Washington D.C. – Federal False Claims Act and Whistleblower Attorneys
Stephen Danz and Associates represents whistleblowers throughout the United States. Our practice includes the highly specialized and complex Qui Tam lawsuits where private individuals called relators trust our attorneys to bring forth their cases in Washington D.C. courts. Over the last thirty years since the 1986 amendments to the False Claims Act (“FCA”), the FCA has become the main weapon in the government’s arsenal to battle fraud, waste and abuse on federal and state governments. The FCA was first enforced in the Civil War to handle procurement fraud by suppliers to the Union Army. It was rarely used by the government until it was amended in 1986. The 1986 amendments, combined with the 2009 and 2010 amendments, bolstered several key sections of the FCA statutes. These included the whistleblower and damages sections where they made it easier for the government and whistleblowers to file lawsuits. (31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733.)
Since 1987, the first official year after the FCA was amended, the federal government recovered almost $60 billion. In fiscal year 2018, the government recovered $2.8 billion (U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Division, Fraud Statistics – Overview (Dec. 21, 2018). Some of the main reasons that the government has been very successful in obtaining large FCA settlements are the following:
- Treble Damages: The treble damages provision causes offenders to settle before such exposure can add up. However, if the offender self-discloses the fraudulent actions, the law permits double damages.
- Civil Penalties: Each false claim may be up to $21,916 in penalties. For example, each time an offender submitted a false invoice it constituted a separate false claim and would result in a penalty.
- Bounty-Share: If a whistleblower brings a suit for the government, such qui tam plaintiff may receive up to 30% of the government’s recovery.
- Loosening of “Knowledge” Requirement Definition: The requirement of knowledge in order to find the offender guilty has been widened to include reckless disregard and deliberate ignorance.
- Indirect Liability: Offenders are both those that submitted the false claim and those that caused another entity or individual to submit the false claim.
Any individual or company that transacts business with the government may be held liable for FCA violations. Typically, the state Attorney General’s office or the federal government’s Department of Justice is instilled with FCA enforcement. Most state FCA statutes, such as California’s FCA, mirror the federal FCA. In addition, most healthcare providers are required to have compliance programs to safeguard against fraud, waste and abuse leading up to FCA violations. If a company discovers that it violated the FCA, it must self-disclose or work with government enforcement to minimize its exposure.
Statute of Limitations
Please be aware that the federal FCA has a statute of limitations that is the later of:
- Six years after the date on which the violation is committed, or
- Three years after the date when the US official responsible to act in the circumstances knew of or reasonably should have known the facts material to the right of action, but not more than ten years after the date on which the violation is committed. (31 U.S.C. § 3731(b).)
Therefore, we recommend that if you or someone you know is aware of a potential FCA violation, reach out to our office and discuss the case under a free confidential consultation.