Timeframe of Fraud Investigations

What Factors Affect how Long a Government Agency’s Investigation of Fraud Might Last?

Answer: There are a lot of factors involved. The government’s resources are an issue. A lot of times, a case involves some aspect of an international investigation. There were a lot of cases filed, for example, regarding Defense Department money or State Department money spent abroad in Afghanistan or Iraq. The Federal Government has business virtually all over the world, so for the Federal Government or anybody else to investigate these types of allegations can take a little longer.

You’ve got to figure out how to go over to an airbase to interview people, for example. That can take time. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough Department of Justice attorneys, nor are there enough investigators. If I could wave a magic wand, the first thing I would do would be to double or triple the number of investigators and attorneys working for the Justice Department to investigate False Claims Act cases.

That can slow down the process; the fact that these cases tend to be large, and tend to be complicated. That means there is a lot to investigate. There’s almost no such thing as a small False Claims Act case, so that can make an investigation take a little longer than anybody would like. However, that’s not always a bad thing. Sometimes it’s good to have the government spend some time and conduct an investigation. They’re able to corroborate the whistleblower’s allegations. That’s what you want the government to have the time to be able to do.

How can an Attorney Help a Whistleblower Struggling with a Lengthy Wait during the Investigation?

Answer: It’s hard to wait, and it goes against the natural inclination of a whistleblower to tell somebody. What the lawyer has to do is be available to that whistleblower to talk it over, to explain the process, and to try to find out from the government, as best they can, what the status of the investigation is, and that can be difficult. They’ll tell you important things and sometimes you just have to wait.

False Claims Act cases are complicated and involve enough of a whistleblower’s life that they can’t remember everything all at once. It’s not unusual for a whistleblower to be walking down the street after having filed a case a year or two before and remember something that really matters. It can be helpful to the whistleblower and it can also be helpful to the case if the whistleblower feels comfortable enough with their lawyer to say “Look, I know we filed it whenever, but here’s something that I remember that might be important for the government to know.” You can’t always remember everything on a filing schedule or deadline, so it can be helpful to continually be thinking about it. If you do think of something that’s valuable, then your lawyer will work with you to try to incorporate any additional information into the case or work with the government to help them with their investigation. Other than that, it’s good practice for the lawyer to stay in contact with the client.

Maybe in Washington, DC it’s a little more understood, because you have so many people with security clearance-type jobs and they’re used to working in an environment where they’re supposed to keep a secret. But for anyone else in America, it’s hard to show up at a cocktail party and when people ask what you do, the most important thing in your life is something you can’t talk about. That’s something that confronts whistleblowers daily when they have filed a case that’s under investigation.

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