The False Claims Act, also known as “Lincoln’s Law,” was enacted in 1863 during the Civil War to combat fraud. War profiteers were shipping boxes of sawdust instead of guns and swindling the Union Army into purchasing the same cavalry horses several times. “You can sell anything to the government at almost any price you’ve got the guts to ask,” boasted one profiteer who made millions unloading moth-eaten blankets to the military. President Lincoln was outraged by this type of fraud and wanted to make sure the Whistleblowers would come forth and were rewarded. Today, whistleblowers with information about federal, state or any type of government contractor fraud stand to gain between 15% and 35% of the total government recovery, which could reach millions of dollars. Since 1986, over $24 billion has been recovered.
If you are a whistleblower with information about fraud on the government, then you may be able to bring a Qui Tam lawsuit under a federal law known as the False Claims Act. A Qui Tam lawsuit is one brought by a private citizen, but in the name of the government. By bringing a Qui Tam lawsuit, you will help the government stop the wrongdoing, and you will protect your fellow taxpayers. As your reward, the False Claims Act provides that you can receive between 15% and 35% of the amount recovered as a result of your Qui Tam lawsuit.
Since the False Claims Act was enacted, billions of dollars have been recovered through Qui Tam lawsuits that were brought by courageous private citizens against defense contractors, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals and other healthcare providers, for-profit colleges, GSA contractors and numerous other types of entities that do business with the government. Any company or individual who makes a false statement for the purpose of obtaining government funds may be liable under the False Claims Act.
Steel Zandi is dedicated to providing experienced and aggressive representation for whistleblowers looking to pursue Qui Tam actions. If you choose to blow the whistle on fraud against the government, we will give you sound advice, help you comply with the myriad requirements of the False Claims Act, and will be uncompromising in protecting your rights. Contact Matt Zandi at 800-626-0003 for assistance with your Qui Tam claim.
What Are False Claims Act Cases
The core of a false claims case is that the government was cheated in one form or another - the “false claim.”
The false claim may take many forms: overcharging for a product, failing to perform a service, delivering less than the promised amount of goods or services, underpaying money owed to the government, providing inferior products, failing to comply with program restrictions, charging for one thing but delivering another, and violating a governmental regulation. The legal definitions of a false claim can be found in section § 3729 of the Act.
A company or individual that has made a false claim may be liable for triple damages, a civil fine of $5,500 to $11,000 per false claim, and the attorney’s fees of the citizen whistle-blower (called the “relator”). Individuals or companies that cause someone else to submit a false claim can also be found liable under the False Claims Act.
The standard of proof in a False Claims Act case is “preponderance of the evidence”, i.e., the claim is more likely true than not. This is the same burden of proof ordinarily applicable in most civil cases, and is easier to meet than the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard used in criminal cases.
Fraud Covered by the False Claims Act
If a person, company, or government contractor files a false claim for payment from the Federal Government, legal action may be taken against them under the False Claims Act. The act covers most fraudulent payment requests (with the notable exception being Tax Fraud, which is covered by an act of its own).
Individuals who bring Qui Tam lawsuits can help the government uncover fraudulent schemes and help save U.S. taxpayers countless amounts of money. Some examples of types of fraud that have been subject to Qui Tam lawsuits include:
- Healthcare Fraud
- Securities Fraud
- Defense Contracts
- TARP and Bailout Fraud
- Federal Student Loan Fraud
- GSA Fraud
- Federal Crop Insurance
- Government Construction Fraud
- Customs and Shipping Fraud
- Federal Loan Fraud
- Government Grant Fraud
- U.S. Postal Service Fraud
- Cash for Clunkers
- Tax Fraud
The government relies on whistleblowers to expose fraud through Qui Tam lawsuits. Persons who choose to bring legal action on the part of the government may be eligible for a reward for their actions. Because most individuals are unfamiliar with the steps required to take to bring such legal action, it is important to have an experienced attorney on your side to help guide you through the process and make sure that you understand your legal rights and options.
Steel Zandi is dedicated to providing aggressive representation for you if you would like to file a lawsuit under the False Claims Act. Contact Matt Zandi at 1-800-626-0003 to discuss your legal options.
Do I Have A Case?
Below are a list of questions to ask yourself to determine whether you can file a case under the False Claims Act. You do not need to answer these questions on your own. A lawyer can help you.
1. Did the wrongful conduct cause a governmental entity to lose money? The purpose of the False Claims Act is to help the government recover money it should have never paid, money that it overpaid, or money that was wrongfully withheld from the government.
2. How reliable is your information about how and why the wrongful conduct took place? In most cases, the False Claims Act rewards people who can verify that the wrongful conduct took place, either because they saw it happen or had access to documents that can prove it. It does not reward people who learn information about the wrongful conduct in the newspapers or from other information available to the public.
3. Does the government already know about the wrongful conduct? The False Claims Act is designed to encourage people to report wrongful conduct against the government that is not already known. If the government already knows about the wrongdoing, it may present an obstacle.
4. How long ago did the conduct take place? In most cases, a lawsuit under the False Claims Act must be filed within six years of when the wrongful conduct took place, although in certain cases you might have up to ten years.
Do’s and Don’ts
1. If you believe you know of conduct that qualifies as a false claim against the government, do not publicize it. Publicly disclosing the fraud before taking the necessary steps to file a case may disqualify you.
2. Make sure you report the conduct to the government before filing a case in court.
3. Once you report the conduct to the government, make sure you are able to file the lawsuit quickly so that no one beats you to the punch.
4. Do not assume that any confidentiality agreement you may have signed with a company prevents you from filing a False Claims Act lawsuit against that company. If you did sign such an agreement, consult with a lawyer about the potential effects.