Whistleblower Attorney in Orlando, FL
What is Whistleblowing?
Whistleblowing, in the legal world, is the act of reporting to a government entity evidence of fraud against that government or any of its agencies which, if successful, may result in a handsome reward for the whistleblower who is the person who first reports the fraud. The lawsuit that a whistleblower may file is known as a "qui tam" lawsuit. What does the term "qui tam" actually mean? It is really an abbreviation of a Latin phrase which means "he who sues in this matter for the King as well as for himself." Of course, in this country, the "King" is actually the United States government or, under certain comparable state laws, the state government in which the action is brought. A private party, known as a the "Relator," brings an action on the government's behalf. The government, not the Relator, is consider the real plaintiff; and if the government or the Relator succeeds, the Relator receives a share of the award.
In 1863, during the Civil War, President Lincoln proposed the first legislation now known as the False Claims Act. Its purpose was to encourage private individuals who were aware of fraud being perpetrated against the government to bring such information forward. At the time, many private entities were wrongly and excessively profiteering from government purchases of munitions and supplies during the Civil War.
The original legislation was amended several times since then to deal with changing circumstances and possible abuse of the statute. For a period of time, the statute and lawsuits brought thereunder fell into disfavor. However in the mid-1980s, in the wake of reports of widespread fraud against the government, particularly in the area of military defense spending, Congress took another look at the False Claims Act and made several amendments in 1986.
The False Claims Act and Whistleblower Protections (31 U.S.C. §3729-3733)
The current Federal False Claims Act (FCA) is the most powerful tool used
by the government to prosecute fraudulent billings. An FCA violation is
a civil tort against the United States and can also be a criminal felony
(health care fraud, wire fraud or mail fraud, conspiracy to defraud the
government, all violations of Title 18 of the United States Code). The
scope and reach of the FCA include any circumstance in which a person
or entity transacts business with any program with Federal funding –
Medicare, Medicaid, Federal Employees Program, TriCare and others including,
for defense contractors, the Department of Defense.
The FCA states that no one shall knowingly present a false or fraudulent claim for payment or approval through a Federally-funded program. Additionally, it prohibits anyone from presenting a false or fraudulent claim or making or using a false record or statement which is material to a false or fraudulent claim. Proof of liability requires two elements. First, a claim for payment was made or caused to be made that was false or fraudulent or was otherwise the result of a false record or a failure to comply with applicable regulations. Second, that the defendant knew or should have known the claim was false or fraudulent or otherwise in noncompliance with applicable law.
Penalties under the FCA can be both civil and criminal. Civil penalties can be awarded up to treble (triple) actual monetary damages to the government and additional penalties up to $11,000 for each false statement, record or claim.
As a Whistleblower, what am I entitled to?
The key feature of the FCA is the whistleblower reward provision. Whistleblowers may be awarded up to 30% of a settlement or judgment. Whistleblower lawsuits are where an employee or individual with the knowledge of any false claim files suit on behalf of the government. When this occurs the suit is filed under seal – meaning the suit is held under a veil of confidentiality. The purpose is to protect the identity of the employee or person filing this suit.
Retaliation against the whistleblower, by way of termination, suspension, demotion or other harassment by the employer, is illegal and can be the basis of a separate cause of action by the whistleblower for damages.
As a Whistleblower, who should I hire as my attorney?
The key to a successful whistleblower suit is to prepare the case in such
a thorough manner so as to fully protect the whistleblower's right to
a recovery and, just as importantly, to persuade the government to intervene
in the action while it is still under seal. Once the government intervenes,
the percentage of recovery to which the whistleblower is entitled decreases
to a maximum of 25%, but the likelihood of a successful resolution is
greatly enhanced. This is so because entities, which rely on the government
or any of its agencies as a primary customer, are reluctant to challenge
the litigation once the government intervenes.
It is therefore important if you have a potential whistleblower claim, that you retain a private law firm that has both the expertise in this area of the law and a strong relationship with United States Attorney's Office. NeJame Law has attorneys with both the requisite experience and the relationships necessary for a successful conclusion of your whistleblower suit. Our lawyers can also guide you on the best ways to keep employment position intact while whistleblowing for the government.
Stephen J. Calvacca, a senior partner at NeJame Law, heads our whistleblower department and is a former Assistant United States Attorney, well-versed in complex, civil matters and, in his private practice, has resolved numerous cases in an aggregate amount in excess of $150 million.
Contact Our Whistleblower Attorneys in Orlando, FL
If you know of any kind of fraud against the federal government involving Medicare and Medicaid, Social Security, Federal student loans, the US Postal Service and Government contractors contact our whistleblower attorneys in Orlando! We value your privacy and will keep your information confidential.