If you are planning on filing a Qui Tam lawsuit, the following information may help you to better understand the basics and ground rules.  Understanding what is a Qui Tam Relator is critical before hiring an attorney. As a government contractor, having the expertise on your team to defend against the qui tam relator’s lawsuit is equally as important.

What is Qui Tam?

What is a Qui Tam RelatorThe Latin phrase “Qui Tam” is translated to mean “who as well for the king as for himself sues in this matter.” The pronunciation of Qui Tam is “Kee Tam.”

When it comes to federal government contracts a Qui Tam lawsuit is analyzed almost the same. The difference is that the federal government replaces the “king.” Under the Federal False Claims Act (31 U.S.C. §§ 3729 – 3733), a whistleblower, usually an employee, can file a lawsuit on behalf of the federal government, even if he or she can show no personal harm.

The law is to encourage people to notify the government of fraud or false certifications in hope of getting property or money. The Qui Tam Relator. (Plaintiff) would allege that the potential defendant, a government contractor ( large or small business) committed some level of fraud against the government. 

Qui Tam Relator Meaing

Relator Meaning: The Federal False Claims Act (FCA) allows individual citizens, employees, or even other contractors to bring legal action against companies and individuals for committing fraud against the federal government.  Relator False Claims Act lawsuits are also known as Qui Tam lawsuits. What is A Qui Tam Relator?  This person is otherwise known as the whistleblower, or his or her attorney will file a fraud action in federal district court. Qui tam relators after filing the case, may cooperate and provide evidence or information to the federal agency and investigators in prosecuting the case to recover damages.

Under the Whistleblower Statutes, What are Qui Tam Relator Requirements?

Qui tam provisions are included in several whistleblower statutes, such as the False Claims Act (FCA) in the United States. Qui tam relators, also known as whistleblowers, are individuals who bring lawsuits on behalf of the government to expose fraud, waste, or abuse. To qualify as a qui tam relator and file a lawsuit under the whistleblower statutes, certain requirements generally need to be met. Here are some common requirements:

1. Original information: The qui tam relator must possess original information about the fraud, which means the information should not be publicly available. The relator must have direct and independent knowledge of the fraudulent activity.

2. Disclosure to the government: The relator must disclose the details of the fraud to the appropriate government authority. In the case of the FCA, this is usually done by filing a sealed complaint in a federal district court.

3. False claim: The relator’s lawsuit must allege the submission of false or fraudulent claims for payment or approval by the government. This can include any form of fraud, such as submitting false invoices, providing misleading information, or engaging in kickback schemes.

4. Materiality: The false claims alleged by the relator must be material, meaning they would have influenced the government’s decision to pay the claims or approve the actions.

5. Government intervention: The government has the option to intervene in the qui tam lawsuit. If the government intervenes, it assumes primary responsibility for prosecuting the case. However, if the government declines to intervene, the relator may still continue with the lawsuit.

6. Confidentiality: Qui tam lawsuits are initially filed under seal, meaning they are kept confidential. This gives the government time to investigate the allegations and decide whether to intervene. Violating the seal can have severe consequences, so maintaining confidentiality is crucial.

7. Whistleblower protection: Whistleblowers are generally protected from retaliation for bringing qui tam lawsuits. They have legal rights against employment discrimination or other forms of retaliation that may result from their whistleblowing activities.

What is Fraud in a Qui Tam Case?

When an individual or government contractor intentionally seeks to defraud the federal government with the intent of getting paid, getting government contracts or property as a result of the fraudulent act, the elements of fraud is somewhat easy to meet. Fraud in a Qui Tam Whistleblower case can involve government contractors who submit substandard materials, seek to bill the government for work not performed; provide false certifications in order to get government contracts; violate SBA small business regulations, and failure to follow procurement regulations. See information about avoiding government contracting fraud.

Fraud in a  government contracts lawsuit can cause both criminal liability and civil fines or both. The False Claims Act (FCA) also known in the legal world as the “Lincoln Law,” creates financial and criminal liability, including prison time, on the defendant individuals and companies that commit fraud against the federal government.
Many whistleblower cases include government contract fraud and defending a Qui Tam civil action case can be done if a contractor has the right Qui Tam defense lawyer on its team. See information about Qui Tam cases and subcontractor liability.

What Happens During a Lawsuit?

Under Lincoln law, a third party who has evidence that his or her employer or a government contractor is defrauding the government can file a lawsuit against the employer. The case is filed in the name of the United States. After the case is filed, the federal government can intervene and show interest in all or part of the case. If the government does not show interest or intervene, then the Relator must either pursue the case on its own or dismiss the case. The False Claims Act cases reward the Relator/whistleblower if the case is successful and the government receives compensation. The Government can choose to dismiss the action notwithstanding the objections of the qui tam relator initiating the action if the relator has been notified by the Government of the filing of the motion and the court has provided the person with an opportunity for a hearing on the motion.

Who Can Become a Qui Tam Relator?

