If you suspect that someone is engaging in fraudulent or dishonest behavior in a transaction with the government, you have the power to file a qui tam lawsuit and remain anonymous in the initial phases. This legal action originates from the federal False Claims Act and is meant to encourage citizens to alert the government of fraud committed by third parties.
Qui tam lawsuits are filed in a variety of industries, including health care, defense contracting, construction, and federal grants.
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Employers or other individuals engaging in fraudulent behavior may go to great lengths to avoid prosecution. This could mean that the person defrauding the government may seek retribution or threaten the whistleblower. However, the False Claims Act contains numerous protections for whistleblowers.
One important source of protection for the whistleblower stems from the structure of the qui tam lawsuit itself. The government encourages whistleblowing and values the vital service provided by individuals filing qui tam lawsuits. The citizen filing a qui tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act is understood to be like a “Private Attorney General” of sorts because he or she is, according to the Department of Justice, essentially acting on behalf of the U.S. government to uncover fraud.
For these reasons, qui tam lawsuits are required to be filed confidentially. According to the False Claims Act under 31 U.S.C. section 3730(b)(2), the initial qui tam lawsuit is served only to the government and must be filed “in camera” and “remain under seal for at least 60 days.” This means that the lawsuit will be completely confidential upon filing. Thus, the defendant will not learn about the lawsuit until the court makes a later determination.
Typically, the government has 60 days to determine whether it will join the lawsuit, effectively taking it over. Even if the government decides to take over the lawsuit, you are allowed to remain as a party to the litigation.
The False Claims Act provides additional protections and incentives for whistleblowers to come forward with a qui tam lawsuit. You could potentially receive:
Pursuing a qui tam lawsuit could place you at risk of losing your job or worse. To avoid the dangers of retaliation by a future defendant, you should take steps to protect yourself and any information you gather. Follow some of the steps below to stay safe if you plan to anonymously file qui tam lawsuit.
Limit who you talk with about the qui tam lawsuit.
Although it is not always the case, whistleblowers are typically reporting on their employers. Unfortunately, this could mean that your employer has control over your schedule and could overhear any conversations about engaging in whistleblowing. You should be very careful about who you communicate with and where you choose to discuss the case. In order to protect your anonymity and maintain confidentiality, you should only discuss your case with your attorney.
Monitor how you communicate about your case.
Making sure that you are communicating in a secure and safe environment is just as important as trusting the person whom you are communicating with. Many forms of communication such as phone calls, texting, and emails may not be encrypted. Without encryption, engaging in these forms of communication could expose private data, such as your location or personal conversations, and lead your employer and other potential defendants to learn about your lawsuit. Before you engage in any form of communication about your case, you should make sure you are on secure and encrypted networks or messaging systems.
Safely collect data and evidence.
Any network you use, such as a VPN, should not be controlled by your employer. Thus, it is usually a bad idea to engage in whistleblowing activity using the equipment owned or controlled by your employer or the potential defendant. Such equipment, including computers, printers, copiers, and fax machines, among others, typically log access and usage information. Thus, using office equipment could easily tip off the party suspected of fraud that you are investigating.
It is important to maintain a sense of normalcy during your investigative activities and only collect and store information securely through encrypted systems on personally owned devices. Online activity and purchases involving cards, whether online or not, are all capable of being tracked and monitored. Thus, it is critical that you plan any whistleblowing activities carefully and protect yourself from retaliation.
Investigating and filing qui tam cases can involve highly sensitive information that could place you at risk. For these reasons, you need highly qualified legal representation for your whistleblower lawsuit. The attorneys at Lichtenstein Law Group PLC have nearly 100 years of combined legal experience and are widely respected for their litigation skills.
Although looming lawsuits can cause undue stress and weigh heavily on you and your loved ones, our attorneys are dedicated to helping you through every step of the trial process. Contact us today at (540) 685-0249 or online to discuss your legal options.