When Abraham Lincoln was president the country was in the middle of a civil war. During this time there were a number of government contractors providing everything from horses, to ammunition, to food rations. Since those contracts were easy to take advantage of, the False Claims Act was passed. This act allowed the government to pursue individuals or companies that were defrauding the government. The act allowed the realtor, or the person that blew the whistle on the fraud, a portion of the settlement reached. This Qui Tam clause gave the incentive to the individuals to do the right thing.
How Does Qui Tam Work?
The term Qui Tam stems from an old Latin phrase that was used hundreds of years ago. The full phrase meant essentially that a person can sue on behalf of the king as well as himself. It has since been shortened to qui tam.
The idea is quite simple. If a person knows of a company or individual that is defrauding the government, they can turn them in. Any fine that is levied against the fraudster will include a portion that goes to those who blew the whistle (usually between 15 and 20% of the total amount). Since most people dont try to commit fraud on a small scale, this reward can end up being quite lucrative. For example, Bradley Birkenfeld blew the whistle on UBS for tax evasion and reaped himself a reward of $104 million.
Your Rights as a Whistleblower
Today, most of the fraud that occurs against the government is by pharmaceutical companies, government contractors, and department of defense contractors (although there still are many others). Since there are very few individuals that are taking advantage of the government, the whistleblowers are generally those who work for these companies that have lucrative contracts.
As an employee of a company that may be defrauding the government, the individual must be assured that he or she has rights when it comes to calling them out. To keep the whistleblower safe there are laws regarding how the case is handled (for example, very little information is released for the first 60 days while the government is completing their own investigation), and how the employer can react to the employee. If you choose to blow the whistle, you can be assured that your employer may not:
– Fire you
– Deny a promotion
– Discipline you unnecessarily
– Demote you
– Intimidate or threaten you
– Reduce your pay
– Reassign you
You have the right and privilege to report any wrongdoing; fear of repercussions should not hold you back.
Contact an Attorney
If you work for a company, or know for certain of a company or individual that has been defrauding the government, you can blow the whistle. Your first step is to contact a qui tam attorney and get the process rolling. For the next several months the attorney will work with you and the government to develop a case against the fraudster. When it is all said and done, you can get a portion of the settlement.