A Qui Tam Relator is an individual, subcontractor or other personnel/employee who has first-hand knowledge of the alleged fraud against the federal government. A Qui Tam Relator is usually in a position to provide convincing evidence to law enforcement (DOJ) and investigators for the Qui Tam action to be successful. Filing a claim only does not create a legal relationship or statutory protection. A lawsuit must be filed on behalf of the government.

Who Can be a Qui Tam Relator? Can a Federal Employee Become a Qui Tam Relator?

Generally, anyone that has credible evidence can become a Qui Tam relator. Normally, employees of government contractors tend to bring the most cases. Facts and circumstances can determine if federal government employees can serve as a False Claims Act Relator when a defendant has committed fraud against the government. Obviously, a government employee cannot turn in the federal government for fraud. In some circumstances having knowledge that a contractor is defrauding the government may qualify a government employee.

Do Qui Tam Relators Who Bring False Claims Act Cases Have Any Protection?

Although many government contractors have internal policies about reporting fraud and mandatory disclosure, the employee or whistleblower may run the risk of being identified and exposed to adverse action from the employer. Government contractors fall under the Whistleblower protection statutes which  prohibit employers or contractors from acting adversely against the relator for reporting or identifying fraud against the federal government

The Whistleblower Protection Act protects “any disclosure of information” by federal government employees that they “reasonably believe evidence an activity constituting a violation of law, rules, or regulations, or mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority or a substantial and specific danger to public health and safety.”

It prohibits employer retaliation that includes demotions, pay cuts, or dismissals for blowing the whistle and provides legal remedies to whistleblowers who experience such retaliation.  The Whistleblower Protect Act also allows the relator to disclose information with confidentiality protections.

Can Relators Bring a Case When the Information is Public?

The False Claims Act limits the reward share to no more than ten percent if a court finds that the lawsuit is based primarily on publicly available information.

Relator’s Share in the Proceeds if the Government Does Not Intervene

Agencies do not always intervene in Qui Tam Whistleblower cases. If this does not happen Section 3730(d)(2) allows for the whistleblower to get twenty-five to thirty percent of the proceeds it prevails.

Can the Whistleblower be Involved in the Very Act that the Lawsuit is Based on?  

During litigation, if the court finds that the relator planned and initiated the violation, the court could reduce or eliminate the qui tam relator reward share.  When defending whistleblower cases, the relator’s involvement could prove to be a valid legal defense, depending on the facts.  

Qui Tam Relator’s Attorney Fees, Costs, and Expenses

The False Claims Act allows the qui tam whistleblower (relator) to get his attorney fees, costs, and expenses. The whistleblower, not the relator’s counsel, has the standing to request attorneys’ fees under the False Claims Act. Importantly, the relator’s attorney fees are paid to the relator and not the relator’s counsel. There must be an attorney-client relationship.

Employer Penalties for Violating the Federal False Claims Act (FCA) 31 USC 3729 – 3733

Almost all qui tam relator False Claims Act cases target the Federal False Claims Act ( 31 USC 3729 – 3733) as the ultimate remedy for employers and government contractors. If found liable can be exposed to some stiff penalties which include paying three times the amount of the loss. Civil penalties for each fraudulent claim. When companies are found to have violated the law, government contractors and employers may also have to pay certain expenses such as attorney fees and other associated costs associated to the qui tam relator. A portion of the awarded funds go to the relator. This can be between 15% and 30% of the total amount collected by the government.  

What Penalties for Violating the False Claims Act?

Penalties for violating the Federal False Claims Act are serious and expensive. Your company may be required to pay three times the amount of the government’s loss. There can also be civil penalties assigned to each fraudulent claim.

How Can Contractors Fight Back Against the Qui Tam Relator?

Defending a Qui Tam can be difficult. Experienced government contractor fraud lawyers look to see what facts or evidence the government has against you. If the facts show a weak case, then the Qui Relator may soon realize that the chances of getting a huge payday may be significantly reduced.

How to Defend Qui Tam Lawsuits?

Although the law encourages employees and individuals to become relators and report fraud, not all whistleblower cases have merit.  To have a chance of defending a qui tam relator lawsuit, you should at least discredit the Qui Tam relator in the factual allegations filed; make a case that the relator is not credible – if you can show issues of financial motive and problems; disgruntled because someone else got promoted; if an employee is new to the company show that they were not even aware of the rules alleged. The facts of every case are important. Hire an experienced contractor defense lawyer to fight back against qui tam relators.

Are You a Relator That Needs Help Bringing a Qui Tam Lawsuit in a Case that Involves a Federal Government Contract?

Our Qui Tam lawyers help Relators to bring a lawsuit providing the facts that strongly support a positive outcome when cases involve crimes committed against the government. We also provide legal defense services for government contractors. Call us today at 1.866.601.5518.

Need Help Defending a Qui Tam False Claims Act Lawsuit? 

For immediate help responding to federal investigations about allegations of false or fraudulent claims, understanding what is a qui tam relator, how to fight back, or help to get through the False Claims Act process, call our False Claims Qui Tam Defense Lawyers at Watson & Associates LLC for a FREE Initial Consultation. Call Toll-Free at 1.866.601.5518. We are located in Washington DC and Denver, Colorado.