Understanding the False Claims Act Investigation Process

Learn about the False Claims Act Investigation process, your rights, and how Waltman Employment Law can help protect you. Our professional team is here to guide you through every step of the investigation.

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Investigating False Claims Act Violations: Legal Processes and Whistleblower Protections

The False Claims Act (FCA) is a critical tool in the fight against fraud. Originally enacted in 1863, this federal statute was designed to combat fraudulent claims against the U.S. government during the American Civil War.

Private citizens, known as “whistleblowers,” play an important role in exposing fraud. Furthermore, they enjoy certain protections under the False Claims Act.

We at Waltman Employment Law are dedicated to protecting whistleblowers who expose violations of the FCA. Whistleblowers are often insiders with exclusive knowledge of fraud, and their courage can lead to significant government recoveries. FCA settlements and judgments have reached billions recently, highlighting the act’s powerful impact.

Our skilled team supports employees through the challenging process of whistleblowing under the FCA. We understand the risks and are committed to safeguarding those who uphold integrity by reporting fraud.

What Is the False Claims Act?

The False Claims Act (FCA) targets those who knowingly submit false claims for federal government funds. The FCA imposes liability on individuals and companies, typically government contractors, who defraud governmental programs. It is our nation’s primary law for tackling fraud involving public funds.

One of the FCA’s unique features is the qui tam provision. It allows private citizens -whistleblowers- to file lawsuits on behalf of the federal government and receive a portion of any potentially recovered damages.

The purpose of the FCA includes:

  • Deterring fraud against government programs
  • Recovering funds lost to fraudulent claims
  • Encouraging whistleblowers to expose fraud

The FCA covers various types of fraud, including:

  • Healthcare fraud
  • Defense contractor fraud
  • Grant and loan fraud

Penalties under the FCA can be substantial, including:

  • Triple the amount of damages sustained by the government
  • Additional civil penalties per false claim

Understanding False Claims Act Investigations

An investigation under the federal False Claims Act (FCA) often starts when a whistleblower complaint is filed. Whistleblowers can be employees, contractors, or anyone with evidence of fraud against the government.

The Department of Justice (DOJ) plays a significant role in these investigations. They assess the evidence and decide whether to intervene and take over the FCA case.

Common types of fraud covered by the FCA include:

  • Healthcare fraud – false claims for services not provided or unnecessary procedures
  • Defense contractor fraud – overbilling for military supplies or failing to meet contract specifications
  • Financial fraud – manipulating financial transactions or misstating financial status to receive government funds

The DOJ seeks to gather as much evidence as possible. The goal is to prove that false claims were knowingly made to defraud the government.

The Whistleblower’s Role

Whistleblowers play a crucial role in exposing fraud under the False Claims Act (FCA). They can file a qui tam suit, which allows them to sue on behalf of the government.

Here’s how the process of filing a qui tam lawsuit works:

  • Whistleblowers need to collect solid evidence of the fraud
  • Getting legal representation to navigate the complexities can be beneficial
  • The qui tam action is filed confidentially with the court and the DOJ
  • The government investigates the claim and decides whether to intervene

Protections and Incentives

The FCA provides several protections and incentives for whistleblowers:

  • Rewards: If the government takes over the case, whistleblowers can receive 15 to 25 percent of the government’s recovery. If the whistleblower (also known as a qui tam relator) continues alone and the government declines to intervene, they might get up to 30 percent. This financial incentive is designed to encourage individuals to come forward with valuable information.
  • Anti-Retaliation Protections: Whistleblowers are protected from being fired, demoted, or harassed for reporting fraud. If retaliatory employer behavior does occur, a whistleblower retaliation lawyer can help them fight for their rights.

Legal Rights and Protections for Whistleblowers

The FCA has anti-retaliation provisions that prevent employers from demoting, suspending, threatening, or harassing whistleblowers. If retaliated against, employees can seek remedies such as job reinstatement, double back pay, and compensation for any damages suffered.

During an investigation, whistleblowers can remain anonymous. That helps protect their identity and prevents possible retaliation.

Whistleblowers can also retain their job while the investigation is ongoing. It is illegal for companies to fire or discriminate against an employee for participating in a whistleblower case. If faced with wrongful termination under false accusations, options for suing employers are available.

Steps in a False Claims Act Investigation

Initial Reporting and Filing

When a whistleblower reports suspected fraud, an FCA investigation starts. The whistleblower files a qui tam complaint, which will remain confidential. Ensuring confidentiality protects the whistleblower from retaliation and preserves the investigation’s integrity. Legal representation is crucial to guide the whistleblower through this complex process.

Government Investigation

Next, the DOJ investigates the fraud claim. It can involve subpoenas for documents, interviews with witnesses, and thorough document reviews. The initial investigation period for qui tam actions is 60 days, though it can be extended if more time is needed.

Decision to Intervene

After the investigation, the government decides whether to intervene in the case. If the DOJ chooses to take over, it indicates a strong case with sufficient evidence. This decision significantly impacts the whistleblower, as government intervention usually increases the chances of a successful outcome.

If the government declines to intervene, the whistleblower can still proceed with the case independently. However, this often involves more resources and effort, as the burden of proof lies heavily on the whistleblower and their legal team.

Possible Outcomes of an FCA Investigation

Settlement

One possible outcome of a False Claims Act case is a settlement. That can benefit both the government and the whistleblower by speeding up the resolution process and ensuring some level of recovery.

Litigation

If the parties do not settle, the case may proceed to litigation. During litigation, both sides present their arguments and evidence in court. The possible outcomes of a trial include:

  • Verdict in favor of the government: The defendant may be required to pay damages three times the amount of fraud and additional penalties.
  • Verdict in favor of the defendant: The defendant is cleared and faces no penalties.

Dismissal

False Claims Act cases can also result in dismissal. That can occur if there isn’t enough evidence to support the allegations or if the court determines that the case does not meet the legal requirements to proceed. Dismissal means the defendant is not held liable, and no penalties are imposed.

Contact Us Today to Protect Your Rights in an FCA Investigation

The False Claims Act is one of the strong government’s tools for combating fraud against government contracts and programs. If you, as an employee, find yourself involved in an FCA investigation, it is crucial to understand your rights and how to protect them.

These investigations can be complex and intimidating. Having a skilled attorney on your side can make a significant difference.

Attorneys with experience in FCA cases can help investigate fraud as well as protect the whistleblower from potential retaliation by your employer.

If you’re facing retaliation or need legal advice on an FCA matter, don’t hesitate to contact an experienced employment retaliation attorney. We are here to help you navigate these challenging times with professional advice and support. Take the first step to protecting your rights by contacting an employment retaliation attorney at the Waltman Employment Law today.