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Whistleblower Questions & Answers

Who Can Be a Whistleblower? 

Anyone who has knowledge of fraudulent activity can bring those facts to the U.S. government or to a state law agency, but only certain people will qualify as "whistleblowers" under the Federal False Claims Act (Qui Tam whistleblower law).

If you qualify as a whistleblower, you will receive a percentage of the money obtained in a lawsuit or settlement of the claim and the law will protect you from retaliation from your employer.

If you do not qualify, you can still report the wrongdoing but you are not eligible for financial benefits under qui tam provisions but may qualify for other damages and still be protected from unlawful retaliation from your employer.

If you would like to proceed with a qui tam claim lawsuit, you should discuss the matter with competent legal counsel. If you contact Sheller, P.C. through this site, you should understand that the communication does not create an attorney-client relationship. We represent you only after we have agreed to pursue the claim together and both sign a written agreement. But you should always call for a free consultation so we can thoroughly review and evaluate your case.

How it works. 

A whistleblower law known as the False Claims Act (FCA) allows a whistleblower to bring a qui tam lawsuit on behalf of the government against companies and individuals that are defrauding the government. Those liable for the wrongdoing must pay the government for its losses and often pay penalties for fraud. The whistleblower who brings a successful qui tam case under the Federal False Claims Act is entitled to a reward, which is usually a percentage of the settlement based on the amount the government recovers.

In order for a whistleblower (also known as a "relator" in the FCA) to bring a qui tam action that is based upon publicly-disclosed information, that person must legally qualify as an "original source." See Rockwell International Corp. v. United States, 549 U.S. 457 (2007).

Do I have a Whistleblower Claim? 

Sometimes you cannot be sure. The best way to know is to discuss your information with a law firm that is experienced in whistleblower qui tam, False Claims Act and other cases of fraud. If you believe that you know of a situation that warrants further investigation, call Sheller, P.C. immediately for a free consultation. In some cases where there could be multiple whistleblowers, it is important to try to be the first to file a claim so do not delay. You can still file if you are not first, but there are distinct advantages for the earliest claimant.

Whistleblower Rewards. 

Under the Civil False Claims Act, 31 U.S.C. §§ 3729-3733, private whistleblowers can recover treble (triple) damages and substantial penalties from persons and companies that cheat, steal, or defraud the government and receive as a reward, a percentage of the financial recovery. This provision helps encourage people to assist the government in stopping fraud despite the sacrifice and impact whistleblowing might have on their jobs and personal lives. The whistleblower's share (15 to 30 percent) is calculated upon the amount the government recovers, not the actual losses. Rest assured that Sheller, P.C. whistleblower attorneys work closely with whistleblowers to protect their personal reputation, career and peace of mind.

False Claims Procedure Statute § 3731 

(a) A subpoena requiring the attendance of a witness at a trial or hearing conducted under section 3730 of this title may be served at any place in the United States.

(b) A civil action under section 3730 may not be brought—

(1) more than 6 years after the date on which the violation of section 3729 is committed, or

(2) more than 3 years after the date when facts material to the right of action are known or reasonably should have been known by the official of the United States charged with responsibility to act in the circumstances, but in no event more than 10 years after the date on which the violation is committed,

whichever occurs last.

(c) If the Government elects to intervene and proceed with an action brought under 3730(b), the Government may file its own complaint or amend the complaint of a person who has brought an action under section 3730(b) to clarify or add detail to the claims in which the Government is intervening and to add any additional claims with respect to which the Government contends it is entitled to relief. For statute of limitations purposes, any such Government pleading shall relate back to the filing date of the complaint of the person who originally brought the action, to the extent that the claim of the Government arises out of the conduct, transactions, or occurrences set forth, or attempted to be set forth, in the prior complaint of that person.

(d) In any action brought under section 3730, the United States shall be required to prove all essential elements of the cause of action, including damages, by a preponderance of the evidence.

(e) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure, or the Federal Rules of Evidence, a final judgment rendered in favor of the United States in any criminal proceeding charging fraud or false statements, whether upon a verdict after trial or upon a plea of guilty or nolo contendere, shall estop the defendant from denying the essential elements of the offense in any action which involves the same transaction as in the criminal proceeding and which is brought under subsection (a) or (b) of section 3730.

(As amended July 21, 2010, P.L. 111-203)

HISTORY: (Sept. 13, 1982, P.L. 97-258, § 1, 96 Stat. 979; Oct. 27, 1986, P.L. 99-562, § 5, 100 Stat. 3158.)

