A whistleblower complaint is the initial document filed under seal with the court that sets out all of the whistleblower’s allegations and claims against a defendant. In addition to being filed with the court, the complaint is also served on the government so that they can start their investigation into the whistleblower’s case. The complaint is the first pleading that starts the whistleblower’s case.
False Claims Act Complaint
Under the False Claims Act (“FCA”), an individual who knows about fraud committed against the government may act as a whistleblower and bring a lawsuit on the government’s behalf. For example, if a whistleblower knows of a hospital that is cheating Medicare, the whistleblower may bring an FCA action on behalf of the United States to help the government recover the stolen Medicare dollars. In essence, the whistleblower and the government are co-plaintiffs. This is why both the United States and the whistleblower are listed as plaintiffs on the first page of an FCA complaint.
What Makes a Strong FCA Complaint?
It is important to file a strong FCA complaint in order to spur the government’s investigation and increase the chances of intervention (when the government decides to take on the whistleblower’s case as their own). The most important factors for drafting a strong complaint are:
- The whistleblower has personal or first-hand knowledge of the wrongdoing;
- The whistleblower has documents that confirm the fraudulent conduct;
- There is a significant amount of money or damages at stake.
Securities Fraud Complaint
Another type of whistleblower complaint can be brought under the SEC Whistleblower Program. If a whistleblower knows of securities law violations by a company, the whistleblower may bring a complaint to the SEC. To initiate a suit, the whistleblower does not file a complaint in court, but rather must fill out and send a Form TCR (i.e., a Tip Complaint or Referral Form) to the SEC. The Form TCR should detail the SEC violations and provide evidence. The SEC will then conduct an investigation and, if it recovers money for the violations, the whistleblower may then apply for an award to receive a portion of the recovery. Many of the above factors that contribute to a strong FCA complaint also apply to bringing a compelling case under the SEC Whistleblower Program.
If you believe that you have knowledge regarding a potential whistleblower case, it’s time to hire a qui tam lawyer. The whistleblower system is complicated, so you want to make sure that you hire someone with experience who will help you navigate.