The Federal False Claims Act is a federal law and primary litigation tool which is designed to prevent fraud against the United States government. The False Claims Act claim is often referred to as a qui tam claim. But what does qui tam mean, and how do you file a qui tam claim in California?
This article will answer these questions and more about the Federal False Claims Act and your rights regarding qui tam laws.
Understanding the Federal False Claims Act
What does qui tam mean?
Qui tam, or the lengthier qui tam pro domino rege quam pro seipso can be translated to mean a case that is brought in the name of the king and for himself. Qui tam laws date back to English royalty in which the king was the leader of the government. Of course, in the United States, there is no king, instead the federal government as a whole is responsible for managing the affairs of the country. A qui tam action is one in which an individual, who can be a government employee, contractor, or a private individual, files a court complaint alleging that someone is committing fraud against the government. The individual is incentivized to bring the claim because he or she can receive up to thirty percent of the amount of money that is recovered in a successful case.
Why does the Federal False Claims Act exist?
The False Claims Act (FCA) in the United States dates back to the Civil War. During that war, there were numerous suppliers who routinely defrauded the Union Army. These suppliers may have requested payment for services that were not rendered, or otherwise unjustly profiting off of the government while the government employees were preoccupied with the war rather than procuring materials.
This FCA has been in force since 1863 and has served as a means for regular citizens to go after fraud against the government. Under the False Claims Act, any action by a contractor or supplier that causes the government to sustain a financial loss may constitute a valid claim.
How to File an FCA Claim
In an FCA claim, the individual person who initially found the fraud is the plaintiff or relator. The plaintiff/relator then files a suit in Federal court. The Justice Department will review the case after it is filed and if it has interest in the case it may join the case and jointly prosecute it with the individual. However, even if the Justice Department declines to participate, the individual may still move forward with the case against the defendant themselves.
Common Types of Claims under the FCA
Under the False Claims Act, there are various types of false claims that may be actionable.
Common false claims include:
1. Mischarging, charging for items not actually provided to the government,
2. Selling inferior or damaged goods to the government but stating that they are in good condition,
3. Providing goods or services that were not actually necessary, but were only sold to the government to generate revenue, or
4. Overcharging, charging the government more for a good or service than it is actually worth or inflating the price of a good or service sold to the government.
Employer Retaliation for Filing an FCA Claim
Under the FCA it is also illegal for your employer to retaliate against you if you acted in good faith to uncover possible fraud on the Federal government. If you can prove retaliation, you may be entitled to back pay, litigation costs and attorney fees.
If you feel your employer is subjecting you to retaliation in California for filing a qui tam claim, you should contact an experienced employment law attorney as soon as you can to preserve your rights. Contact our Los Angeles qui tam attorneys at Hennig Ruiz Law Firm for a free consultation today.