Whistleblower Protection 

The whistleblower protection clause within the qui tam provision of the False Claims Act (Section 3730) is one of the strongest protection clauses in federal law. It not only protects whistleblowers but anyone who investigates, initiates, testifies in furtherance of or assists in a case.

In Section 3730, a whistleblower who has proven harassment is entitled to "all necessary relief necessary to make the employee whole" including "reinstatement with the same seniority status, two times the amount of back pay, interest on any back pay and compensation for any special damages." This clause not only helps the whistleblower keep their job if still employed while the case is proceeding, but it also discourages a company from retaliating against and harrassing an employee who cooperates with exposing the fraud.

Types of Fraud 

Federal Qui Tam Claims

Types of fraud against the government that can be the basis of a qui tam lawsuit include:

  • Healthcare Fraud, including Medicare and Medicaid Fraud
  • Pharmaceutical Off label Marketing, Failure to Warn, False Claims, Defective Drugs
  • Defense Contractor Fraud, Procedure Fraud, Contract Overbilling, Kickback Fraud
  • General Service Administration (GSA) Contract Fraud
  • Customs Fraud
  • Environmental Fraud
  • Agricultural Subsidies Fraud
  • Government Grants, and Research Fraud
  • SEC Fraud, including Dodd-Frank Act, Wall Street Reform Act,
  • U.S. Treasury Securities/Municipal Bonds "yield-burning" Fraud
  • Investor/Financial Fraud, including Mortgage Fraud, and TARP Fraud
  • Tax Fraud
  • Unsafe Foods & Consumer Products
  • Workplace Safety Violations

A False Claims Act lawsuit can, and usually does, take a number of years from start to finish. When Sheller, P.C. accepts a case, we commit personnel, finances and other resources to bring it to a successful conclusion.

There are many types of fraud that companies commit, but the only type that can lead to a False Claims Act case is fraud against the government or a government program.

In summary:

  • the fraud must include making a false claim to the government
  • making or using a false record or statement to get a claim paid by the government
  • making or using a false record or statement to decrease or conceal an obligation to pay the government, or
  • conspiring with another party to do any of those things

There may be other remedies if you know of fraud against non-government individuals or entities, but only fraud involving government funds can be addressed by a False Claims Act case.

State Qui Tam Claims.

In addition to federal False Claims Act fraud, twenty-nine states and the District of Columbia have similar laws.

Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.), Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana , Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Missouri, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

Can I file a claim myself? 

There are many pitfalls that can derail a good fraud claim if you do not understand the procedures, the law and how to gather the necessary evidence to prove your case. The claim process can take two or more years and it is time, energy, and strategy intensive. It can be overwhelming if not downright impossible. We recommend you work with a law firm that has experience and proven success in whistleblower qui tam matters.

Do I need to raid my company's files and take things from my employer as evidence? 

You should never do anything illegal, which could involve taking documents or other items from your employer. Building a qui tam fraud case and gathering the necessary evidence is what we do at Sheller, P.C., and what we have done successfully in some of the largest whistleblower cases in U.S. history.

Is timing important?  

Yes, timing is important for a variety of reasons: records and evidence could be destroyed or moved and there may be a time limit (statute of limitations) for filing a specific type of claim. Being first to file has significant advantages and although you can still file, you could lose legal protections of your privacy, career, and financial situation if you wait.

How important is a lawyer? 

Finding a knowledgable, successful, and respected attorney can be a frustrating experience no matter what your legal problem.

Many advertise their services as specialists in an area when they may have rarely if ever represented clients in that type of matter. Some may take your claim and then pass it off or refer to a different law firm.

Keep in mind that knowledge and experience is always important; often we are told to stick with the winners. Do your homework, which is probably how you found this website and Sheller, P.C. Unusual in whistleblower cases but repeatedly with Sheller, P.C. whistleblower qui tam cases, the whistleblowers themselves have recommended the firm to other potential and eventual whistleblowers.

The Sheller, P.C. law firm has a track record of success, and helped its clients while being instrumental in obtaining many of the largest settlements and awards in qui tam lawsuit history. If you believe that you are a victim of fraud, or have information about your employer defrauding the government, we encourage you to contact Sheller,P.C. for a free consultation and review of your potential claim.

Our Team Leaders

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    Stephen A. Sheller:

    Respected internationally for pharmaceutical whistleblower action and class action drug product liability cases more»

  • Jamie Sheller

    Jamie L. Sheller:

    Advocate and defender of patient's rights and safety in bellwether pharmaceutical cases more»

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