While defrauding the government comes with significant penalties for the businesses committing the fraud, there are also several incentives and protections that the government offers to those who bring whistleblower claims forward. One of those incentives is up to 30% of the reward recovered on the government’s behalf.
Incentive or not, the decision to file a whistleblower lawsuit is not a decision that you should make lightly. There are serious pros and cons that a potential whistleblower should consider. Seeking guidance from a qualified whistleblower lawsuit attorney can help you determine if filing a whistleblower lawsuit is the right step for you.
Can I be a whistleblower?
Yes. Anyone who has information or evidence of fraud or misconduct can be a whistleblower. In fact, you do not even have to be an employee (past or present) of the business that you have fraud evidence against. Even competitors may be entitled to compensation under current whistleblower laws.
Because there are number of statutes of limitations that may apply, the sooner you bring your whistleblower claim forward the better. For this reason, seeking legal guidance from a qualified whistleblower attorney can help you determine your next steps.
If you believe that you have a whistleblower lawsuit, consider the following steps to understand your next steps, the crucial role of attorneys and timeline expectations.
- Confirm fraud is actually occurring
- Compile the evidence
- Seek legal guidance from qualified whistleblower attorney
- File a whistleblower complaint under seal
- Offer to investigation
- Understand its a lengthy process
- Collect your reward
1. Confirm fraud is actually occurring
Suspecting that fraud is occurring isn’t just enough, you need to be 100% sure. Under the False Claims Act, it’s only possible to recover from a whistleblower lawsuit if fraud is actually happening. If you are unsure of what makes fraud, contact a qualified whistleblower lawyer.
2. Compile the evidence
In order to build the best case possible, whistleblowers must have concrete evidence that fraud has been occurring. One of the most common defenses that fraudulent corporations use to diminish whistleblower lawsuits is that the evidence presented doesn’t demonstrate the false claims that were made or that the evidence doesn’t provide enough details about the fraud.
If the whistleblower is unable to produce individual false claims, they must for the very least provide evidence that the fraudulent company had intention document arrangement to defraud the government. However, it is important to note that certain courts may not rule in favor of lawsuits that don’t contain concrete false claims submissions.
Evidence that government fraud is occurring includes:
- Internal emails
- Meetings notes
- Other documentation that demonstrates both intention to defraud and instances of fraud.
3. Seek legal guidance from a qualified whistleblower attorney
Some individuals may shy away from hiring an attorney to help in a whistleblower claim, but a reputable attorney will advise you that it is the only way to proceed. An experienced attorney will be able to tell you if the evidence you provide is sufficient to qualify you as a whistleblower under law. They will be able to estimate how much money you may be able to recover. Additionally, an experienced whistleblower attorney will help you prepare and file a convincing lawsuit for the government to evaluate.
4. File a whistleblower lawsuit under seal
After a meeting with the government to discuss the case, a qui tam lawsuit will be filed in the appropriate federal district court. Complaints in qui tam lawsuits are considered under seal. In other words, the information in these claims kept confidential so that the company committing the fraud is unaware of the case. The False Claims Act gives the government 60 days to conduct its investigation before serving the defendant. However, the investigation may take up anywhere between a few months to a few years.
During this investigation, the government will gather and analyze the evidence. This may include conducting interviews with employees of the corporate defendant. During the investigation, you and your attorney aren’t allowed to speak about the case with anyone but the government.
5. Offer to help the government with the investigation
Once the case is filed, the government will start the investigation and decide whether or not to accept it. Your attorney will play an important role in making sure that there is strong evidence, maintaining in close contact with the government’s attorneys offering advice and help if needed during the investigation. A good whistleblower attorney will know how to stay involved in an investigation without overstepping.
If the case is denied by the government, the whistleblower has the choice to continue to pursue the case. The decision won’t be easy, but should be made by the whistleblower’s attorney after they have examined all the evidence. It might be that the whistleblower’s attorney may decide to move forward, and the government decides to help later in the process. If this happens, the amount that the whistleblower will receive will be affected.
6. Understand the whistleblower process can be a lengthy
The whistleblower lawsuit case can take some significant time to get resolved. It isn’t uncommon for a pending qui tam lawsuit to last for several years while the government is investigating. If there’s no decision by the time the government intervenes, the case will move into the litigation process. That process can take a year or more to reach a settlement.
The waiting process can be a frustrating time for the whistleblower, but he or she must remember that it is important to keep everything the secret and not discuss the case with anyone while the case is under seal. It is important to note that there’s nothing that the whistleblower and their attorney can do to speed up the process. It is best to be prepared for extensions, delays and deadlines pushed back. This is all common in a whistleblower case.
7. Collect your reward
While the road to collecting what you’re entitled to may be hard, you will be rewarded in the end. If the company opts to settle or if the government wins in a trial, the whistleblower is entitled to a part of the money the government is able to recover. Companies committing fraud against the government can be held responsible for up to three times they took or failed to pay, plus heavy fines. This could lead the government to collect millions of dollars, some cases even billions.
The whistleblower will be entitled to a percentage of the amount recovered. This will be negotiated between the whistleblower attorney and the government. If no amount is determined, the decision will be given to the court. Typically, the whistleblower will be entitled to anywhere from 10%-30% of the actual damages.
The Carlson Law Firm Can Help
If you are aware of a business or person defrauding the government, contact a Whistleblower Lawyer from our firm today. The Carlson Law Firm’s attorneys are defenders of justice. As a Veteran owned and operated law firm, we take it seriously when government fraud occurs. These acts not only hurt the wallets of our taxpayers but often cause physical harm to the men and women who wear a uniform in this country.