The Burkhalter Law Firm represent individuals in a variety of whistleblower actions under the False Claims Act, as well as in whistleblower actions under the laws and regulations of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (“SEC”) and the Internal Revenue Service (“IRS”).
General Information about the False Claims Act In 1863, President Abraham Lincoln enacted the the False Claims Act (which came to be known as “Lincoln’s Law”) in order to combat the widespread fraud that was occurring during the Civil War when contractors were defrauding the Government: “[F]or sugar it often got sand; for coffee, rye; for leather, something no better than brown paper; for sound horses and mules, spavin beasts and dying donkeys; and for serviceable muskets and pistols, the experimental failures of sanguine inventors, or the refuse of shops and foreign armories….
"Unfortunately, cheating the Government has been a long standing practice. As Benjamin Franklin once observed: “There is no kind of dishonesty into which otherwise good people more easily and frequently fall than that of defrauding the government.”
The False Claims Act ("FCA") was substantially strengthened in 1986 and, in recent years, has resulted in the Government recovering numerous multi-million dollar settlements from companies and individuals for violations of the FCA. An FCA violation occurs whenever a person or entity deceives the Government in order to improperly obtain money from the Government, or in order to improperly be relieved from paying money to the U.S. Government. The definition of a false claim is extremely broad and encompasses several types of activity. The FCA prohibits “submitting or causing to submit” a false claim. The FCA makes it illegal for a company or individual to present a false claim for reimbursement to the Government where there is “deliberate ignorance” or “reckless disregard” of the claim’s falsity. In other words, ignorance is no excuse. The FCA also prohibits conspiring with another to get a false claim paid. The law has been interpreted to cover false claims that are submitted as a “condition of payment” when there is a false certification of compliance with Federal or State laws and/or regulations therewith.
Under the False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. § 3729, private citizens (called “Relators”) can help the Government fight fraud. The FCA allows ordinary citizens who have knowledge of fraudulent acts to bring suit on behalf of the Government against those who have defrauded the Government by filing false claims. If money is recovered for the action, then the Relator bringing the case is entitled to a percentage of the total amount recovered. This amount can range anywhere from 15% to 30% of the amount recovered. Since 1986, private citizens have received over a billion dollars as a result of these cases.
The FCA creates liability for separate $5,500 to $11,000 civil fines for each false claim and provides for treble damages. The amount of recovery for the Government can be significant, and therefore, the potential rewards for the whistleblowers (i.e., Relators) can also be significant, depending on the activity disclosed. For example, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, since 1986 the U.S. Government has collected more than $6 billion dollars as a result of private whistleblower lawsuits brought under the False Claims Act.
01.) what kind of cases are being brought?
Most cases brought under the False Claims Act involve the healthcare industry, such as Medicare/Medicaid fraud, as well as the defense-contractor industry and/or procurement contracts. The Government spends billions of dollars annually on military and healthcare-related expenditures. Other examples of whistleblower actions include (but are not limited to), Stark Act violations, illegal kickbacks, SEC securities fraud, and IRS tax fraud. The amount of fraud in the United States is considerable; one Senate report estimates that there is $100 billion dollars in fraud each year. Whistleblower actions are not limited to only the areas mentioned in this article. Therefore, do not hesitate in allowing the experienced attorneys at The Burkhalter Law Firm, P.C., provide you with a free case evaluation.
02.) what is the time period to bring a claim
The statute of limitations for suits under the False Claims Act is the later of: Within six years from the date of the illegal conduct, or within three years after the Government knows or should have known about the illegal conduct, but in no event later than ten years after the illegal activity.
03.) how does the process work and what reward is available?
The whistleblower (the “Relator”) who initiates a False Claims Act qui tam case is entitled to a proportional share of the funds that are recovered for the Government. The qui tam case is filed “under seal” and it is served on the Government. Once the suit is filed, the Government will decide if it will join (i.e., “intervene”) in the case. If the Government intervenes in the case, then the Relator is usually entitled to receive 15% to 25% of the recovered funds. If the Government decides not to join the case (i.e., issues a “declination”), the Relator can be entitled to 25% to 30% of the recovered funds.Throughout this process, there are numerous procedural hurdles that the Relator’s attorneys must overcome before they can share in any recovery. For example, the opportunity to bring a case and receive a reward could be lost if there is a public disclosure of the deceitful activity, and/or if someone else files a lawsuit before you and makes similar allegations. Confidentiality is essential: Do not discuss your potential case with anyone other than your attorney.
The False Claims Act’s
The FCA statute also contains an anti-retaliation provision, which protects employees, contractors, and agents from several forms of retaliation, including discharge, demotion, suspension, threats, harassment, and discrimination. These protections apply even before a qui tam case is filed. If an individual has, in fact, been retaliated against under this law, then that individual can be entitled to some of the following forms of relief: Reinstatement (with the same seniority status as before the retaliation took place), two (2) times the amount of back pay, and compensation for any special damages, including litigation costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.
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The attorneys at The Burkhalter Law Firm will evaluate whether you have a valid case under the relevant laws and regulations. The case evaluation is free. If the attorneys agree to represent you in such a case, then you do not owe any attorneys fee if there no recovery. Please do not hesitate to speak out against fraud.