Whistle blowing is a term used to describe the exposure of illegal activities of companies. Whistleblowers have exposed unlawful activity including healthcare fraud, defense contractor fraud, sexual harassment, discrimination, wage and hour violations, investment fraud and environmental contamination among other practices. When the victim of these illegal activities is the federal government, taxpayers suffer. Fraud on the government routinely costs taxpayers millions, if not billions, of dollars each year while also putting employees and the public at risk. The Department of Justice is committed to rooting out illegal schemes that waste taxpayer dollars and curbing the epidemic of fraud on the government. The government could not achieve these ambitious goals without the dedicated efforts of whistleblowers willing to expose these frauds.
False Claims Act at a Glance
The False Claim Act was originally signed into law in 1863 to help combat fraud by suppliers to the United States government during the Civil War. The False Claim Act provides whistleblowers, or Relators as they are known, financial compensation in the form of a percentage of the amount the government recovers in the case the whistleblower brings to them. The whistleblower together with his/her attorneys works in cooperation with the government to expose the wrongdoing and recover amounts taken improperly from the public coffers.
Today, nearly 140 years later, the False Claims Act remains one of the federal government’s most effective weapons in fighting fraud against the government and continues to award whistleblowers with a percentage of the government’s recovery while also offering whistleblowers protections against unlawful workplace retaliation for exposing the unlawful activity. Many states, including California, have followed the federal government in adopting state whistleblower statutes to combat fraud against state and local governments as well.
Kinds of Whistleblower Actions
According to the False Claims Act, a false claim is defined as “any request or demand presented to an officer, employee, or agent of the United States; or made to a contractor, grantee, or other recipient, if the money or property is to be spent or used on the Government’s behalf or to advance a Government program or interest, and if the United State Government pays the claim or any portion of the claim or will reimburse the contractor or the entity who received any portion of the money or property which is requested or demanded.” 31 USCA § 3729.
The United States government is the single largest purchaser in the country buying products in every conceivable category, from computers and office supplies to drugs and medical services to missile guided defense systems and protective equipment for combat troops. False claims against the government are as varied as the government’s contracts, including: (1) overcharging for a product or service; (2) delivering a defective or ineffective product; (3) paying the government less than it is entitled to under a contract; (4) charging the government for less than the promised amount of the product; (5) underpaying money owed to the government; and (6) charging for one thing but delivering something different.
False Claims Act cases, sometimes referred to as Qui Tam actions, brought with the assistance of whistleblowers have exposed fraud in countless aspects of the government’s purchasing. Since 1986, when Congress substantially strengthened the civil False Claims Act, the government has recovered a staggering total of more than $27 billion through False Claims Act cases.
Employees who take the initiative to expose company practices that are illegal can put their employment and personal security at risk. Some employers are not appreciative of workers who decide to take measures to right widespread wrongs they witness on the job. Despite protections afforded whistleblowers under the law, whistleblowers still face workplace retaliation for their efforts. Relators who are wrongfully terminated or subjected to a hostile work environment for “blowing the whistle” on illegal practices can take steps to protect their rights under state and federal whistleblower laws by taking legal action against an employer.
Since whistleblowers are frequently employees of businesses engaged in fraud or other illicit activities, the lawyers at San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles law firm Keller Grover LLP, with experience exposing fraud and illegal activity and representing employees, are uniquely qualified to represent today’s whistleblowers in a False Claims Act case or in any legal action for retaliation.
If you are considering blowing the whistle on a fraud on the government or have information about other unlawful conduct by your employer and need the assistance of a qualified San Francisco Bay Area or Los Angeles whistleblower attorney, contact our law firm today for a free consultation about your case.