February 6, 2023

Volume XIII, Number 37

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February 03, 2023

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What is a Qui Tam Relator?

What is a Qui Tam Relator?

In the United States, the False Claims Act allows private citizens to bring actions against companies and individuals for committing fraud against the government. In false claims cases, sometimes known as qui tam cases, the whistleblower bringing the fraud action is often referred to as the relator. Under the False Claims Act, qui tam relators work with the government in prosecuting the case in order to recover damages.

What is Fraud?

When an individual or company obtains groundless funds from the federal government it is considered fraud and is illegal under the False Claims Act (FCA). The FCA, also known as the “Lincoln Law,” places liability on the individuals and companies who commit fraud against the federal government and its agencies.

While fraud exists in most industries where government contracts are involved, some of the most common types of fraud include:

  • Healthcare fraud, including Medicaid and Medicare fraud

  • Government contract fraud

  • Securities, commodities, and banking fraud

What is Qui Tam?

Under the FCA, qui tam is a provision that gives private citizens that have evidence of fraud against the government the ability to bring a qui tam lawsuit against the person or company committing fraud on behalf of the U.S. government. The individual bringing the qui tam lawsuit, otherwise known as the qui tam relator, is often an employee or other person with inside information on the company or individual committing the fraud. The qui tam relator is often rewarded for their cooperation with the government with a share in the economic recovery made for prosecuting the acts of fraud.

The qui tam provision exists to encourage individuals to report information regarding a person or entity defrauding the government so that these stolen funds may be recovered.

What Does “Qui Tam” Mean?

Shortened from the Latin phrase for “who as well for the king as for himself sues in the manner,” qui tam basically means a private individual bringing a lawsuit on behalf of the government. The qui tam provision of the FCA was authorized not only to encourage individuals to come forward regarding crimes against the federal government but also to protect the whistleblowers from any retaliation from the company or person committing the fraud.

What is the False Claims Act?

Under the False Claims Act (FCA), it is illegal for any individual or entity to intentionally file a false claim or falsify records regarding any federal programs. Under the FCA, intentionally means done with blatant disregard for potential consequences.

Why Should I Report Fraud?

Just Medicare fraud alone is estimated to cost taxpayers over $60 billion each year. Since federal programs are funded by taxpayers, when these programs are defrauded and money is stolen it is taxpayers who ultimately pay the price. The whistleblowers who expose fraudulent individuals and companies deserve to be rewarded for their bravery, and under qui tam provisions they are able to receive a financial award for their actions.

What Are Qui Tam Relators’ Rights and Protections?

Whistleblowers with evidence of fraud often are intimidated that the individual or company they are exposing will retaliate. Under the FCA, whistleblowers are protected from this kind of behavior which may include:

  • Suspension

  • Demotion

  • Harassment and discrimination

  • Imposition of penalties or sanctions

  • Denial of benefits

When fraud-committing organizations seek to retaliate despite the protections provided by the FCA, you have the right to bring a lawsuit against your employer for your termination, twice the amount of backpay lost as a result of the retaliation, and any litigation fees you incurred throughout the process. 

What Evidence Do You Need for a Qui Tam Lawsuit?

Depending on what kind of fraud you are seeking to expose, the kind of evidence necessary will differ. Detailed evidence is important in all qui tam cases, so make sure to collect as much comprehensive information regarding fraudulent behavior as possible. This can include emails, financial records, and internal memos, and in some cases, the whistleblower may choose to wear a recording device to gather verbal evidence.

© 2023 by Tycko & Zavareei LLPNational Law Review, Volume XII, Number 47

About this Author

Jonathan K. Tycko leads the Whistleblower Practice Group of Tycko & Zavareei LLP

In recent years, the laws of the United States have undergone a whistleblower revolution. Federal and state governments now offer substantial monetary awards to individuals who come forward with information about fraud on government programs, tax fraud, securities fraud, and fraud involving the banking industry. Whistleblowers also now have important legal protections, designed to prevent retaliation and blacklisting.

The law firm of Tycko & Zavareei LLP works on the cutting edge of this whistleblower revolution, taking on even the most complex and confidential whistleblower...