Importance of FCA Retaliation Protections for Whistleblowers
FCA retaliation protections are in place to make sure that people who report false claims filed with the United States government are not subjected to harm in any form because of their actions. Below is some basic information about these protections to help you understand how they may apply to you.
What Is the False Claims Act?
The Federal False Claims Act was enacted during the Civil War, with additions made several times over the years. The act's most recent revisions occurred in 2016. Under this act, anyone who makes or conspires to make fraudulent claims to the U.S. government will be held liable. If found guilty of making false claims, the person may owe fines of up to three times the total damages the government incurs because of the false claims plus an additional fine ranging from $10,781.40 to $21,562.80 per claim. In addition, the liable individual will be responsible for paying any and all litigation costs the government incurs while trying to recover damages. Litigation must typically occur within six years of the violation.
A whistleblower is an individual who provides information about false claims to the government. The federal False Claims Act provides significant protections for private whistleblowers, as well as an opportunity to earn compensation for themselves as they aid the government in recovering damages. When working on behalf of the government, these individuals are known as "Relators." In general, Relators can receive an award of between 15 and 30 percent of the government's recovered fines and damages.
In order to serve as a Relator, individuals must meet certain requirements. The Relator must provide the information to the government first, and he or she must be the original source of this information. The lawsuit must also be filed under seal, and it must remain confidential. In addition, the information must not have been disclosed publicly prior to the filing of the lawsuit.
Protections for Whistleblowers
Under the federal False Claims Act, retaliation against individuals who act as whistleblowers is prohibited. If retaliation occurs, the whistleblower is entitled to any and all relief needed to make the individual "whole" again. This may include attorney fees, litigation costs, compensation for any discrimination, back pay and reinstatement of the individual's previous position. In order to recover compensation for retaliation, whistleblowers must file claims within three years of the retaliation.
What to Do if You Know about False Claims
If you are aware of activity that violates the False Claims Act, you should take action as soon as possible to protect yourself and resolve the issue.
In order to present a valid whistleblower claim, you must have concrete and specific evidence of fraud. However, you don't need to have actually witnessed the fraud. If possible, collect documentary evidence. Keep in mind that simply believing fraud exists or being suspicious is not sufficient for a whistleblower claim.
If you decide to report fraud, you can choose to report internally within your company, to the appropriate government agency or both. However, if you choose not to report the activity to the government, you won't be eligible for any whistleblower rewards. You may still be protected from retaliation even if you don't report to the government.
Deciding whether to report suspected fraud to your company and/or to the government can be challenging for potential whistleblowers and should be based on a careful consideration of the specific circumstances and your goals. It is also a good idea to consult an attorney who has experience with whistleblower claims before taking any action in order to protect your rights and ensure that you are making the best decisions.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Bert Louthian
For over thirty years, Bert Louthian has been practicing law in Columbia, South Carolina, alongside his father, Herb, providing clients with a collective 80 years of legal experience. Family has always been a top priority for Bert, who, along with his wife, is the proud parent of three lovely children.
Since receiving his Juris Doctor from the University of South Carolina, Bert has been dedicated to helping those who have been wronged or have witnessed wrongdoing so they can come forward safe in the knowledge that they will be provided the best representation possible.
Copyright Louthian Law Firm, P.A. - Whistleblower Lawyer
More information about Louthian Law Firm, P.A. - Whistleblower Lawyer
Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.