WHAT IS A WHISTLEBLOWER CLAIM?

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Whistleblower lawsuits are on the rise as citizens help disclose cases of fraud against the government – and reap large rewards for their efforts. The cases cover illegal activities ranging from tax evasion to health care fraud involving Medicare and Medicaid.

Successful whistleblower suits, also known as qui tam lawsuits, have also been filed in cases involving, but not limited to, defense procurements, underpayment of royalties (such as oil, minerals and gas from public lands), brokerage firm fraud, computer supplier fraud, tax fraud and construction cases.

Whistleblower lawsuits can be complex and it is helpful to get representation from attorneys experienced in dealing with government agencies and major corporations.

One of the most common types of whistleblower lawsuit involves health care fraud by pharmaceutical companies, hospital corporations and clinical laboratories which bill the government, often through the Medicare and Medicaid programs, for drugs or services.

KEY ELEMENTS IN WHISTLEBLOWER CLAIMS

1) Evidence of Fraud

The cornerstone of any whistleblower claim is proof that fraud or misconduct is the cause of (i) financial loss to the government (covered under the False Claims Act and related statutes), (ii) a violation of the securities or commodities laws (covered under the Dodd-Frank Act) or (iii) harm to employees or the general public (covered by industry specific whistleblower laws dealing with the environment, public health and safety, consumer welfare, etc.).

Common examples of fraud or misconduct include:

~Billing the government for products or services not provided or  malfunctioning, sub-standard, mislabeled or different from the products or services for which the government contracted
~Failure to report government overpayment
~Obtaining government funds through false certifications of compliance or through violations of law
~Selling and/or marketing drugs outside of FDA approved uses
~Accounting fraud
~Fraud or trading manipulation in securities or commodities
~Misconduct in sales of securities, bonds, or commodities (i.e. ponzi schemes, insider trading, accounting fraud, bribery, market manipulation, etc.)
~Bribing foreign officials
~Tax fraud

2) Concrete and Specific Evidence

Suspicion or doubt is not enough to claim fraud or misconduct. You must have concrete and specific evidence of the fraud. Though not required, documentary evidence will vastly increase the probability of government interest. Knowing as many specific facts as possible about the fraud or misconduct will also greatly strengthen your claim.

3) Original Evidence

Generally, you must provide the government with new information that it could not otherwise obtain. Therefore, the collected evidence cannot come from public sources, such as the Internet, TV, government records or reports. Public information may be utilized in certain instances if you provide a unique analysis demonstrating the existence of the fraud or misconduct.

You do not need to have witnessed the fraud or misconduct to have a claim.

4) The “First to File” Rule

The “first to file” rule bars a whistleblower from filing a claim if another whistleblower has already done so based on the same facts or evidence. Therefore, it is best to file your claim as soon as possible. Multiple whistleblowers, however, may file a joint claim or separate claims based upon different evidence.

5) Statute of Limitations

The statute of limitations varies depending on your whistleblower claim. For the False Claims Act, cases generally must be filed within six years of the violation. For the Dodd-Frank Act, claims generally must be reported to the whistleblower office of the SEC (for securities violations) or the CFTC (for commodities violations) within thee years of the violation. For violations of the various state FCA laws and industry specific whistleblower laws, claims must be reported between 30 days and 6 years after the violations, depending on the particular statutes at issue. Statutes of limitations are subject to change, and you should consult with a whistleblower lawyer as soon as you realize that you may have a claim.

Rewards to Whistleblowers

The amount of the whistleblower reward depends on many factors, including the quality of the case as presented to the Justice Department and the work of the whistleblower’s attorney to help the qui tam case succeed. If the government intervenes in the case and recovers funds through a settlement or a trial, the whistleblower or “relator” is entitled to 15 percent to 25 percent of the recovery. If the government doesn’t intervene in the case and it is pursued by the whistleblower team, the whistleblower reward is between 25 and 30 percent of the recovery.

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If you have information or evidence about fraud perpetrated against the government, you should call Lamothe Law Firm at 504-704-1414
for a FREE evaluation of the potential case.

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