The federal government, as well as many states and some localities, have enacted laws that empower whistleblowers who have information about fraud to bring lawsuits or claims on the government’s behalf, and disclose information about the fraud to investigators and prosecutors. If taxpayer dollars are recovered, the whistleblower can receive a percentage of the recovery as a reward. The most prominent such law is a federal statute called the False Claims Act, but there are also IRS whistleblower provisions for tax fraud, SEC and CFTC whistleblower provisions for securities and commodities-trading fraud, and other federal and state laws that cover a wide variety of fraud that damages taxpayers and investors.
Recent Whistleblower Case Settlements
- Warner Chilcott Healthcare Fraud Settlement – $125 Million
- Doshi Diagnostic Imaging Services – $15.5 Million
- Tailor Mohan – $5.5 Million
Seeger Weiss has significant experience in whistleblower and qui tam litigation, including former federal and state prosecutors able to present the case to government authorities to make sure the claims receive serious consideration and, when needed, navigate overlapping criminal law issues.
Our attorneys have participated in major and groundbreaking whistleblower actions including:
- Representing a relator in the largest healthcare fraud case ever settled — $3 billion paid in settlement by pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) for unlawful and misleading marketing of drugs
- Representing a relator in a qui tam lawsuit against pharmaceutical giant Abbott Labs, alleging unlawful marketing of the anti-seizure drug Depakote, which settled for $1.6 billion
- Representing the relator in the first-ever tax settlement under the New York State False Claims Act against famous New York City custom tailor Mohan
- Representing the relator in a qui tam lawsuit against drug wholesaler McKesson Corp., alleging fraudulent inflation of drug prices, which settled for nearly $350 million
- Representing a relator in a qui tam lawsuit against pharmaceutical manufacturer Forest Labs, alleging off-label marketing and paying kickbacks to prescribing doctors, which settled for over $300 million
For more information about whistleblower actions, read on [or visit Whistleblower Info].
Contact us to find out if you may qualify to bring a whistleblower lawsuit or claim; attorney consultations are free.
False Claims Act and “Qui Tam” Actions
The False Claims Act is a federal law passed under Abraham Lincoln in 1863 to combat fraud perpetrated by unscrupulous vendors of military equipment and supplies during the Civil War. Under the False Claims Act, private citizens who have non-public or “inside” information that a company is defrauding the U.S. Government may bring a “qui tam” lawsuit on behalf of the government to recover the taxpayer dollars that were taken by fraud. (“Qui tam” is part of a Latin phrase describing a case brought by a private person on the government’s behalf). The lawsuit is initially filed “under seal” so that it remains a secret to the defendant or defendants while the government investigates the case, and the whistleblower, known as a “relator,” gives the investigators all of the information about the fraud in his or her possession. Many states, and some municipalities, also have False Claims Acts, so whistleblowers can also bring actions if those governments were defrauded. If the government decides that the case has merit, and that it is worth pursuing, it will “intervene” in the case, or take it over. If the government decides not to intervene, the whistleblower still has the option to pursue the lawsuit independently. If the case settles, or is won, after government intervention, the whistleblower is generally entitled to receive 15 to 25 percent of whatever damages the government recovers; if the whistleblower wins the case without the government, he or she may receive up to 30 percent of any recovery. In recent years, successful qui tam cases have resulted in billions of dollars being repaid to the federal and state governments, and tens of millions in “relator’s share” being paid to the whistleblowers who had the courage to step forward with information about fraud.
Bringing a Qui Tam Action
You may be able to file a qui tam lawsuit if you have non-public or “inside” information that a company or entity has committed fraud that results in damage to the U.S. or State treasuries. You do not have to have been harmed personally to file a qui tam action. In the 1980s and early 1990s, many qui tam cases arose out of defense-related industries and government military contracts. In recent years, many qui tam have involved health care, particularly pharmaceutical and medical device companies. According to statistics from the public interest group Taxpayers Against Fraud, approximately 80% of False Claims Act allege health care fraud. Qui tam actions have become a prominent force in the government’s fight against fraud, as recoveries under the False Claims Act have totaled over $30 billion since the False Claims Act was amended to strengthen whistleblower incentives in 1986.
Government Recoveries and Relator Shares in Qui Tam Lawsuits
The relator who brings the qui tam lawsuit maybe entitled to a percentage of the money that is recovered by the government in the action. The amount that the whistleblower collects is generally between fifteen and thirty percent of the total amount recovered by the government, depending on whether or not the government intervenes in the lawsuit. The percentage of the recovery that the relator receives is based upon the total amount recovered by the government, and not just the amount of damages that the government actually suffered. If the government decides to intervene in the qui tam action, the relator may be entitled to somewhere between fifteen and twenty-five percent of the recovery depending on the individual’s involvement in the action. If the government elects not to intervene in the action, the relator may continue the case on his or her behalf, and may be entitled to between twenty-five and thirty percent of the recovery. In most cases where the defendant has defrauded the government, there are civil penalties ranging from five thousand to ten thousand dollars, plus three times the amount of damages suffered by the government per claim. Relators and their counsel are also entitled to recover their reasonable attorney’s fees and expenses in the case of a successful lawsuit, including one that settles favorably.
Whistleblower Protection from Retaliation
The False Claims Act also protects relators who bring qui tam actions from retaliation or harassment by their employer. A relator who was the victim of retaliation by their employer may be entitled to damages, including reinstatement to employment or seniority status, and the whistleblower may receive two times the amount of lost back pay, including any interest. The relator may also qualify to receive additional special damages.
Consultations with a Whistleblower Attorney
If you would like to discuss your rights involving a possible qui tam or whistleblower lawsuit, or if you have information about a possible qui tam action that you would like to share with us, please fill out the free case evaluation form and a member of Seeger Weiss LLP’s experienced staff will call you to discuss your potential rights concerning a qui tam lawsuit. Attorney consultations incur no obligation on your part and all initial consultations are free of charge and do not create an attorney-client relationship.