A whistleblower or qui tam lawsuit is a civil suit that is filed by an individual who has knowledge of a company’s fraud, illegal activities, or corruption which results in some sort of financial loss to the U.S. Government. Typically, whistleblowers are employees or former employees of a company that has some sort of relationship with the federal government. We often see these suits in the area of medicine, finance and banking, and government suppliers.
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How is a whistleblower or qui tam lawsuit handled?
In such a lawsuit, the individual with information related to the wrongdoing may file a lawsuit under the Federal False Claims Act, which allows that individual to stand in the shoes of the Federal Government while the government is given the opportunity to review the claim and determine if they wish to intervene. Their decision to intervene is usually based on whether the claim has merit and the damages involved.
The term “Qui Tam” is short for the Latin phrase “qui tam pro domino rege quam pro sic ipso in hoc parte sequitur” which means, “He who sues for himself as well as the King in this matter.” It refers to the common law legal practice in medieval England of allowing an individual, who is aware of a fraud upon the government, to stand in the shoes of the king or government and sue on their behalf.
Under the Federal False Claims Act, an individual, who provides valuable and unique information to the government which they use to recover damages is entitled to a portion of the money recovered.
It takes a great deal of courage and integrity to stand up to your employer when you know they are engaging in improper conduct. A whistleblower may suffer retaliation within their company or even within an entire industry and be putting their future at stake. The Federal False Claims Act recognizes the risk these whistleblowers take and the value of the information they provide by providing a financial incentive in cases where they are able to recoup a portion of their damages.
What are some examples of whistleblower or qui tam lawsuits?
We often see these lawsuits crop up in the context of the healthcare industry, where hospitals may be improperly charging Medicaid or Medicare, defense contractors or other suppliers of products or services to the government, or any industry that is regulated by the federal government such as banking, finance and securities.
Examples of Whistleblower lawsuits include:
- Over $2 billion recovered against drug and medical device manufacturers
- $1.5 billion paid by GlaxoSmithKline LLC related to allegations that they promoted certain antidepressants, including Paxil, Wellbutrin, and Zofran, for uses not approved by the FDA and provided paid kickbacks to physicians to prescribe the drugs for these off-label uses.
MORTGAGE AND HOUSING FRAUD
- $1 billion paid by Countrywide Financial related to allegations that they engaged in deceptive and fraudulent mortgage underwriting practices
- $7 billion dollar settlement reached with Citigroup related to how it marketed and sold residential mortgage-backed securities
PROCUREMENT FRAUD & PRICE FIXING
- $200 million dollar settlement with Oracle Corp. regarding allegations they misrepresented to the federal government their general commercial discounts given to private customers in order to extract a higher price from the government.
- In July of 2014, the Department of Justice announced that it would intervene in a similar case against Symantec Corp., which has been supplying software to the Federal government.
If you have knowledge of fraud or corruption that results in a loss to the government, call us to see if we can help. These are always complicated and difficult cases that involve highly sensitive and emotionally charged issues. You need a law firm with the experience and resources to protect your rights through this process.
If you would like to discuss a whistleblower or qui tam claim, talk to our lawyers today.