Whistleblower / Qui Tam Claims

Mr. Betts is experienced in the filing and pursuit of “whistleblower” claims. A whistleblower is a person who provides information to the federal or state government about illegal conduct of another person that has caused the government to incur a loss.

Claims Under the False Claims Act

Many whistleblower claims are brought under the federal False Claims Act. The FCA allows individuals, known as “relators,” to bring what are referred to as “qui tam” lawsuits on behalf of the government. These claims can be based on the wrongdoer overcharging the government for a product or service, underpaying the government, providing the government with substandard goods or services and other forms of wrongful conduct.

Cases under the FCA are filed “under seal,” with the relator’s complaint and the information supporting it available only to the United States Department of Justice and the assigned judge. The DOJ then investigates the case and ultimately decides whether the government chooses to intervene in the case. If the government intervenes, it takes over the litigation and the pursuit of the claims. If the government elects not to intervene, the relator has the right to continue to litigate the case on behalf of the government.

If there is a recovery for the government in a case brought under the FCA, the whistleblower is entitled to a share of that recovery. The amount of the recovery depends on whether the government intervened in the case or whether the recovery was realized through the relator’s pursuit of the claims. In cases where the government has intervened, the FCA provides for the relator’s share to be fifteen to twenty-five percent of the recovery. In cases where the government has not intervened, the relator’s share is twenty-five to thirty percent of the amount recovered. The court may consider other factors in determining the relator’s share.

Claims Under the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law

Pennsylvania has its own whistleblower statute, which applies to employees who perform services for a “public body.” For purposes of the statute, public bodies include Commonwealth agencies and departments, as well as counties, cities, townships, school districts and other government-related entities. The Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law protects an employee who makes a “good faith report,” which generally is a report of wrongdoing or waste. The statute provides that employers may not discharge, threaten or otherwise discriminate against or retaliate against an employee who has made, or is about to make, a good-faith report.

An employee who claims that his/her employer violated the Pennsylvania Whistleblower Law may file a civil action in court within 180 days after the alleged violation. The statute authorizes courts to award broad relief, including reinstatement, back wages, reinstatement of fringe benefits and seniority rights, and the costs of litigation, including reasonable attorneys’ fees.

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