In a qui tam lawsuit, a private individual brings an action on the government’s behalf. The False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. §3729-3733) authorizes qui tam actions against parties who have defrauded the federal government. The whistleblower bringing the action, also called a relator, must inform the United States of the lawsuit. Government lawyers then have 60 days to investigate and determine whether to intervene in the case. If the case is successful, the relator will receive a monetary award.
Where to File a Qui Tam Complaint
A case pursuant to the False Claims Act (FCA) may be filed in any federal judicial district where “any one defendant can be found, resides, transacts business, or in which any act proscribed by section 3729 occurred.” Because this broad jurisdictional grant allows some leeway in most cases, an experienced qui tam attorney will consider additional factors before deciding where to file suit.
One such factor is how courts in the potential circuits treat certain FCA issues such as privilege. Another factor is whether the United States Attorney’s Office in the district seems likely to take on a whistleblower case. If so, the lawyer will assess whether the government lawyers are willing to work collaboratively with a private qui tam lawyer.
Contents of a Qui Tam Complaint
The United States government must be listed as the plaintiff in an FCA complaint. The complaint may also name the relator. Or if an attorney is concerned about how the relator will be impacted if the government declines to intervene, the lawyer can list the relator as an anonymous Doe plaintiff.
Because Rule 9(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure requires that fraud claims be stated with particularity, a qui tam complaint must provide some detail regarding the alleged fraud. The government and the court will be looking for:
- Credible evidence of fraud,
- Evidence that the defendant knowingly and intentionally made false claims, and
- Evidence of repeated or widespread fraudulent actions.
While the last element is not required by the statute, the government is more likely to intervene in cases involving significant fraud because they will result in large monetary recoveries.
Procedure for Filing a Qui Tam Lawsuit
A qui tam complaint must be filed under seal and is not served upon the defendant. Rather, the relator serves the complaint on the Attorney General and the U.S. attorney in the relevant district. This gives the government a chance to investigate the complaint before the defendant learns of it.
Pursuant to 31 U.S.C. § 3730(b)(2), the relator must also provide the government with “written disclosure of substantially all material evidence and information the person possesses.” This disclosure statement can be the most important part of the case. A qui tam suit is significantly more likely to succeed if the government intervenes. This statement is the relator’s chance to persuade the government that they have a solid case.
The disclosure statement should provide a clear roadmap, detailing which evidence proves the fraudulent actions, what potential witnesses know, and how much money the defendant fraudulently obtained from the government. The qui tam attorney also provides legal analysis and recommendations.
First to File Requirement
A qui tam attorney must prepare this information quickly because the FCA contains a “first to file” provision. Once someone files a qui tam action, no one else may “bring a related action based on the facts underlying the pending action.” If a relator is not the first to file, their action may be dismissed.
Understand What to Expect
Before filing a qui tam lawsuit, an experienced lawyer will prepare the potential whistleblower for what is to come. Qui tam lawsuits may take several years and can be very expensive. Because the relator is the primary source of information regarding the alleged fraud, this individual must be ready to spend significant time reviewing documents and sitting for questioning. If still employed at the defendant company, the relator may also be asked to participate in additional, and even covert, investigations. The more assistance the whistleblower gives, the more likely it is that they will receive a large whistleblower reward for their work.
The whistleblower needs to understand that if the government intervenes, it takes over primary responsibility for prosecuting the action. It then may limit the relator’s involvement, settle the case, or dismiss the case over the objection of the relator. This loss of control over the case can be unsettling for a whistleblower who was not properly warned ahead of time.
California Whistleblowers Can Rely on King & Siegel LLP
The attorneys at King & Siegel LLP represent whistleblowers in FCA actions as well as those individuals helping to prosecute fraud against the state’s government under the California False Claims Act. Our team of compassionate lawyers represents only employees, and we fight aggressively to protect their rights. Having attended the best law schools and worked at top law firms, our lead attorneys have the training and experience to bring a successful qui tam lawsuit. Contact us for a free case consultation today and learn more about how to file a qui tam complaint.