Do I have a qui tam case?
Although VSG has a long track record of success representing whistleblowers in qui tam cases, in our experience, there is no such thing as an “easy” qui tam case. Moreover, qui tam cases, even when successful, often involve significant career risk, as well as a lot of time, uncertainty, and stress. Our job is to help people like you work through the decision-making process so that, whether or not you ultimately decide to pursue a qui tam case, you can be confident that you made an informed decision based on your best interests.
What makes a successful qui tam case?
Successful qui tam cases can come in many different shapes and sizes, but the likelihood that a case will be successful usually depends on several factors.
The person filing the qui tam case (called the “relator”) should have solid, specific information about a fraud before initiating a qui tam lawsuit. Generally, although not always, insiders have the best access to information, such as documents they come across while performing their jobs that show that a fraud was committed and that it was widespread. This kind of insider evidence can be very important in proving that the company was not simply making a mistake, but instead, that the company knew that it was submitting — or causing others to submit — false claims for payment by the Government.
Another factor that may influence the outcome of a qui tam case is evidence that the wrongdoer’s conduct could cause serious non-monetary harm. The Department of Justice is likely to invest more resources in investigating and developing qui tam cases where, for example, the defendant’s conduct jeopardizes the health or safety of individuals.
What should I consider before pursuing a qui tam case?
Because the relator’s award is determined on the basis of the amount recovered for the Government under the False Claims Act, you might not want to bring a qui tam case unless:
- (a) the person or company engaged in a fraud scheme that resulted in a significant loss to the Government, and
- (b) the person or company has the means to pay a significant judgment or settlement to the Government.
If the fraud scheme did not result in significant financial harm to the Government, or if the target of the lawsuit cannot pay a significant judgment or settlement, the Government will not be able to recover much as a result of the lawsuit. Consequently, your reward (which is a percentage of the Government’s recovery) will not be much, either.
Should I file a qui tam case?
Ultimately, even if you think you have a strong qui tam case that meets all these criteria, before deciding to go forward with a lawsuit, you need to consider the risks involved. For instance, your case could be barred because there is an earlier-filed pending qui tam suit based on similar wrongdoing by the same company, or, in some circumstances, because the allegations of wrongdoing have already been publicly disclosed. Another risk is that it will hurt your career. Whether or not the case turns out to be successful, it is likely that your identity would eventually be made public. Often, relators suffer retaliation by their employers, despite the law prohibiting that kind of retaliation. Also, future employers might look skeptically on an application from someone who has been identified as a “whistleblower.”
If you decide to call VSG and we agree to evaluate the case, we will help you assess the facts and the law, as well as the potential rewards and risks you may be facing. We will advise you on what we believe to be the best course of action, and if you decide to retain us to file a lawsuit, we do our best to achieve an outstanding outcome for you and to protect you from retaliation.
VS&G’s partners have written extensively about whistleblower lawsuits under the qui tam provisions of the False Claims Act. Our published articles discuss both legal issues and practical considerations that may come into play when pursuing a False Claims Act case.