How Do I Know If I Have A Qui Tam Whistleblower Case?
The term “whistleblower” is very broad and can have multiple meanings. Any time someone reports a wrong, arguably they could be considered a whistleblower.
Only if the wrongdoing involves fraud against the government does a whistleblower have the right under federal and state false claims acts to file a qui tam case on behalf of the government and collect a reward in the event of a recovery.
The following questions can help you determine if you have a qui tam whistleblower claim. If you answer “Yes” to any of these questions, you may have a case.
Did this unjust conduct cause a governmental entity to lose money?
To bring a claim under federal or state False Claims Acts , you have to have government money involved. In other words, there needs to be fraud on taxpayers. For example, if you discover that your employer is defrauding its customers, you can certainly become a whistleblower and report that misconduct, but you cannot file a qui tam whistleblower case because there is no fraud on the government. The exception is, of course, when the government happens to be one of the customers.
Sometimes the fraud against the government can be very subtle. For example, maybe the company took a grant as part of a government program and it might be in violation of a contract it signed as a condition for getting the government grant.
Is your information based on something you saw or heard firsthand?
Generally speaking, you cannot base your qui tam case on something you learned from publicly available information. You must be an original source for the information – you must have first-hand and exclusive knowledge of the misconduct.
For example, there may be extensive discussion on web sites on how a pharmaceutical company is marketing one of its drugs off-label, which is arguing against the law. You cannot file a qui tam suit based on the information that is freely available on those web sites. If, however, you have specific first-hand knowledge of this off-label marketing, you might have a case.
Do you have any documents to back up your report?
The government is limited in terms of the time and resources they have to devote to qui tam false claims act cases, so they work on what they believe to be the best cases, with the most potential upside. Part of that consideration is the evidence a whistleblower has to support the case.
The reality is that if you don’t have any documentary evidence, this puts you at a severe disadvantage in getting the government’s attention. You want to be in a position where you’re giving the government a really good head start on the case.
Evidence could be, for example, emails or memos where people are talking about the fraud, or sometimes people record conversations when it’s legal to do so.
Does the government not yet know of this unjust conduct?
Generally speaking, you can’t make a case based on information that is already known. This can be a tricky question. Because qui tam cases are filed under seal, sometimes it is hard to tell whether there are other cases already on file. The simple truth is that in many cases there is more than one whistleblower, and the first whistleblower to file is the one that is entitled to any reward that might be paid.
An experienced whistleblower lawyer can help you work through these challenges.
Has anyone done anything to try to cover up this fraud?
Here, we get back to the question of whether you have evidence to support your claims. An experienced whistleblower attorney will counsel a client about how to maintain evidence that the client already has, or to gather additional evidence without being in violation of any laws that protect a defendant’s confidentiality or trade secrets.
If you answered “Yes” to any of these questions, you might have a qui tam whistleblower case. Please call us for a no-commitment, no-cost discussion. Qui tam whistleblower lawsuits can be complex, and you need an experienced qui tam attorney to help you get started on the right foot.
Young Law Group is a nationwide leader in whistleblower representation and has successfully represented numerous clients in some of the nation’s largest qui tam cases for over a decade. For a free confidential consultation, please call Eric L. Young, Esquire at (800) 590-4116 or complete our online form.