Whistleblowers play an important role in preventing fraud against the government and keeping consumers safe. When individuals become aware of fraud or corruption within an organization, a Qui Tam (aka “whistleblower”) case can help expose the wrongdoing. In addition, if monetary damages are obtained by the government during their pursuit of the case, the whistleblower is entitled to a percentage of those damages. Whistleblower cases are highly complex and time-sensitive. If you have discovered wrongdoing and you're not sure how to proceed, it is important to speak with an experienced attorney as soon as possible, so you understand your options.
Since 2005, attorney Kira Fonteneau has stood up for the working people of Alabama. Kira has in-depth knowledge of the complexities of Qui Tam/whistleblower cases that are brought under the False Claims Act, and she has successfully represented numerous clients with these types of cases. Kira understands the common concerns an employee has when they want to report misconduct within their organization, and she guides her clients through this difficult process with an eye toward protecting them against retaliation and preserving their livelihood.
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Common Types of Qui Tam/Whistleblower Cases
There are a wide range of corrupt and fraudulent activities covered by the False Claims Act, Dodd-Frank, and other state and federal whistleblower laws. Some of the most common include:
- Government Contracting Fraud
- Medicare/Medicaid Billing Fraud
- Accounting Fraud
- Knowingly Selling Dangerous or Defective Consumer Products
- Bank Fraud
- Securities and Exchange Commission Fraud
- Mail or Wire Fraud
- Misrepresenting of Products (i.e., selling used or refurbished products as new)
- Failure to Disclose Conflicts of Interest
- Failure to Comply with Certification Requirements
- Assisting Others in Defrauding the Government and Consumers
Steps to Initiating a Qui Tam Action
Bringing a claim under the False Claims Act is a complicated process. Here are the general steps that should be followed:
Document your Case
To convince the government to pursue your whistleblower case, you need extensive documentation of wrongdoing on the part of your organization and/or individuals you work with. Preserve as much hard evidence as possible; the more you have, the more likely the government will pursue your claim. Retain copies of everything related to the case; such as emails, letters, internal memos, billing records, and any other relevant documents.
Keep all of the information you obtain confidential and be ready to continue in your capacity within the organization if the government requests you to do so. This can be helpful in building a stronger case and securing a larger monetary reward.
It is important to note that the evidence you provide the government must be original. This means information that is not already available through public sources. If you performed an analysis of public information that is unique and proves corruption or fraud, this may qualify for a Qui Tam claim; but if you are simply presenting information that could be easily obtained elsewhere, you may not have as strong a case.
File your Claim
If you are filing a complaint under the False Claims Act, you will need to lodge the complaint in the appropriate jurisdiction along with a disclosure statement. The more detailed your complaint and disclosure statement, the better your chances of the government taking your case. Before you file your claim, you and your Qui Tam lawyer will meet with the government agency that will handle the investigation. This meeting provides an opportunity to present the strongest possible case to the government and increase your chances of success.
Cooperate during Government Action
Once the claim is lodged, the government conducts a confidential investigation to determine if the whistleblower has a case. While the investigation is ongoing, all evidence is kept sealed and the identity of the whistleblower is protected. During the investigation, you may be interviewed multiple times, and the government may interview other witnesses. The government may also attempt to obtain additional internal documents from the organization through the use of warrants and other means.
If the government decides you have a case, they will pursue the claim at the appropriate judicial venue(s), at which time you will likely be asked to testify. Once you testify and your identity becomes known, there is a strong possibility of retaliation at your workplace. State and federal law protects whistleblowers from retaliation, and if this occurs, you may be able to pursue damages from your employer.
If, after the investigation, the government decides not to pursue your False Claims Act case, you may choose to file the claim on your own. If your case is pursuant to a different state or federal whistleblower statute, you may not have this option. For example, cases under the Dodd-Frank Act cannot be pursued privately if the government decides to drop them.
The Importance of Swift Action
If you have information on corruption or fraud by individuals and/or organizations and you're contemplating bringing a Qui Tam case, it is important to act sooner rather than later. Whistleblower laws have statutes of limitations ranging from 30 days to several years depending on the specific statute you are filing under. For example, a claim pursuant to the False Claims Act must be filed within six years of the alleged wrongdoing.
Another reason to act quickly is to ensure you are the “first to file”. This is important because under most whistleblower laws, including the False Claims Act, you are only eligible for a percentage of the monetary damages obtained if you are the first to one to file a claim with original (non-public) information. If someone else has already filed a claim (based on the same information), you are ineligible for a monetary award, even if you have no knowledge of the prior filing.
Speak with an Experienced Alabama Whistleblower Lawyer
If you have witnessed fraud or misconduct at your place an employment and you believe you may have a Qui Tam/whistleblower case, attorney Kira Fonteneau is here to help. Kira understands that deciding whether or not to pursue a claim is a difficult decision, and she can help you make sense of the entire process.
To schedule a free consultation with Attorney Fonteneau, call our office today at (404) 383-5720. You may also message us through our online contact form.