Whistleblowers are critical in a False Claims Act case. Not only are they a key witness to an act of wrongdoing against the government, but they can help stop actions that many endanger the public welfare. If a whistleblower claim is done properly, it can also lead to a substantial financial award.
It’s important that you take the right steps in filing a claim under any key whistleblower law, such as the False Claims Act or the Dodd-Frank Act. Here are the steps our whistleblower lawyers at Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP tell clients who are ready to bring a qui tam matter to light.
Step 1 – Get Evidence
This is the most important step in your whistleblower claim. It’s crucial that you get documentary evidence of the fraud. Such evidence can include emails, internal studies, billing records, or test results. If you can witness the wrongdoing first hand that’s great, but not necessary. This evidence will help support your claim when you present it to the government. The more evidence you have, the better chances your case will be.
Remember to keep this information strictly confidential; the information should not come from public sources.
Step 2 – Presenting the Evidence
Under the False Claims Act, the whistleblower must file a complaint in court as well as submit it to the government, along with a Disclosure Statement that details the alleged misconduct. However, before filing the claim, we will set up a meeting with the appropriate government agency to discuss the claim. This is when you have to show the government that you have enough evidence of the fraud to support your claim.
Step 3 – Government Investigation
Now comes the longest part of the claims process – the government’s investigation. During this time, all aspects of the matter, including the whistleblower’s identity and the investigation itself, will remain confidential. Any formal complaints filed in court are kept under seal so even the defendants don’t know what’s going on. During this time, you may be interviewed by the government, along with any other witnesses involved or knows of the fraud.
The complaint will remain under seal for 60 days unless the government asks for an extension, which it usually does. If criminal violations are involved in the claim, the FBI may be involved in the case. The whistleblower must be accessible and cooperative to help the government with the case.
Step 4 – The Decision
If the government decides to bring a case, the whistleblower may be asked to testify at trial or a grand jury proceeding. It’s at this point your identity will be disclosed. Roughly 90 percent of False Claims Acts cases the government intervenes in tend to be successful. But if the government declines to intervene, these whistleblower cases are less than successful. Without the government’s support, the pursuit of the cases can be expensive and lengthy. Also, you may be prepared for retaliation from your employer. Although it is illegal for a company or organization to retaliate against a whistleblower, it still happens.
If you have witnessed any fraudulent matters against the government, our whistleblower attorneys are prepared to listen. Contact the employment lawyers at Sanford Heisler Sharp, LLP today for an evaluation of your case.