In 2012, the State of Georgia adopted the Georgia Taxpayer Protection False Claims Act (“Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA”), its own version of the federal False Claims Act (“FCA”). The Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA allows private individuals, known as qui tam whistleblowers, who know about fraud to bring a lawsuit against a person or entity for submitting or causing the submission of false claims to the state government or any political subdivision of the State, such as a county, city, town, or school district. One unique aspect of the Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA is that qui tam whistleblowers can only pursue claims with the written permission of the Georgia Attorney General’s office.
Like the federal FCA, the Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA provides for financial rewards to whistleblowers for bringing an action on behalf of the State. If the State decides to intervene in the case, the whistleblower may receive 15-25% of the recovery. If the State does not intervene and the whistleblower pursues the case – with the written permission of the Georgia Attorney General’s Office – on their own the whistleblower may receive 25-30% of the recovery.
The Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA expands upon Georgia’s 2007 False Medicaid Claims Act, which only imposes liability on people or entities who present false claims related to Medicaid. The Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA is not limited to Medicaid and broadly applies to all types of false claims.
Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA and Federal FCA Similarities
Key provisions of the Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA mirror the federal FCA, such as:
- Liability attaches under the Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA for: submitting a false claim for payment to the State, making or using a false record or statement material to a false claim, failing to deliver all of the property owed to the State, creating or submitting a false receipt, making a false purchase, or conspiring to do any of these actions.
- Georgia can recover triple the amount of its actual damages, plus between $5,500 and $11,000 per violation.
- Once an action is brought under the Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA, it remains under seal for at least 60 days.
- The Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA prohibits employers from retaliating against whistleblower employees. Retaliation includes firing, demoting, suspending, threatening, or harassing the employee. If the employer does retaliate, the employee is entitled to the reinstatement of their position, two times the amount of back pay, interest on the back pay, and compensation for any damages sustained because of the discrimination.
Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA and Federal FCA Differences
While the Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA and the federal FCA have numerous similarities, they also have several differences:
- The Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA allows a recovery for a fraud that cost money to either the State of Georgia OR to any political subdivision of the State, such as a county, city, or school district.
- Under the federal FCA, a private citizen who knows about fraud can bring a claim on behalf of the federal government. If the Government decides not to pursue the case, the citizen has the right to proceed in Court and does need to obtain the Government’s permission to do so. However, under the Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA, a private citizen must have the Georgia Attorney General’s written approval in order to bring a claim on behalf of the State.
- The federal FCA contains a bar prohibiting qui tam actions against members of the judicial, executive, and legislative branches. The Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA only contains a bar prohibiting actions against members of the state legislature or judiciary.
- Unlike the federal FCA, the Georgia Taxpayer Protection FCA prohibits a public employee or official from bringing a qui tam action if: (1) the allegations are substantially based on information that the employee reported or investigated within their job, or (2) if the allegations are based on information or records that the potential relator had access to because of their job.
One last thing…
For more than a decade, the Berger Montague Whistleblower, Qui Tam & False Claims Act Practice Group has represented whistleblowers in matters involving healthcare fraud, defense contracting fraud, IRS fraud, securities fraud, and commodities fraud. While the information on this blog is not legal advice, we would be more than happy to speak with you directly about your potential case. Any information you share with us will be treated with the highest level of confidentiality, and we will protect you every step of the way.