How to File Claims Under the False Claims Act Whistleblower Statute

October 4, 2021

What is Your Claim?

Cohen Milstein begins the process of filing your whistleblower claim by listening to you, asking questions, and undertaking on our own the necessary additional factual and legal research. We commonly reach out to government attorneys with whom we have worked, to investigators or to consultants with expertise in the government program or the industry involved.

What Is the False Claims Act?

There are a host of federal and state statutes (sometimes referred to as “qui tam” statutes) which provide financial incentives to private citizens (often referred to as “whistleblowers” or “relators”) who report fraudulent acts that have been committed against the government.  The primary federal statute is the False Claims Act (“FCA”), a law that dates back to 1863 and the Civil War.  The FCA imposes triple damages and penalties against any business or person that commits fraud in connection with obtaining a payment from the federal government. The failure to return government  funds  which a company has reason to know it has an obligation to return can also constitute an FCA violation. Many states (29 at last count) and the District of Columbia, have their own False Claims Act statutes, most of which parallel the federal FCA. 

Confidentiality Is Essential

The process of preparing your claim is kept confidential  and culminates in a complaint being filed with the court “under seal”  which means that the existence of the complaint must be kept confidential and thus only the whistleblower, his or her counsel, the court and the government will know it has been filed.  This  “under seal” requirement provides the government an opportunity to investigate the claims on its own,  without alerting the defendant to the investigation  while also providing anonymity to the whistleblower until the government reaches a decision as to whether it will pursue, or “intervene” in the case or not.  Indeed, it is common  for a whistleblower to simply continue working at his/her employer after he/she has filed a whistleblower complaint under seal against it.

Other Unique Features to FCA Claims

Once the complaint is filed, additional unique features of claims brought under the FCA and its state law counterparts  come into play:

  • The period of time during which the government conducts its investigation can last months or several years. 
  • If it chooses to intervene, the government assumes  responsibility for litigating the case.  Sometimes, however, the government looks to the whistleblower’s counsel for assistance in the litigation, an opportunity which Cohen Milstein welcomes. 
  • Generally, with respect to both the federal and state statutes, whistleblowers can receive awards ranging from 15% to 30% of any amount recovered, plus reasonable attorney’s fees and costs.

FCA Enforcement Awards

In 2020, the U.S. Department of Justice recovered more than $2.2 billion dollars through False Claims Act enforcement. Since 1986, when Congress substantially strengthened the  False Claims Act, recoveries have totaled more than $64 billion. The vast majority of these recoveries came from FCA cases that were initiated by whistleblowers.

Whistleblowers, proceeding under the False Claims Act, have protected government expenditures made in response to financial crises, natural disasters, Medicare and Medicaid expansion, and more recently, government outlays made in the wake of the Covid pandemic.  

Who You Choose to Represent You Matters

Cohen Milstein’s Whistleblower/False Claims Act team has well over 75 years of combined experience devoting our careers to representing whistleblowers. Cohen Milstein attorneys are respected, zealous advocates in fighting fraud perpetrated against the government. Our reputation as skilled and ethical professionals is one we value and protect. And our abiding goal is simple: to provide representation of the highest caliber.  We work tenaciously to achieve that goal each day.

Cohen Milstein’s Whistleblower/False Claims Act practice group is a part of one of the largest, most highly respected plaintiffs’ law firms in the United States. The firm’s size, its proven expertise in multiple areas of the law (such as securities fraud, antitrust and consumer protection) and its ability to litigate large complex cases and successfully take them to trial, are all valuable resources from which our practice group directly benefits.