing to go public. This can be difficult to live with, and it is something that whistleblowers should keep in mind that they’re going to have to find a way to live with the facts of this and only talk with their lawyer in the District of Columbia about it for a long time.
Choosing The Whistleblower Laws for Your Case
It’s not unheard of to be able to file under more than one law, but the facts dictate which law is applicable. If it’s tax fraud and only tax fraud, you would file with the IRS Whistleblower office. If it’s a Securities and Exchange Commission violation, a violation to securities, or that kind of thing, you would file with the SEC Whistleblower office. So it’s a question of what laws have been broken and what money is at stake that you should talk over with your DC lawyer to determine if there’s a law that applies to the type of case you want to bring.
For information about the government being defrauded, the Federal False Claims Act is the primary governing law, and in some 30 states now there are state-level False Claims Acts as well. There’s a bit of an asterisk to the state laws, though, in that some but not all states allow for any type of fraud to create a case.
In Washington DC, for example, the DC False Claims Act says you can file for virtually any type of fraud committed against DC, but not every state’s law is like that. Many states limit liability under their False Claims Act to defendants who’ve defrauded healthcare programs.
However, as stated above, there are now 30 such laws or so in the states, and there are a couple of municipalities that have laws as well. So chances are that if you have seen a government defrauded somewhere in the United States, you have at least the potential for filing a case.
Hearings in Whistleblower Cases
If you file a False Claims Act case and set the Department of Justice in motion to investigate your allegations, there’s a high likelihood that you will meet with representatives of the government to discuss your allegations. It’s not a hearing in the sense of a formal proceeding, but it is a serious meeting, and one in which officials of the government will question you about your allegations and try to figure out as much as they can about the types of case you’re filing.
Myths About the Whistleblowing Process
Because there have been some recent high-profile successes, a lot of people think whistleblowing is a relatively easy process. That’s unfortunately a misconception. It’s certainly a doable process, but it’s a serious endeavor.
Another pretty serious misconception there’s relatively limited types of cases that are applicable. If you’ve got tax fraud, of course you can go to the IRS Whistleblower office, but to make it worth anything you need a relatively high amount of money involved. If you’ve got securities fraud, you can go to the SEC Whistleblower office. If you want to file a False Claims Act case the government has to be the victim.
There is also a misconception based on the term “false claim,” in that people think that something the government has done wrong is something that they can sue about. In reality, they can’t. The government has to be the victim of the fraud. However, we run into people thinking that they can sue the government under the False Claims Act quite a bit.