Many qui tam whistleblowers participated, to one degree or another, in the very fraud that they later report to the government. Usually this is because they either didn’t know the law, or they needed to keep their job and felt they would be fired if they did not “go along.”
This puts the whistleblower, also known as a “Qui Tam Relator,” in a very awkward situation – on the one hand, the whistleblower wants to do the right thing and report the conduct, but on the other hand, does not want to become a target of a government inquiry.
Approaching Government Prosecutors and Whistleblower Protection
In the vast majority of cases, government prosecutors do not focus on the conduct of the whistleblower. Rather, their investigative efforts are directed toward the planners and architects of the fraud against the government, and particularly on those who benefitted financially. That said, many Relators are professionals who have invested many years in their chosen field, and wish to minimize or rule out entirely the risk that they will be prosecuted by one or more government regulators. We understand from experience that whistleblowers have concerns in their role as a whistleblower so we offer free and confidential initial consultations. Click here to learn more about our approach to whistleblower cases and our whistleblower law firm.
Seeking Whistleblower Immunity From the Prosecution
Prosecutors are often reluctant to offer whistleblower immunity and protection without first have the opportunity to interview the Relator. This makes sense – they want to determine first whether the person was an architect of the fraud (in which case they almost certainly will not grant immunity). Second, they want to make a judgment whether the person is credible, has evidence corroborating the fraud, and will make a good witness should the case proceed to litigation.
The trouble with this approach – identifying the whistleblower and consenting to a government-run interview – is that the client could make incriminating statements and become a target of the government investigation, which is the very thing the Relator is trying to avoid.
In limited circumstances, prosecutors may be willing to offer immunity to a Relator if the Relator’s lawyers prepare a detailed written “proffer,” i.e., a summary of what the whistleblower would say.
Such situations are difficult to judge, and should only be handled by experienced lawyers who know how to navigate these troubled waters.
The False Claims Act and Being Granted Whistleblower Immunity
Whether or not a whistleblower is granted immunity, there are other issues to consider when deciding whether to bring a Qui Tam lawsuit under the False Claims Act. First, the Act states that if “the action was brought by a person who planned and initiated the violation . . . the court may . . . reduce the share of the proceeds of the action which the person otherwise would have received.” 31 U.S.C. 3730(d)(3). Moreover, if the person bringing the action is convicted of criminal conduct arising from his or her role in the fraud, that person “shall not receive any share of the proceeds of the action.” Id.
Contact Us To Learn More
If you have discovered evidence of government fraud, contact an experienced False Claims Act attorney before blowing the whistle. You may be entitled to a substantial reward and the legal protections afforded to whistleblowers under state and federal laws. The attorneys of Berger Montague are nationally recognized experts in Whistleblower/Qui Tam actions with over a decade of experience pursuing these complex fraud cases. For more information or to schedule your confidential consultation, call us at 1-800-424-6690.