The Law Firm of Piacentile, Stefanowski & Malherbe LLP

Whistleblowers and the False Claims Act: How Blowing the Whistle Could Lead to a Potential Reward

Whistleblowers are those who reveal secrets about wrongdoing not known to the public. The United States has generally supported whistleblowers for reporting valuable information. As such, the Federal Government rewards those who “blow the whistle” on swindlers. Yes, the U.S. Government could pay you for blowing the whistle on corruption!

Many U.S. laws use this reward system, with the most common, and oldest one being the federal False Claims Act ("FCA"). Passed by Congress in 1863, this Civil War-era act was to address problems caused by Union Army suppliers defrauding them. The FCA states that:

“… any person or company that knowingly presents, or causes to be presented, a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval; knowingly makes, uses, or causes to be made or used, a false record or statement material to a false or fraudulent claim… is liable to the United States Government for a civil penalty… plus 3 times the amount of damages which the Government sustains because of the act of that person”

An FCA provision, qui tam, allows people with private information to file FCA violation lawsuits on behalf of the government. This means, if you file an FCA lawsuit, you are representing the government, not yourself. This suit is filed "under seal", meaning it cannot be revealed to anyone. This protects the whistleblower and gives the government time to investigate. Also, the defendant isn't tipped off about the violation. Once the qui tam suit is filed, the government has a period when they will conduct their investigation. The government will decide if they want to intervene in the suit or decline to intervene. If they do intervene, they will fully investigate the matter, using the whistleblower’s information as well. When the case is resolved, through settlement or litigation, the relator is entitled to between 15% - 25% of the government's recovered amount. If the government declines to intervene but the whistleblower litigates, they could be entitled to between 25% - 30% of the recovered amount.

This percentage might seem small. Yet, the government recovers millions of dollars from cases. For example, a case that settles for $10 million will have a reward of $1.5 - $2.5 million for the relator.) However, a case isn’t finished if the government chooses not to intervene. A whistleblower can still proceed with the suit. When the case is resolved, they could be entitled to a larger reward, between 25-30%. For a $10 million settlement, this means a reward of somewhere between $2.5 - $3 million! Additionally, $10 million settlements aren’t rare. Since 1986, FCA cases lead to multiple recoveries in excess of $10 million every year.

Whistleblowing on a company or individual who defrauds the government is the right thing to do. As a whistleblower, you help protect taxpayer money from going to dishonest people and corrupt corporations. Recovering money paid by the government because of fraud allows the money to then be used more appropriately. You can help improve everyone's quality of life in the U.S. by making all services operate more effectively. Also, those found guilty under the federal FCA can be barred from accessing governmental funds or contracting work. An example is the Paycheck Protection Program ("PPP"), which was created during the COVID-19 pandemic.

If you have any knowledge of a corporation or individual defrauding the government, blow the whistle on them! Remember, the FCA protects against any retaliation from an employer or individual. Plus, you’ll be rewarded! The sooner you blow the whistle, the better, since these rewards are issued on a first-come, first-serve basis. However, due to the suits being filed under seal, there is no way to know if someone already blew the whistle before you unless the case has already been unsealed. Even if you aren’t the first whistleblower though, that doesn’t mean you will not help the case or receive any rewards if you give the government additional information the government did not already have. Oftentimes, rewards are distributed by the amount and relevancy of the information you provided in your suit. For example, if you are third to file the same suit, but if your information was needed to resolve the case, you would still be entitled to get a percentage of the reward. In some cases, your reward may even be more than the first person who filed. However, it is still ideal to be the first to file. Even if you aren’t 100% sure if fraud is being committed, we at Whistleblowers International can help you determine if is indeed happening and bring forth the best qui tam suit possible.