If you are aware of ongoing fraud against the federal government, you are likely feeling uneasy and anxious about the information you are holding. Upon the occurrence of any type of government fraud, whether it is against the IRS, SEC, or any other government agency, your best first step is to contact a knowledgeable whistleblower attorney to arrange a confidential meeting to discuss your case. Understandably, this first step can seem daunting for many, and we hope that upon reviewing the following most frequently asked questions, you will feel more at ease about contacting Berger Montague right away.
How much evidence do I need to file a claim?
We understand that, at the outset, it is not always possible to know the true extent of ongoing fraud and misconduct. While the government is more likely to intervene — and the case is more likely to be successful — if you have very specific evidence of fraud, only a qualified whistleblower attorney can determine if you have enough evidence to bring a case. A qualified attorney may also be able to offer guidance and suggestions on the type of evidence that would be best in your individual case, as well as the rules regarding what types of evidence you are allowed to use in an FCA case.
How do we get started on our claim?
Your case will begin with a confidential consultation between you and a whistleblower attorney. During this consultation, you will discuss the evidence you already have and the personal knowledge you have about the misconduct. After a determination that there is in fact a case to be brought, you will have the option to retain that attorney to represent you in the whistleblower suit. Thereafter, you will work with your attorney to further investigate the claims and to file a complaint in court.
What sort of issues could disqualify my claim?
One of the main issues that proves problematic for whistleblower plaintiffs involves the public disclosure bar. In general, this rule requires that plaintiffs filing a cause of action as a whistleblower be the original source of the underlying facts if the underlying facts have been previously publicly disclosed. Facts are publicly disclosed if they are made public through another federal proceeding, pursuant to a federal investigation, or through the news media. Unfortunately, the original source rule can preclude a filing even if the whistleblower had no actual knowledge of the prior disclosure. If, however, you qualify as an “original source” and can add new material information to your allegations, you may still be able to file. A whistleblower attorney will help you determine if you qualify as an original source.
Another disqualification issue involves the applicable statute of limitations. Even if you are the original source of the information, the law does not allow plaintiffs to file an action more than six years after the fraud occurred. Certain circumstances (e.g., fraud during wartime conflict) may allow for an extension of this deadline, however, and these issues are presently being heavily litigated in federal courts.
Finally, if another whistleblower files a case before you with substantially similar allegations, you may be disqualified from filing a case based on the first-to-file rule. Only the person who is first to file can share in any recovery or settlement reached between a defendant and the government. For this reason, it is important to come forward quickly if you suspect a company or person of defrauding the government.
I am worried my employer will discover my filing and fire me. Can my attorney help?
Absolutely. Under the False Claims Act, it is considered unlawful for an employer to take an adverse action against an employee due to that employee’s decision to file a whistleblower lawsuit. This is known as wrongful retaliation and serves as the basis for a separate cause of action upon its occurrence.
All whistleblower complaints must be also filed under seal, meaning the complaint and underlying facts are not available for public review until the government has decided whether or not it will intervene.
Who should I contact for more information?
If you are ready to get started, please give us a call today! At Berger Montague, we are dedicated to helping courageous whistleblowers come forward with information of fraud or misconduct against the government. For more information, contact us right away.